Mankind is competent at clearing up after itself. Last week I discussed how clear the nation’s air has become now that pollutants such as smoke from factories and power stations have been dramatically reduced.
The chief sources of soot-laden fumes have disappeared, and those dark, satanic mills powered by coal are no more.
Shropshire’s Ironbridge hell-hole has returned to a rural idyll, as have the wastelands surrounding the once grimy Black Country towns and cities. Blackened they were; the fall-out from furnaces gnawed at every brick.
Utterly choked were vast areas of northern England, yet today they are tourist beauty spots.
Here in the western counties of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset, iron and silver mining despoiled surrounding non-agricultural landscapes.
The pretty villages of Lustleigh, Watchet and Combe Martin became grim industrial enclaves, with working adults fortunate to reach 45.
Ilfracombe’s Earth Repair Shop – Credit: Dave Griffin
Sudden accidental death in the 19th century was commonplace; even horse-drawn transport caused more fatalities than motor vehicles do today.
Improved methods of combustion mean modern vehicle emissions are at an all-time low, although the boom in electric cars may create dire problems for the future in terms of battery disposal.
There is some way to go but we are travelling in the right direction. I’ve been reminded that some of the harmful toxins are invisible but alas, in order to enjoy the benefits of our comfortable lives, we have to tolerate some of the consequences.
Plastic waste disrupts marine life, but there’s a booming new industry dedicated to harvesting all that ocean-bound material. Globally, imaginative companies have discovered that microplastics in filtered seawater will produce a resource capable of being turned into everything from furniture and clothing to footwear. It started with straps for deep-sea divers’ watches.
We have a duty to keep our planet clean and tidy, and dealing with waste is a top priority. Ilfracombe’s Earth Repair Shop is eager to educate the public on the perils we face if we don’t routinely neutralise everyday toxins. Its window display declares that smokers are responsible for the thousands of tons of cigarette ends that find their way into our oceans.
Dog-ends contain cellulose, acetate, nicotine and heavy metals. Fishing line, too, is particularly dangerous to aquatic animals who either ingest it, or get caught up in it.
Earth Repair Shop names local traders who are happy to fill your own containers, including both Lloyd’s and Mike Turton’s butchers, Maddie’s fish-and-chip shop and Normans greengrocers.
Pop in and have a chat; you won’t get a lecture. ERS volunteers can advise you how to dispose of Pringles packs and other complex packaging, and will also relieve you of all those medicine blister packs.
I need a wheelbarrow for mine. Manufacturers are reverting to cardboard to wrap food and sanitary products, whilst paper is replacing plastic film, especially for magazine and catalogue mailings.
Let’s revive, too, the milkman, and deliveries of glass-bottled milk and dairy products in rechargeable milk-floats. If the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse do ride into a plastic-free Ilfracombe one day, they’ll have a job finding a disposable cup to drink from.
Grocer Jack, Grocer Jack, Is Back In Town
Ilfracombe’s grocery business is dominated by Tesco, Lidl and the Co-Op, but let’s not forget Jack’s Dairy, in Wilder Road, still providing a reliable service to the community, it being the town’s last small independent grocer. But is there a new name in our High Street threatening to topple the retail giants?
Could it be in the form of J. H. Perry, purveyor of groceries and provisions? Supermarkets can breathe a sigh of relief. Just revealed following the removal of All Kinds of Everything’s fascia is the name of a former proprietor, Mr. Jack Perry, who traded until 1963.
J. H. Perry, purveyor of groceries and provisions – Credit: Dave Griffin
His store later turned into Andy’s restaurant, then the Speed Queen launderette prior to becoming the premises from which the present furniture trader is now retiring.
The Kyriakou family, as freeholder, has promised to conserve the Perry signboard. Don’t go in there for a tin of peas. You’ll be disappointed.