There’s nothing quite like a bit of poop on the footpath to confirm you’re in England.
But we’re not talking any old poo here. Bird poo is so frequent it hardly registers. Cow poo is more likely to be located on a road through a Swiss alpine field. Dog poo is just off (I’ve had more than enough of that in some places in Italy where the dangers of the footpath rival those of the road). No, I’m talking about sheep manure.
A well-placed sheep dropping is a greeting from the pastures of England which says, “Welcome to rural England. The pace is different here; the boundaries humans have created between themselves and the natural world, not so pronounced. Enjoy the unusual juxtaposition of farm animals and built-up areas.”
Is it that manure returns me to my childhood farming days or to a nostalgic, deeper past where all humans were closer to animals? Is it that I appreciate the smell and form of animal manure as a sort of architecture? Wild poop, unidentified scat, holds a fascination for me. I wonder what sort of animal produced it, what their diet consists of, why the scat takes a particular physical form.
Perhaps most of all, sheep manure on a footpath is an acknowledgement of our unity as creatures of the earth. We have encroached so much, have put animals in boxes – literally and figuratively – it’s refreshing to see them allowed to roam in our spaces. And unexpectedness is often fun.