Usually, when I walk the dog over the fields and I see some agricultural work going on, be it sowing, ploughing or spraying, I will chose an alternative, rougher route through the flood meadows along the river’s edge. However, this week I found myself trapped in a corner of a field by a stealthy, fast crop sprayer.
When I started round the field there was nothing about, no machinery of any kind. It was just a quiet, bright sunny day. The dog and I were wandering along looking for interesting things: on Sadie’s part pheasants (probably) and for my part, damselflies and butterflies. In fact, the Salsify and Goatsbeard has just started to flower, so I was fairly engrossed in looking at a plant that I thought might be a hybrid, when I realised that there was a droning sound that was getting louder. I glanced up to see tractor, with its spraying boom spread wide, coming over the brow of the hill and racing towards me. So I grabbed the dog, put her on a lead and moved as far from the path and field as I was able, into some rough meadow area (I was lucky that there was a bit of space there). The tractor passed, got to the end of the field and turned for the next side and then just sat there.
I found myself trapped in that corner, since it was the only bit of rough meadow around. The path round the rest of the field was not wide and had little clearance from the field edge. Of course the way I had come was now wet and sprayed. I also wasn’t sure where the tractor was going next, up and down or just round. So I stood and waited. And waited. I contemplated approaching his cab to ask where he was headed, but I was too nervous that he would start up as I got close. Was he waiting for me to start up the other side? Honestly I don’t know what he was up to, but I felt intimidated and stuck. I hoped that he would lean out of his cabin to tell me to hurry up the next side, but no such courtesy. So I took a picture on my mobile phone.
There is no moral to this tale, or indeed a right and wrong I suspect. Eventually he moved on round spraying the rest of the edge of that field and then he raced (they can really shift) away on up the path until he disappeared. He didn’t stop anywhere else. The rest of the walk was unpleasant and stunk of chemicals. I came home and googled toxicity of herbicides (for that is what I assume he was using). I only found very vague things like the spray is less dangerous than the amount of chemicals found in supermarket food.
Still, I can’t help thinking that since it was a public path there should be some rules for spraying along the edge to protect other countryside users, or some etiquette to let walkers/riders pass by unsprayed.