Thursday, August 2nd and the sixth load of granite arrives by barge on spring midday tide at Hastings to bolster the towns harbour arm. This tug and barge combination is about to unload 3.5K tonnes of Cornish granite which was loaded at Falmouth. Splash!
There are lots of really good, relevant news stories and up to date research to be found on the RSPB’s Martin Harper’s Blog. Here are some of the latest articles from this source which is to be found at: https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/default.aspx
Recent fires on the Pennines. https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2018/06/29/wildfire-at-dove-stone.aspx
Severn estuary tidal barrage review. https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2018/07/04/severn-tidal-power-can-we-learn-the-lessons-this-time.aspx
Nature-friendly farming. https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2018/06/29/good-news-for-a-friday-growing-solidarity-and-ambition-for-nature-friendly-farming.aspx
Controlling predators of wild birds. https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2018/06/28/the-conservationist-39-s-dilemma-an-update-on-the-science-policy-and-practice-of-the-impact-of-predators-on-wild-birds-5.aspx
Licencing the shooting of ravens?https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2018/06/18/a-response-to-news-that-licenses-have-been-granted-to-shoot-ravens-in-england.aspx
Swifts – house building, reporting nesting sites, wintering grounds. https://ww2.rspb.org.uk/community/ourwork/b/martinharper/archive/2018/06/17/swift-awareness-week.aspx
Sunday, Sept 18. I walked with a friend to Bishopstone Tidemills where there is much evidence of the archaeological dig being carried out to unearth the remains of the now ‘lost’ village. I found the evidence of William Catt’s huge greenhouse intriguing with what I assume are heating pipes beneath the structure?
I was also made aware of local opposition to the proposed expansion of Newhaven Port on to land designated several decades ago as ‘the port development area’ which will see most of the East Pier demolished to make way for an increased deep-water channel and the construction of a new 300 metre long quay and an adjacent ‘lay-down’ or working area. The main thrust behind all this is to establish a base from which to service E-ON’s Rampion Offshore Wind Farm currently under construction off Brighton. I am all for green energy and this development would make the appearance of the port look like a working port again, rather than the semi-derelict one Newhaven appears to travellers entering the port at the moment. The new quay would also attract larger cargo ships and cargoes.
I have since spent some hours reading through a number of documents freely available at http://padocs.lewes.gov.uk/AniteIM.WebSearch/Results.aspx The downsides of this development are in my view from three directions. 1) There would be the commercial activity and associated sounds creeping even closer to the already compromised solace that people derive from visiting the tranquillity of the Tidemills site. 2) The loss of several hectares of the East Beach with much of it an expanse of vegetated shingle – a threatened habitat nowadays in our busy world and, the loss of an extensive areas of sand at low water. 3) The construction of a large and by what appears to be a fairly high road bridge traversing both the railway line to Seaford and the Mill Creek. I believe these three issues are cause of quite some concern but sadly, they are not sufficiently significant to stop or amend this development – especially with this Tory governments obsession with development over nearly everything else.
I do feel though that as a further mitigation the owners of the port, the French-owned Newhaven Port & Properties Ltd, could at no additional cost extend eastwards the proposed local nature reserve for Tidemills, to include the large triangle of vegetated shingle stretching towards Seaford (part of the former millpond) and the grassed floodbank (the Cinder Path), unless they have ‘plans’ for this too? I have forwarded this impassioned proposal to both Mr. Francois Jean of Newhaven Port & Properties Ltd. and to Nazeya Hussain of Lewes District Council.
Saturday, Sept 9. I took a railway excursion, ending up back on the coast at Folkestone. Rail travel I believe, is a fine way of seeing cross-sections of our landscape. On the outward journey north, I saw what were presumably, two hot-spots of ash die-back disease – one just north of Battle and a very noticeable area at and around Wadhurst station. Added to this from time to time were instances of alder alongside watercourses, dead from Phytophthora. Upon reaching Tonbridge station, I was greeted on Platform 3 by a large black and white cat sprawled across the platform grooming itself and not caring a jot about the comings and goings of people and trains. By its persona, I can only assume it owns the station and answers to the name Sapphie!
Folkestone harbour, has changed a lot from when I visited it once about 20 years ago. A lot of money is being spent on transforming the redundant harbour into a public space with restaurants and bars and a pleasant walk along the long breakwater. 100 years on from WW1, I couldn’t help but think from time to time about the many troops that must have passed by the same scenes that I was seeing today. The little shops and cafes down The Old High Street were enjoyable too. A nice spot for a few hours ramble. Continuing the theme of trees, I saw the two healthiest horse chestnuts for years, perhaps rather out on a limb and with the prevailing wind having a long fetch over the sea, they are protected from attack.
Sunday, Sept 18. Walked to Bishopstone Tidemills where there is much evidence of the archaeological digging being carried out unearthing the remains of the now ‘lost’ village. I found the evidence of William Catt’s huge greenhouse intriguing with what I assume are heating pipes?
Monday, Sept 19. Beautiful sunny day again. Sat on the near deserted beach and watched lagoons formed by a low shingle ridge, flood on the high tide, these being patrolled by turnstones looking for food – especially washed-up mussels. There have been numbers of large white and Vanessa butterflies along the beach of late, blown by the NE breeze or, are they possibly looking to migrate south??
I remember this being built. It was to be the first of several to this design but I believe because of construction delays and costs, no others were built. I recognised one local face in the construction crew; in the film, there is at times some rather grating accompanying music. Note the masses of ‘personal protective clothing’ worn! The tower, as were all lighthouses in the UK, was later converted to run automatically.
July 4. Flock of about 20 oystercatchers perched on one of the reefs that run out here and there along the beach at St.Leonards this afternoon.
July 8. Trained to Brighton… Beautiful show of hollyhocks at Berwick station, real cottage flowers! Scrub is still being allowed to increase in area at a number of locations along the Firle Escarpment Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). This is one of SE England’s major landscape features and if attitudes, government grants, and funding for Natural England staff do not change before too long, this majestic view will be lost to future generations. In a field near Firle, saw windrows of straw from an early combined crop of cereal. People who criticise on aesthetic grounds the Rampion wind farm some 10 miles seaward of Brighton, should turn their gaze 90 degrees and consider the factory chimney (aka i-360 attraction), parked on Brighton’s promenade! Evening withdrawal of some evening train services meant I was stuck on Lewes station for about an hour from 8-45pm but I was rewarded by one of Nature’s spectacles. I became aware of lots of jackdaw chatter emanating some 200m away in trees in Southover Road. Over the next hour, wave upon wave of jackdaws came in low over the station from the south-east, many beginning to chatter on their final approach to their companions already settled amongst the crowns of the tall trees. I was left wondering how they all managed to fit into the the available space. Home at 22-45!
July 9. Sensible dogs, and Englishmen go out in the midday sun! Why sit on baking-hot pebbles when you can lay on cool, damp ones or even better, in the water!
July 14. Buff-tailed bumble bees bottoms-up on artichokes on my allotment.
July 19. during the evening, I counted some 20-24 swifts over the centre of St.Leonards. Another couple of weeks and I guess they’ll have largely departed south.
Two similar schemes were drawn up during the 20th century regarding Exceat Bridge. Refer to my book “Seven Sisters” for more. Available from www.montylarkin.co.uk or local bookshops & countryside centres.
Cash Boost To Tackle East Sussex Congestion Hotspot. [Abridged]
Brighton News, Wednesday, June 28th, 2017.
Members of East Sussex County Council’s cabinet agreed plans to use a government grant to build a new two-lane bridge to replace the current one-lane Exceat Bridge over the Cuckmere river.
The Government has confirmed that East Sussex County Council will receive £2.13million from its National Productivity investment fund – a pot of money designed to help councils improve journey times and cut congestion.
Cllr Rupert Simmons, the county council’s lead member for economy, said: “We want to improve connectivity across the county and have, for some time, been looking for solutions to the issue of Exceat Bridge. As well as being frustrating for motorists, the bottleneck does nothing to help the businesses in our county.
“Our own limited resources would not stretch to funding the construction of the new bridge, but I am delighted that we are able to put government funding designed to address these kinds of problems to good use.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, members were told that this was a first stage in an extensive design, costing and planning process and that any proposal would be subject to discussion and approval from the South Downs National Park Authority (SDNPA).
Funding of £500,000 has already been approved by the council for maintenance of the bridge – this funding would go towards the construction of the new bridge, should the scheme be successful.
Cllr Simmons added: “We have considered a number of options to deal with the problems at Exceat, including traffic lights, but it is felt that a new two lane bridge is the only way to effectively deal with the congestion created by the current layout.
“The location of the new bridge is a sensitive one and will need to be carefully designed to minimise the impact it has on the South Downs National Park in which it sits. We look forward to working closely with the SDNPA, doing everything we can to deliver much needed relief to motorists using the A259 and taking steps to help the growth of our economy.”
Possible designs and costings will be reported back to Cabinet in early 2018.
Why couldn’t the UK have led this research and we built them? Instead, a Norwegian state-owned company is leading in this great new technology!
World’s first floating windfarm to take shape off coast of Scotland. [Abridged]
Adam Vaughan in Stord, Norway. Tuesday 27 June 2017.
The world’s first floating windfarm has taken to the seas in a sign that a technology once confined to research and development drawing boards is finally ready to unlock expanses of ocean for generating renewable power.
After two turbines were floated this week, five now bob gently in the deep waters of a fjord on the western coast of Norway ready to be tugged across the North Sea to their final destination off north-east Scotland.
The £200m Hywind project is unusual not just because of the pioneering technology involved, which uses a 78-metre-tall underwater ballast and three mooring lines that will be attached to the seabed to keep the turbines upright. It is also notable because the developer is not a renewable energy firm but Norway’s Statoil, which is looking to diversify away from carbon-based fuels.
Irene Rummelhoff, head of the oil firm’s low-carbon division, said the technology opened up an enormous new resource of wind power. “It’s almost unlimited. Currently we are saying [floating windfarms will work in] water depths of between 100 and 700 metres, but I think we can go deeper than that. It opens up ocean that was unavailable,” she said.
Offshore windfarms are springing up across the North Sea for a reason – its waters are uniquely shallow enough to allow turbines to be mounted atop steel poles fixed to the seabed. However, such fixed-bottom turbines can only be installed at water depths down to 40 metres, making them little use for the steeply shelved coastlines of the US west coast or Japan.
“If you look at coastlines around the world, there’s few that have sufficient area at depths down to 40 metres so if they want to deploy offshore wind, they need to introduce floating wind,” said Rummelhoff.
As well as opening up new frontiers such as the Atlantic and the Mediterranean, floating windfarms could be placed farther out to sea to avoid the sort of aesthetic objections that scuppered a £3.5b windfarm off the Dorset coast.
While Hywind is a minnow among modern offshore wind projects – it will power just 20,000 homes compared with the 800,000 by one being built off the Yorkshire coast – proponents say floating turbines could eclipse fixed-bottom ones in the long run.
Bruno Geschier, chief marketing officer at Ideol, a French company hoping to build floating windfarms in Japan, France and elsewhere, said he expected floating farms to begin to take off in the next decade, “reaching cruising altitude in the mid-2020s and a big boom in 2030-35. Floating wind is an opportunity for France to step on to the podium.”
The commercialisation also means a chance for new countries to emerge as renewable energy leaders. The UK has the most offshore wind capacity in the world, with Germany not far behind, but France, which has none, wants to become a market leader.
For Statoil, the ambitions go well beyond Peterhead in Scotland, where Hywind will be moored and providing power from October at the latest.
Rummelhoff said floating windfarms will come of age in the areas where conventional ones have been established, as countries such as the UK run out of suitable sites in shallower waters. It is also talking with state governments in Hawaii and California about projects, and eyeing Japan and the new, pro-renewables government in Seoul.
Like many new technologies, the biggest challenge will be cost. Behind the turbines at the deepwater port of Stord in Norway sits a huge lifting vessel usually used in the oil and gas industry. It is the second biggest of its kind, very expensive to hire – and, for now, essential in the process of lifting the turbines off the quayside and floating them. A generous subsidy deal from the Scottish government made the project viable.
The Gibb’s Report authored by Chris Gibb, was drawn up on behalf of the Dept of Transport over the last four months of 2016 has just been made public. It’s principle aims were to look into the long-running industrial action on Southern and how the current infrastructure and train operations to the Sussex coast could be significantly improved. If you are a railway anorak some of this report makes fascinating reading! Below, I have listed some of the recommendations made in the report. Time will tell as to how much of this well-qualified rail industry man’s suggestions will be accepted and taken forward!
- Introduction of revised working practices, in particular the extension of Driver Only Operation on Southern and the introduction of On Board Supervisors on Southern and Thameslink.
- Merger of three previously competing Train Operating Companies (TOC’s): Gatwick Express, Southern and Thameslink/Great Northern, creating the largest TOC in the UK (referred to as ‘GTR’).
- Introduction of new Siemens Class 700 and Class 717 trains, with many elements of new technology, such as Automatic Train Operation with new depots at Three Bridges and Hornsey.
- Regular transfer of older trains between GTR and other operators.
- Introduction between now and 2018 of the new Thameslink infrastructure and service, increasing services from 12 up to 24 trains per peak hour through Central London, including transfer of routes between Southern, South Eastern Trains and Thameslink.
- Major infrastructure enhancements at London Bridge / Blackfriars stations.
All of the above changes have been planned to happen between 2015 and 2018. It also makes recommendations over a longer period, again some of which I have listed below.
- New fleets of more efficient, faster trains coming into service.
- New signalling software to assist signallers to select best options to maintain time table.
- Speeding up the arrival/departure of trains from stations.
- Reduction of night trains on Brighton Main Line (BML) to allow more time for nigh-time maintenance leading to improved infrastructure reliability.
- Major station upgrades at Gatwick Airport and London Victoria.
- More platform shelters to protect passengers from the weather.
- Reduction in number of services stopping at the likes of Southease, Newhaven Harbour, Bishopstone and Normans Bay to allow trains to keep to timetable/turnarounds.
- A ‘firebreak’ during early afternoon consisting of a slight reduction of off-peak services to allow for disruptions during the morning, in order that the second rush-hour operates on time.
- Suggested new ‘stabling’ facilities at West Worthing, Newhaven, St.Leonards and Crowborough and the local recruitment of drivers etc.
- Electrification of the 25 miles from Hurst Green to Uckfield, preferably by an overhead power supply as opposed to a third live rail. This possibly carried out and maintained through collaboration with the French SNCF. This would use refurbished ex-South Eastern rolling stock.
- Replacement of the diesel trains on the London Bridge to Uckfield and Hastings (Brighton) to Ashford lines. By today’s criteria, these have poor emission standards.
- Transfer of the Hastings to Ashford line to South Eastern trains.
British archaeology is in a fight for survival [Abstrct]
Mary Shepperson, Tuesday 20 June 2017.
The first University Archaeology Day marks a point of crisis in British archaeology. As student applications fall, threatening university departments with cuts, commercial demand for archaeologists is soaring, leaving a looming skills shortage. Archaeology is a great subject to take at university. Why then are fewer and fewer students applying to study it?
On 22 June, the first ever University Archaeology Day will be hosted by University College London. The intention is to paint an inspiring picture of archaeology as an exciting field of study leading to a hearty spread of career opportunities, but University Archaeology Day is also a response to a growing crisis in UK archaeology, both for university departments and for the commercial sector. This crisis is likely to have repercussions well beyond the world of academia.
Archaeology is a great subject to take at university; it brings together a mix of humanities and sciences, and combines social theory, critical thinking and hard practical skills. Adventure abounds, both intellectual and actual. Why then are fewer and fewer students applying to study it? This is the question plaguing beleaguered archaeology departments across the UK which are seeing student numbers drop year on year.
The problem boils down to a combination of perceptions and financial factors. The drop in student numbers began after the 2008 financial crisis but has been exacerbated by the hike in tuition fees and the withdrawal of student loans for second degrees. Unlike earlier generations who saw university as more of a chance to experience and explore, students now increasingly see university as a financial investment which needs a decent prospect of financial reward to make sense. Subjects like archaeology, which don’t obviously lead to well paid careers, have suffered the consequences of this more hard-nosed attitude towards education. The scrapping of A-level archaeology last year is both symptom and cause of the declining profile of the subject among students.
Archaeology is more sensitive to falling student numbers than most subjects. The need for laboratory work and the requirement for a range of practical training makes archaeology an expensive subject to teach. However, archaeology is not classed as a STEM subject (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) or as a SIVS (Strategically Important Vulnerable Subject) which are favoured by government funding and admissions policies. This means that archaeology courses rapidly become uneconomic for universities if course places aren’t filled.
So why should all this be of concern? If students don’t want to study archaeology, the subject isn’t economic and the government doesn’t consider it important enough to protect, why shouldn’t it be allowed to die back in universities? Well, in addition to the loss of the UK’s position at the forefront of international archaeological research, there’s an increasingly desperate shortage of archaeologists in the UK.
Archaeology is part of the process of planning and construction, with UK developers required to pay for any archaeological work which might be necessary. The recent surge in house building is already stretching commercial archaeology units to their staffing limits and it’s hard to see how planned major infrastructure projects, such as HS2 and a third runway for Heathrow, can be managed as things stand. A recent report by Historic England estimates that the UK will need between 25% and 64% more archaeologists by 2033 to meet commercial demand. Brexit has the potential to make the situation even worse as many archaeology units are now heavily reliant on EU nationals.
It might seem curious under these circumstances that students aren’t more attracted to archaeology as a career when there are so many unfilled commercial vacancies crying out for graduates. The problem is that up until now commercial archaeology has been mostly quite horrible. Pay and conditions in commercial archaeology are frankly appalling for a skilled graduate profession. A new graduate can’t expect more than £16,000 – £18,000 p.a., and even a senior supervisor or project officer doesn’t earn much more than £25,000, including for jobs based in London and the southeast.
In return, a commercial archaeologist is expected to do a heavy physical job in all (British) weather. Job security is poor; permanent positions don’t come easily and many archaeologists are employed on a project-by-project basis. Traditionally, most young archaeologists don’t stay in commercial archaeology for more than a year or two before escaping to another part of the heritage industry or by transferring their many skills to a more lucrative career – by which I mean almost any other career
However, commercial archaeology is finally starting to respond to the looming skills shortage. In 2014 the Institute for Archaeologists (CIfA) managed to get a Royal Charter for the profession, which will hopefully begin the process of elevating archaeology away from its traditional amateurish image of bearded enthusiasts in funny jumpers towards a more serious professional ethos. A host of new training initiatives have been launched, mostly as collaborations between universities, commercial units and the CIfA, aiming to improve skill sets, raise standards and encourage people into the profession.
Between the shortage of trained archaeologists and the renewed efforts by the commercial sector to improve the lot of archaeology as a profession, it seems likely that pay and conditions will have to improve, especially if developers want their housing estates, runways and high speed rail lines delivered on time. In fact, there might never have been a better time to get into archaeology; that’s if there are university departments left to train at.
Further reading: British Academy’s Reflections on Archaeology Report