In the Daily Telegraph there was a story about the decay of Ilkley Moor in Yorkshire. Paths worn out, litter, and general decay. Even the purple heather is being overwhelmed by bracken (perhaps a lesson to all those who think that ‘Mother Nature’ will always make things nice if she is left in charge). As usual ‘underfunding’ from the government (national and from the local government of the city of Bradford) got most of the blame.
But there were some other things mentioned. The pressure of the number of visitors was pointed to (no price of entry, no real owner… ‘tragedy of the Commons’ anyone?).
The removal of power from the local town to the city of Bradford back in the early 1970’s (by Edward Heath and Peter Walker the Conservative party ‘modernizers’ of their day – people much like David Cameron and Francis Maude in our own time). Was attacked by some people. Some people wanted to copy the ‘Malvern Hills Conservators’, a voluntary group in Worcestershire (or whatever it is called these days) which has been protecting the Malvern Hills since the 19th century – rather than trust either the city of Bradford or the local town council. And some local people pointed to something of interest.
Anne Hawkesworth (now that sounds like a Yorkshire name), from the local town council is quoted as saying “If you stand in the centre of Ilkely and look up, on one side you see the purple of the Beamsley and Devonshire estates, but on the Ilkley side you just see bracken”.
J.S. Mill (not a man I admire, as some readers here may know) said that private ownership of great estates could only be justified by the owner acting as a guardian for the people. I believe that such private ownership needs no ‘justification’, any more than Mr Mill should have had to ‘justify’ owning his house or his boots.
However, there is no denying that private ownership has proven to be a better guardian of the environment than the state.