Large-Scale Gardening

Too many of us have had the unfortunate experience of dealing with blocked drains in our homes. Kitchens and bathrooms get flooded, the water pours like torrents through the state room in our humble abodes, the drain pipes splatter over our balconies, hairs have to be extracted from the S-bends of sinks………….enough said about this sordid situation..

Italy is becoming like a huge house with blocked drains. The awful spate of landslides, streets turned into raging waterfalls, the flooding of vast tracks of once fertile agricultural land point to one simple fact. Don’t just blame the weather, or even climate change, for these “bombe d’acqua” (literally, water bombs) but point to the fact that the millions of rivulets, valleys, dales, gorges, channels, creeks and gullies that are supposed to drain this most mountainous of European countries have become blocked through neglect and abandonment of once cherished farmland.

There was a time before the “economic miracle” when Italian chestnut forests giving that “bread of the poor” with their fruit were manicured with the care usually administered to English bowling greens, when rivers were carefully banked, where fields were meticulous terraced and their irrigation channelled with the attention given to Indonesian paddy-fields, where streams were gently guided through torturous routes with the care given to exotic water features in Kew gardens.

The last five years of environmental disasters in Italy has finally prompted the government to set up an emergency programme to literally unblock the nation’s natural drains and to make everyone aware that the country’s preservation depends enormously on the care given to its natural habitat.

I am, therefore, very heartened to see that on our road through the Controneria to our village of Longoio and beyond, Cantieri (or construction yards) have been set up to clear up the areas of streams crossed by bridges.

Acrobatic excavators are performing miraculous balancing feats on impossibly steep slopes (just imagine if one of them toppled over!), logs are being positioned to create artificial weirs and control sudden rushes of water, spikey, tangly undergrowth is being cleared and large boulders placed on ravine sides to stabilise further soil erosion.

It’ all very encouraging and I look forwards to further tutelage of the beautiful countryside around us. This sign says it all and it’s part of a scheme to reduce damage to the environment by water gone wild:

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There’s absolutely no need to have a semi-tropical rain forest eating everything up. It’s principally a correct balance between natural features and man-made improvements “à la Capability Brown” that can make our countryside look not just more appealing but safer and enable us to walk even more paths through it natural beauties.

Perhaps even that chapel approached by an ancient bridge over the Refubbri stream and the inspiration for  Robert Browning’ poem (see my post at could be included in this scheme. Who knows? Italy is happily realising, and not one jot too soon, that the countryside is a work of art needing just as much care as the façade of Lucca cathedral or any other item in its magnificent architectural and historical heritage.


4 thoughts on “Large-Scale Gardening

  1. I saw this work going on yesterday. It looks amazing. I am a bit alarmed to see bamboo growing wild everywhere. This stuff takes over and will cause problems. It was a mistake to ever plant it here.

  2. It would be nice to have the care of forests in the area as well looked after as in Wales tree management is ace one fir tree down another is soon replaced this helps to stabilise areas from major flooding and landslides around our area land belongs to various unknowledgeable people who chop trees down for burning without a jot of a thought of the outcome hence we have suffered major floods in front of our humble abode risking life and limb when it rains as the path now becomes a minor stream of water which pelts down with some force adding danger as this makes the stone surface very very slippery no remedial measures have been taken as was prescribed by the forestry this person has left the area and the damage he has created has not been rectified nor the fine paid when will such rogues realise the damage that they are causing to our dear fragile planet earth. It seems that in this world there are people that care and those that do not give a damn or dime this is truly so SELFISH as it is spoiling matters for future generations the earth is on loan to us to be well looked after as are our beloved animals!

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