Life on Pig Row: Trust in our soil

p22 Oldhams2013High on the Saddleworth hills, the Oldham family have created an inspiring kitchen garden which provides a wealth of rich flavours for the kitchen and larder. This column, written by Andrew and Carol, follows their journey throughout the year

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WE PLACE our trust in the soil. We do it every day of our lives and most of us never realise that we do so.

Our beautiful valleys that take away our breath, our hills like slumbering giants pulling down the sky upon their backs and our sinuous rivers that gurgle, dawdle and whisper on hot summer nights and rage into the dead night of winter are all on the brink.

In Uppermill this winter we saw the park flood, homes sand bagged and businesses silted up. The river at the stepping stones brimmed, frothed brown with peat and grit.

As the waters receded we saw that giants had fought in the raging waters leaving behind stones; large banks of shale, brick and rubbish from upstream but the soil was washed away. Trees torn clean of roots and new channels, gullies and waterfalls cascaded down our hills.

The news have called it a once in one hundred year event. Tell the people in Uppermill and Delph that – the poor devils who had to dig out foul, fetid stenches from their lounges, their shop fronts and their lives. Yell that to the poor buggers over in the Calderdale valley who weren’t just subjected to it once and will see it again in their lifetimes.

Our flood plans, our flood defences are laughable. We plan for the next flood, we plan for twenty years ahead and we neglect the obvious. Around the world today around 40 per cent of soil used for agriculture is classed as degraded or seriously degraded.

The soil in Saddleworth is in the latter classification thanks to erosion from wind and rain, thanks to our hills and lack of forests.

Today we are losing our soil, at best, ten times faster than we can replace it and, at worst, forty times faster than we can make it.

Replacing it means one thing: the destruction of forests, the draining of bogs and the decimation of natural environments.

We may not think that soil is important. We may think it has always rained in our villages. That things have been the same way for a hundred years but our weather records tell us things have changed. We are now wetter and more worried about weather than we have ever been.

We place our trust in soil but we need to start learning the importance of it before we are eroded to nothing.


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