What’s the plan? Who gets to vote? Who’s in charge?
I’m very bothered about all of this.
And yet, all these questions can fade into the background when confronted with the reality of early spring here.
Instead, our focus is on the trees erupting into leaf, on the clouds of Blackthorn blossom, on wild flowers and insects buzzing around them, on the increasingly noisy dawn chorus, and on new lambs bouncing around the fields. Being at arm’s length definitely gives a different perspective to the political shenanigans of Westminster, but we are not unaffected by what happens there.
Farmers manage the landscape as they farm – growing livestock or arable crops in response to the economic environment and the incentives that politicians design. Here, where the land quality is marginal for farming, most of the land is only suitable for sheep.
Will that continue? That all depends on the price and profit for sheep farmers. If we leave the EU then tariffs are likely to transform the export market. And the subsidies paid by the CAP will disappear, replaced with… who knows?
Exports become too expensive, so prices have to drop to make any sales overseas. Demand for Welsh Lamb plummets. So with very few sales and all those at uneconomic prices, no-one can make a living as a sheep farmer any more. The result? No more sheep.
What instead? More trees? Do we ‘re-wild’ the countryside introducing wolves or wild boars, beavers or lynx? Or something else?
Any of these options would have a dramatic impact on what the countryside looks like.
What we like to think of as the unchanging, timeless British countryside would very rapidly prove to be anything but. The Brexit arguments and decisions seem distant, but the fallout will be far-reaching. Even in the countryside, we shouldn’t take what we have for granted.