September Sightings

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!

See  http://www.kentonline.co.uk/tonbridge/news/station-cat-stars-in-railway-38942/

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.

                                                                                                                                            I noticed that on the south-facing slopes of the North Downs overlooking the town that much of the chalk grassland was being engulfed by scrub.  What a pity…

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??

 

August Sightings.

Thursday, Aug 3.  Rather un-seasonal weather during the past 24 hours with substantial rainfall through yesterday afternoon and through much of the night.  That has been followed today with quite windy conditions – Force 7- Near Gale, being recorded out in the Channel and the average wave height reaching 6.5 feet, producing plenty of white-crested waves.

Sunday, Aug 13.  Slow boat to Turkey – a new twist on that old saying!  A dutch tug, the Fairmount Glacier, 3,239 gross tonnes, is on passage towing a large drilling rig to Aliaga in Turkey.  It is shadowed by the Belgium-registered offshore support vessel, Smit Nicobar of 2,606 gross tonnes.  The towering rig was a feature on the horizon for much of the day off Hastings for it is travelling only between 2 – 6 knots, walking pace!  Monday morning and they were south of the Isle of Wight.  ETA in Turkey is September 10th!

Friday, Aug 18.  There has been much talk just recently about the amount of rain this month.  One of the BBC weathermen was asked for an explanation about it.  He stated that of ‘the last 13 consecutive Augusts, 9 had been wetter than the average, perhaps indicating a new trend.’

Wed, Aug 30.  Quite a number of house martins hawking above the town this evening, probably because of their migration being put on hold by the wet, cloudy weather and less than perfect visibility?

News From ‘British Wildlife,’ June 2017

Ballast-Water Reform.  An international agreement on ballast-water, water which is taken on by ships for stability and when discharged, often on the other side of the world releasing invasive species, causing huge problems for local marine wildlife.  As of September 8th, all discharged ballast-water will have to be treated beforehand.

Shrinking Shorelines.  The UK National Ecosystem Assessment estimates coastal habitat has decreased by 16% since 1945.  In England, this has amounted to a loss of some 13,000 hectares with only 800 hectares created or restored.

Pesticides and Profitability.  New research from France has found that reduction of pesticide does not necessarily result in reduced crop yields and profitability.  The study looked at 946 non-organic arable commercial farms showing contrasting levels of pesticide use and covering a wide range of production situations in France.  It was estimated that, on 59% of farms nationally, total pesticide use could be reduced by 42% without any negative effects.  France hopes by 2025 to cut pesticide use by 50%. The UK has no plans to reduce overall pesticide use.

 

Royal Sovereign Light Tower Construction

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 Sightings

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.

New Bridge for Exceat

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.

EXCEAT BRIDGE. IMAGE CREDIT OAST HOUSE ARCHIVE CC BY-SA 2.0

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.

Gibbs Report – Proposed SE Rail Infrastructure Up-Grade

https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/619795/chris-gibb-report-southern-rail.pdf

See also  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-40367636

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.

June Sightings

June 5th.  At breakfast time, noticed a very large ship going down Channel.  It proved to be the MSC Zoe (which with several sister ships) is one of the largest container ships in the world (as of August 2015), it being the third of a series of ships built by the Mediterranean Shipping Company.  She takes her name from the four year old granddaughter of Gianluigi Aponte, the Mediterranean Shipping Company president and chief executive.

MSC Zoe was constructed by Daewoo in South Korea for $140m.  The ship’s particulars are: at a length of 395 metres and has a draft of 16 metres.  She has a capacity of 19,224 TEU (containers) and a deadweight of 199,272 DWT.  The vessel’s massive main engine is a two-stroke MAN B&W 11S90ME-C diesel engine, which has a height of 15.5 m (51 ft), a length of 25 m (82 ft) and a breadth of 11 m (36 ft).  The engine has a maximum continuous rating of 62.5 MW (83,800 hp) at 82.2 rpm and a normal continuous rating of 56.25 MW (75,430 hp) at 79.4 rpm.  Her single five-blade propeller has blade lengths of 10.5 m (34 ft) producing a service speed of 22.8 kn (42.2 km/h; 26.2 mph)

By Hummelhummel, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=42056503

June 6.  In view of last night’s un-seasonal gale, I have added a Page* setting-out the Beaufort Scale, the universally accepted scale for wind speed.  In mid-Channel at about 8-9am this morning, it reached Severe Gale force.  Nowadays – even in tv/radio weather forecasts, the term ‘gale’ or ‘storm’ are often misused, so here’s the correct calibration!  *Scroll back to the top of the ‘Reflections’ blog screen and click on Beaufort Wind Scale.  The sea has been wild all day with 2-3 metre waves breaking on the beaches; even by the evening, the wind speed was still registering in the region of Force 7 – ‘Near Gale,’ very un-seasonal for June!

June 11.  There was very good visibility tonight out into the Channel where the cruise liner Arcadia, was slowly passing west along the Sussex coast on passage to Southampton, when I noticed a cluster of lights and orange glow on the very far horizon.  On doing a simple exercise or two on Google Earth, it would seem to be Boulogne, some 45 miles to the south-east!

Today, a 350 tonne transformer was transported by road from Shoreham to Ninfield, see link  https://sussex.police.uk/news/drone-footage-captures-abnormal-load-journey-through-east-sussex/

June 13.  After an apparent absence of about a week due to the un-seasonal windy weather, swifts have returned this morning to hawk insects high above St.Leonards old town. These enigmatic birds have been one of my favourite birds since early childhood.

RSPB image

Late afternoon on the 13th and one Hastings Arrows that’s never going to find its destination!  The engine compartment and almost the whole of interior of the bus being gutted.

June 18.  My strawberries now in full production on the wonderful Marina Allotments!  I came across this thought prvoking quote while on Twitter: “For every kilogram of vegetables you grow yourself, you’re reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 2 kilograms…”

Noticed this colony of relatively large digger wasps under the attractive stone flagstones in Pevensey Road.

June 19.  Heatwave.  These  fella’s have the right idea while working in the heat!

While picking another dish-full of strawberries this evening, I heard an approaching bird call and immediately thought I know what’s making that call.  On looking up, a pale-looking ring-necked parakeet flew over, did a circuit nearby and then disappeared towards neighbouring housing.  A summer escape or from a feral colony nearby?

Livestock Transportation by Sea Still Thriving

The recent news of a shipping collision off the coast of Turkey near the Bosphorus, shows that the despicable trade in transporting of live animals by sea is still flourishing.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-39734998  (abridged).

A Russian spy ship has sunk off the Turkish coast after being breached in a collision with a freighter; all its crew were rescued, the Turkish coastal authority says.  Russia confirmed earlier that the hull of the Liman, part of its Black Sea Fleet, had sustained a breach, with crew working to keep it afloat.  The cause of the collision is unclear but fog was reported in the area.  All 78[!] crew aboard the Liman were safely evacuated, the Turkish coastal authority said.

Note the big bales of bedding on deck

It collided with the Togo-registered Youzarsif H, a livestock carrier, reportedly 18 miles from the Turkish town of Kilyos on the Black Sea coast just north of the city of Istanbul, and had sunk by 11:48 GMT.  The Youzarsif H was built in 1977, 81 metres in length and with a gross tonnage of 2,282 tonnes.  She was presumably loaded as she was heading south to the Jordanian port of Aqaba where her poor wretched cargo was due to be discharged, probably to a gruesome ending.

Apart from breeding stock, my personal view is that no livestock should be transported by sea; it should be slaughtered in the country of its breeding and then exported as chilled or frozen meat.

The Liman, built in Gdansk, Poland, was launched in 1970 [so being some 47 years old, probably a rust-bucket].  Based at Sevastopol in Crimea, the territory annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014, it was a regular visitor to the Syrian port of Tartus for decades, the site notes.  In 1999, the Liman made international headlines when it was deployed to the Mediterranean to monitor NATO operations against Yugoslavia.

 

Passing Sailing Ship

While having lunch, I spotted a largish sailing ship on the horizon sailing west down Channel.  On checking my shipping app, it turns out to be the Russian sail training ship, STS Nadezhda, on passage to Port Said in Egypt with an ETA of May 17th.  She was built in 1991, with a length of 109 metres and a gross tonnage of 2,297.

A Russian website states that she is a single-hull, three-mast, three-deckhouse ship with steel masts and yards. The ship is full-rigged, that is of frigate type. The sails amount to the number of 26, of which 14 are square sails, 12 are fore and aft sails and the sails total area is about 3,000 sq.m. The rigging and sails are operated manually.

All her sails were furled so she was presumably ‘sailing’ under her engines.