Saturday 24 November 2018

Extinction Rebellion Day - and related thoughts - on 17 Nov 2018

Last week - 6th of November - I attended "Oh What a Lovely War" put on as this year's Settle Operatic Society Show to mark 100 years since the end of the first world war.  I would recommend watching the show or film - It is educational and not gory (as they performed it) and has lots of short sketches, like cartoon scenes, from true stories, presenting many facts of the war, and horrifying statistics of the deaths..

In one scene, rich people are meeting on a grouse moor (Could it be a Yorkshire grouse moor?) They come in, one by one, carrying the flag of their country and wearing hats to denote their country - countries on both sides of the war. They want the war to continue so they can continue making profits by selling weapons.
(A grouse moor! - by the way, just last week  it was announced that another hen harrier a rare and threatened species- radio tagged has gone missing in the North Yorkshire Moors..  It was in the North York Moors National Park on 26 October 2018 when the signal was lost. The bird, named Arthur, is the ninth hen harrier to disappear in suspicious circumstances in the last 12 weeks, according to RSPB records.  Yorkshire moorland has a terrible reputation -it is sad.)


On Sat 17th November I had to go down to London for the Annual Members' Meeting of the national organisation  Green Christian. We were due to hear a talk by Bishop David Atkinson. Also we have a committee meeting before-hand. The AMM is an excellent chance to meet many other members.

Meanwhile.. A big group called Extinction Rebellion and a small group called Christian Climate Action were planning to have Non Violent Protests/ Direct Action, during this fortnight, to raise awareness about climate change and other ecological problems, and demand that the government do much much more to prevent climate change: with a big day on 17th November.  Ordinary demonstrations had not had enough effect. (Green Christian is a charity and is not associated with political groups.)

I checked on the internet and decided to go down by train from Lancaster (The trains in the NE of England and Skipton would be on strike that Saturday, as they have been on Saturdays for several months).  That Friday evening I was asked by Green Christian to send an email to participants who had booked to come to this talk to suggest they come by tube rather than bus since the Extinction Rebellion People were hoping to block the Thames Bridges.
 I packed for the morning including a big plastic drinking cup with lid - what a faff - Green Christian had asked us to bring drinking mugs in case not enough pottery cups were available at the church (and we were not going to buy disposable cups)
I left home at 5.15am and drove through the darkness along the roads - quiet at that time of morning - and arrived in Lancaster in plenty of time. But then (due to stupidity  on my part) could not find the correct car park - and by the time I had found it, I had missed the train.

Still - looking on the bright side - that gave me
1) Twenty minutes to do stretching and keep-fit exercises in a secluded part of the station
2) The chance to meet a gentleman sitting opposite to me on the train who was going to the British Pteridological Society Meeting  (Ferns) in Liverpool (topic Dryopteris). We had an interesting chat about ferns and about people we knew in common. Then I settled down to write italic name labels for the people booked in at our London talk

Once in London I went to Waterloo by tube. I decided I still had time to go to the Waterloo Bridge, 5 min walk from the tube station. The sky was blue, the sun was very bright, but the shadows very dark and difficult to see in the glare. As I approached the roundabout to the bridge I saw yellow diversion signs and police vans lined up.. and .... space ... no traffic going onto the bridge... the traffic just had to continue round the roundabout.

"Well, they've done it!" I thought. Extinction Rebellion have closed this bridge. "I wonder if they have closed the others."

I walked onto the bridge along with many other pedestrians and one or two cyclists. The parked buses turned out to be empty.

There was a crowd near the centre of the bridge.  

There was a put-up concrete barrier/wall separating the footpath from the road. 

In the road some were sitting, some lying on sleeping bags and many standing and a couple dressed in furry animal suits were  dancing. Banners were displayed at both ends of the crowd. A drum was playing. 

After a while there were shouts of welcome and flag waving as a new group of protesters arrived. 

A lady with a not-very-loud megaphone then explained various health and safety and legal issues, and how it was a peaceful demonstration. 

Lots of police were patiently standing at both ends. The humour of all the protesters was good. Lots of passers by and supporters took photographs.

The sun was bright, the sky and the Thames were blue and grey and white, the historic and new buildings lined the Thames.

I was mesmerised.

I thought " Isn't it marvellous that we are able to have demonstrations in this country.. in many countries people would be locked up or shot at.  The police were standing peacefully -
I thought of people in Syria - how their revolution had started including demonstrations maybe including young people like this, before it had started the war.

I thought "We - I - don't want every demonstration on every issue blocking the bridges.. 

But Climate Change IS a dire issue. 

We don't see the climate change effects much in this country -they are subtle - but they are accelerating. If we lived in California with the current fires in Paradise,  or Greenland and the Arctic where the ice is melting and leaving bare rock or sea, -- or near Lake Chad and Lake Baikal that are drying up .. We might be prepared to act faster.  

Beyond the protesters I could see the River Thames and the skyline of St Paul's Cathedral  still standing tall, but other churches and buildings now hidden or dwarfed by the towers of the banks and offices of Canary Wharf


The banks - where money dealings go on that allow investment in businesses - that fund machinery for drilling for oil, for transport, for fertilizers, for mining, for weapons... for cement.. all things which cause climate change.

The banks: - in four days time I would find myself at Settle attending the film "The Spiders Web" - Do watch it - It shows how London acts as a tax haven along with offshore tax havens where criminals and many of the world's richest 1 percent hide their money in trust funds - denying their own country the money that should be used for education, health and climate change mitigation preparation.

Historic buildings built when Britain was gaining its empire still line parts of the Thames.

And a group of 100 to 200 people (and growing) had blocked this bridge.

And maybe the other four bridges  were blocked too.

(They were. 
I later learned that Christian Climate Action were on Blackfriars Bridge, along with George Monbiot and other campaigners. )

Will the government listen?

Will other people listen?

Will they act?

.. but I had to go to the committee meeting..  I left the bridge, and after a 10 minute walk found St Andrew's church.

We concluded our committee meeting. People started arriving for our shared lunch. I got the italic name labels to give out.

One man I recognised with two young children came in and I made name tags for them . They had been at Blackfriars Bridge - I have just checked his blog - make wealth history

I made them labels too.. though they departed for the bridge again before our AGM.

Bishop David Atkinson gave his talk. I took some photos. He covered a huge array of topics. But He linked Jesus "I am" sayings with the UN Sustainability Goals .  

This next part of this post is a detour - but a worthwhile detour for someone coming down from "Up country"

After Bishop David's talk there was to be a long discussion workshop. I decided to go back to the bridges.  When I got there the people had gone (off to Parliament Square I later found, to attempt to dig up one or two paving stones to plant trees, and get arrested. )
I set of to walk north from here along the South Bank. I took photos of:

  • A homeless man in a sleeping bag, lying on the pavement under an umbrella, empty coca-cola can near his head as a tool for drug taking.  (The sad side of our civilised capital)
  • Then on a happy and interesting note:
  • Street entertainers and a crowd on the south embankment
  • Stalls there selling food from a variety of countries and lots of young happy people enjoying the late afternoon
  • A huge sand sculpture of a girls face on a sandy part of the shore. I gave two adjacent children some 20p pieces to aim down onto his bucket


  • Two people on the pebbles and cobbles of the shore of the Thames (tide out) in wellingtons searching for something.
  •  I climbed down to the shore line and walked over the mixed pebbles and short stretch of chalk bedrock to them 
  • and asked what they were looking for. He pulled out of the plastic bag two pieces of broken pottery. "I'm interested in history." he said.
But the tide was coming in. I returned to the meeting in time for the final prayers

After the meeting, and the hall had been cleared, a few of us went for a drink. The pub being too noisy we ended up at Costa Coffee.. to discover that my green plastic mug entitled at 25p discount!!.. 
I showed the group my rainforest cards and sold 6 more.

On the train on the way home I discovered that the same mug got me a 20p discount. Well Well! This would not have happened last year.
Safely back at home at 10 am, and super-tired, I downloaded my photos and sorted a few pics of Bishop David for Ellen Teague who may write an article
And went to bed. 

Saturday 10 November 2018

More on Thorne Moors

I have learned more about Thorne Moors - since my post 

It is part of Humberhead Peatlands National Nature Reserve

Find out more at the Thorne and Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum -

Thorne Moors is the largest Lowland Raised Mire in England, Hatfield Moors it's neighbour the second largest.  Thorne is also known for Large Heath Butterfly, Bembidion humerale and Curimopsis nigrita, two beetles found only on the Humberhead Peatlands (a modern generic term for Thorne, Hatfield and the smaller local Turbaries in the Isle of Axholme), nowhere else in the UK.

Thorne Moors is mainly in South Yorkshire with north of Blackwater Dyke in East Riding Yorkshire and east of Swinefleet Warping Drain is in North Lincolnshire. 

Thorne Moors - Pilgrimage - to the Raised bog (remains of) beyond Doncaster

Have you ever been to Thorne Moors? It used to be referred to as Thorne Waste on old maps. 


Thorne Moors - a former raised peat bog in East Yorkshire. To me, a mythical place.. where campaigns were held in the 1980s  to try to save it from total destruction for peat extraction.. (More notes in my next post)

Beyond and east of Doncaster. South of Goole. Beyond beyond.

(Note:- this article is being written by a Yorkshire person who lives at another end of Yorkshire, to the far west.)

Thorne is 2.5 hours drive away from Settle -  I live 6 miles from the source of the River Aire - and amazingly Thorne Moors is 8 miles from  the mouth of the Aire into the Ouse. (Six miles  beyond that, the Trent and the Ouse join to become the Humber.) 

In the 1980s  (and 1990s) I remember campaigns to try and save an area of raised bog in east Yorkshire, far away beyond Doncaster, that was being strip mined for peat by Fisons. It was a relic of the area of wet marshes and bogs of the Humberside Levels that had been a barrier to transport communications in the Middle Ages ..  until drained by Dutch engineers to give what is now grade 1 arable land. Rare plants had grown on this bog long ago such as the Rannoch Rush.

Peat was dug for centuries for fuel, leaving pools that became colonised by the surrounding Sphagna and vegetation. Larger pools were dug in the 19th C. and the peat taken by train to London for use for bedding for horses.

Cars were invented so it was no longer needed for the horses and peat digging dramatically reduced. Then Fisons bought it and just stripped the area of peat with mechanised means.

(Remember - we should avoid using peat for gardens - and we should use compost instead, or other peat substitutes, because even though Throne Moors peat extraction is now finished, vast areas of Irish bog are being destroyed. (See a picture of me looking at an Irish peat bog - to be added shortly.))

Eventually Fisons said they would give the bog to Natural England's forbear (Nature Conservancy Council/English Nature)  once they had extracted all the peat down to 1/2 m from the rock/sand/clay below.

In the 1980s I worked at Malham Tarn, and spent much time walking over the surface of Malham Tarn Moss (Peat Bog),  and showing students its fascinating plants. I showed them the results  of the former efforts of scientists to try and get parts of that bog "growing again". (30 years later some pools have not changed much, but others - the ones with some basic water input have have changed considerably though not to raised bog vegetation yet..)

Well, whilst on the YNU Bryophytes day at Nosterfield in October 2018, Steven Heathcote told me about the planned "Sphagnum day" at Thorne Moors for the 2nd November.  What an opportunity to visit the place! It was being organised by Helen Kirk of the Thorne and Hatfield Moors Conservation Forum,  Kieran  Sheehan, and a team of botanists. 

I swotted up on the rare Sphagnum balticum - Baltic Bogmoss that was reputed to grow at Thorne Moors  There are  34 species of Sphagna that grow in Britain, and this one is extremely rare. I bought some new wellingtons, with aubergine trimmings to replace my leaking old ones,  booked a B&B at  the market town of Thorne over the internet, and set off.

At 9.30am on a sunny and cold morning, thirteen of us met at a farm in the flat grade one arable land, where we left most of our cars.. We  piled into three cars and drove 1/2 a mile along the narrow straight road, raised high above the surrounding flat land. I learned a new word "warp". Warping is the process by which the land had been subject to controlled flooding (when the tide was in)  in the past so that the fertile silt was deposited to the ground.

At the entrance to Thorne Moor Nature reserve there was a gate across the road to which our organiser had a key.

Suddenly we were in a different world. 
Our now gravel track, still very straight, was only just above the height of the surrounding soil - which now included reeds, pools, birch trees and various bog plants. The road was straight - it had been built for a rail track/tram track by the peat extraction companies. The wide sky came down to the  birch and reed lined flat horizon, with willows by the track. 

Our driver drove carefully not wishing to ground the car on the rough track, in places with grass down the middle.  The speed dropped to zero when a Marsh Harrier soared in front of us .. so close! Not just a dot in the distance with binoculars. It had white marks on the under surface of its wings.

I wondered if the birch trees would pose a management problem, turning the bog into birch car. I was assured that if (IF) the water table was maintained high enough, the birch would not grow. Much effort had been taken by Keiren's firm  to build control of drainage channels so that the water table could be maintained at a high level (by Natural England.)

We parked in the parking place, where there was a bench

Looking back along the very straight track

Same view with the camera set to telephoto

Same view - above picture cropped and enlarged

No road now, we would have to walk. 

We set off along another straight track, and came to a viewing platform. 

Picture from half way up viewing platform

And from the top

You used to look to infinity in all directions I was told - and just see birch and bog.   But now wind turbines are springing up all around.  The only landmarks were places like Goole Church tower and Gasworks. You can see that on the horizon a fifth of the way in from the left (above) and two thirds of the way in in the picture below.

We continued to our site. Here we divided into three groups, each with a "Sphagnum expert" Paul Buckland was our expert. Here we are looking at a specimen of Sphagnum.

Some of this is Sphagnum subnitens. It has a luminous sheen

I just wanted to sit down and make a survey of a couple of square metres to find out what really was growing here in this new habitat for me on my first visit to Thorne.  The others had shot off searching for new Spahgna. They knew what a big area they hoped to cover.

So I sat down. Amongst the Hare's-tail Cotton-grass, Common Cotton-grass, Cross-leaved Heath, Purple Moor-grass, Heather, and mostly just six species of Sphagna (fimbriatum, fallax, cuspidata, and occasionally papillosum, palustre and subnitens.  - no Sphagnum capillifolium ). I poked around and found Cranberry and dead Sundew leaves with overwintering buds ready to grow next year. (Elsewhere we found masses of Bog Rosemary)

I scraped up some "green felt" from the surface of the wet peat and looked at it under the lens.  It was full of liverworts. A Thorne "hepatic mat" (Liverwort mat) - It reminded me of the time Tom Blockeel had spent searching at Swarthoor/Helwith Bridge Moss for liverworts amongst the Spahgna there. I would take some back. (He was with us but with a different group)

I joined the others. Sphagnum denticulatum had been seen. They showed me some spiky Spagnum squarrosum (one of my favourites)

Then Paul found a healthy 1m patch of Sphagnum magellanicum (now called S  medium - but we like the old name). This has big hooded chunky leaves, branches that do not taper much, and red colour in their leaves or stem.

Sphagnum magellanicum section through stem

We considered it might be a patch that was introduced by Jane Smart who had carried out work her under Brian Wheeler in the 1980s. 

Further along there was evidence of previous experiments.

But the light was getting low. (Only  six weeks till the shortest day)

We made our way back towards the  three cars. We had a plenary discussion.  Helen gave Kay and I (as the only two people, I think, who did not have one) copies of the book: Thorne Moors A Botanical Survey 

Since then I have enjoyed reading this informative book.

Thank you to all the people who look after Thorne Moor now and to those who campaigned to save it in the past.

I stepped back from Narnia, into the wardrobe and returned to the Grade 1 arable land, then the headlamps of the rush hour traffic in the dark, returning to the M62 and A1, then other A roads and home.

Monday 5 November 2018

Coffee Morning for Rainforest Fund - 6 Nov 2018 - and WWF-Living Planet Report 2018

Thanks to all who supported this coffee morning. We raised £115 
That will protect 1 acre of rainforest. THANK YOU.

If you missed the chance to buy cards, look out for them in Wholesome Bee and the Boxer and Hound Cafe (Opposite the King William Guest House, on the way to the Folly)

30 Oct 2018:
WWF-Living Planet Report 2018
Populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians have, on average, declined by 60% between 1970 and 2014, the most recent year with available data.
The Earth is estimated to have lost about half of its shallow water corals in the past 30 years.
A fifth of the Amazon has disappeared in just 50 years.
$125 trillion
Globally, nature provides services worth around $125 trillion a year, while also helping ensure the supply of fresh air, clean water, food, energy, medicines, and much more.