Meet Geoff Derbyshire’s Swift Champion. He has 10 pairs of breeding swifts in his roof in Chesterfield and it’s a suburban semi! He’s created holes for his swifts in his roof and they love it! Geoff, you’re a real wildlife champion, for making a home for so many swifts!
Good article highlighting the parlous state of England’s watchdog for our beleaguered wildlife:
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
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 7 2017. The Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management, (CIWEM).
Green Groups and MPs are calling For an Amendment To the Repeal Bill.
Thirteen major environmental charities in the Greener UK coalition have begun working with a cross-party group of MPs to ensure the Repeal Bill does not “dilute” the force of environmental law in the UK
The MPs that back the amendment so far include Ed Miliband, former Labour Party leader and secretary of state for energy and climate change, and Caroline Lucas, Green Party co-leader.
The government has said that existing UK mechanisms, primarily judicial review and the role of parliament, are enough to replace all the functions currently carried out by EU agencies and the European Court of Justice (ECJ). But these UK mechanisms do not compare to current EU arrangements, the groups say.
Currently, EU agencies play important roles in monitoring the state of the environment, checking governments comply with environmental law and, where necessary, enforcing the law by initiating investigations into possible breaches, including in response to complaints from citizens and civil society organisations. If breaches of the law are identified, remedies and sanctions can be applied, including fines.
Shaun Spiers, chair of Greener UK and executive director at Green Alliance, said: “No one voted for dirtier beaches or worse air quality. The government has promised to bring all environmental protections into domestic law, but laws are only effective when there are strong institutions to enforce them.
“The ultimate risk of fines imposed by the European Court has led the UK government to clean up its act several times – for example, when it stopped pumping raw sewage into oceans on a regular basis and, more recently, being ordered by the courts to publish stronger air quality plans.
“To secure the high level of environmental protection that the public overwhelmingly wants and needs, UK governance institutions must be sufficiently resourced, independent and expert. Otherwise, environmental law will fail.
“The government will protest its good intentions, but it should be establishing systems that are proof against any future government that may want to weaken environmental and other protections.”
The Greener UK coalition formed in response to the EU referendum, united in the belief that leaving the EU is a pivotal moment to restore and enhance the UK’s environment. It brings together 13 major environmental organisations, including the RSPB, Wildlife Trusts, National Trust, and WWF.
The Great Repeal Bill will end the supremacy of EU law and return power to the UK.
Amendments. The text of Repeal Bill amendment the groups are recommending the following:
(1) The relevant Ministers must, before the UK’s exit from the EU, make provision that all powers and functions relating to the UK that were carried out by an EU institution before the date of the UK leaving the EU will—
(a) continue to be carried out by an EU institution; or
(b) be carried out by an appropriate existing or newly created domestic body; or
(c) be carried out by an appropriate international body.
(2) For the purposes of this section, powers and functions relating to the UK exercised by an EU institution may include, but are not limited to—
(a) monitoring and measuring compliance with legal requirements,
(b) reviewing and reporting on compliance with legal requirements,
(c) enforcement of legal requirements,
(d) setting standards or targets,
(e) co-ordinating action,
(f) publicising information including regarding compliance with environmental standards.
(3) Within 12 months of the UK’s exit from the EU, the Government shall consult and bring forward proposals for domestic governance arrangements to ensure equivalent provision of the regulatory, monitoring, oversight, accountability, enforcement and other functions relating to the UK currently provided by EU institutions, by providing for the establishment by primary legislation of—
(a) a new independent body or bodies with powers and functions equivalent to those of the relevant EU institutions in relation to the environment; and
(b) a new domestic framework for environmental protection and improvement.
(4) For the purposes of this section ‘EU institution’ includes but is not limited to—
(a) the European Commission;
(b) the European Environment Agency;
(c) the European Chemicals Agency; and
(d) the European Court of Auditors.
(5) Responsibility for any functions or obligations arising from EU-derived UK law for which no specific provision has been made immediately after commencement of this Act will belong to the relevant Minister until such a time as specific provision for those functions or obligations has been made.
This article was originally posted on CIWM Journal Online.
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.