Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Friends of Bramwell

Staying in Nottinghamshire for the moment, we turn next to Friends of Bramwell.

F of B is a campaign group opposed to the proposed sale of the council-owned Bramwell Care Home in Nottinghamshire.

Supporters claim the home is unique because of the range of services provided and the challenging nature of the work it undertakes. It is currently registered to provide care in four categories ; Older People, Dementia Sufferers, Mental Disorder and Physical Disability. A number of other services operate from the site, which also includes a day centre. It is  involved in giving respite for carers and has a philosophy of helping those who want to stay in their own homes.

The Conservative-led County Council aims to sell of all 13 of the care homes it owns, against Labour opposition. However, the Friends have attracted cross-party support, with  Anna Soubry MP (Con), Cllr  Stan Heptinstall MBE (Lib Dem) and former MP Dr Nick Palmer (Labour) all taking part.

Advocates of the sale point out that any future owner would be obliged to run the centre as a care home for a minimum of three years, but the friends believe that it would be sold at the end of that period. There are also concerns that the private sector woud not be able to match the service currently provided.

The Friends of Bramwell can be found at . numerous articles and reader`s letters on the subject can be found at

Monday, 4 October 2010

Hucknall Mining Memorial

Nottinghamshire newsaper the Hucknall Dispatch has launched a campaign to honour miners who lost their lives at local pits.

The campaign was suggested by reader Barrie Lewis, whose father Lawrence died at the age of 39 on Xmas Eve 1960 as the result of an accident at Hucknall. Mr Lewis is researching the issue in partnership with the Dispatch.

The paper aims to collate as much information as possible concerning those who died and they hope to arrange for a memorial plaque near to an existing statue on Station Road, Hucknall which depicts two miners in a design based around the shape of a miner`s lamp.

Deputy editor Martin Hutton is asking anyone with details of miners who died at Hucknall, Linby, Newstead or Annesley to contact him at .

The campaign has been endorsed by Cllr John Wilmott (Labour) , Deputy Leader of Ashfield District Council.

Two articles have so far been printed on the subject in the Dispatch ;

Unsigned - Dispatch Campaign ; Time to Honour Miners Who Died at Pits (24 Sept 2010)
Unsigned - Dispatch Campaign ; Bid for Miner`s Memorial off to Flying Start (1 October 2010)

others will no doubt follow !

This campaign gets a `double-hedgehog` rating, which was actually a mistake on my part, but I thought I`d leave it to stand !

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Bragg Nature Centre, Baltimore, USA

Time for another of our looks at life in the USA.

The Bragg Nature Centre is to be found adjacent to Patapsco State Park, Baltimore. Originally a home for wayward youngsters run by the Episcopalian Church (the US equivalent of the Church of England, I believe), the building was donated by them to Baltimore City Public Schools (BCPS) when they no longer had a use for it ( in the US, a `public` school is a state school, like our comprehensives, not like an English public school, which is, of course, a private school. We`re so logical ! ).

Until roughly ten years ago, the centre, which has extensive grounds including a wood, meadows and a pond, was used to teach children about nature. However, as is so often the case, money became an issue and classes there came to an end. A caretaker and his family remained, pluckily chasing away vandals and fighting the ravages of time and the elements, but the buildings became increasingly neglected and the only area in productive use seems to have been a section called Plant Side, where pointsettias etc were grown for use in festive Xmas displays in schools. 

A sad story, like many you may have heard from time to time. Fortunately, this one has a happy ending. A man named Tony Geraci became Director of Food Services for BCPS and had ideas about improving the diet of the area`s schoolkids. The land, he reasoned, would be ideal for growing organic vegetables.

Turning his thoughts into deeds, a staff of young farmers, assisted by a small army of volunteers, turned the centre into a productive venture providing fresh, organic vegetables for local schoolkids. Soon they were joined by a flock of free-range chickens and a herd of goats.

This summer, a federal stimulus package saw teams of builders descend on the site to renovate the various buildings. The caretaker and his family are moving out, but the future of this very positive intiative seems assured.

I tell this story just because it`s a positive one and we can all use a few happy endings now and then. Campaigning left-wing journalist Tim Wheeler is the father of the caretaker at the centre and pretty much all the details here come from his article Saving Bragg Nature Center : Another Obama Success Story (29 September 2010). As you`ll guess from the subtitle, his article is not confined to the story of the centre itself, but also looks at the impact of stimulus packages on the US construction industry, with quotes from representatives of an American building trade organisation, the Association of General Contractors. I personally don`t have strong feelings about Obama one way or the other, to me the most admirable characters in the story are Mr Geraci and possibly the resourceful young caretaker Nick Wheeler, but it does seem to me that a project like this that is positive in it`s own right and also boosts construction in the area, must be a good thing.  Maybe our UK politicians should take note !

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Don`t Cut the Coastal Path (Claim the Coast)

The Marine and Coastal Access Act of 2009 placed a duty on the government to create an all-England coastal path which would attract walkers to the  coastline and boost the rural economy.

The Ramblers are concerned that the current economic climate could put this project in jeopardy, and are encouraging supporters to join their Claim the Coast Campaign (formerly known as `Don`t Cut the Coastal Path`).

In addition to the attractions for walkers and campaigners for countryside access, they are keen to stress the likely benefits to the areas concerned, based on studies of the effect of  The South West Coast Path, the Pembrokeshire Coast Path and Hadrian`s Wall, all of which have brought measureable boosts in income to the areas concerned.

In addition to the usual lobbying by supporters, they are asking proprietors of businesses near the coast to complete a short survey, which can be found using a link from the campaigns section of the Ramblers website.

Details ;

More Ramblers updates in my article `Ramblin` on my Mind` (this blog, 11 Sept 2010)

Friday, 1 October 2010

The WAG Man Returns / Lodge House Controversy Continues

We first met Andrew Bridgen MP (Con) in my posting headed Whitwick Action Group (this blog,  8 September 2010).

To his credit, Mr Bridgen has been a strong and forthright supporter of that group, which campaigns to save green land in his constituency from inappropriate development.

Clearly our lad has a bit of a green streak, as now he returns to our attention with a Private Member`s Bill aimed at reducing the impact of open cast mining operations on local residents. 

His bill aims to introduce a 500 metre buffer zone between opencast sites and areas of settlement, which would bring England into line with Scotland and Wales, where such measures are already in place.

He has the beginnings of cross-party support, with an endorsement from Labour`s Sir Peter Soulsby MP, and has attracted other  allies  in the form of environmental campaigners Minorca Opencast Protest Group ( see article `Private Members Bill to Set Light to a Smouldering Controversy` - Steve Leary, , 29 June 2010 ) and Friends of the Earth (`MPs Join Up For Open-Cast Fight` - David Owen, , 22 July 2010 ). Further details can be found in an unsigned article, `MP in Crusade for Buffer Zones Around Mine Sites`  at , 7 July 2010).

North West Leicestershire District Council recently refused permission for further open-cast mining in Mr Bridgen`s constituency (see `Opencast Mining Plan Near Leicestershire Village is Rejected a Second Time` - David Owen, 8 Seotember 2010 ), however, he and his supporters would do well to study events in the Shipley/Smalley area of Derbyshire, where UK Coal now run the opencast Lodge House Mine.

In 2007/8, UK Coal were refused permission by the local authority for opencast mining in the Bells Lane area between Shipley Country Park and Smalley Village, but central government over-ruled this decision. The issue was deeply divisive locally, with splits between those who saw the chance of more jobs in an area with a long mining tradition, and those who objected on environmental grounds. Further divisions arose amongst the `no` lobby, between objectors who favoured conventional lobbying and advocates of direct action, some of whom occupied a derelict building on the proposed site for a time.

Eventually, the mine went ahead, and now UK Coal are applying for permission  to extend their operations in the area. There are objections from (so far)  Shipley Parish Council, Smalley Action Group, Amber Valley and Erewash Environmental Network and Greenpeace.

Further info on the Derbyshire issue ;

Chris Mallett - Battle Cry Over Plan for Huge Extension to UK Coal Operation (??/9/10)
Catherine Oakes - Open Cast Mine Protestors are Gearing up for `Round Two` (27/9/10)

both of these to be found at . A number of further articles on the issue have appeaed subsequently.