top of page
Screenshot 2023-07-03 at 14.22.35.png
Screenshot 2023-07-03 at 14.17.35.png
William Sitwell argues that hose pipe bans don't just wreck his lawn and flower beds they are an assault on his freedom

IT might be the stupidest thing I’ve done this week. Hosting my sister’s 50th this coming weekend and with a house full I thought the dead, dying, sad and scorched pots around the house needed a makeover. So I nipped to the garden centre and loaded the car with colour, climbers and scent. I’m not good on flora and fauna but there were reds and pinks, blues and purples. There was a clematis and some camellia, some variegated foliage (I’m just reading the labels, ok?) and some pink and purple flowers whose job is to spread and flow from old wooden wine boxes.


I duly potted them around the house and, as I patted myself on the back, and winced a little at the price, I set about doing what, by the time you read this, might be considered a crime.


Helicopters occasionally buzz over our little patch of remote, rural England. I sometimes wonder what they’re up to. Is someone up there with binos? Any minute will there be a 1984-style scene as men dressed in black, with balaclava helmets, shimmy down ropes? Then swarming onto my paving stones, to jump me, to pin me down. ‘Broadsword calling Danny Boy,’ they radio, ‘we’ve got him.’


As I’m pinned down, my weapon is removed. Yes, my hose is holstered, wound back onto the reel. Tap turned off.


If you’re doing what I did in Devon or Cornwall, Kent or Sussex you’re already a felon. And just because you might think your local reservoir is full to bursting don’t you be so smug. There’s a hose pipe ban coming and these days we, as a nation, like to do things with one accord, in union.


Which means all those potted plants we’ve purchased and all those borders we’ve nurtured are about to dry and perish.


So you did No Mow May? Sorry, but there’s no reward for that: get ready for Stop Summer Sprinkling!


And, no doubt, being the comedy nation we now are, the hose pipe ban will kick in just as the thunderclouds gather and the rains pour down, disrupting our roads and our rail journeys, possibly on a calendar day when Mr Lynch hasn’t instructed his followers to stay at home and watch telly.


Now the implantation of a hose pipe ban might surprise those of you who have looked back and considered the weather patterns over the last ten months. Because from around September 6th last year until I think it was May 2nd 2023 it didn’t stop raining. And it rained so much that sewage overflowed into rivers giving all those wild swimmers bad tummies.


It rained so much where I live that an old cowshed was about a foot under water, the paths through a nearby wood were carved into mini ravines from the rushing waters. I’ve never seen so many sheep in the fields around us hobbling around with foot rot.


It rained so much onto our house that countless times where I sit and write I’ve looked up to the skylight, hammered with heavy rain, and said, ‘OK, ok. I think that’s about enough now.’


But no. It seems it wasn’t enough. Most of the water companies didn’t manage to trap all that water, they argued that sewage overspills into our rivers is sort of normal and they haven’t been able to invest in their infrastructure to deal with either of those issues. It’s like a chef saying: ‘Yeah, so sorry there’s a rat running around the place and your steak is over-cooked but I’ve been struggling with staff shortages and my reduced food margins.’


And, it seems, privately these companies revel in their incompetence as they count up their bonuses and nice, high salaries.


Except that it’s not all their fault. It’s also the government’s the nation’s, ours. And it’s fuelled by sections of the media. Remember those few hot days last summer, when BBC news began to hyperventilate with excitement. The ‘it’s very hot, we’re all doomed’ reports rang a bell with me. It was like COVID all over again when the BBC revelled in its nightly reports of deaths. Why don’t they do this with car crashes, I would mumble. I mean, aren’t they a daily, shocking scandal we should be hysterical about and bang crockery and pans and do something drastic to prevent?


The pandemic ushered in an era we thought was only possible in war time: national terror, nationwide obedience, prudish curtain twitching, local, tin-pot despots gleefully administering unnecessary freedom-restricting regulations, and holier-than-though judgements cast upon those who chose to absolve themselves from such restrictions.


Yes, the hose-pipe ban might have credence in some quarters, but it’s also mask muzzling in a different form. Face coverings on, socially distance, stay at home, don’t even think about turning that tap on.


I’m not saying break the law. I’m simply suggesting we ask a few more questions of businesses, local and national authorities. How much water is there really and why didn’t you trap the stuff that came from the sky. And yes, it’s not quite sexy enough to make the news because I’m not a leader eating cake, when that sort of thing was banned. But I can’t just stand here and watch my new clematis wither and die…

bottom of page