The natural environment consists of a series of determined binaries: light and dark, cold and hot, wet and dry. These were the first powers our ancestors recognised and understood; their customs and activities evolved around these conditions. Today our great festivals are folk memories, fires and lights celebrate the closing and opening of the seasons and the years.

 It is only in the last century and a half that the majority of the population, the urban dwellers, have managed to turn their backs on the constraints of these binaries. For only the last hundred of the thousands of years of our existence can people go about their business not noticing or worrying whether it is dark, light, cold or dry.

 This clearly provides many benefits, but at the same time destroys the simple pleasures that can be derived from the patterns and routines of nature.

 It’s useless to cry for a star in the sky
When the city lights tell me there’s none

 And out in the countryside, where the elements still retain their power, the steady creep of this progress is continually felt. Where until recently I could walk out on lanes and fields, lit by the light of a full moon glistening on snow, ice or dew, it is now carriage lights and security lights that illumine my route. The urban and suburban dwellers who are, in incessant hordes, quitting the town to enjoy the country life are destroying the roots of that life by bringing their urban needs with them. Their abhorrence of darkness produces gardens that light up as bright as day should you approach within fifty yards of their boundaries, campaigns for better street lighting push the night out of the valleys and houses across the hillsides twinkle with solar and electric power.

 He approached and perceived the Gothic remains of an abbey; it stood on a kind of a rude lawn, overshadowed by high and spreading trees, which seemed coeval with the building and diffused a romantic gloom around. The greater part of the pile appeared to be sinking into ruins, and that, which had withstood the ravages of time, shewed the remaining features of the fabric more awful in decay. The lofty battlements, thickly enwreathed with ivy, were half demolished, and became the residence of birds of prey. As De La Motte advanced into the cobbled courtyard suddenly light burst forth on every side, the glare of ten 300 watt security lights broke his reverie, and the screeches of a thousand starlings fleeing this rude awakening filled the skies.

 And now, the Helsby Village Footpath Society in their infinite wisdom and respect for our heritage and culture have undertaken the momentous and certainly expensive task of converting all the stiles in the area to silver grey metallic self closing gates. For centuries past we have enjoyed learning, and teaching our children to scramble over and jump from stiles. Stiles found in breaks in the hedgerow or cunningly constructed over stone walls and fences.

 So now, no longer, should Emily stumble upon her Arcadian Valancourt, strumming his lute whilst resting against a rustic style. Future Emily’s will meet their swains gliding through a safety gate, their midnight tryst floodlit, the banditti in the shadows banished and the last vestiges of romance banished with them.