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Bearing Witness


 We approached on one of those single-track roads that are so narrow and obscure you can’t quite believe they are public. The next leg of our journey was squelching along a boggy footpath, flanked on one side by steep woodland with lofty oaks and thickets of holly, and on the other flat estuarine pastures squared off with stone walls. Mossy old oaks and twisted thorns and crabs – a few hard, green apples still clinging to the leafless branches – lined the path, suggesting it had been here for a long time. We had been tipped off about this place and it felt like a secret.


Our view opened out onto the side of the estuary: coffee coloured water swirling slowly towards the sea; on the opposite bank chrome yellow birches flared like burning torches amongst the quiet russet of the oaks. Under our feet the tightly grazed riverbank gave way to a long straight quay built from rough-hewn blocks of stone. It was this we had come to see. Nowadays the river is shallow and ribbed with banks of silt but 150 years ago the Dwyryd was navigable and a flotilla of small boats tied up here. They came to carry the slate from the great quarries above Blaenau Ffestiniog and Croesor – North Wales was roofing most of the world back then. Before the railway came slate was brought down to the coast by horse and cart and loaded on to the little boats, which sailed out to ocean-going ships off Porthmadog, for onward transport to the developing and cities of Europe and North America. All that is long gone now but this forgotten quay is a reminder of those busy and more prosperous times.


The quay is cut every ten yards or so with flights of steps down to the water at each loading point: many boats must have moored here at busy times. Along the top of the quay are rough stone posts three or four feet high – capstans for tying up the boats. On one of the steps my grandson, Nils, finds otter prints in the skim of sand left by the tide, and better still, near the top of the steps, there are several spraints (droppings). Some naturalists say these have a distinctive smell like jasmine tea, which is helpful for identification, and today, for the first time, I get it – the musty/peppery scent does smell like some kind of exotic tea. Pottering along the quayside I am struck by the quiet details of nature: lichen encrusting the stones in yellow and grey patches; three tiny fungi quivering in the breeze, their tops turned up like bottle caps; ivy flowers covering a fallen hawthorn attract a smudge of small flies to their late nectar. There is a deep sense of harmony between this old industrial site and its natural surroundings. In its day I suppose it would have seemed modern, even brutal, but now, disused and forgotten, it seems to enhance this lovely estuary.


All of this is beautifully caught in an exhibition of art works by Marged Pendrell at Plas Brondanw, which is not far from here. The exhibition is called ‘Flotilla’; its centrepiece a host of little boats, which specifically reference the trade in sea-going slate. The works are made from found objects and materials including slate, copper, lead, wood, sand and peat – the very ‘stuff’ of North Wales. Marged has a refined sense of the interplay between natural and man-made elements, combined with a magpie’s eye for collecting and rearranging natural objects so that they become more than the sum of their parts – metaphors for life’s processes. The whole exhibition chimed with the sense of ‘rightness’ that I had at the quayside. Even Plas Brondanw itself is an exercise in unexpected harmony, its turquoise and gold wrought-iron complementing beautifully, if counter intuitively, the backdrop of the mountains.


I accept that such things are a matter of perception and taste but perhaps it is the ‘job’ of humankind to strive to give voice, in whatever way we can, to the beauty and intricate complexity of the world we are born into. Looked at from a whole-earth, Gaia perspective we are the ‘component’ that has the reasoning, imagination and language which enables the planet to see its self in the mirror and glory in what is. As the German philosopher Friedrich Schelling put it: “uniquely in us, nature opens her eyes and sees she exists”.


For exhibition details:

Mouldy Mushrooms


These conifer plantations are so lifeless: a thick cushion of needles muffles the ground and the trees seem dead until halfway up – a brown on brown world. Just off the path a scatter of white blobs like screwed up tissues catches my eye. I fear the worst, but coming closer realise that they are some kind of life. Holding on to my hat and crawling through the prickly twigs I am confronted by something very strange: fifteen or so mushrooms, of a poisonous species known as The Sickener, are erupting in a delicate halo of white mould which appears to be digesting the very mushroom it is growing on – a fungus consuming a fungus. When I went back to check on them a week or so later they had vanished, slurped out of existence; presumably all that remained were the mould spores, which I was probably inhaling.


Fungi can seem very strange, neither plant nor animal, they are found almost everywhere and are very numerous (12,000 species in Britain – and counting), yet they remain elusive and oddly out of mind. In fact they are essential to us in many ways: helping to digest our food, make bread, brew beer, manufacture antibiotics and a lot more besides. Fungi are also responsible for 90% of decomposition, without them we would be knee deep in dead leaves, and dead bodies. Most of those involved in such processes are microscopic moulds or yeasts, rather than the mushrooms that appear so mysteriously in our autumn woods and fields. Some of those are conspicuous like the Shaggy Inkcap or Puffballs but they are only the fruiting bodies, like apples on a tree, of an intricate web of underground threads (hyphae), which constitute the fungal organism itself.


photo: Gethin Elias

Many of our woodland trees have an interdependent relationship with certain fungi whose hyphae wrap around the root hairs of the tree and supply them with nutrients; trees are not very good at obtaining these for themselves. In return the trees supply the fungi with the sugars they are not able to make because they lack photosynthesis. The intricate web of hyphae in a wood is vast: it has been estimated that one-kilogram of woodland soil contains 200 kilometres of fungal thread. Without these unseen partnerships there would be no woodland.


photo: Owen Elias

Fungi provide wonderful examples of the intricacy and interdependence of living systems. We rarely think of them but couldn’t get by without them. So next time you are digesting a big meal or turning over your compost heap give thanks for fungi – for without their bit of mould you would not last long and your remains would be with us for very much longer.



Rewilding Sussex


 Sir Charles Burrell must have a lot of nerve. I recently went on ‘safari’ at his Knepp Castle ancestral estate in Sussex and the place is seriously neglected. In fact it looks as though he has walked away, shut the door and thrown away the key.

This 3500-acre estate was, until 15 years ago, a mixed arable and dairy farm on the Wealden clay, an hour south of London. However it was only turning a profit two years in ten; that clay, it seems, is difficult to farm being a slippery mess in the wet, and bone hard when it is dry. Charlie Burrell (as he prefers to be called) had always been interested in wildlife so, inspired by a visit to the Dutch rewilding project at Oostvaardersplassen, he decided to try something similar at Knepp. He removed all the internal boundaries on the estate, introduced longhorn cattle, Exmoor ponies, fallow and red deer and Tamworth pigs – as proxy species for our original wild herbivores – and let them loose to feed and roam as they pleased across 2500 acres. On the face of it that was a pretty crazy thing to do with an estate your family had been farming for hundreds of years. I take my hat off to him, not just for nerve but also vision.


I grew up with the notion that the original vegetated landscape of Britain, pretty well everywhere below 2000 feet, was high forest – a kind of majestic Mirkwood with an overarching canopy of big trees. Then about 20 years ago, the Dutch ecologist Frans Vera challenged this model, suggesting that it had underestimated the effect of the large wild herbivores that were common at that time – cattle, horses, deer, pigs and beaver – plus their attendant predators – wolves, lynx and bear. He postulated that the interaction between these animals and their environment would have created something more akin to savannah or parkland with clumps of trees, thickets of scrub and areas of grassland dotted with individual trees. Not all ecologists agree with him and in truth we don’t really know what the original ‘wildwood’ looked like before humans started clearing it 8000 years ago. Finding out is part of what Knepp is about; they call it “process led conservation”.

What confronted me amongst the fine old estate oaks was a mess of sprawling hedges 30 feet wide at the base, big blocks of sallow and large open areas dotted with patches of bramble and scrub – some of which sheltered young oaks from the browsing animals, just as Frans Vera predicted. This landscape is prompted, manipulated and sculpted by cattle, horses, deer and pigs. Some of it is low grade habitat at present, particularly the overgrown fields covered in ragwort and fleabane; but to everyone’s surprise populations of some nationally declining species such as turtle dove, nightingale, cuckoo and purple emperor butterfly are increasing at Knepp. What this landscape has, in effect, is lots of woodland-edge, which would have been plentiful in Vera’s vision of the ‘wildwood’. This may account for these increases, and why so much of our wildlife seems to thrive in the ‘edge’ habitats that have become scarce in intensively farmed landscapes.


Looking at it I was struck by how big it seemed – 2500 acres of unfenced land in lowland England is substantial. To my eye it looked like a transitional landscape on its way to something else and clearly it is still on the move, but perhaps not towards continuous woodland. The staff at Knepp just don’t know and are willing to sit on their hands and wait to find out. One thing has become clear: some areas are, unpredictably, developing differently from others, there is a continuity of process but outcome is unforeseen. It seems that the changing landscape has personality, is wilful. A dynamic process has been let loose by the very act of not acting; the mice have indeed come out to play.

There are many limitations to comparing this project with a truly wild ecosystem, one of which is the absence of large predators to limit the populations of introduced herbivores. There is just not enough room for them at Knepp, and anyway lynx and wolves might be a stretch too far for the neighbours in Sussex. So the estate has to accept the responsibility of being the apex predator and cull them. Animal welfare apart, what is “overgrazing” and “too many” are fascinating questions in a project that claims to have no desired (or undesired?) outcome. How will they react if the numbers of purple emperors or turtle doves start to go down? Hold their nerve and do nothing, I hope.


Another fascinating twist in this story is that Charlie Burrell has certainly not thrown away the key – the estate now regularly makes a profit. This has been achieved in various ways: renting out the farm cottages and redundant agricultural buildings; running a safari and camping enterprise and selling those culled animals as organic free-range meat at premium prices. Also expensive inputs such as fertilizer, herbicide, stock management, and farm machinery are no longer required. In fact Knepp is still a farm, if a rather eccentric one, which qualifies for a good deal of public money: £200,000 a year in Single Farm Payments alone we were told. I doubt they could survive without that, so Brexit is making them understandably nervous.


I hope this imaginative and courageous experiment can continue to thrive. Knepp Castle estate has come up with an innovative version of rewilding suited to lowland England which will be fascinating for naturalists and ecologists to watch unfold over the years. It is already a reservoir from which wildlife can colonise the surrounding countryside and a source of inspiration and research, as well as a haven of wildness for visitors in this very crowded corner of Europe.

‘A breath of fresh air for the spirit’ is what Charlie Burrell calls it.



Island Mothing


 We recently returned from our annual pilgrimage to Bardsey Island (Ynys Enlli), which is a mile or so off the tip of the LLyn peninsula in North Wales. You can book accommodation there and have a holiday totally immersed in nature. The absence of cars, electricity and phone/internet connection relieve an unconscious tension, creating space that can be filled by the sound of the sea, brightness of the stars at night and a profusion of wild flowers, birds and insects. There is a simplicity and abundance to life here reminiscent of life in Britain 50-60 years ago.

One of the things that happen on Bardsey is moth trapping at the bird observatory. The trap is, in essence, a bright bulb (run off a car battery) suspended over a box filled with egg cartons. This is placed out at night and the moths are attracted to the light, dropping down unharmed to rest amongst the egg boxes. Each morning a group of us huddled round to see what has been caught overnight. Newcomers were hesitant and a bit mystified, peering into the crevices of the egg boxes as they were lifted out, marvelling at these unfamiliar insects. The observatory catches moths to record the numbers of each species day-to-day, year on year, so contributing to monitoring our wildlife populations. A less explicit reason is for the sheer wonder of examining close-up these otherwise unseen nocturnal creatures. Some of them like the garden tiger are big and brash, whilst others are paper thin and tremulous, seemingly too delicate to live.


My grandson Nils eagerly called out the name and numbers of each species with impressive accuracy; Mark, an assistant warden at the observatory, confirmed these with a nonchalant glance – expertise born of long practice. Moths have fascinating and sometimes eccentric English names, amongst those we caught were: the lackey, ingrailed clay, mottled beauty, july highflier, true lover’s knot, smoky wainscot and the scarce footman. I found myself imagining a Mills and Boon plot where the mottled beauty and scarce footman are bound together by a true lover’s knot – perhaps the lackey has a part in there somewhere?


Moths can occur in large numbers given the right conditions, as anyone who watched the recent Euro 2016 football final in Paris on television will have noticed; moths were everywhere, there must have been tens of thousands of them. Apparently the stadium lights had been left on all night creating, in effect, a gigantic moth trap. By the time the match kicked off the next day the place was crawling with moths, most of which were the silver Y, named after the distinctive shiny marks on its wings, which its scientific name Autographa gamma describe much more accurately. This is a migrant species that must have been passing north through Paris in very large numbers – some no doubt destined for the UK.  However events like this can be misleading as to the overall health of our moth populations. The Rothampstead Insect Survey, which has been trapping moths throughout the UK since 1968, has shown that overall abundance has decreased by 28% in that time and this rises to 40% in southern Britain. The spectacular black and white garden tiger, which has bright orange hind wings, has declined by as much as 92%; although it seems to be holding up on Bardsey – we caught 14 one night. The reasons for these declines are complex and multi-factorial but are overwhelmingly due, directly or indirectly, to human activity.

Silver Y, Great Orme, Sept 2007

photo: Janet Graham  

It seems sad that you now have to go to the ends of the (Welsh) Earth to get a glimpse of the wild abundance that was available to every country child not so long ago.



For How Much Longer?


 It’s a cool damp morning framed by bleating sheep and the smell of bracken. Plodding up the hillside I am looking for boot-marks in the boggy ground amongst the white flags of cotton grass. They should have gone this way a couple of hours before me.

Cresting the ridge the wind spits rain into my face, making my eyes water. I am relieved I had the good sense to put on plenty of layers, which didn’t really seem necessary when I left home. The cloud is lifting, thank goodness, so I am able to scan the huge expanse of moorland and bog spread out in front of me. I can’t see any sheep, or people, which is a bit worrying. I have come up here to watch one of my neighbours ‘gather’ the sheep from his mountain-land and take them down to the farm for shearing. He should be ahead of me somewhere. Eventually I spot some sheep on the drier ground about a mile away and, encouragingly, a few are in single file heading slowly downhill.

Gradually the sheep coalesce into lines, like milk trickling slowly into the bowl of dead ground behind the ridge to my right – then the place is empty again. Sitting in the heather, idly eating bilberries, I watch a kestrel slide out over the great expanse of bog, which is being swept by weak patches of sunlight. You might think this remote, wind-torn landscape is untouched, the very essence of wildness, but sheep have been sculpting it for hundreds of years. As the writer Roger Deakin put it so aptly “they keep the contours… clear, sharp and well defined, like balding picture-restorers constantly at work on every detail.” On a nearby crag I can see a single yellow flower of goldenrod clinging to the one place the sheep can’t reach; a whisper of what might be if the incessant nibbling were to cease.


After about an hour the sheep still haven’t reappeared so I begin retracing my steps in case they have got round behind me. Sure enough, a long line of ewes and lambs are snaking slowly across the hillside below me and bottlenecking at a gate. Up to my left a man with two dogs is slowly descending the hillside, whistling to the sheep, urging them forward. There is a cacophony of bleating as the ewes try to stay in touch with their lambs in the jostle. At the gate I meet my neighbour with his brother and grown-up son, plus eight sheep dogs. He explains to me that they have been taking it slowly, “if you don’t hurry them you will get the job done quicker in the end” – because the ewes are less likely to lose their lambs and go looking for them. These sheep are following a path of their own making over many generations and the men are in their grandfathers’ footsteps. These are the only paths here, ground into the hillside by the feet of countless sheep and attendant boots. Although the men have been walking for hours over rough terrain they are still moving easily, almost strolling through the bracken and across bogs. In full waterproofs and wellingtons (but bareheaded, surprisingly) they have the casual ease of people in their element. They have known sheep farming since they were boys and their expertise is palpable.

It is the continuity, the steadiness through time that strikes me. In a febrile week of politics following the Brexit vote, when our world seems in turmoil, it is reassuring to walk with these men following traditional rhythms and routes. Yet even here politics colour perception: no hill-farmer can stay in business these days without EU subsidies. For how much longer will sheep and men follow these paths at the edges of British agriculture?



Not Just a Load of Old Lentils


photo: Elen Elias

 Rounding the bend in the road we let out a collective ‘WOW’ for spread out below us was a view as beautiful as it was desolate. It looked more like Tibet than central Italy. Ringed by the snow-streaked mountains of the Sibillini National Park was a dead-flat high altitude plain known as the Piano Grande. Apart from some high level patches of beech forest, whose tender new leaves had been scorched brown by a late frost, there was not a bush or tree in sight. Standing there in the cool mountain air this place seemed empty and forgotten.

Motoring down into the valley two things were immediately striking: its flatness and the chirping of thousands of crickets. The plain was once a glacial lake which has left behind a soft alluvial soil, and the crickets, whose burrows were everywhere, were confined to it like frogs to a pond. This deep soil is highly fertile and for many years farmers have grown lentils here, which are famous in Umbria and named after the village at the far end of the valley – lenticchie di Castellucio. No artificial fertilisers or herbicides are used in their cultivation; whether by preference or regulation, I am not sure. This, plus the limey soil and mountain climate produces a fabulous display of wild flowers, which bloom in the fallow and harvested areas, as well amongst the crops. It was these that had brought us here.


From afar the plain appeared only green with some distant bands of yellow but as we walked out on to it the flowers were all around our feet. On the drier ground were countless grape hyacinths, yellow and purple mountain pansies and deep blue gentians. Further out, where it was wetter, thousands of white narcissi mixed with yellow tulips, whose pointed petals were tipped with orange. Scattered amongst them were deep purple green-winged orchids. Standing in this sea of flowers, ringed by mountains with skylarks pouring out their song overhead felt like a version of heaven. Later in the short season this plain will be washed with deep reds and blues from the next round of flowers to be painted onto the valley floor. It is a rare thing to witness such wild profusion.




On the valley sides we could see two flocks of sheep being moved slowly forward by shepherds and their dogs. It seems remarkable that in twenty-first century Western Europe there are still shepherds following their flocks in that age old biblical way. The sheep were gradually converging on a narrow valley where a thoroughly modern solution to sustaining the ancient system of transhumance (moving to the mountains for seasonal grazing) was arranged: a section of hillside was enclosed by an electric fence to pen the sheep at night, two modern caravans for the shepherds and 4×4 vehicles to tow them completed a set-up that could easily be moved to another part of the valley for fresh grazing. I was particularly interested to see the dozen large Maremma dogs at the camp, as this breed, indigenous to central Italy, is kept to defend the flock at night from the attacks of wolves. The wolf population in Italy, as in many areas of Europe, has been increasing in recent years.


The hilltop village of Castellucio at the other end of the valley had a distinctly end-of-the-line, frontier feeling. Framed against the bare mountains the ancient buildings and tourist shacks looked more like Nepal than Western Europe. Local people told us they have 10 months of winter here; it had snowed two nights previously. The picturesque village, with narrow winding streets climbing up to the church has only eight remaining permanent residents, and some of those are here for obscure tax reasons apparently. The rest of the houses are holiday homes mostly used in the short summer season.



The Piano Grande seems a vivid example of our ever changing relationship with the land: rural depopulation as people leave for the towns, an increase in wolves as livestock farming declines, trekking and wildflowers as seasonal tourist attractions. I wonder how much longer sheep will be brought up here for the summer grazing? If that should stop perhaps spontaneous reforestation of the mountainsides will be next, and bears will follow.



Toads in a Hole



 Even in the spring sunshine this quarry gives me the creeps. A huge hole in the ground, its hacked-out walls still bare and dripping a hundred years on.

The sun is hot on my back for the first time this year; I feel overdressed in my winter gear. A peacock butterfly flits away from my casting shadow as I follow the rough path down to the bottom. A faint whiff of coconut from the flowering gorse is a comfort. With frightening suddenness a military jet roars low overhead and the noise, amplified in the bowl of the quarry, has me cowering and covering my ears.

Under a dripping overhang the height of a parish church, a five-foot high, black-mouthed tunnel disappears into the hillside – God knows where too. I try to imagine dragging slate out of that forbidding hole day after day. Somebody has been burning plastic rubbish near the entrance. The quarrymen wouldn’t have known what plastic was. A wren belting out his song from a sallow bush is pumped up to Pavarotti volume in here – which no doubt pleases him.

Amongst the bushes is a shallow pool that has all the charm of a large puddle on a construction site. Graffiti scratched by bored teenagers or besotted lovers decorates the slate blocks littered around it. The bottom of the pool is strewn with slate debris covered in algal slime. Nothing else grows there. Several pale brown newts wriggle away to hide under stones, as if shunning the light. I am puzzled by four perfectly synchronised brown marks twitching across the underwater rubble. Eventually it dawns on me that they are the shadows of depressions in the water’s surface made by a pond skater’s feet. These insects truly can walk on water.


In the water on the far side of the pool I find what brought me here: toads, dozens of them. Some are scrabbling for an amorous grip on overwhelmed females. Others are hanging motionless in the water, as if caught in amber for a thousand years. They seem oblivious of my presence. Lines of spawn criss-cross amongst them, like tape spelling out their DNA code. There are dead and half-dead ones drifting amongst them. Why do they come back to this God forsaken place each year to spawn? Yet somehow they match the quarry in their cold-bloodedness; mindless and blind to everything except reproduction in this hole in the ground. It is like some post-apocalyptic glimpse of what life might look like after we have gone.


Nature in its Place



Although the wind is sharp the sun warms my face and there is a sprinkling of blossom on the ancient plum trees. The bank in front of me is bright with celandines and clumps of primroses. It looks like spring, although it doesn’t yet feel like it.

I am on a regular visit to a Victorian country house and estate near Brecon, now used as a retreat centre amongst other things. Recently the grounds have been ‘taken in hand’ and there has been a good deal of tidying up. Over the winter the tall hedge along the drive has been cut down. I remember the holly blue butterflies and hoards of other insects that fed on the ivy flowers last autumn, and the pink tinged hawthorn blossom in the spring. Perhaps they thought it looked untidy. The drifts of planted daffodils swaying along the side of the drive would gladden any heart but in a week or two they will be gone, replaced by mown grass for the other ten months of the year. The mowing here now extends to acres, having recently taken in some rough grassland rich in wild flowers and insects. These enormous lawns set the house off in a kind of stately monotony, which the management must find attractive.


Walking back towards the house I can hear a little grebe on the lake trilling melodramatically, as if in fear of its life. A pair of ravens are rolling and flipping over the tall trees above the drive – probably they are nesting there. Right in the top of a sycamore a chiffchaff is belting out its repetitive song. I heard the first one only two days ago and already the sound is fading from my attention back into the general soundscape. It does seem extraordinary that this little bird, whose weight would barely register in the palm of my hand, may have just flown 3000 miles from Senegal, or some other West African country. I doubt I could walk the 10 miles from here to Brecon.

This estate is, in many ways, rich in wildlife. It has the largest breeding colony of lesser horseshoe bats in Britain, there are otters on the river – I once saw one run across the lawn here. Sand martins nest in the riverbank and last autumn I saw hornets feeding on sap running down an old oak, they are an uncommon sight in Wales. I have also found the beautiful pink waxcap fungi – in the mown grass.

Beyond the house I come to a 500 year old sweet chestnut tree that I pay homage too each time I visit. All gnarls and goitres it emanates accumulated history. It was already here when Shakespeare was writing A Midsummer Night’s Dream. As a non-native species it was probably planted, no doubt by somebody of ‘wealth and taste’, long before the present mansion was built. If only that had half the elegance of this old tree. I notice there has been some careful pruning; this tree, along with other veterans here, is being carefully looked after.


Later in the afternoon I find myself tutting over some of the estate’s ‘derelict’ woodland: close spindly trees with a rampant understory of laurel and rhododendron. From there I go poking about amongst the crumbling buildings of the Home farm. Perversely I find this dereliction attractive and take photographs of a broken door and an old water wheel. There is also an enormous walled garden, except that it is now just a wall, enclosing the same field inside and out.

All of this got me thinking about how we like things to look a certain way. Most of my own concerns, based on values of naturalness and native species, would probably go unnoticed by the majority of people. Many will delight in the gracious lawns and banks of swaying daffodils. It seems we prefer nature tamed or even excluded around our houses and public spaces. Much of my own garden is given over to nature but I can’t quite bring myself to leave sections of the boundary hedge untrimmed for the benefit of birds and insects. It just looks too untidy! So I have some understanding for the managers of this estate.

Tidying up invariably leads to a subtle impoverishment of living organisms, most of them too small to get noticed. Variety is essential to any ecosystem. Without it the web of life gets hollowed out until, like the walled garden, it is little more than a ghost of what was originally there. Could we allow a little more tangle, rough grass and thicket in our private and public spaces? Such habitats are now in surprisingly short supply in the countryside.

As I leave a van from a pest control firm has pulled over on the side of the drive. A grim faced man is standing over a solitary molehill in a wide expanse of mown grass. It seems this small pile of brown earth is not acceptable and the mole will have to be destroyed. And this is in an establishment which is strictly vegetarian, where you may not even bring a hen’s egg onto the premises. It seems we will go a long way to achieve what ‘looks nice’.