The South Hams region of south Devon is among the most beautiful in the UK. I was lucky enough to grow up there, in a village called Stoke Fleming. Eight miles up the road is the picturesque village of Cornworthy, and I spent a lot of time there. But I was not walking in the rolling hills: I was in the scrapyard.

My local scrappy was Nick Way, who inherited his yard from his father, Bob. Nick was still trading in the place his family had owned for more than 60 years until last year, when he took down the sign warning of dangerous dogs (they looked ferocious but were sloppy pets), closed the rickety iron gates and hung up a Shut sign which is still there.

Not because he wanted to but because new EU laws made it uneconomic for him to continue trading. It marked the end of an era for me.

I first went to Nick's with my dad. He used to go regularly to get new parts for the dreadful cars he used to run. (He bought only one new car, and that it was a Morris Marina.) A new wing mirror for a Triumph Herald, a window winder for an Austin Princess or a bootlid for a Mini.

The form at Nick's was to fight your way past the newly arrived wrecks in the entrance and plod through the mud to the caravan, where Nick would be sitting with his feet on the table. Then you would ask him whether he had a wing mirror for a Triumph Herald or whatever it was you were after.

"Dunno, boy," Nick would say. "'Ave a look round." It was a pointless ritual really because Nick always said "Dunno, boy." But to walk into the yard without announcing your arrival and visiting the caravan was against the rules of scrapyard protocol. After the "'Ave a look". you would plod through more mud into the yard proper. There you would see a field full of rusting cars.

When I started motoring in a clapped-out Morris Minor I bought a season ticket to Nick's yard. I remember getting the front brakes from a Wolseley 1500, a common upgrade at the time. They elevated the Minor's stopping power from non-existent to barely adequate.

It did not matter what you were after, you took your tools, fought the mud and brambles and took the bits off yourself. This left Nick free to concentrate on sitting in his caravan with his feet on the table. And it was good for you because it kept the prices low.

But, thanks to the EU's latest ill-conceived legislation, this is over. Scrapyards like Nicks are closing all over the country because the legislation means they have to remove all the parts from cars themselves and store them in segregated areas according to the materials they are made from.

The idea is to make sure waste oils and other pollutants are disposed of properly. But Nick's yard was surrounded by fertile Devon farmland and he would have been unpopular if he allowed oil to seep into it. So sumps were drained when cars arrived and the oil stored in a big drum, which was regularly sent for recycling.

Nick did not need laws from Brussels to tell him the environment was worth looking after. He grew up in the South Hams and was well aware of the fragile nature of the beauty that surrounded him. And the local community did not need laws to tell them to recycle. They were already doing it.

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