I prefer to celebrate her life on her birthday rather than the day she died, from cancer, on 26 Feb 2012. I hate cancer.
I spent the day looking through old photo albums and thought I’d share a few for friends and family. Had to take a photo of some of these on my phone as don’t have digital versions. Treasured memories. And by the way there’s really no order to these.
I so love the photo of Lu walking up a mountain in NZ, it exemplifies her undauntable spirit. We had the joy of travelling to some great places, something I won’t do these days as don’t fly anymore. Maybe I’ll pedal there again some day.
Okay, so if you don’t hear from a for a while, it’s because her sister (Dr Susan K Burton) has done me in for posting the wig picture. But, god, how beautiful is Lu in these, that smile, her soul that shines through.
When I think about Lu/Lucy/Beeb I’m sad, but also happy from all the memories, and great times. She was formidable. She got things done. She produced stuff. She cared. She was kind. She loved a cuddle. I would love to have her alongside me on activism stuff cos I think we’d have won by now.
These memories and Lu herself give me so much motivation to get on and try to make the world a better place, and conserve the wonders we have for future generations.
She reminds me to take nothing for granted, carpe diem.
Our wedding day was amazing. Surrounded by friends and family. It was everything we wanted with a great location, singing (thanks Chris B), camp fire, dancing, great food and speeches, but mostly just the surrounded by friends and family thing.
The memories and grief will always be there. Fire and Ice. The thoughts that I should have done more, the ‘I will fix you’ Cold Play song that goes round my head. I know we split, but we were together at the end, and I love her so much.
Susan, my sister, you look amazing in some of these. It intrigues me that you are also forever young, like Beeb 🙃
I really hope we create a cure for cancer soon, so we stop losing loved ones with so much potential.
After Lu died, I got out on the road, I cycled round the coast of Britain, I pedalled from Nordkapp to Tarifa, to Istanbul and back home. At some points I wouldn’t have made it without Lu’s voice in my head telling me to get on with it, telling me I could do it. Donate to the Big C if you can, they do good stuff – https://www.big-c.co.uk/
Love to Sheila, Norman, Susan, Mum and Dad, and all who knew Lu. She was/is the best.
I think this has been brewing since Christmas, however a few things have happened today which made me really want to write it. If you don’t want to read this in its entirety then please skip to the end, there are a couple of call-to-actions I implore you to consider. And when I say you, I mean all my friends in Norwich and around the country, my family, people I’ve met on my travels; please consider taking some sort of action to get us out of the mess we’re in. There will probably be some swearing in this post, and it’s quite raw. I might forget to include asterisks.
Here’s a picture of Gideon being judgemental, to ease things in. But we will be judged by future generations for not doing enough, of that I have no doubt. We’re being judged by the current younger generation. Gideon reminds me that we are very much a part of nature, not apart from it or above it. When nature dies, we do too. He is wise (but sometimes quite stupid like when he thinks the weather will be better through the back door compared to the front door).
I was in an online meeting earlier which included several young supporters of Just Stop Oil, people who have also taken action with Extinction Rebellion and other environmental campaign groups. I was listening to their personal stories, what they are feeling, what they’ve gone through, what motivates them to take action. Some of them have only just turned 20 and are terrified about the future, about what is happening right now. These are extraordinary individuals, they are my friends, I love them all. I was immensely moved by some of the accounts they shared, I could feel my eyes tearing up and that big lump in my stomach and heart I get when I feel emotional and anxious.
Why the f*ck have we allowed this to happen? What are we doing to ourselves? Why are these young adults so afraid for their futures? Why am I worrying about asterisks in swear words when the situation is so awful? My friends don’t dare consider having children, and long term plans are a luxury they don’t risk dreaming about.
I take action on the spokesperson team for Just Stop Oil, as well as Extinction Rebellion sometimes. I watched this interview on Good Morning Britain again earlier. I’m sorry, Richard Madeley is a bastard. He treated Miranda with utter contempt, and was a patronising fool. Miranda was excellent, intelligent, thoughtful, passionate (although I hate that word), and clearly understands how dire a situation we’re in far better than anyone else there. How dare they and other journalists accuse young people of taking action to boost their egos? How fucking dare they sit there being anything but journalists telling the truth and going after the real criminals, when ordinary people are suffering and dying all around the world whilst they sit in their comfortable, privileged seats paid for in the most part by historical colonialism. It fills me with rage, grief and a fair amount of despair, but I can use that. I can definitely use that; hope may be lost but love and rage drives action.
Here is the interview on GMB, watch it and tell me you think Madeley or the other guest they have on should be given any more airtime?
I am not doing enough. I take action with Just Stop Oil (JSO) and Extinction Rebellion. I have joined the Green Party and am going to stand as a district councillor to try to make things better for local people. I still sign petitions although I don’t know why, they don’t seem to do anything. I still write to my MP, I did so earlier this week about the abhorrent profits Shell and now BP have made off the back of the energy crisis, whilst we’re in a cost of living crisis. I’ve stood and sat in roads with placards, filmed and live-streamed countless actions, banged drums, put up posters, handed out fliers, helped with talks, been to picket lines, spray painted protest artwork. Not been arrested but that seems inevitable now the Government have brought in, and are trying to bring in more draconian anti protest and anti freedom of speech laws. It’s like the V for Vendetta film but this isn’t a fantasy, it’s actually happening; ordinary people are being arrested in their homes for doing nothing but exercising their democratic right to freedom of speech and freedom to protest. The police have arrested journalists for fucks sake. Do we actually live in a democracy, I don’t think so, although it’s still just about ahead of the likes of Russia and Syria. It’s getting very like 1930’s Germany, have politicians, media and business not studied history? Have we learned nothing?
I’m not doing enough though. And this isn’t ego talking. I wake up every day, and often during the night, thinking I’ve got to do more. Why am I bothering thinking about a pension, my job, about saving to buy stuff I don’t actually need when the world might be unliveable in many places within the next 50 years; it’s already starting to happen now with 1 person dying every 36 seconds from climate induced drought/famine in parts of Africa.
I have a niece who is 9, a nephew 11, god children who range from 5 to 12. I am terribly afraid they won’t live to my age. I’m 47. How can I protect them from what’s coming? Food and water shortages, extreme weather, war caused by mass migration and battle for remaining resources, I could go on but it makes me want to cry, again. I wish I was being sensationalist but scientists are telling us, via peer reviewed studies, just how bad things are and how much worse they’re going to get. But the Government and media just seem to ignore it, and as a consequence the general public seem to mostly ignore it too.
Okay, photo break. Well done and gratitude if you got this far. I wish I could describe better the emotional state I’m in; guilt, sadness, grief for sure, and massive amounts of rage. It doesn’t have to bloody be this way but the system we’re in seems incapable of realising where we’re at and what we need to do.
Consulting notes I made earlier. I don’t want to write an essay on this, so I’m going to summarise why I’m really scared, sad, depressed, anxious, fucked off, desperate, angry, so concerned for people that are being utterly mislead or suffering right now. Here goes (list not exhaustive and if I was more talented I’d turn it into a poem).
Bee killing pesticides the Government keep licensing, plus Glyphosate use. Dumping sewage in rivers – Government voted to say that’s fine. HS2 – costing billions and report out today says it’s destroying nature. Licensing new oil and gas fields, and opening new coal mines – Tories are doing it when every other political party, climate scientists (other scientists too), Antonio Guterres etc say no. Building new roads – we don’t have the carbon budget for them and they destroy ancient woodland/habitat – local Western Link Road plans for example. Fucking grouse shooting and moorlands – urgh. Fixation on growth and GDP – it’s killing us, other models of existence are available and more promising in terms of the existence bit. Freedom of speech. Freedom to Protest. Actual democracy. Media ineptitude (although a few local journo’s have been great) and failure to tell the truth. Refugee crisis and our failure to take responsibility and be welcoming. Intolerance. Racism. Sexism. Transphobia – extreme right wing in Norwich have been at it recently. Insect numbers plummeting (this is really serious, think windscreens and bugs). Artic/Antarctic ice melt. Glacier ice melt. Greenland ice sheets disappearing. Amazon rainforest tipping point. Electric vehicles being hailed as the solution. Ocean acidification. Ocean over-fishing. Global North just keep on consuming (buying stuff). Global South just keep on dying as a result. Institutional police racism, misogyny, sexism – no wonder a lot of people don’t feel safe to protest – sort your own house out before you arrest anyone. Hurricanes. Rain bombs. Drought. Famine. Air pollution. Flooding. Wildfires. People striking for fair pay, terms and support – NHS, teachers, railway workers, ambulance drivers etc
These things are all happening right now. And are going to get worse. I need to do more.
It feels like we’re going backwards with the current Government, and big businesses. The BP boss Bernard Looney has said he’s gonna invest more in oil and less in renewables for Christ’s sake (other gods are available to profane). Shell and BP have announced record profits, billions of pounds, profiteering off the back of a war and putting us into a cost of living crisis.
Why on Earth do we think this is all acceptable? There are other ways of living that would bring us closer together as people, communities, faiths. We could be happier and healthier, yet the current system is driving us into an existential crisis; repeat, young ones today won’t live to my age if this continues, and thousands are dying right now because of our greed, ineptitude, ignorance and unwillingness to change. It’s so frustrating because it could all be so much better.
Please help. I and many others are sick, quite literally, of trying to change things. And I count us lucky as we’re not the ones suffering and dying from drought, famine, or fighting for resources. My home isn’t being flooded or burnt as many people’s are round the world, or even here in the UK.
Join Just Stop Oil. Join Extinction Rebellion. Join Friends of the Earth. Join Greenpeace – checkout their current oil rig occupation. Join Stand Up to Racism, ACORN, a Union, anything that makes a difference. Take some sort of action; yeah, write some letters, sign petitions, join digital storms on Twitter, Insta and Facebook. Just do something whilst we still have time (1.5C target is blown by the way).
And don’t let the Government and Oil/Gas companies get away with Greenwashing or blaming individuals. We can only do so much with recycling, stopping flying, stopping buying, or moving to a vegetable diet. We need SYSTEM CHANGE, otherwise we’re trapped.
As promised. Links to stuff you can do.
Join Extinction Rebellion and many other organisations in London on 21 April. Thousands will be gathering. Police won’t arrest you. Peaceful protest that won’t disrupt the public. Find out more and sign up here – I’m gonna repeat my plea to friends, family and colleagues at this point – https://extinctionrebellion.uk/ – IF YOU CAN’T DO ANYTHING ELSE THEN PLEASE JUST COME TO THIS (sorry for shouting)
Come to a Just Stop Oil talk about Our Responsibilities At This Time. Learn that it’s totally possible for you to make a difference, and meet like-minded people that stop you feeling so alone – https://juststopoil.org/events/
Stay safe my friends. Stay in contact. Hug your loved ones. Keep learning, reading, communicating, organising and taking action ✊
Oh, and vote Green, we can win, and it’ll make a hell of a difference.
Today was one of those glorious Autumn days, cold and bright, with a lovely fresh smell in the air. For a while now I’ve been wondering how many trees the council planted alongside the new dual carriageway near me have actually survived, so I thought I go take a look. Short answer from the small survey of 216 trees on one particular stretch: 16% have died.
The Northern Distributor Road (NDR) has been open for a few years now, and had lots of trees planted alongside it to try to restore the damage done by the road. We’re supposed to call it the Broadland Northway now; I think this is probably an effort by Norfolk County Council to disguise the fact that its purpose is to open up the countryside to more development, distributing traffic to new parts of the county.
Unfortunately, many of the trees planted have died due to the extreme weather we’ve been having. It’s just been too hot and dry, and they haven’t been watered sufficiently. A plethora of plastic tree guards now stand empty in many places, grave markers for the saplings that have sadly perished. It was good to see so many other plants growing in the verge alongside the road, however I’m sure Yarrow shouldn’t be flowering at this time of year; I guess that’s because of how warm it’s been.
My plant ID skills aren’t brilliant, but I saw Comfrey, Yarrow, Ribwort and Greater Plantain, as well as thistles, Red Campion, Hogweed, Common Mugwort in abundance, Oxeye Daisies and Buttercups. There were loads of other species however I’ll have to take along a guide to ID them next time. Roadside verges can contain lots of biodiversity, I’ve seen hares feeding alongside the cycle path, kestrels hunting, and lots of insects in the summer. However, I don’t think the verges really make up for the swathe of destruction caused when the road was built.
Today was an exploratory visit. I counted trees on a hundred metre stretch not far from the Plumsteads, noting down species as well as dead or missing trees. I concentrated on the eastern side of the bank built up next to the dual carriageway, which is more shaded. The western side looked to have more empty tree guards, however it’ll need a return visit to confirm this. Results of this initial exploratory survey below.
TREE SURVEY 25 NOV 2022
Here’s a pie chart of the results.
Field Maple came our top, followed by Hawthorn, however it was good to see other species mixed in such as Cherry, Spindle, a good number of English Oaks, Dogwood and Blackthorn. Lots of good species for wildlife to use. Unfortunately 16% of the tree guards were either standing empty, or had dead saplings inside them. I suspect the percentage is in fact a bit higher than this as some tree guards have either been removed or have blown away. I think the western side of the bank will have a bigger percentage of dead trees, and I know other stretches have been impacted to a greater or lesser degree. I’ll have to get out and do other surveys in different locations.
I believe around 6,000 trees were cut down to build the NDR, a road that cost £205m to build. It was reported in October last year that around 3,500 of the trees planted to replace those lost when the road was built have died. Norfolk County Council pledged to plant 5 trees for every 1 they cut down, 30,000 in total. They must be a long way off this target, especially as many more trees and shrubs, lots of them replacement replacements, perished during the heatwave this summer.
It’s frustrating that Norfolk County Council think you can just replace mature trees and habitat, destroyed to make way for road building, with saplings that will take decades to do anything meaningful in terms of carbon sequestration. It will also take centuries for the soil to recover, species to translocate, and for any sort of mature woodland landscape to settle back in. The Council are planning the same with the Northern Distributor Road; it just doesn’t add up when we’re in a climate and ecological emergency, not to mention the impact it has on local communities, flood mitigation, and local wildlife. It’s also frustrating to see so many empty plastic tree guards littering parts of the landscape next to the NDR.
I hope to get out for further surveys over the coming weeks so I can report back findings to Broadland Green Party, who will be able to raise this with Broadland District Council. Tree ID gets a bit trickier as they lose their leaves, so I’ll have to put my winter buds knowledge to use.
No pictures of Gideon on this blog post I’m afraid, he’s hiding somewhere after having an argument with one of the neighbour’s cats. I’ll leave you with some pictures of a glorious Norfolk sunset from the other evening.
Today has to go down as pretty memorable in terms of stuff that’s happened in my lifetime, although not in a particularly good way. Liz Truss resigns, the shortest ever UK Prime Minister; not in terms of stature, rather in terms of term served. It really seems like the blind leading the blind in the Tory party at the moment. A shambles. Complete chaos. Other adjectives no doubt apply. The ‘Have I Got News For You’ Twitter account summarised things quite well:
BREAKING: Only 67 more Cabinet ministers till Christmas.
BREAKING: The Government.
Truss resigns. U-turn expected imminently.
I mean, you really couldn’t make this up.
Here’s a nice picture of Gideon, my cat, just to calm things down a bit before I continue. He doesn’t really care about UK Politics, although he is a bit vexed about me going down to London repeatedly to complain about the Government and Oil companies, leaving him without lap time and treats (lies).
If this blog post ends up not making much sense it might be because I’ve caught covid again. I caught it the first time around in September 2021 and it wasn’t too bad, aside from losing my sense of smell and taste for a bit. This time I have the annoying persistent cough and am generally feeling a bit crap, hence this post might go off-road. Gideon says it’s my fault for going to the germ filled capital and leaving him to fend for himself (the latter is also lies).
Alright, on to the serious stuff. Because the farce going on in the Houses of Parliament at the moment is nothing compared with the challenges facing ordinary people in the UK. Or the challenges we face on a wider front due to the climate and ecological crisis. Thousands in the Global South (non-western nations) are already dying.
I was thinking about it today, and whilst the Tories can’t even agree on a Prime Minister and Cabinet, the following is happening:
UK people are being forced to choose between heating or eating, or can’t afford either. Children in the UK are suffering now, and 1000’s of the elderly may die this winter due to the cold.
I read about a kid today who pretended to eat stuff out of an empty lunch box cos his family can’t afford food, and he doesn’t qualify for free school meals. He didn’t want to be embarrassed in front of his friends.
Inflation and interest rates are hitting ordinary folks hard, whilst the rich just get richer. Big energy companies like BP and Shell are making record profits at our expense, and the Government refuses to tax them.
Division in the UK, between the rich and the poor, as well as different communities, is getting worse. One has to conclude this is an active policy by the Government to make sure we don’t unite against them.
Harvests are failing around the world due to extreme weather, driving up food prices. I read East Anglian potato harvests are down by as much as 50% due to the hot and dry weather.
Floods in Pakistan have killed thousands and displaced 33 million people. Imagine for a minute if that happened in the UK.
Floods in Nigeria kill 100’s and displace over a million. One person every 36 seconds is estimated to be dying from hunger in East Africa. Drought and famine in Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and South Sudan – list not exhaustive. These crises are all exacerbated by Climate Change but you won’t hear about it as much because, you know, it’s Africa rather than Florida.
The Amazon and rainforests around the world continue to be slashed and burned to make room for farming – mostly cattle or to grow animal feed. The Amazon is now at, or may have crossed, a tipping point towards savannah/desert.
Wildfires still rage, heatwaves are getting worse and killing people, conflict for remaining resources is increasing often breaking out into all out war (e.g. Ukraine).
The refugee crises just gets worse and worse, many of them climate refugees, and we want to fly them to Rwanda.
Civil liberties, the right to protest and freedom of speech are being restricted and criminalised by the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, and now the Public Order Bill; please look the latter up as it’s truly dystopian and scary, and will turn the UK into a police state like Russia, Syria or Iran.
I’ve not added lots of climate and ecological items to the above list, but lets not forget oceans are dying from over-fishing and acidification, insect numbers have plummeted, rare habitats are still being destroyed, we’re still slaughtering mammals for sport or ‘scientific research’, and parts of the world are becoming uninhabitable. Greenhouse Gas emissions are still going up, and we’re seeing dangerous levels of methane released from the permafrost that could trigger a rapid extinction level event. Oh, and storms really are getting fiercer and more frequent.
People often ask when societal collapse is going to happen? When will the apocalypse strike? I think it’s already happening right before our eyes. Given all the above how can it not be? We’re hanging on by a thread and whilst it could take years, there may be no coming back from it now.
I really think mainstream media is very much to blame for a lot of this. They fail to report key issues, concentrating instead on trivialities and celebrity culture. They vilify or ridicule ordinary people taking action to try and bring about change, and scare off anyone else who was thinking about taking action. A few billionaires own the majority of mainstream media. I think it’s safe to assume they’re just protecting their own interests at everyone else’s expense, and most are blind to it because we’re hit with their messaging day in day out. Just watch the film ‘Don’t Look Up’ to see what’s happening; terrifyingly accurate.
But it’s ok, because the world’s Governments have got this all in hand, haven’t they?
Bollocks they have. COP26 was a failure, and COP27 is likely to be too with fossil fuel companies having far too much influence, and green washing endemic. In politics short-termism is rife, egos abound, lobbyists make sure the Government doesn’t upset the status quo, and the police and criminal justice system is clamping down on any dissenting voices. Any politicians who make it into serious positions of power seem to only have their own interests at heart, or are narcissists, or frankly psychopaths.
So what can we do? Just start doing something at least. Recently I’ve been down in London taking direct action with Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil. Why? Because nothing else is working and civil disobedience has a track record of bringing about a change. Writing letters, signing petitions, talking to your MP or even going on marches have very limited if no impact. Check out this film clip from Zoe Broughton of Lora Johnson, a Just Stop Oil activist.
At the moment 100’s of Just Stop Oil supporters are being arrested down in London for demanding a different future, an end to new oil and gas projects. 1000’s of Extinction Rebellion activists have been arrested over the last few years for demanding the Government tell the truth, act now, and form citizens assemblies to guide us through a just transition.
We’re not saying stop using oil and gas right now, we’re saying we can’t afford the emissions from any new projects, and yet the Government wants to license 130 new oil and gas fields. This goes against what climate scientists, the IPCC, Sir David King, Antonio Gueterres, Sir David Attenborough and many others are saying. We have 2 to 3 years to rapidly reduce green house gas emissions and transition away from fossil fuels or it’s game over. Renewable energy is 9 times cheaper and much quicker to build than extracting new oil and gas, which can take decades to come online.
Why on earth would we want new oil and gas, it’s only purpose at this stage is mega profits for a minority at everyone else’s expense, especially those that live and are dying in the Global South.
Politicians and mainstream media, and members of the public led by this toxic media, are vilifying ordinary people fighting for a future which doesn’t involve more famine, war, death and societal collapse. Here a film mash up I made of a recent Just Stop Oil protest in Trafalgar Square. I’ve got more in the pipeline from last week.
These protestors, ordinary people of all ages and from all walks of life, are some of the kindest, most selfless and courageous people I have ever had the privilege of calling friends and taking peaceful action with. They’re people that have properly emotionally connected with the danger we’re in, not just understood the facts and figures. They are retired, students, have jobs and have taken holiday, or yes they might be between jobs sometimes. And yes they still have to use fossil fuel products because that’s the system we’re stuck with at the moment; we’re all hypocrites to one degree or another.
Yet we are being called selfish, arrogant, and accused of destroying the cause we’re fighting for. Critics say we block emergency vehicles when in fact we have a blue light policy which means we always let them through. The media have slammed two young women for throwing tomato soup on a Van Gogh they knew was covered in glass protection, and two climbers for shutting down the QE2 bridge for two days. People say I agree with your cause but not your methods and that we’re hypocrites; that’s ok, just do something.
So many claims are being made, many of them false, about our actions, however look at what is happening. Spoke persons from Just Stop Oil (JSO) and Extinction Rebellion (XR) are being invited on TV and Radio shows to debate these issues. The newspapers are covering our actions. The public are talking about the climate and ecological crisis, new oil and gas, and insulating homes. People are starting to understand that the cost of living and energy crises are linked to the climate and ecological emergency; we can solve them together with a just transition. And thousands are joining movements like JSO, XR, Enough is Enough and Friends of the Earth. Yes, JSO actions can be regarded as radical and down right annoying, however they push the window, and as a result more people join the more moderate activist flanks.
People hated the Suffragettes and Dr Martin Luther King when they were active, yet the actions they and many others took are regarded as justified and necessary now. Martin Luther King explained the need to create tension to drive change far better than I can.
Please look beyond the headlines when you hear about people taking non-violent direct action to demand change, to demand a survivable future, to demand we stop ecological destruction and new oil and gas projects. They’re not doing it to piss you off, or because they want self-attention, they’re doing it because they’ve realised we’re screwed and this is the only option left to them. And now the Government want to clamp down even harder on these legitimate protests.
Please, whatever you are capable of: Just start doing something.
Just Stop Oil are taking action in London throughout October and into November, meet 11am ish outside Downing Street. Extinction Rebellion are planning to get one hundred thousand people out on the streets next April. There’s a big multi-movement march planned in London on 05 November. Don’t be a bystander, get involved in the fight for our futures.
A calming cat picture of Gideon to round things off, hiding in a wrapping paper tepee for some reason. He is still vexed about me going to London, but really thinks humans are making a right old mess of things and need to step up.
Not sure if I should get ill more or less often if it makes me write blog posts like this. I think I’ll go and watch Question Time to relax now, that should be interesting.
The title of this blog post might end up being slightly misleading, that remains to be seen. I’m not entirely sure where it’s gonna go. Best if I start off with some pictures of Gideon, in reclining mode.
The egg box is currently one of his favourite things. He sometimes sleeps on it, which looks very uncomfortable if you ask me. He is very ‘playful’ at the moment, just this morning ambushing me from behind the sofa and savaging my leg; note to self, shorts not always a good idea.
Newsflash just in from BBC – ‘Met police chef Cressida Dick to step down’. Earlier today she said she had no intention of stepping down, so the writing was on the wall really. Maybe now they can appoint someone who will really sort out the institutional racism and misogyny within the police force. I did say I didn’t know where this blog post was going to go didn’t I?
There have been some beautiful sunsets in Norfolk recently. It’s been nice taking a break from work to go and watch them. This one was particularly startling, with an amazing sequence of colours over the course of a few minutes.
Norfolk really does have big skies, which is especially evident when you visit the coast. I popped up to see the seals recently at Horsey Gap, with a couple of friends. Aside from seals, windswept sand dunes, and endless horizon, I just love the sound of the sea and being next to it. I think that’s one the things I loved so much about my Bike around Britain cycle tour in 2013; being next to the sea everyday.
Horsey Gap is home to a massive seal colony, consisting of Atlantic Grey Seals and Common Seals. There must be thousands of them, with thousands of seal pups born every year. Sadly many of them perish before reaching adulthood, but they’re a delight to witness.
When walking down the Norfolk East Coast it’s easy to see how just a small sea level rise could result in massive flooding. It’s so flat behind the dunes, which if breached could see sea water covering vast stretches. I guess it was all under-water once, and probably will be again in the not too distant future.
Did I mention there might be quite a lot of pictures of seals? It’s worth it though, they’re so wonderful to see. The wardens are really good too, able to give you loads of information whilst also keeping the seals safe.
The wardens are very good at keeping people away from the seals, especially those who might otherwise think it’s a good idea to try to pet them, or get a selfie. I am told that if the mother can smell a human on her pup, she may well abandon them, so whilst I’d thoroughly recommend going to see them, best not to get too close.
I took pictures using my old Cannon 550D with a zoom lens, but I think the ones I got on my phone might have actually been better. The Cannon pictures just don’t seem to have picked up the colours as well as the phone. Here are some last ones of mother and pup.
We walked all the way down to Winterton, had some chips and a hot chocolate, and then walked back. I was sad to see the cafe at Winterton is no longer there, due to coastal erosion, however there was a very good circle of food vans which met requirements.
Other stuff that’s been happening. We had a great turnout for the protest versus the proposed Western Link Road. The road will cut through rare chalk stream habitat, endangered Barbastelle bat colonies, and destroy a swathe of precious Norfolk countryside; the last natural corridor into Norwich and its green lungs.
The protest was organised by Norwich Extinction Rebellion, and attended by loads of local groups including Stop the Wensum Link, the Wensum Valley Alliance, Norwich Friends of the Earth, Green New Deal, Green Party and Labour Party councillors and Clive Lewis MP, Trade Union reps and many others. It was so heartening to see so many people come together to oppose an ecocidal road scheme, one that will increase emissions, traffic and pollution, whilst also opening the countryside up to more development. We should be investing the £200m+ it’ll cost for the 4 miles of road into green sustainable transport (buses) and active transport (cycling infrastructure), instead of investing in ultimately our own demise.
Great press coverage and opposition is definitely growing versus the road, with Norwich City Council recently coming out against it. Norfolk County Council and institutions like the University of East Anglia just need to catch up a bit.
But why not also get involved in an opposition group too; let me know if you want to learn more.
Ok, nearly there. I really will try to do blog posts more often so I don’t deluge you with updates.
Have you heard to the Nationality and Borders Bill, currently going through Parliament? It will criminalise refugees and asylum seekers, and allow the Government to strip people with dual-nationality of their UK citizenship without warning (clause 9). It’s pretty awful, and another step towards authoritarianism and fascism. I joined a protest in Norwich against it last Saturday, as I don’t want to see more people fleeing for their lives drown in boats crossing the channel, or get persecuted for just wanting a better life for their children. Especially when it comes to climate refugees, of which there are already thousands and will be millions. The UK is historically and currently responsible for this, and we need to help.
It feels like the Government is trying to dehumanise refugees by calling them illegal immigrants, and painting them as a burden and threat. Refugees rebuilt cities like Hamburg after the second world war, and have brought so much to this country already. They deserve a chance like anyone else.
I think that brings us about up to date. A few bullet points to round us off:
Still doing physio on my knee after falling off climbing wall in November, and awaiting operation to build new ligaments. Luckily I can still cycle and walking is fine
Planning a cycle tour for later this year – I fancy Cornwall
Also might be going to Scotland for a bit for some walking, will probably get lost
Don’t just think about how wrong things are sometimes, try and do something about it. There are tonnes of groups to get involved with, and Extinction Rebellion are taking to the streets in April on another effort change things
Anxiety and depression are a thing, friends are amazing. Keep on keeping on
Happy New Year, here’s to hopefully a less contagious 2022! Or at least less in the way of lockdowns and bad decisions by the powers that be. Maybe I should just stick with less contagious and hope for the best.
Gideon had a good Christmas despite me having to abandon him for a few days; he was well looked after by a friend whilst I escaped to my parents (thanks Adam). I don’t think he would have got on very well with my brother’s dog, given previous experience of him chasing canines around.
Now it’s getting colder he’s decided staying inside with blankets is probably for the best. I can’t say I blame him.
I had a good Christmas break down at my parents’ house in East Sussex, with my brother and sister-in-law’s family too. Great to be able to get together after last year’s shenanigans. Got out for some lovely walks on the beach down in Bexhill, and ate too much.
I’m generally not a big fan of Christmas. I really hate all the commercialism and pressure to buy stuff. It brings back memories of people no longer with us like Lucy. I can’t believe it’ll be 10 years since she passed away this February. Lots of happy memories of Christmas’ with her but that makes it harder when it comes round again somehow. Still, this was a good one and had lots of fun playing with my niece and nephew; just waiting for reports of what my niece has broken with the catapult I bought her. Naughty presents are what Uncles are for…right? I’m not playing Monopoly against my nephew again though, too many hotels on Mayfair for my liking, and I kept ending up in jail, which as an Extinction Rebellion person does not bode well.
In between Christmas and New Year I managed a few days of not doing very much, aside from more eating, and reading books, pretty good really. Did get out for a few nice walks including down to Salhouse Broad.
It’s really peaceful and regenerative down there at this time of year, without all the boats and bustle. Always seem to bump into someone I know as well – was good to see Nigel, an ex-colleague from work now with longer hair and living the dream playing in bands and whatnot.
I’ve got a bit of a broken knee at the moment due to falling off a climbing wall in November. Some ligaments that are quite important aren’t there anymore, and need to be rebuilt from bits of my hamstring later this year. Means I can’t climb or do Kendo, but can still walk about, albeit with one of those huge knee brace things. I can still cycle. Cycling is in fact encouraged as apparently I need (I was going to do a bad knee pun then but resisted) to have thighs like Chris Hoy’s before the operation. This could be challenging. As always I am thoroughly impressed with the NHS and how hard they work, and enjoyed the MRI scan. They weren’t very complimentary of the Government and how they’ve handled COVID, unsurprisingly.
Before going back to work I went for a walk round the Wensum Valley, to look at the proposed route for the Western Link Road. The road will destroy large swathes of beautiful and massively important Norfolk Countryside.
The Wensum Valley is a Special Area of Conservation with ancient woodland, rare chalk stream habitat, endangered barbastelle bat colonies and diverse flora and fauna. It would be a travesty if the link road went ahead.
Building the road will devastate rare habitat, plant and animal species, and increase traffic and emissions. We simply can’t afford to carry on with schemes like this whilst we’re in the middle of a climate and ecological emergency. It would be far better if the Council invested in a joined up green public transport plan, including cycling infrastructure, instead of opening up the countryside to more development and cutting 5 or 10 minutes off a journey. The Wensum Valley is the last natural corridor into Norwich, it needs to be saved.
I really do dream of the day when politicians start taking the climate and ecological emergency seriously. Maybe 2022 will be the year for it after last year’s disappointing COP26. Here’s the proposed route for the link road – if you’re Norfolk based please write to your MP and/or councillor to tell them to oppose it, and you can always join the Stop the Wensum Link campaign (or XR Norwich).
Whilst you’re at it please ask them to oppose the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which could stop you protesting about anything, and will send this country sliding further info authoritarianism. Have a look at the Netpol site for more info.
What else does 2022 have in store? More Extinction Rebellion stuff for me, it feels more important than ever to be out on the streets demanding change, for ourselves as well as the sake of future generations. With wildfires and floods raging round the planet, Antarctic ice melt getting really scary, emissions still going up and the Global South really suffering we need action now, not by 2050. I know this means big lifestyle changes, but surely that’s better than loads of people dying and society breaking down? Maybe see you out rebelling for life later this year – message me if you want to get involved.
I am also hoping for a bit of a gradual career change in 2022. I passed my level 4 Bushcraft course last year, which took two years due to COVID. I am really proud of the achievement and would love to teach stuff to others. Stay tuned for more on that soon. And I can’t recommend The Woodcraft School enough.
And I want to do more cycle touring again. Formulating plans for that too.
Have you watched ‘Don’t Look Up? And if so what did you think? I thought it was brilliant commentary on how politicians and the media don’t take the climate and eco crisis seriously, and how society reacts to it. This was reinforced by much of the media and critics slating it, cos they really don’t get it.
All the best for 2022, and Happy Birthday to Sheila and Susan who are both very young again imminently.
The week draws to and end, and I’ve even written some Christmas cards and acquired a few gifts. Almost feel semi-organised, with only mild levels of pre-festive stress and worry about stuff I haven’t done. I like Christmas, when it gets to the actual few days of celebration, but not the weeks of build up.
Gideon has been decidedly unstressed. In fact he appears to be doing very little as we approach mid-winter. This was mostly him today.
Reply from Jerome Mayhew below, but if nothing else please watch the film from George Monbiot at the end of this post, it’s really important…beware of the clowns.
Now you’ve enjoyed the cat pictures, here’s the response from Jerome Mayhew MP, to the email I sent him earlier this week. To be fair on him, he responded very quickly and comprehensively. The bit about public transport is ok, the rest I mostly find dubious – I’ve inserted a few comments in square brackets and in italics. I shall be replying when I have some time. Let me know what you think…
Dear Mr Harvey,
Thank you for your email. You have raised a number of points with me so please do forgive the length of my reply.
Weston Link Road
Whilst I do not have a constitutional say over whether the Norwich Western Link takes place, as this is a matter devolved away from MPs, I do support the scheme. I agree that none of the potential routes for the WLR is without very considerable costs in terms of impact to an otherwise lovely part of our countryside [If all the proposed routes are bad, then why go ahead?]. So what we are looking for is the least-worst option. The County Council has undertaken extensive consultation on which route to adopt and, on balance, Option C was found to be the best in terms of its impact on local communities, environmental impact, value for money and through the benefits it will provide to local transport links and safety, by removing the rat runs between the A47 and the NDR. Whilst some people, would prefer one of the other options, without there being a significant failing in the process of consultation, I don’t feel able to argue against the outcome that the consultation produced. In addition to those opposed to it Option C has wide-ranging support including Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, Norwich Airport, Norfolk Constabulary, Norfolk Fire and Rescue and the New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership. [Using the emergency services to justify more roads doesn’t work for me. More roads equals more traffic, more emissions, and they’ll still get held up. Plus emergency services are going to be under massive pressure due to climate crisis over the coming years]
Having spoken with the Council I understand ecologists have carried out extensive bat surveys over the last three years across a wide area to the west of Norwich, most recently completing further bat radiotracking surveys earlier this month. Consequently, the Council are developing mitigation proposals to take account of the data collected and are planning to put in considerable measures designed to support local bat populations, including green bridges, underpasses, and improving existing habitats and creating new ones. [The Barbastelle Bat colony is one of the biggest if not the biggest in the UK. They are an endangered species and the road would destroy the colony]
The Council have asked Dr Packman several times if she would be happy to share the data behind the conclusions she has drawn about barbastelle bats and the Norwich Western Link, including the locations of any barbastelle bat roosts her surveys have identified. To date the data has not been provided. As I am sure you can appreciate without seeing this data the Council cannot comment on the conclusions Dr Packman has drawn and will continue to base their proposed mitigation and enhancement measures on the evidence they have collected through their surveys. [The research he is referring to is being written up and checked pre-publication – it needs to be fact checked thoroughly to ensure it cannot be disputed, only wish the Government did more of that]
Given the majority of Broadland is not served by rail the only realistic public transport we can talk about are bus services. I fully accept that the current service needs improving as it fails the needs of the majority of residents with infrequent, poorly used and diesel powered buses. The only way I can see the majority of the network being improved is through the adoption of new technology. For example, smaller vehicles which have the right capacity and ride sharing technology which enables on demand door to door service. This is something I have previously raised with Norfolk County Council to see if there is appetite for a trial run in Norfolk.
In addition to this technological solution, earlier this year the Prime Minister announced £5 billion of new funding to overhaul bus and cycle links for every region outside London. This package of investment will boost bus services by focusing on a range of priorities, set to include:
Higher frequency services, including evenings and weekends, to make it easier and less restrictive for people to get around at any time of day
More ‘turn up and go’ routes where, thanks to higher frequency, people won’t have to rely on timetables to plan journeys
New priority schemes will make routes more efficient, so that buses avoid congested routes and can speed passengers through traffic
More affordable, simpler fares
At least 4,000 new Zero Emission Buses to make greener travel the convenient option, driving forward the UK’s progress on its net zero ambitions
Cycle routes will also see a major boost across the country with over 250 miles of new, high-quality separated cycle routes and safe junctions in towns and cities to be constructed across England, as part of this multibillion pound package.
[Ok, so on public transport I think we can agree, to an extent, but it needs even more investment]
Thorpe Woods are a mixture of semi-natural woodland around compartments of commercial planting which was harvested under their FC woodland management plans. Given the encroachment of Norwich on three sides and the increasing informal use of the woods by these residents, together with the small scale of the commercial plantation, it is no longer suitable to continue to use the site for commercial forestry. The area of commercial forestry was planted in the first place because it was poor quality land, and had since developed poor ecological value due to its heavy monoculture [this is really outdated terminology – it’s old Heathland that would regenerate quickly if left alone. As a friend said – Here, in Thorpe, right on the edge of Norwich, we have 200+ acres of prime lowland heath / ancient woodland / wood pasture habitat, containing more rare & scarce plant species than almost any other site outside of SSSIs] . So the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust decided that the best future use of the land was to supply local housing need and thereby secure the long term future of the wider woodland for public access, biodiversity growth and recreation.
The planning process undertaken by the Thorpe and Felthorpe Trust is a matter of public record, which included the right to appeal to the planning inspector, who spent six days hearing evidence from all interested parties as well as visiting the site, before coming to her decision granting outline planning permission. I agree that we should protect and manage the mature native woodland in Thorpe Woods, work to improve biodiversity and focus on ecological management. As made very clear in the report of the independent Planning Inspector this is exactly what the Trust will be doing; giving for ever and for free c.140 acres of Thorpe Woods as a community woodland for everyone, whilst improving ecological management, biodiversity, public access and recreation. The Planning Inspector found that: “… the development proposals as a whole would protect and enhance the biodiversity of the District.” This is even after the new housing is taken into account. She went on to conclude that the plan, “…constitutes Sustainable Development.” [I, many local ecologists, and the residents of Thorpe are going to have to agree to disgree on this. You can’t improve biodiversity by destroying important habitat]
The development site is now the responsibility of Hill Group, to whom any enquiries about the development should be directed. [Yes, we’re doing that – keeping an eye on their plans after you sold the woods to them for millions]
We do need to build new homes for younger generations as our local population expands and the size of individual households decreases. That being said, I think any new homes that are being built should be in keeping with the area and should bring with them sufficient infrastructure investment so that the additional population do not impact negatively on local public services. I note from your own address that you live in new build estate, which until a few years ago was a field. [Thanks for that, yes I do live in a new build that was built on old agricultural land I think – ecological deserts most of the time, due to intensive farming, not the same as cutting down woodland]
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill contains a huge number of useful additions to our criminal justice system, as the rather unwieldy name implies. Many of these are uncontroversial and I would certainly not want to delay their introduction by voting against this Bill. Many of the provisions are also a direct delivery of Conservative manifesto pledges from the election, so it would also be deeply undemocratic of me to seek to prevent their introduction. The clauses relating to non-violent but highly disruptive protests are there to help the police to manage the new wave of protest direct action, where the aim is not so much to protest as to cause chaos and inconvenience to as many people as possible. We all have a right to protest and to make sure that our voices are heard, but it is a right to protest, not to prevent. Why should one section of the public have an unfettered right to impose massive disruption on the rest of society? What about their right to get on with life? Where competing rights clash, the law must maintain a balance. Modern protest movements, such as Extinction Rebellion, game the system, and disruption, not peaceful protest, is their objective. The law needs to adjust to maintain the balance of competing rights, and I think this Bill helps to achieve that.
Is this new power open to abuse? Yes it is, like every power that the police have, but there is no difference between this power and every other power that we loan to the police. It is open to challenge and review through the press and the courts. As a democracy, we are well used to holding those in power to account. Every single member of the public has the power to become a citizen journalist immediately through their ‘phone. As a result, the police are subject to review and oversight like never before.
The setting up of illegal traveller sites can be a nuisance for local communities and an inappropriate development of open space. Many local residents across the country are concerned about anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping, and noise related to unauthorised sites.
After two consultations on this issue, as part of the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill, new laws will be introduced to increase the powers available to the police in England and Wales. The Bill will introduce a new criminal offence where a person resides or intends to reside on any public or private land without permission and has caused, or is likely to cause, significant harm, obstruction, or harassment or distress. In addition, the Bill amends the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 to broaden the list of harms that can be considered by the police when directing people away from land; and increase the period in which persons directed away from land must not return from three months to 12 months. Amendments to the 1994 Act will in addition allow police to direct trespassers away from land that forms part of a highway.
I can reassure you that the Government has taken steps to ensure that those exercising their rights to enjoy the countryside are not inadvertently impacted by these measures.
These new measures are a proportionate and necessary increase in powers for the police. The Government has made it clear that only a minority of travellers are causing problems, such as through abusive behaviour and extensive litter and waste at illegal sites. The vast majority of the travelling community are decent law-abiding people and we must ensure that there are legal sites available for travellers. As of January 2020, the number of lawful traveller sites increased by 41 per cent from January 2010. The Government has also given £200,000 to support projects working with Gypsy, Traveller and Roma communities to tackle discrimination, improve integration, healthcare and education.
[I don’t know where to start with his commentary around the PCSC Bill. Organisations like Amnesty say it’s bad, very bad. It is going to curtail freedom of speech, and put people in prison for speaking out against the Government. 1930’s Germany anyone? See film fro George Monbiot below for more info]
It’s been over a year since I posted on my blog. No excuses really, it’s just been a hectic, rollercoaster 18 months. I’m hoping to post a bit more from now on, on a variety of topics.
I’ve achieved some cool stuff since I last wrote anything. I passed my Level 4 Bushcraft Course (more on Bushcraft plans soon hopefully), finished some work projects, have done loads of climbing, and have been busy with lots of Extinction Rebellion stuff. Despite the pandemic messing lots of things around life goes on, exciting stuff still happens, and friends and family are always there when you need them; have really appreciated support from friends this year, through a few difficult periods.
Oh, and I adopted a rescue cat who keeps me company now I’m working from home permanently. His name is Gideon. He is a menace, but I love him.
What has motivated me to write something again? Local politics mostly. I got annoyed with Councillors talking nonsense and not answering questions, and then with my local MP on a variety of subjects. I thought I’d share the letter I sent him this evening, as I’m sure many of his constituents feel the same way. I also think people need to know more about the disastrous Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which will shortly be enacted into Law and seriously restrict our liberties.
Please read on if you’re interested – I’ve tried not to rant too much!
Dear Jerome Mayhew MP,
I am writing to you after you deleted my and several other concerned constituents’ comments from your Facebook page. I will also be forwarding this to members of the Norwich press, inviting them to publish this as an open letter.
On 12 December, you posted on Facebook reflecting on your achievements over the last two years, since you were elected, and on how you’ve stayed true to your commitments. I and many others have commented, politely, challenging some of these views. All of our comments have been deleted. I find this both undemocratic, cowardly, and as one of your constituents a failure on your part to address my concerns.
Have you perhaps been taking classes from Cllr Wilby on not answering questions? He did spectacularly badly at addressing a question on the NDR recently. Or perhaps you agree with Broadland District Tory Councillors, including Cllr Fisher, that there’s no need to declare a Climate and Biodiversity Emergency, despite all scientific evidence to the contrary?
I shall repeat the comments I raised on Facebook, and would welcome a response.
You claim to be enhancing our local environment, however this is at odds with both your support for the Western Link Road, as well as you and your family’s involvement in the proposed Thorpe Woodlands housing development.
The Western Link Road will destroy ancient woodland, rare chalk stream habitat, endangered Barbastelle bat colonies, and pollute the local landscape. It will increase traffic and emissions because that’s what new roads do. The road is also a blatant move to open up the Norfolk countryside to more development and destruction, for the profit of a few.
Surely public money would be far better invested in green public transport and cycling infrastructure? At a time when more people are working from home, and we need to reduce private car ownership to reduce emissions, it seems crazy to be promoting more car usage.
Turning now to the Thorpe Woodlands housing development. This woodland, a County Wildlife Site, is a remnant of ancient woodland, containing as it does ancient woodland indicator species. It acts as a carbon sink and a refuge for animals and plants to regenerate from, whilst the surrounding countryside is gobbled up by developers. It is very probable that it also acts as a flood defence, absorbing a lot of surface water, for the homes in Dussindale and Thorpe St. Andrew.
You and your family sold this woodland, no doubt for a tidy profit, to developers. This was against the wishes of local residents, many of whom grew up playing in the woods. Broadland District Council refused planning permission. However, the applicants appealed to the central Planning Inspectorate, who overturned local democracy and granted permission. Yet another example of local democracy being ignored for the profit of a small minority, even though Broadland council said the land wasn’t needed for housing.
In the midst of a biodiversity crisis, when the UK has the lowest forest coverage in Europe (13% versus around 38% in the EU), we really need to preserve our remaining woodlands and wild places, habitats and biodiversity. Planting new trees simply cannot make up for established woodland being destroyed; birds and bats can’t nest in saplings surrounded by plastic tubes, trees that will probably die anyway if many of those planted around the NDR are anything to go by.
It appears you are not being entirely successful in protecting the countryside and environment in Norfolk, and certainly not ‘listening to residents’ on this matter.
I’d also like to raise the matter of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (PCSC BIll), which is now going through its third reading in the House of Lords. This Bill, which you support, recently had last minute clauses introduced that will mean up to 51 weeks in prison for any sort of protest activity. It also persecutes Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, making their way of life illegal. It’s an attack on freedom of speech, as well as our right to peaceful protest, a right that has won the British people so much over the centuries.
The PCSC Bill, along with the Nationality and Borders Bill (Anti-Refugee Bill), are attacks on civil liberties, freedom, democracy and refugees seeking asylum. The Government is seeking to quash any dissenting voices, to silence anyone that disagrees with them. Protest by its very nature will cause an annoyance and disturb someone. We must heed warnings from history, from the 1930s as countries slid into authoritarianism and fascism after introducing similar and more stringent laws. Can you really, with good conscience, support these Bills, which have been widely condemned by organisations such as Amnesty International?
I appreciate you have been working hard to try to build a ‘Better Broadland’, however not being open to criticism or answering questions from concerned members of the public comes across badly. With the Government increasingly under fire on COVID, having one rule for them and one for everyone else, it must be time to start listening to and engaging with your constituents who have different views, rather than ignoring them.
I look forward to hearing from you.
That’s all for today. I’ll let you know if I get a reply, and hope to write more soon anyway.
Following on from completing the Advanced Bushcraft Certificate in June, I started a year long course in October. It’s part of a plan to diversify my skill and knowledge base, with a view to future changes of lifestyle and vocation; essentially I’m going to need a new job soon, and would love to work more in the outdoors, with like-minded people. Hopefully I can combine this with a few other things I’m dabbling in when my current job winds up next year. The course, a Certificate of Applied Bushcraft, is run by the Woodcraft School down in West Sussex.
Woodcraft School site – The Weald, West Sussex
Kettle on the fire – vital to keep going
Decided on tent versus hammock this time around
It’s a big time commitment, the course running once a month from October 2019 to June 2020. It runs over a series of long weekends, with research and practice required in between each session. I’m part of a group of 10 or so students, all with varying degrees of existing knowledge and skills, but all bound by a passion for and interest in the outdoors, nature, woodcraft and bushcraft. Am I woefully ill-prepared and lacking in the pre-requisites? Only one way to find out!
I’ll attempt to keep this blog updated as I go, and hopefully won’t poison myself, contract hypothermia, or slice off a limb in the meantime. Bit worried about the January session during which we have to overnight without a sleeping bag, relying purely on the skills we’ve learnt; let’s hope the rain eases off.
Autumn shrooms in abundance
Woodland wanderings with the group
Trip to nearby deer park for more learnings
Amongst last month’s teachings we learned more about fire-starting, and left with instructions to gather natural tinder and coal-extenders. This weekend has been mostly dry so I decided to venture forth to gather suppliers to add to my ‘fire-box’. Salhouse Broad is only down the road, and somewhere I walk regularly, thus was a good place to start. I last visited after the Rebellion in October; it was still pretty green then.
Remnants of summer cling on, but dark clouds loom
Still pretty green everywhere in October
My favourite spot down at the Broad – a hidden pool
Autumn has definitely advanced in my absence, the Broad having quietened down and most trees now brown, yellow or gold, or even bare of leaf.
Salhouse Broad – water looks chilly
Salhouse Broad – still the odd boat about
Beech tree bedecked in yellow and gold
Whilst the spring and summer months are full of life and activity, I think I prefer the autumn and winter, which bring a stillness to the area. Gone are masses of folk on holiday, as well as the constant drone from boats, and people hiring canoes or picnicking.
Cosy woodland paths blanketed in leaves
Old Chestnut grove
The Oaks are crowned in gold
I wandered my usual route, taking in the changes since my last visit. I gathered tinder in the form of seed heads and dead bracken, all of which should take a spark from flint and steel (or ferro-rod in my case), and will work for the fire-by-friction test next week; bow drill is going to be a challenge if our current streak of wet weather persists. I stopped to check on the little cluster of surviving Elm trees, hidden from view of the beetle which carries the fungi causing Dutch elm disease.
Elm trees hiding amongst the oaks
Thistle heads – will be great when dried
Lots of dead bracken about – not used it before as tinder but sure it’ll take a spark
Birch bark is also excellent as tinder, and taking the outer peeling bits of bark doesn’t do the tree any harm. It’s full of Betulin oil and lights very easily.
Birch bark – only take the outer peeling bits
Birch bark – the Betulin it contains means it lights easily
Fluffy seed heads perfect for tinder or coal extender
After a busy week, including an XR critical mass bike ride yesterday, it was good to pause for a bit and reflect on things. All a bit worrying with the big floods up north seemingly set to get worse, fires raging in Australia and in many other parts of the world, and water shortages in South Africa. It’s only a matter of time before we see a massive increase in the number of climate refugees, driven from their homes by lack of water, famine, or fighting over remaining resources. Part of the reason I’m doing this bushcraft course is to improve the skills I might need should things go from bad to worse, which really can’t be ruled out. Let’s not mention the general election.
Adult swans keeping watch over their youngster
Holly bearing berries
Ladybird looking for somewhere to hibernate – is this a Harlequin?
With tinder gathered it was time to head back home. I might have played with the colours in one of the photos below!
No campers at this time of year
Veteran Oak overlooks swampy ground
The same oak, without make-up
I’ve now got a collection of various tinder types, which’ll hopefully work over the next few months. I need to find more in the way of coal extenders – some bracket fungi and suchlike. I’ll save that for next time.
Birch bark and Rosebay Willowherb
Fluffy seed heads – not sure what species
Bracken drying out
Will keep you posted on Bushcraft course progress, assuming next weekend goes well!
I’ll start this post with some autumnal pictures. It’s my favourite time of year, incorporating beautiful colours in the countryside, crisp and bright days, and the Norwich beer festival; always a must visit.
Mist amongst the Oaks
The Broad becalmed
Golden Beech trees
Walking or cycling through the countryside, breathing in the fresh air, is a true delight. And there’s always the joy of jumping into piles of leaves, or taking in a magnificent sunset. I don’t have any recent sunset pictures, as sometimes it’s good just to take it all in without having to photograph it. I do have the privilege to cycle past Whitlingham Broad on my way to work each morning though, which always offers a calm moment before the day starts in earnest.
A quiet spot
All the leaves are brown
Mist on the water
Each year I wonder if we’ll see the same next year. What will have burnt, been blown down, or perished from either drought, habitat destruction or any one of a number of other human caused blights? The wildfires in California, or the increased frequency of ‘once in a hundred years’ storms, are just a few examples.
Nettles in the year’s first frost
Path alongside the Broad, early morning
There’s no doubt we’re in the midst of an environmental crisis now. The symptoms of Climate Breakdown are everywhere to see and this is just the beginning. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or Climate Breakdown as it should now be called, says we have just 12 years to avert catastrophe. I hope this is true and we’ve not already passed the tipping point.
I’m not going to include lots of links to evidence, to scientific commentary or opinion, as it’s easy to find on the web, however if you have any doubts this is true, or are in denial, I recommend doing a bit of research (I can supply some pointers upon request).
A lot of us have had enough of this now. Of the failure of governments, corporations, and indeed most of the people on the planet, to do anything to avert the impending catastrophe. We are failing future generations of children, and indeed all life on the planet. We can’t however dwell on the past too much, or start blaming previous generations, that won’t help.
For what has probably been several years this has been weighing heavily on my mind, and I’ve experienced a full range of emotions on the subject which I now realise, with the help of friends and wiser people than I, are down to grief. You’d have thought I’d have recognised the symptoms given previous life events. Sadness, a bit of denial, despair and depression, anger, and now hopefully acceptance. You can’t move on and do anything constructive about an issue you’re grieving about unless you can accept it’s happened or happening, and the truth. If you’re going through this yourself I can thoroughly recommend looking up Joanna Macy, the deep ecologist, and the work that reconnects. It helps.
On a side note I’m really starting to think that a lot of the mental health problems we’re seeing at the moment might be related to all of this. At some level, even subconsciously and especially amongst children, are we all recognising the problem and threat? Is this why levels are depression and anxiety are soaring?
Last night I decided to go to a talk organised by Extinction Rebellion. It was a game-changer as far as I’m concerned. The talk was hosted by Rupert Read, a Green Party politician, academic and reader of philosophy at the University of East Anglia where I studied. He gave the same talk at Churchill College in Cambridge recently, and I’d really recommend everyone listen to it, challenge it if necessary, and try to understand it.
If you do nothing else, or don’t ready any further, please watch at least some of this!
Yes, this stuff is really scary, terrifying. I was beginning to think that very few other people saw it the same way I’ve been seeing it. It makes one feel very alone, and question whether you’re one of the ‘crazies’. I don’t feel that way anymore. They expected maybe 50 odd people to turn up last night. There were around 120 of us crammed into the room, a brilliant turn out given it was only organised the week before. There were people from all walks of life too, lest you think it was just fringe hippies and malcontents. Finally a group of like-minded I can relate to, who are as worried as I am, and who are willing to try to do something about it.
We really do have just years to try do something about this. It’s something that will not just potentially cut your children’s lives short, it could do so for your own life, or at least future wellbeing. As Rupert says in his talk there are three possibilities at the moment.
Complete breakdown of civilisation, which will start within our lifetimes – there won’t be much of anything left, we didn’t do enough, quickly enough
An alternative civilisation – a partial collapse of what we have today, but things are left intact to some extent, we just about did enough
A successor civilisation – we transform our current civilisation now, and quickly, bringing about the chance for massive improvements and a better way of life for all on the planet
I reckon number three is the sensible choice to strive for, if it’s not too late, but it’s also the hardest route to take, and possibly the biggest challenge we’ve faced as a species. To make it work it’ll need everyone to get on board, completely change their lifestyles, and priorities. It’s harder than previous challenges we’ve faced on subjects such as equality, voting rights, and discrimination. We are after all talking about people who are currently rich, comfortable, and enjoying a life of comparative luxury (most people in the UK relative to other parts of the world) needing to set much of what they currently value aside. However, if we can start to transform civilisation we’ll be in with a chance, and we could end up being in a much better place than we are now on many counts.
People may ask isn’t the Paris Climate Change Agreement supposed to avert all these problems? Doesn’t the IPCC report offer hope? The answer to that, in brief, is no. The Paris agreement is effectively burnt, especially if the US pulls out. It doesn’t go far enough and won’t prevent the temperature rises that are going to cause so many problems. These reports and agreements don’t take into account things like feedback loops from ice-melt and the permafrost thawing. If methane emissions soar (releasing the dragon), which is entirely possible, we’ll see the release of massive amounts of a greenhouse gas far worse than CO2.
It would appear therefore we have years to try to fix this, and we need to get as many people involved to completely change the way we live, consume, travel, grow our food, enjoy our leisure activities etc. I’m not sure this is possible but surely it’s got to be worth a go? It really is time for people to wake up to this, for people to start talking about it and for action to start happening on a major scale. And we have to approach this in the right way, not with accusations and trying to force people to see your point of view, but by providing information and the facts, and asking them questions, so they can reach their own conclusions, go through the grieving process, and come out the other side to add a positive contribution. This is much bigger than Brexit, or the NHS crisis, yet it’s not anywhere near the top our governments agenda. They are letting us down.
Governments and corporations aren’t doing anything quickly enough, or anything at all in many cases. They need to start listening and the only way to make that happen appears to be via non-violent direct action, which is what Extinction Rebellion is trying to organise. We need to stop the destructive spiral that is going on at the moment and make change happen.
I’d invite anyone reading this (there’s got to be at least 2 or 3 people who got this far), to check out Extinction Rebellion yourself. Spread the word. Get involved and consider non-violent direct action to make the government listen. There are ‘Holding actions’ we can undertake to slow things down. There’s going to be some good stuff happening in London this weekend. This has the potential to be huge, and even if it doesn’t work I don’t want to be in situation in 10 or 20 years time wishing I’d tried to do something. It’s got to be worth a shot whilst we still have a chance hasn’t it?
In the meantime though, I might do a bit of prepping, just in case…