Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Butterflies and Brownfields

We often assume that housing and other developments should take place on brownfield sites in order to relieve the pressure on green belt land and open spaces.

Sometimes that`s right, but look a little deeper and you soon start to think, as the song says, "it ain`t necessarily so".

Brownfield sites can be something of a lifeline for rare and endangered insects and invertebrates.

As I understand it, there are two main reasons for this ;

One is that changes to agriculture and the countryside mean that some species no longer prosper in rural areas where they used to be common.

The other is that the wildflowers that some species feed on can actually do quite well in an arid environment (because they have a chance to thrive without competition from more vigorous plant types which rely on richer soil).

The organisation Butterfly Conservation points out that  "low nutrient, thin or contaminated soils, with areas of bare and uneven ground...can provide a habitat with an abundance of  nectar-rich wildflowers and foodplants" but notes that "these are the type of sites often overlooked for their wildlife value and are often ear-marked for development or landscaping." 

All is not lost, however, and they also state that current legislation and planning guidance means that "developers and planners can no longer ignore brownfield invertebrates."

Fortunately, they have found that "brownfield wildlife can co-exist with industry and regeneration."

I believe that the Wildlife Trusts* provide some information and advice on this, but for now we will return to Butterfly Conservation who are running a Butterflies and Brownfields Project which focuses on former industrial sites such as quarries, railway lines, former collieries, demolition sites and former landfill sites.

 Two leaflets of theirs, `Brownfields for Butterflies` and `Butterflies in Towns and Cities` can be downloaded from their site.

Butterfly Conservation can be found at www.butterfly-conservation.org .

*see www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife/habitats/brownfield

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Annesley Community Committed to Ensuring Sustainable Settlements (ACCESS)

Here`s an extract from an article written by a member of the Ramblers* recently concerning Oak Wood at Annesley in North Notts recently ;

"Last November, Taylor Wimpey acquired the wood from the Forestry Commission. However, their intention was not to leave the wood as it stood...Instead, a planning application was made for a large soak-away** which will waterlog part of the area and require the removal of a large number of trees, thus destroying its` wildlife.

The first application was turned down but a revised scheme has now been submitted.

Local residents have got together to fight and save the wood : they have claimed several paths in it, applied for tree protection orders, and tasked a professional to prepare an Environmental Impact Assessment.

This is an excellent example of why our woods should not be sold off."

Chris Thompson - Saving our Woods and Forests, Area Footpath Secretary`s Report, Nottinghamshire Walker, Spring/Summer 2012.

A quick search shows up that the area in question is also known as Little Oak Plantation, Little Oak Woods and/or Bluebell Woods and that the local people mentioned by Mr T are in fact ACCESS (Annesley Community Committed to Ensuring Sustainable Settlements), a well-respected local group with some experience in these matters.

The group appear to have no website, but I have found some articles online that may be of interest. The most recent is ;

Unsigned - Campaigners Fight to Save Woods - www.chad.co.uk , 11 April 2012

And these two may be of interest for background ;

Unsigned - Campaign to Save Ancient Woodland - www.hucknalldispatch.co.uk, 17 Nov 2011

Unsigned - Annesley Residents Call for Woodland to be Protected - www.chad.co.uk, 2 Nov 2011

Articles on the group`s other activities have appeared  in The Chad from time to time if anyone wants to seek them out. Surprisingly, there seems to be little or nothing online from group members themselves (unless I`ve missed it !).

For want of a better way to end the article, here`s another picture of Reggie the Hedgehog.

* For more on the Ramblers see www.ramblers.org.uk and/or  www.walkmag.co.uk/news .

** Taylor Wimpey have plans to build on land adjacent to the wood, hence their desire for a `soak way`.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Action Mesthelioma Day 6 July 2012 #3

During the run-up to Action Mesothelioma Day, I want to do as much as I can to raise awareness of the dangers of asbestos.

For the third of this year`s postings on the subect, I`d like to draw your attention to the British Lung Foundation`s Take 5 and Stay Alive campaign.

Details can be found here ;


For more links and information about this year`s event, please see my previous articles on the subject. Over the last three years, I`ve posted regularly on this subject on this blog and also at http://bookshelvesandbrownale.blogspot.com. Cheers.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Bradford Odeon

Bradford Odeon closed as a cinema in the year 2000.

Planning permission for demolition of the building was granted in November 2001 but the building is still (thankfully) standing, due in large part to campaigning by the Bradford Odeon Rescue Group,  a group whose aims are shared by Bradford Civic Society and the Theatres Trust.

There have been various changes of ownership of the Odeon during the period in question, which makes the recent history of the building a rather confusing saga. However, an important point to note is that, despite earlier claims to the contrary, a structural survey in June 2008 found no major defects. Internal photos taken by `urban explorers` during the period 2006 - 2008 show a building in a state of neglect as one would expect but also highlight many features that to my mind would be worthy of preservation.

I`m planning to ask the BORG if I can use a couple of pictures from their site to illustrate this article, but in the meantime, here are the websites of the relevant groups ;




...and here are details of a recent newspaper article ;

Jane Merrick, Elsa Nightingale - Hockney Joins Battle to Save Derelict Cinema, 20 May 2012 at www.independent.co.uk

Friday, 15 June 2012

Undershaw Preservation Trust

The Undershaw Preservation Trust is a campaign to preserve Sir Arthur Conan Doyle`s former home in Hindhead, Surrey.

The building of Undershaw was commissioned by Doyle and it contains a number of features that he himself designed.

The building is standing empty at present, and the current owners, a firm called Fossway,  intended to divide it internally into separate properties.

The UPT opposed these plans and at a recent judicial review it was ruled that Waverley Borough Council had acted wrongly in it`s handling of the planning permission application.

Waverley Borough Council have not appealed within the time allowed but Fossway are doing so.

For an update on the campaign, see here ;

Unsigned article - The Judicial Review - 10 June 2012 at http://undershawhelp.blogspot.co.uk .

The UPT itself can be found at www.saveundershaw.com .

Action Mesothelioma Day 6 July 2012 #2

I`ve previously commented on this year`s Action Mesothelioma Day and it`s theme of calling for a global ban on asbestos (this blog, 25 May 2012).

Encouragingly, it seems to be well supported, with events planned in Dundee, Sheffield, Liverpool, Manchester, Southsea, Leicester, Plymouth and Newcastle Upon Tyne.

To find out about events in your area, or to publicise an event of your own, please contact either Tracey Heseltine or Liz Darlison at Mesothelioma UK ( www.mesothelioma.uk.com).

Anything anyone can do to publicise the day by sharing details on Facebook or Twitter or by mentioning it on their own blog, that would be great.


Wednesday, 13 June 2012

War Memorials

Having looked at the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission in my previous post, I want to turn now to the question of UK war memorials.

There is an interesting history to the whole question of war memorials. From 1915 onwards, it was UK government policy that the bodies of services personnel who had fallen abroad were not brought home. This was partly for practical reasons , especially questions of hygiene and matters of logistics, but also due to a policy of treating all families fairly - while the wealthy could afford to transport their fallen relatives, the poor could not hope to do so.

A great number of war memorials were created after World War One, so that families had a place at which to mourn, in the absence of a grave.

Surprisingly, that situation continued until the Falklands War, and only in 1982 did it become the norm to bring home the bodies of fallen servicemen and women.

At present, as we all know, the nation`s war memorials are under threat from thieves who try to steal metal plaques etc to sell for scrap. The scale of the problem is not actually as bad as I had imagined - there are around 100,000 war memorials in the UK and on average one a week is targetted by thieves. However, that is still too many.

There have been various responses, both locally and nationally.

In Derbyshire, the City and County Councils work with the Royal British Legion, the War Memorials Trust and the National Inventory of War Memorials to help preserve memorials in the area. A good suggestion that has come from them is that community groups which maintain a particular memorial should keep a record of the names recorded on it so that there is still a record to work from even if the plaque is stolen and not retrieved.

Nationally, the War Memorials Trust and the Smart Water Foundation have launched In Memoriam 2014, a scheme whereby plaques are treated with smart water, which helps prove where it has come from if it is found by the Police, and also hopefully acts as a deterrent by making it more difficult for offenders to avoid conviction.

It may well be that we can tend to take war memorials for granted, but they are at least as worthy of preservation as the woodlands, historic buildings etc that I usually comment on. For any interested parties, there are a number of sites which can provide information and assistance ;

National Inventory of War Memorials ; www.ukniwm.org.uk and http://ukniwm.wordpress.com

War Memorials Trust ; www.warmemorials.org

In Memoriam 2014 ; www.inmemoriam2014.org

Quotation Station ; Jane Addams on Patriotism

Unless our conception of patriotism is progressive, it cannot hope to embody the real affection and the real interest of the nation.

Jane Addams

When I selected a group of quotes for future use, I had no particular thought of using them in a topical way at all, and it is purely co-incidence that this one was next on the list so quickly after H M The Queen`s Diamond Jubilee.

By the same token, I had no intention of adding any comment of my own, but planned to let them stand alone for others to interpret as they see fit.

On this one occasion, I`m going to make an exception to that rule. It`s no secret that the Queen wanted the recent jubilee to be used to promote the Commonwealth (The Commonwealth of Nations), of which she is the Head.

Slightly belatedly,  I`m going to make my own contribution to that by highlighting the work of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

As the name implies, the CWGC commemorates the 1,700,000 men and women of the Commonwealth forces who fell during the two world wars.

I think it`s perfectly proper that they should be commemorated, but the point I`d like to make is that, certainly for World War Two, there was no conscription in the Commonwealth, all the Commonwealth forces were volunteers. 

Anyway, I like to keep these things short so without more ado, I shall just point out that the CWGC can be found at ;



I have previously posted items concerned with the Commonwealth both on this blog and at the Webdub blog. As it`s turned out, the ones posted on this blog have not been widely read whereas the others have done OK, so in future I`ll be confining any Commonwealth material to the other blog, which can be found at http://webdub.blogspot.com .


Monday, 11 June 2012

Caruth Calls Cuts into Question ; An Archaeologist Unearthed

"With local government having to make swingeing cuts across the board...it can be hard to see why anyone except archaeologists should worry about cuts to local government archaeology services. However anyone with an interest in our history should be concerned about the long-term impact of these cuts."

To learn more, see the rest of this article ;

Jo Caruth - Why Local Government Cuts to Archaeology Matter to All of Us, 4 June 2012 at www.historyworkshop.org.uk .

Jo Caruth writes as a representative of Rescue - The British Archaeological Trust, in part to promote their Fighting Back campaign. She makes her case well, though I must admit that the role of the local government archaeologist is unfamiliar territory to me - prior to reading her article I was unaware that such a post even existed !

Given that Leicester County Council have recently made a Community Archaeologist redundant, one wonders whether it might be viable for neighbouring local authorities (in this case, say Leics, Notts and Derby) to pool resources and co-finance a sort of tri-county archaeology service. However, I don`t claim to any special wisdom on the subject.

Certainly it`s right that these sort of matters should be the subject of democratic debate, so I hope that Ms Caruth`s article is widely disseminated amongst interested parties.

Useful links 

Rescue/BAT ; www.rescue-archaeology.org.uk

All Party Parliamentary Group on Archaeology ; www.appag.org.uk

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Return of the Lumberjills

The Women's Timber Corps existed during World War Two and was an offshoot of the Land Army.

It consisted of female lumberjacks (known jokingly as `lumberjills`) who carried out forestry work, filling in for the young men who were away in the armed forces.

The timber was used for pit props, aircraft manufacture etc.

The WTC are seen as one of the last unrecognised stories of World War Two, and in my personal opinion, theirs is a story that deserves to be more widely known. It`s worth remembering that the work was far more labour intensive in those days - there were no chainsaws and trees could only be felled with a saw or an axe.

The Forestry Commission is gathering information on the `lumberjills` and is currently keen to hear from anyone who served in the WTC in the North Yorkshire woods, or from family members of anyone who did so.

The WTC were active in a number of wooded areas in North Yorks, particularly Dalby and Cropton (near Pickering), and Boltby and Kilburn (near Thirsk and Helmsley).

The current appeal for information and contacts follows on from a similar project earlier this year concerning WTC activities at Chopwell Wood, near Gateshead.

Details of the current appeal are contained in Forestry Commission  Press Release number 15486, dated 7 June 2012. The contact point for members of the public is Petra Young, while media enquiries should be addressed to Richard Darn.

Useful links ;

The Forestry Commission  www.forestry.gov.uk

Women`s Timber Corp (tribute site) www.womenstimbercorps.com

Although the current appeal relates specifically to N Yorks, the impression I have is that they would be happy to hear from anyone with information etc concerning wartime WTC activities.

Enlightened Self-Interest

In a spirit of enlightened self-interet, perhaps I could take this opportunity to mention that the Hoonaloon Books newsletter for June  is now online and can be viewed at http://hoonaloon.blogspot.com.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Star Saves Heritage

Doncaster newspaper The Star is part-way through an impressive Save our Heritage campaign, aimed (as you might imagine) at preserving that city`s architectural and industrial heritage. The campaign works in partnership with Mayor Peter Davies and others.

Buildings featured in the campaign so far include the Grand Theatre, St James` Baths, St George`s Minster and the empty High School for Girls building.

Inevitably there have been some setbacks and some questions of practicality - doubts have been raised about the viability of converting the High School for Girls building into a hotel, for instance. Nevertheless, handled correctly this project could combine preservation and regeneration in a very positive way.

A number of articles from the paper may be of interest, and here are a few ;

Minster Repairs Need Millions - 8 Feb 2012

Saving our Historic Baths (reader`s letter) - 9 Feb 2012

Industrial Heritage Saved by Lotto Cash - 19 March 2012

Save our Heritage (reader`s letter) - 10 April 2012

Doncaster Grand Theatre Talks Stall - 28 May 2012

For more details, click here ;


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Matlock Bath Grand Pavilion

For some time now, this blog has carried links to the sites of  campaigns connected to Matlock Bath Grand Pavilion, a purpose-built theatre dating from 1910.

The lower part of this building is occupied by the Peak District Mining Museum and some council offices. For a time (1993 - 2008), the upper part was used as a night club and I understand that the proprietors did little towards the upkeep of that part of the building.

Following the closure of the night club, the upper part of the building stood empty for a while and it would seem the owners, one of the local authorities, did no preventive maintenance but only responded to situations as they arose.

Eventually, a group of local people formed Save the Grand Pavilion, a campaign which I assume is self-explanatory. Admirable though that was, it was just the start as STGP evolved into The Grand Pavilion Limited, which acquired the lease on the building and then became a registered charity.

Following on came the formation of a supporter`s group, Friends of the Grand Pavilion and I understand that approaches have been made to potential large donors such as the Lottery.

Having followed these events with interest, I was glad to have the chance to see inside the  building over the Bank Holiday when it was opened to host an art exhibition with live music.

The art exhibition featured a range of styles, with the best known artist being Pollyanna Pickering, one of the Patrons of the charity, though I personally preferred Caroline Appleyard`s colourful evocations of Matlock and Whitby. There may be a touch of bias on my part as these are two places I visit frequently and which are very close to my heart. However, the quirky good  humour of her work is very appealing.

There was also much innocent amusement to be derived from the examples of "artist speak" in the accompanying brochure. Funnily enough I`ve never really thought in terms of "dystrophic brutalism" myself !

An unexpected bonus came in the form of live music from youthful folk musicians The Harker Sisters. As you might imagine, these are three sisters whose surname is Harker. They look terrifyingly young, but perhaps that`s because I am not so young ! As I`ve mentioned before, I am not a huge folk fan by any means, but these tuneful siblings impressed me very much. The younger members of our party were also enthusiastic, so if the Harkers ever decide to play for an audience of under fives, they might well have that market cracked !

Back to more serious matters, and I have to say I was shocked to see how much needs to be done to get the Pavilion back into a serviceable condition. However, it`s clear  that the Pavilion`s supporters have determination by the bucket-load and don`t shrink from a challenge.

To learn more about the Pavilion and the campaign to restore it, use the links already provided at the side of this page, or visit the websites of the Theatre`s Trust (www.theatrestrust.org.uk) and/or the Matlock Mercury (www.matlockmercury.co.uk) .

I`d like to close with a quote from another of the Pavilion Group`s Patrons, Simon Groom, a TV presenter who, if you`re anything like me,  may be inextricably linked in your mind with sticky-backed plastic and old Palmolive bottles ;

"As a young son of a Derbyshire hill farmer, the Pavilion was a window to the world outside Dethick. It helped me to enter that world and shape it in some small way. Seeing the building re-open and begin to be used again gives me hope. I feel sure that the larger project, for it`s restoration and re-opening, will not be more than a few years away. With that completed, the window to the outside world will be re-opened and inspire others, as it did for me."