Be vigilant – some of our most precious assets are at risk as a result of Mr Osborne wielding the axe. Natural habitats, unspoilt moor land, marshes, and forests are all going to be affected by drastic cuts in Defra's funding. The department's budget took one of the biggest hits: nearly 30 per cent will vanish over the next four years. There will be around 8,000 redundancies in the department and associated agencies. The future of key guardians of our natural assets, the Environment Agency and Natural England, is still "under review", which seems to indicate that more radical surgery is in the pipeline.
The Government allocated £2bn for flood protection of coastal areas, but that is a 30 per cent cut. Surprisingly it retained financial incentives for farmers to adopt wildlife-friendly methods. But the need to operate Defra at such a reduced level (£700m has to be saved) means drastic decisions will have to be taken about the running costs of our 224 national nature reserves and forests. There are rumours that Defra wants to give them away to other charities, such as the National Trust, the Wildlife Trust and the RSPB. Some may even be privatised.
The right to visit nature reserves and forests free is fundamental to enjoying the countryside. Why should we have to pay an admission fee, which would surely be the case if a bird sanctuary or remote fen is run by a private company as if it were a branch of Disneyworld or Tescoland? Sadly, no one in this government really cares about the need to protect countryside for everyone. Quite a few of the posh Tories come from landed gentry, whose whole attitude to free access is generally hostile. They see moorland as land where shooting rights should have precedence over open access for walkers and nature lovers.
For 20 years I've walked the open fells at the top of Nidderdale in North Yorkshire. Vast amounts of land here were owned by Yorkshire water. The reservoirs were well maintained, and paths looked after. Drains and waterways were kept clear, bridges repaired. Since privatisation, swanky signs have been put up for visitors by the car park but the reservoir itself and the access roads now look shabby and run down. You can tell that little is being spent on maintaining this priceless natural asset. All over Britain, water companies – many under foreign ownership – now control huge swathes of our most lovely countryside (and the public was never asked to vote on whether this land, our birthright, should be disposed of), and it's perfectly clear that many of these owners are unwilling to maintain it for the public to enjoy. The water companies only cough up for essential repairs connected to water catchment and storage. Gates are broken and chained up. Fences are falling to pieces. All because a previous government decided water was a way of making a quick buck.
This government is adopting the same thinking, hoping that natural assets can be run in a cost-effective way. I've got news for Mr Osborne. You can't make a peat bog, a forest or woodland or a sand dune profitable. It just exists, in all its natural, biodiverse beauty. Its role in the ecosystem is literally priceless. The mistakes resulting from the privatisation of our water companies must not happen again. The countryside should not have to rely on charitable donations from the public or the self-interest of big business in order to have a protected and secure future.
If we lose our jobs, we can wiggle for a living
A bad week for females – women seem to have borne the brunt of Mr Osborne's economies. More of us will lose our jobs, it's going to take longer to get a pension, and child benefits have been slashed. Sounds like the bad old days? Further proof that we could be entering a time-warp is reinforced by the news that Hugh Hefner (yes, he's still clinging on his publishing and entertainment empire at 84) plans to reopen a Bunny Club in Mayfair. Don't tell me that Hugh empowered women or that it was "fun" being a Bunny. The costume is repellent, but Mr Hefner must be hoping the London club will attract high spenders who find it irresistible. His Playboy magazine lost $40m last year.
Not everyone wants to rock on
Widdie and Felicity are triumphant on Strictly and Joanna Lumley is the toast of Broadway. And you might think Lemmy from Motorhead, two months away from a bus pass, would be making few concessions to age, but he's just recorded his heavy-metal classic Ace of Spades at half the speed, for an ad in which rock's hard man will be seen sipping a glass of swanky French lager – and not a tequila slammer in sight. Perhaps this lot could chip in for their less fortunate peers who are seeing savings and pensions shrink. The notion that all older people are raring to carry on working and don't want to retire is a clever myth, probably promoted by the Treasury.
Know what? I'm right off parsnips
If you're inspired by all those gardening programmes and would like an allotment in Lincoln, the local authority has an online questionnaire which asks your sexual orientation, gender and ethnicity. The council says it needs to know the "needs" of gardeners. I grow beans, beetroot and broccoli. But I'm not using them as sex toys.
Mind your pees and queues
A British institution is under threat. Try and imagine why our favourite rock festival would be cancelled. Headliner pulls out? Hurricane destroys stage? Appalling weather never deters hard-core festival fans – it's just a chance to customise your wellies and wallow in it.
Next year's Glastonbury festival has already sold out, but Michael Eavis, the festival's founder, says he won't stage it the following year. One of the reasons, he admits, apart from the demand for heavy policing in the run-up to the Olympic Games, is that he can't hire enough Portaloos – those are going to east London too. The Health and Safety watchdogs are bound to have stipulated one loo per small group of guests. Why not tell ticket-holders to recycle their plastic water bottles?Reuse content