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Sunday, April 14, 2024
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HomeNotes from the SticksNotes from the Sticks: Slugs and snails - a lifelong love

Notes from the Sticks: Slugs and snails – a lifelong love

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I HAVE grown so used to the ignorant drivel spouted by lobby groups with ‘Natural’ or ‘Wild’ or ‘Green’ in the title (for example the recent ludicrous claim by 82 outfits that the countryside is ‘racist’) that it comes as a real shock when they say something sensible.

Last week there was one such rare occasion when the Wildlife Trusts and the Royal Horticultural Society launched a campaign on behalf of snails and slugs called ‘Making friends with molluscs’. The literature quite rightly says that slugs and snails do far more good than harm. There are about 150 varieties in Britain and only a few are garden pests. On the credit side they eat dog mess and other animal dung, rotting vegetable matter and carrion. They are also food for a wide variety of other wildlife including hedgehogs, thrushes, frogs and toads.

I’ve been a gastropod (gastro=stomach, pod=foot) fan all my life and I recently dug out this picture taken by my father when I was six or seven at Beadnell, Northumberland, where we spent family holidays.

My companion is a garden snail. (At that time it was known as Helix aspersa but has been renamed Cornu aspersum. What fun it must be on a nomenclature committee.)

I used to collect them every morning then let them go again. I expect they got a bit fed up with being picked up every day. After we moved south, we took our holidays at Dymchurch on the Kent coast, where I could find the pretty Brown Lipped and White Lipped snails which come in many colours and stripes (closely related but distinguishable by the colour on the rim of the shell).

Below is a Brown Lipped snail (Cepaea nemoralis) which I photographed near our Lancashire home last year.

This is a stock picture of a White Lipped snail (Cepaea hortensis).

Later my kind dad built me some snail houses, open to the ground, and I kept some Roman snails (Helix pomatia) which at that time (1950s) were quite common in the hilly scrubby area south of Croydon (Kenley, Whyteleafe etc, probably covered with houses long since).

They are now very rare in Britain and are protected by law, so you may not take them from the wild if you are lucky enough to find one. They must be four times the size of the garden snail, and I regret to say that this is the type of snail which is eaten.

I  wrote about slugs here and in the article I gave a list of plants which slugs and snails don’t eat. There is plenty of scope for us all to live together.

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A FEW weeks ago I recommended a rant in Country Squire Magazine by a born and bred countryman, Gary Baxter, about the woke townies who think, quite wrongly, they know how to run the countryside. You can read it here. Yesterday he was at it again, here, in his refreshingly robust way. If only I thought the people he was targeting would ever read it and learn something.

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Bovine of the Week

THE South Devon is the largest of the British native cattle breeds, and is nicknamed the ‘Gentle Giant’ because it is exceptionally good-natured and easy to handle. This is fortunate because a bull is typically 6ft at the withers (the ridge between the shoulders) and up to 3,300lb, or close to a ton and a half.

This is a bull and calves,

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:South_Devon_cattle.JPG

and here is a cow.

The light red coat is curly. Both sexes may have horns, which are downward-curved.

There are various theories about the origin of the breed. Some authorities say they are descended from the large red cattle of Normandy which were imported during the 11th century Norman invasion of England, while others say they originated in the South Devon area known as the South Hams. A third suggestion is that they arose from cross-breeding between local Devon stock and Channel Islands cattle such as the Alderney, because the breeds share an unusual gene which is not present in other British breeds. The South Devon Herd Book Society says that large numbers were taken from the Devon port of Plymouth to the North American colonies, including a few on the Mayflower in 1620. They are still popular in the US.

For a long time it was a dual-purpose breed, being kept for meat and milk, and because of its size it was used as a draught animal too. The milk was plentiful and high quality, but the udders were not a good shape for mechanical milking, so from the 1970s the South Devons have been selectively bred as beef cattle, producing high quality marbled meat.  

Here is a charming film featuring a young farmer who has taken over his grandparents’ herd.

You can find out more at the South Devon Herd Book Society website

I was amused to see on another website, the Cattle International Series, that someone has gone to the trouble of producing an acrostic (when the first letters of a list or poem spell out a subject) about ten reasons to keep South Devons.

S – Succulent beef fed on grass
O – Opportunity to purchase quality
U – Unique amongst native cattle
T – Texture and taste
H – Healthy lifestyle  

D – Dependable cookability
E – Experience Superior Quality
V – Value for money
O – Omega 3 for improved health
N – Naturally reared to high standards

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Wheels of the Week

I CAN never decide whether the DeLorean is the most beautiful car ever made, or one of the ugliest. Either way it is sensational. I saw one at a motorway services ages ago and there was a crowd round it.

Here is one manufactured in 1982 but not registered until 1988, 2800cc.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:DeLorean_DMC12_(1981)_-_8000988913.jpg
De Lorean DMC12 (1981)

This is the back of another car.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1981_DeLorean_DMC-12_coupe_(19370732674).jpg

And the rear logo.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:1981_DeLorean_DMC-12_coupe_(19805260728).jpg

Five gold-plated models were produced. This one is in the William F Harrah Foundation National Automobile Museum in Reno, Nevada.

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gold-D.jpg

The DeLorean Owners’ Club has published a very useful potted history and here is an even more potted version, with thanks and acknowledgements. You can read the full account, with pictures, here. The car was officially called the DMC-12.

‘The DMC-12 is an example of a dream gone horribly wrong. Its story involves financial chicanery and mismanagement, British government embarrassment, broken employment dreams for thousands of workers in Dunmurry, FBI entrapment and the downfall of one of America’s brightest and most controversial engineers.

‘Only about 9,000 DMC-12s were ever built [I believe the precise figure is 9,530] with all but a handful shipped to the USA. The striking Giorgetto Giugiaro design and its stainless steel body panels and gull-wing doors were supported on a glass-fibre underbody and Lotus-designed Y backbone chassis.

‘The whole project was the brainchild of John Zachary DeLorean, former Senior Vice President of General Motors. He left GM in 1972 (the full circumstances have never been fully explained by either party) with a stated wish to build an ‘ethical sports car’.

‘In 1975 the DeLorean Motor Company was formed and JZD gained financial backing to have two prototype cars made. Later he looked for a place to build his dream machine. After looking at sites throughout the world, in 1978, JZD finally decided on Dunmurry, just outside Belfast. A deal was signed with the Northern Ireland Development Agency, who made large grants available to anyone brave enough to provide jobs in Northern Ireland during ‘the troubles’. This money [the sum was £120million] was provided by and underwritten by the then Labour British government.

‘DeLorean struck a deal with Colin Chapman of Lotus to re-engineer the prototypes for mass production. In January 1981 the first car came off the line.

‘All seemed fine for a few months, with shipments of cars sent to America, where they were eagerly awaited by the dealers and customers alike. Even the motoring press initially gave them a warm reception. However by the summer of 1981 some quality issues were noted and received a bad press and America was heading into a recession, making expensive two-seater cars less desirable. With hundreds of unsold cars stacked up on both sides of the Atlantic the logical thing to do was to drastically cut production, but DeLorean gambled that if he kept the employment/ production rates up, the British Government would not dare refuse him yet more money to carry on. Unfortunately he had not reckoned with the ‘Iron Lady’, Margaret Thatcher, who was unwilling to sign blank cheques for DeLorean.

‘In 1982 the factory went into receivership, but the receivers were hopeful that the business could be salvaged. DeLorean went on a whirlwind world tour desperately trying to raise the necessary funds. He kept indicating that a new deal was about to be concluded, but the money never materialised. Eventually a group of former senior factory managers got a deal together that would save the factory.

‘All the contracts were ready to sign; the money and backers were in place . . . they were all sitting around awaiting a promised phone call from John DeLorean. What they got instead was a shaky black and white TV image of DeLorean in a hotel bedroom, comparing a suitcase full of cocaine to gold and toasting those present for making it all possible. Then the FBI walked in and arrested him.

‘DeLorean was allegedly taking part in a multi-million-dollar cocaine deal to rescue the company. He was eventually acquitted on the grounds of entrapment, but it was much too late; the damage was done. The money men had already walked away, the factory was liquidated, the dream had ended.’

The car was planned to sell for $12,000 (hence the 12 in DMC-12) but in the event the price was $20,000. The DeLorean Owners’ Club, naturally, does not emphasise the shortcomings of the car but to summarise, the build quality was seen as poor and the performance disappointing. In 2017, Time magazine included the DeLorean in its list of the 50 worst cars of all time

In 1985 it featured in the film Back to the Future, and later its two sequels. Here is a video of all the scenes in which it appears. 

DeLorean died in 2005 at the age of 80. It is estimated that 5,000 of his cars survive.

If you would like to buy one, there are a few on the market. Here are three, including a (presumably rare) right-hand-drive model (they were built as LHD but some were converted to RHD) at prices ranging from £50k to £65k. 

In 1995 a new DeLorean Motor Company, unrelated to the old, acquired the former manufacturer’s remaining parts inventory and registered its stylised DMC logo trademark. In 2022, the company announced it was entering production on an electric car, the DeLorean Alpha5, which is supposed to do 0-60 mph in 2.99 seconds and have a top speed of 155mph. We shall see.

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Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth
Margaret Ashworth is a retired national newspaper journalist. She runs the Subbing Clinic in a hopeless attempt to keep up standards, and co-runs A & M Records where she indulges her passion for 60s pop.

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