Mother Nature fights back

July 2004

The visible plundering of the earth for gravel can make some feel uneasy, writes Kate Griffin, but when pits are regenerated as lakes their beauty can be staggering

Gravel pits occupy an uneasy place in the mind of the community. Like mines, they are scars on the body of the earth, evidence of the way we plunder nature for our own gains.

But, unlike mines, these scars are on blatant display. We use machines to extract the plunder from these massive gouges in the ground, instead of sending men to chip away underground, out of sight and out of mind.

Perhaps it is this obviousness which makes so many people dislike gravel pits. Or perhaps it is because we have never romanticised the people who work in them as we romanticise coal-smeared miners or Levi-clad gold-panners.

Whatever the reason, nobody seems to want a gravel pit in their village. Last year, villagers in the Benson, Stadhampton and Chalgrove areas of Oxfordshire set up a protest group, Parishes Against Gravel Extraction (PAGE) in a bid to stop Oxfordshire County Council planning gravel pits in their area.

But in other areas, the scars have healed. Many gravel pits, like the one at Hardwick, near Standlake, have been filled with water and turned into areas for fishing and relaxation. They can also be a great attraction for some beautiful wildlife, like kingfishers, swans, dragonflies and newts.

Gravel pits may not hold the same place in our hearts as other wetlands, like fens and ponds, but they are living proof of the way Mother Nature can gently fight back, healing man-made scars with quite overwhelming beauty.