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wood pigeon

The First Day of Spring

Tuesday, 20th March 2001, West Yorkshire

pheasant IT'S COLD and grey with sleety showers. It certainly doesn't feel like the first day of spring.

Today 30 new cases of Foot and Mouth disease were confirmed; the largest number in a single day since the start of the outbreak. I've been trying to plan a series of summer walks and, taking the advice of local wardens, I've decided to avoid the countryside altogether. I'm sticking to urban areas and country parks where there are clearly marked paths which don't go anywhere near areas with stock.

mistle thrush Today in Parliament the minister said that people have been misled; the countryside isn't closed, but in Eskdale, which we visited just before the outbreak started in February, they are reporting an almost total absence of visitors. Even the roads are quieter than usual.

Swaledale In a radio interview one hotelier explained that 99 per cent of her customers come to the dale to walk. She explained that people like the freedom to walk over the fells for 4 or 5 hours at a time. Cumbria is one of the worst effected areas in the country; all the surrounding fells are closed. next page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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