Valley Wood: One Year On

Well, incredible as it seems, it’s now one year since I took on Valley Wood, and a huge amount of weekend work has gone into it over the past 12 months.

It’s been an amazing journey so far . . . when I was last down there I found myself reflecting on progress so far whilst dozing in the shelter on a warm afternoon. In some ways I have achieved a huge amount  . . . but in other ways I have barely scratched the surface of what needs to be done there.

I found myself in quite an odd frame of mind, and thoughts came to me that in future the woodland would be maintained by other people after I am gone, but by then it would be a case of maintaining and looking after it, managing it and making it productive rather than all of the initial sorting out work which I am having to do. It occurred to me that I might be remembered as the person who took it on and sorted it out in the first place. That was quite a striking thought.

I suppose that there are really two notable achievements from the past year: the creation of an edible forest garden and a camping area so that friends and family can come down and help me with the work.

The forest garden is taking shape in the lower part of the wood – as with the rest of the wood, it was overgrown with rhododendron and I’ve had to put in a lot of work cutting those down to make room for new plants and trees. But now there are open areas with navigable paths there, and as well as some coppiced hazel which I discovered buried amongst the rhodies, I have added in a heavy-cropping blackberry, raspberry, blackcurrant, seven apple trees, a sweet berry rowan cultivar, gooseberry, blackthorn and ramsons. All except the ramsons seem to have taken and are doing OK – it will be great to see them grow over the next few years! There is plenty more rhododendron left to clear though to be planted up with more trees and shrubs.

The camping area has 4 level areas for tent pitching, plus there is room for a large tent on the top track but that is technically shared space with my neighbours. I have also made a temporary shelter out of some poles and a tarpaulin, as it often rains at Valley Wood – a good thing with the generally drier prospects which climate change is bringing. And when it rains, it pours! It’s beautiful when it rains, but it’s handy to be able to keep dry whilst it’s going on! There is also space to sit around a camp fire in the evening, and I have made a small pond as a final touch.

A good start I think – having established a base there, I will be able to enlist the help of friends to accelerate the rhododendron clearing. I’m hoping to begin planting up some of the cleared areas in the main woodland with new trees this autumn!

Local Adventure 8: A Tale of Two Hills

Some more photos from walks around Lancashire . . . this time from Winter Hill near Bolton and Pendle Hill (of witches’ fame). They were taken a couple of months back hence the winter light, sorry I’ve only just got around to posting them!

Local Adventure 7

On Sunday went for a walk up through Redisher Woods up onto Holcombe Moor. The weather was cold and sunny, the landscapes were variously lush woodland and desolate but stunning moorland, and more reminiscent of Scotland than the outskirts of Greater Manchester.

The tower is Peel Tower, erected in honour of Sir Robert Peel who came from Bury and invented the police.

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Are Children Suffering from a Nature Deficit?

A good article on the woodlands.co.uk blog:-

http://www.woodlands.co.uk/blog/woodland-activities/are-children-suffering-from-a-nature-deficit/

This is the central question in Richard Louv’s book, “Last child in the woods,” and this concern is shared by the broadcaster Sir David Attenborough. As Attenborough says, “all children start off being interested in the natural world, it’s deep in our instincts…”. Children may have theoretical knowledge but not touchy-feely experience. As Louv explains, ” children today are aware of global threats to the environment but their physical contact, their intimacy, with nature is fading.”

Nature-deficit surveys

Natural England did a survey recently in which they examined changing relationships with nature across generations and they found that fewer then 10% of children now play in natural places (such as woodlands and heathlands) compared with 40% of today’s adults who did so when they were young. The BBC Wildlife Magazine carried out another survey which found that many children now cannot identify common species such as bluebells and frogs. Other surveys show that this is not just a British problem: the American Journal of Play, surveying thousands of mothers across the world, discovered that the number of those reporting their children “exploring nature” were lowest in China, Brazil and Indonesia. Playing in wild areas has been shown to have a positive psychological impact – a National Trust survey of 3,000 adults revealed that their most prominent happy memories were of being outdoors in the natural world and a large number cited building dens as a particularly happy memory.

Causes of children being “stuck inside”
Computer games and TV are often blamed for children staying indoors but there are other factors – for example being driven to school rather than walking keeps children from the outdoors and the almost obsessive fear of abduction, which many parents have, often stops children being allowed outside. It may also be that pressure to do more and more with school and outside means that there is less genuinely free time for children when they have to make their own entertainment. At a recent woodlands.co.uk conference of owners of small woodlands it was suggested that owners should think of things for their children to do in woods, but one of the participants pointed out that once in a wood children will find their own activities and this process of discovering what’s interesting and what there is to do is itself important. Let them discover nature rather than spoon feed it to them was the message of that discussion.

What are the consequences of a “nature deficit”?

“Keeping an eye on children” is all very well but it has left a whole generation more ignorant of what goes on in the natural world and out of the habit of exploring and discovering. This has consequences for them personally including much higher rates of obesity, suffering form attention disorders and more likely to experience depression. In a bigger-picture way, though, it will surely have enormous consequences for their attitude towards nature when they grow up – if they haven’t experienced the miracles of the world around them they will be less likely to make sacrifices to preserve woodlands and wild spaces.

But all this assumes that the nature deficit is limited to children – adults surely suffer from it too. Many, many or our buyers of small woodlands give as driving motivation that they want to “get away from the screen” and get “back to nature”.

What can be done about it?
It’s hard to know how to persuade the nation as a whole to move towards more outdoor play, but individually families can choose more activities in woodlands and wild areas. There are many structured activities which get people into woodlands such as Centre Parcs holidays and “Go Ape” walkway adventures. Recent excitement about the Forestry Commission woodlands shows how much people value public spaces, even those who don’t visit very often. The threat of wholesale sell-offs has made everyone focus on how important woodlands are for our wellbeing, so hopefully the recent publicity will make people spend more time in open woodlands – whoever owns them!

Acid Test for Hippies

Well, it seems that India, that ‘spiritual’ holiday destination so beloved of hippies, is second from top in the list of countries threatened by climate change:-

http://blogs.nationalgeographic.com/blogs/news/chiefeditor/2010/10/bangladesh-india-at-risk-from-climate-change.html

Bangladesh and India are the two countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change over the next 30 years, according tocalculations by the British global risks analysis company Maplecroft.

The same study determined that the countries least at risk from climate change are the Scandinavian nations and Ireland. The U.S. and much of Europe are among the countries facing “medium risk.”

Assessing a number of variables to calculatethe vulnerability of 170 countries to the impacts of climate change,Maplecroft identified Bangladesh and India as the two countries “facing the greatest risks to their populations, ecosystems and business environments.”
Other South Asian countries ranked in the highest category were Nepal, Afghanistan and Pakistan..

The company’s Climate Change Vulnerability Index (CCVI) evaluates 42 social, economic and environmental factors to assess national vulnerabilities across three core areas, Maplecroft said in a news release.

“These include: exposure to climate-related natural disasters and sea-level rise; human sensitivity, in terms of population patterns, development, natural resources, agricultural dependency and conflicts; thirdly, the index assesses future vulnerability by considering the adaptive capacity of a country’s government and infrastructure to combat climate change.”

The index rates 16 countries as “extreme risk,” with the South Asian nations of Bangladesh (1), India (2), Nepal (4), Afghanistan (8) and Pakistan (16) among those with the most exposure to climate change, whilst Sri Lanka (34) is rated “high risk.”

Other countries rated as “extreme risk” include: Madagascar (3), Mozambique (5), Philippines (6), Haiti (7), Zimbabwe (9), Myanmar (10), Ethiopia (11), Cambodia (12), Vietnam (13), Thailand (14) and Malawi (15).

According to Maplecroft, the countries with the most risk are characterised by high levels of poverty, dense populations, exposure to climate-related events; and their reliance on flood and drought prone agricultural land. “Africa also features strongly in this group, with the continent home to 12 out of the 25 countries most at risk,” Maplecroft said.

“Throughout 2010, changes in weather patterns have resulted in a series of devastating natural disasters, especially in South Asia, where heavy floods in Pakistan affected more than 20 million people (over 10 percent of the total population) and killed more than 1,700 people,” maplecroft said in its release.

“Very minor changes to temperature can have major impacts on the human environment, including changes to water availability and crop productivity, the loss of land due to sea level rise and the spread of disease.”

“There is growing evidence climate change is increasing the intensity and frequency of climatic events,” said Anna Moss, Environmental Analyst at Maplecroft. “Very minor changes to temperature can have major impacts on the human environment, including changes to water availability and crop productivity, the loss of land due to sea level rise and the spread of disease.”

Maplecroft rates Bangladesh as the country most at risk “due to extreme levels of poverty and a high dependency on agriculture, whilst its government has the lowest capacity of all countries to adapt to predicted changes in the climate.”

In addition, Maplecroft added,Bangladesh has a high risk of drought and the highest risk of flooding. “This is illustrated during October 2010, when 500,000 people were driven from their homes by flood waters created by storms. However, despite the country’s plethora of problems, the Bangladesh economy grew 88 percent between 2000 and 2008 and is forecast to by the IMF to grow 5.4 percent over 2010 and up to 6.2 percent over the next five years.

India, ranked 2nd, is already one of the world’s power brokers, but climate vulnerability could still adversely affect the country’s appeal as a destination for foreign investment in coming decades, Maplecroft said.

“Vulnerability to climate-related events was seen in the build up to the Commonwealth Games, where heavy rains affected the progress of construction of the stadium and athletes’ village.

“Almost the whole of India has a high or extreme degree of sensitivity to climate change, due to acute population pressure and a consequential strain on natural resources. This is compounded by a high degree of poverty, poor general health and the agricultural dependency of much of the populace.”

‘Low-risk’ countries

There are 11 countries considered “low risk” in the index, with Norway (170), Finland (169), Iceland (168), Ireland (167), Sweden (166) and Denmark (165) performing the best.

“However, Russia (117), USA (129), Germany (131), France (133) and the UK (138) are all rated as ‘medium risk’ countries, whilst China (49), Brazil (81) and Japan (86) feature in the ‘high risk’ category,” Maplecroft said.

Maplecroft researches, indexes and maps over 500 risks and issues to identify exposures and opportunities in both countries and companies, the company said.

It will be interesting to see how these people who apparently care so much about the planet and India manage to square the huge environmental impact of ‘plane travel to India with the fact that the country is right in line for being hit by the climate change juggernaut.

Interesting times indeed.

Local Adventure 6

On Sunday I decided to cycle up to the Entwistle Reservoir again, as in stark contrast to last time the weather was absolutely glorious, clear blue skies and bright sunshine, so I thought I could get some decent photos.

After getting to the reservoir and going for a short stroll in the woods, the spirit of adventure possessed me and when I got to the A666, instead of turning left and heading back towards Bolton as I did last time, I turned right and headed up towards Darwen.

The countryside was just breathtaking, and I carried on until just South of Blackburn, halfway to Oswaldtwistle and turned right to head back towards Bury over the West Yorkshire moors.

The whole trip must have been about 40 miles, it took me 5 hours and when I got home I was absolutely exhausted. But it was an amazing experience, I really feel a connection with all of those places which I have never felt going through them in a car. And a real sense of achievement at actually doing it on a bike! Some of the looks I was getting from motorists going over the tops were quite incredulous, and I found myself thinking, I bet you couldn’t do what I am doing, dependent on your metal box with wheels!!

I’m still recovering today, both from the exhaustion and the mental high. Stunning!!

I’ve put up a couple of maps but my iPhone battery died eventually, I had to record it in two parts and I didn’t get to record the final leg of the trip.

In the first and last pictures you can see Scout Moor wind farm in the distance, from two completely different directions!!

Local Adventure 5

I’ve been doing a fair bit of cycling recently – last week I did a 22 mile circuit in the pouring rain up to the Entwistle Reservoir (absolutely soaked to the skin but utterly invigorated), and today I went up to the top road to Edenfield to have a look at Scout Moor wind farm. I didn’t actually get right up close to the turbines, I’m saving that challenge for a future occasion. The weather for today’s trip was beautiful, so I took a few photos unlike last week.

Cycling is an amazing experience – you notice all sorts of things you don’t in the car. Smells are one thing – in the rain last week, all the lovely wet smells of the countryside came through, and I could smell coal or wood burning as I passed through villages, which seemed to vary with the level of affluence (more wood in wealthier areas, more coal in working class areas).

Today, so many people had a smile for me – from other cyclist to walkers and dog walkers. There seems to be something about cycling which means you can have a friendly interaction with others in a way that car travel precludes.

It was really hard work, both last week and today, but reaching the foothills of the wind farm today was really exhilarating – just the knowledge that I had made it under my own steam, and that the electricity from the turbines was very likely supplying a bit of my house somewhere in the mix. The 4×4 occupants cruising past in their hermetically sealed isolation could never know these thoughts and feelings. And the exercise and fresh air itself gave me a real high, as well as landscapes which, despite being so close to home, I had never seen before. I’m really enjoying these local adventures, they give a real sense of achievement. I’m going to run out of possibilities at some stage though, as bikes are not allowed on the Greater Manchester tram system, so I am limited to places within reach of home. Still, all part of the challenge I suppose!!

Local Adventure 3

Went a bit further today and discovered another stretch of the Bury-Bolton canal, and a cycleway called the “Bradley Fold Cycleway” which I didn’t even know existed!

Local Adventure 2

Went for another bike ride today, this time turning West at Radcliffe and exploring a bit more of the Bury-Bolton canal, down towards Little Lever where although the canal continued, I couldn’t see a way to get through.

I had meant to go out towards Bolton a lot further, but ended up taking a wrong turn and heading back down towards Radcliffe.

Came across some interesting and pretty sights, including what looked like some kind of old steam crane beside the canal.

Local Adventure!

Just got back from a really enjoyable bike ride! I did my normal road circuit route but instead of coming back my normal way, I joined the old Bury-Bolton canal to see where it went.

It was quite beautiful, although there was some litter in parts of the canal, other parts were quite overgrown and I saw all kinds of wildlife, and some beautiful views. For a little while I had no idea where I was going, which was really refreshing and quite an adventure!!

In the canal photo you can see Scout Moor wind farm in the background. Cycling up to the wind farm is on my hit list of challenges for the future! I think I’m going to have to get a bit fitter first though 😉

I went across a level crossing at one point too, and realised that it was on the East Lancashire (steam) Railway. I stopped on the level crossing to take a photo before I realised that the engine in the distance was rolling towards me! I moved my bike off the crossing and sure enough, an engineer got out and opened the gates, and the engine went across.

The route was about 9 miles.

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