Thursday 27 February 2020

Speaking Truth to Power - Ash Wednesday Climate Emergency Pilgrimage - CCA Leeds

Ash Wednesday 26 Feb 2020

A personal account of my visit to the Christian Climate Action Ash Wednesday Pilgrimage at Leeds.  
 ....Leaving a snowy Settle at 7.30am travelling by train looking at the floods in the Aire Valley en route. 
... Floods - Isn't that a warning in itself?

 (Note 2022 An Ash Wednesday Leeds Climate Pilgrimage is taking place on 2 March - meet Millennium Square. Leeds at 11am)

Summary first: 

I was on the way to a "Pilgrimage" - walk in Leeds with five outdoor stopping points / reflection areas. This was organised by a recently formed group called Leeds Christian Climate Action.  One of the aims was to end up outside Barclays Bank in the pedestrian precinct in the  Shopping Centre at Leeds and hold a short Ash Wednesday Service 

and to make sure that the bank manager and public would hear...

..  would hear  the leader saying that 

"Barclays investments in industries causing climate change amount to 85 billion dollars."

.. and to ask the manager to  move the money to funds that do not damage the climate.

(Our leader had arranged to meet the manager beforehand).  

Two police officers had been assigned to come with us. 

There were about 24 people. Three people were videoing and interview some of us. They were students  #Leeds Hack - on a journalism course. 


In many ways the context of the trip is as revealing as the service itself.  Read on..  

as I set off at Settle Railway Station at 7.28am. Settle is 45 miles west of Leeds, on the Leeds-Settle-Carlisle Railway

I buy a cup of coffee from the railway station and perch it on the bridge as I await the train. I wish I had brought my own cup instead of having to use a disposable one.  (I must add this picture to my "44 places within three miles of Settle where you can eat or drink!" blog post) 

 There is a light covering of snow from the previous evening - we have had hardly any snow this winter apart from one weekend in November. 

The train arrives - four carriages today. Long Preston Deeps (River Ribble ) are flooded. Then 8 miles and we go past Gargrave and we are in the Aire Valley.  The Aire flows east through Leeds to the Humber. After Skipton  the Aire Valley is significantly flooded. Still - it is doing its job - holding water here so there will be less flooding downstream.  The road and the railway have been built on strategically high platforms.

Six days earlier late Fri 21 the River Ribble had flooded into Watershed Mill car park near where I live and into the Mill itself. - It had been midnight or I would have gone out to watch. - The post in the river that I see from my bedroom to record record flood heights of water in the Ribble was washed away by record flood heights of water the previous week. We are getting used to records being broken.. but think..  each record of water level depth must be deeper that the last. 

The views to the north of the line looks like Switzerland with a lake in the foreground and snow capped hills beyond.
THE LAKE SHOULD NOT BE THERE. It should just be cattle grazing land.  The train follows the Aire down to..

Leeds Station, 

and I walk thorough the being-dug-up streets.

I am an hour and a half early so I fill in time by visiting Leeds Library. I recommend this a place to visit.

I photograph a Caxton map of Yorkshire on the wall there.

See it marks Settle (on the Ribble) and the River Aire which starts just to the NE of Settle and flows down, past Leeds  and Pontefract to Snaith after which it joins the Humber. See how so many different rivers are converging on that area, like the fingers of a hand.
Snaith from drone, on BBC Website

No wonder Snaith is in the news on the BBC website this week for flooding.

Later  I buy several "Library throw out" books including one on "Getting things done". (It is still sitting on my shelf a month later unfinished, "not done". Hey Ho) 

It is a quarter to 10 and I meet up with people at Millennium Place. Although I haven't met any of them before I soon find links and people we know in common.

The leader, Rev Jon (Jonathan) Swales gives us a handout service sheet on grey recycled paper. 

The first Station, at Millennium Place  is Confession:

"Desmond Tutu said "Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not Knowing much about climate change. Today we have no excuse."
"Climate breakdown requires extensive and sustained action to prevent the unfolding of a disaster of apocalyptic proportions." 

We have readings, sing a short hymn and have prayers.

Second Station: War and Climate Breakdown:

We hold this at the war memorial

Jonathan points out that if people and countries had held back, the first world war need not have happened.

If only....

If only. ..

If only ..

I photograph the garden with crosses planted in it and the war memorial.

Then the  deafening noise of pneumatic drills hammering into the adjacent road  covers up the next part.

This is the Leeds Pipes Network: 
Can't complain as it is very sustainable and laudable: 

Leeds Pipes "have been working with Leeds City Council to develop a low carbon energy solution connecting 1,983 properties and numerous businesses to an efficient district heating network."

 Hymn - O Lord hear my prayer.

The main group then shoot off south led by the gentleman carrying the cross. 

Jon stays behind to be interviewed by the journalists. 

I photograph the pipes. 

See the insulation!!

I look up and everyone has gone!! 

O deaarrrrr.

I hurry south and meet the couple in the pilgrimage who have come from Great Ayton.  40 miles to the north east.

"They have gone to Trinity," they say. "They said they were going to Trinity"

"Trinity? "

"Trinity Church or Trinity vast huge great labyrinth of a shopping centre?" I ask.

We go to Trinity Church. Not there.!

We are stumped. Trinity Shopping area, according to the map, is huge. We find Jonathan's mobile phone number and try, but he does not answer .. by now he must be leading the next Pilgrimage station session, with his mobile switched off


To come all this way and loose them!

We decide to go to a Barclays Bank since that is to be the final station. The wrong Barclays as it turns out. On the way however we spot the group. 


We sing "Amazing grace."

We skip the fourth station location as we are getting behind schedule  but say the prayers elsewhere (Litany for the Earth) and head for the correct Barclays.

On our programme, this station is labelled 

"Ashing and Protest"

For the first time Jon uses the hand held microphone, and he uses it to good effect. 

- and lets rip

 - speaking to us 

- to the shoppers passing by 

- and to the Barclay's bank manager who politely does not shut the bank door on  us.

pointing out that the bank has invested billions of pounds in the industries which are causing climate change.

He gives many more Jeremiah like forecasts 

We sing "When I survey the wondrous cross" to the folk tune "Waley Waley - (The River is wide)

A gentle man who had been approaching the bank came up and said to me "I had been planning to open an account here. Perhaps I should find a different bank".

We line up to be "Ashed".

I have never been to an Ash Wednesday Service before.

The ash used in this case seemed to be very, VERY black - not ash coloured at all.

Jon makes the mark of an ash cross on our foreheads.

"Ashes to Ash, Dust to Dust" he says  as he does so.

It is rather poignant to me. A good friend of mine, who might even have been with us today, is now enjoying palliative care at home, having said "No" to further hospital treatment.

It also reminds me of my own mortality.

We finish  the  service:

"God our father
you created us from the dust of the earth:
Grant that these ashes may be for us
a sign of our repentance from our addiction to consumerism
a reminder of our sinful indifference to the plight of the world's most vulnerable and a symbol of our mortality and frailty."


I revisit the Leeds City Library. I visit Waterstones bookshop and buy three (language) books. Is that consumerism? (Maybe not .. Little do I know I will be restricted to my house and making good use of them the upcoming months) 

I sit in the cafe at Leeds railway station, resting my feet, making a list of some of the people I have met, and notes on the day. The girl opposite me is Italian speaking and is filling in an official looking form. "Is that related to Brexit and getting a visa to stay in the UK?" I wonder.

I travel home safely by train.

Friday 7 February 2020

Lichens at Arniston House BLS 2020

2020:02:02 is Palindrome day

Come with us on this special day on a moist morning walk round the grounds of  Arniston House  12m south of Edinburgh 

searching, under the shelter of the green and white Edinburgh Botanic Garden umbrella, for  .....  lichens.

... for new records to add to our lists.. 

... for new species we have not seen before .. 

... for intricate shapes and colours  seen only through the magic of a hand lens.

Who are we?

We are the tail-end of the British Lichen Society (BLS) whose AGM was held in Edinburgh (Royal botanic Gardens Edinburg - RGBE) the previous two days 31 Jan - 1 Feb 

.. The tail-end .. or maybe the cream! 

Amongst our group are some of Britain's best and keenest lichenologists. There are also relative newbies - and others in between.  From one young lady studying art and lichen to another carrying out a PhD in lichen genetics, to two ladies from the local natural history club. From lichen surveyors to writers of the British Lichen Flora. (Actually they can be the same people)

As you look through these pictures you will see some maps from the BLS website:  Thank you BLS. Our results will be sent in to add to these maps.

My first new species for the day: and on one of the first trees, a sycamore:  Bacidia rubella

just...         here.

My next "new" lichen is one I have seen twice before 
.. but NOW it has a new name!!
Old name: Schismatomma decolorans

It scratches orange because it contains Trentepohlia.  (See the scratches)
I have seen this before at Carlisle BLS and at Juniper Hall autumn BLS meeting - so you'd think I would have learned to recognise it by now!   It has changed its name. To Dendrographa decolorans

More Dendrographa decolorans

Plenty of "Sixty-mile-an-hour lichen" on one or two of the trees.  This is the yellow Chrysothrix candelaris. 

Interesting- it has not been recorded near Settle

The lichen in the centre with dark blue-violet soralia is Buellia violaceofuscus - growing in a dry crack on the trunk of the oak tree. 

This has an interesting story.

It contains a green alga. It has never been found fertile.

The same fungus when found with Trentepohlia alga has been found fertile and is then called  Lecanographa amylacea. It needs old tree trunks.

This is the top of an old fence post. The blacky green gunge is Trapeliopsis flexuosa

Trapeliopsis flexuosa,, (with Parmelia sulcata and Melanahelia subaurifera)

On a Hazel branch (I think) we find:

Physcia aipola -  (the black apothecia)

On a beech branch there is
Lecanora chlarotera with a parasite - probably Vouauxiella_lichenicola

Lecanora chlarotera with a parasite
- probably 
Vouauxiella lichenicola

A nearby beech tree has this lichen and then we found it on several other trees:
Pyrrhospora quernea

Pyrrhospora quernea on Beech

Bactrospora corticola
 (formerly Lecanactis corticola) This grows in dry cracks in trunks of old oak trees.

At the local Co-0p in Edinburgh the previous evening I have been assured  that macaroni cheese pie is a popular Scottish Meal. Now was my chance to try it.
Yes, I will buy it again.


As we descend towards the stream in the valley bottom, several trees have a profusion of Evernia prunastri and other foliose lichens.  Is this because it is more humid, or because it is sheltered from polluting winds, or is there a particularly vigorous clone of Evernia growing on these three or four trees (including one conifer). (There is some Usnea sp and Ramalina spp too)

A lady and I find this splendid Cladonia on a mossy stump near the ground.  All Neil will say is "Pixie cups!" 

A leafy liverwort making good opportunity
of the damp conditions to fruit.

Here is some fruiting Usnea subfloridana on a branch near the stream

Lower down the branch is this Pertusaria.. 

A study is made of the Porina on the bark above and shown close up below.
 Probably Porina aenia

And on a trunk on an oak tree near the stream some Lecanactis abietinum in fruit (It does not often fruit) 

We find some striking Earth Stars
As we return towards the house I take another picture of the Bacidia rubella

Rebecca tells me she has found some Caloplaca ulcerosa on some trunks, but there is not time to go back and look. perhaps she will send me a photo.

Finally we return to Arniston House to await the taxi driver to take us back to Edinbugh, just as the rain starts to set in.
My records show that I have seen 40 species of Lichen today (not all listed in this blog). 
I wonder what the official total will be?

The above photos were taken with my Pansonic TZ40  (since I left my Olympus TG4 at home)


.. below just a few notes on the BLS AGM meeting.. 

The BLS held its AGM at Edinburgh on  Saturday 1  Feb 2020 at The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh 

On the afternoon of 31st Jan we held a committee meeting. At 5pm we had a poster exhibition. There were displays by several artists. 
There is an exhibition starting at the Gardens: Then we had a  lecture by Prof. Peter Crittenden, who is retiring this year as Editor in Chief of the Lichenologist, on "Toughing it out: lichen ecology and a life in lichen research".

We held the AGM on Saturday morning. In the afternoon there were talks.

I worked out over the weekend I had met 60 people, and wrote down the names of some of them to attempt to learn them. (Which is harder, Lichen names or People names?)

In the evening I went to stay with a friend who works for a forestry organisation. We went for a walk to the nearby Co-op and bought my lunch for the following day- A macaroni pie.

Sunday dawned. Moist.  I  travelled by bus, successfully following my Smartphone, from her house to the Royal Botanic Gardens where I met the others. Six of us shared a taxi to Arniston House, a country house 12 miles south of Edinburgh on the River South Esk, near Gorebridge... Continue at the top of the page.