The Hacker: Be sure to smell the flowers and keep abreast of the nesting birds
Sunday 29 June 2008
It was Brian who first asked it, the question that swept across the fairways at Bury St Edmunds. We were out enjoying the sunshine and variously admiring the hedge bedstraw growing in the long grass and the foxgloves beginning to shoot in the woods, when he bounded over from the green where he and his mates were putting in order to accost us. "Come on girls," he demanded. "Who is Box 12?"
What on earth did he mean? He giggled like an eight-year-old. "We boys want to know," he persisted. "Who is Box 12?" Go away, you annoying person. Leave us alone to our nature ramble, sorry, that should read very important and serious game of golf.
One of the beauties of life as a hacker is that you do get to see the interesting bits of the course that the cracks don't. Good players live on either short grass or even shorter grass, where there is little chance of filling in an I-Spy book.
In the undergrowth, our natural habitat, the Big Chief himself would have a field day. Great burnet saxifrage! Hairy St John's wort! Wild grape hyacinth! Broomrape!
Lately, the women's section at Bury received a legacy from a former captain. The decision was taken to invest in the fauna and flora on the course, in the form of 20 nesting boxes and a dozen areas planted with native wild flowers, as well as the more traditional memorial of a suitably inscribed, strategically placed bench from which to appreciate natural beauties.
Perhaps surprisingly, there was some opposition among members to the encouragement of wildlife, along the lines of "This is a golf course, not a nature reserve". I'm sorry, but it can and must be both. Without getting too heavy, we are the guardians of the future of a massive open space – in our case with a great deal of mature woodland – with a responsibility to preserve species, especially rare ones, wherever possible.
And it is simply a delight to enjoy what nature brings through the different seasons. One of the sheer pleasures of this game is the fact that many of our courses are havens for wild creatures, often of the sort than cannot normally be watched and enjoyed at such close quarters.
Animals and golfers seem to coexist reasonably happily, each recognising that neither is a threat to the other.
Walter Hagen was quite right about smelling the flowers, and those of us who volunteered to plant Mrs Daly's bequest have become rather possessive about our plots. My chum Viv and I are responsible for the area beyond the sixth green and na-na na-na-na – our oxlips were the first to bloom.
There was huge satisfaction when the nest boxes, each of which is numbered for easy identification, were seen to have residents, many of them pretty blue tits, charmingly industrious as they raised and fledged their little families.
We are starting to work with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust and now have a special noticeboard and nature book for recording sightings and incidents.
And there, on the board, was the source of the boys' hysteria. Someone had excitedly reported it in large letters. "Box 12 has great tits!"
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