On a fine winter’s day, the first after weeks of storms and rain, I went for a walk in the country. I found myself in a typical English rural landscape, driving down hedge-lined lanes that grew progressively narrower. A couple of dead badgers lay whitening on the edges of the road.

At the gate of a farm, the road turned abruptly into an ascending mud track. Three men were digging a ditch at the entrance. I got out and asked them if I could continue up. They spoke little English – their accents from some new-entrant country to the EU I couldn’t immediately identify. I gestured up the track and one of them said, “No,” and shook his head. There was no way through. I decided to start my walk regardless, not knowing if it was a public footpath or whether someone might come running out the farm to stop me.

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