GF Blog 22 Week 29

22nd JULY 2022 – Heat records broken; outcomes both predictable & shockingly unexpected

UK Records smashed

CONINGSBY, Lincs recorded an astonishing 40.3C on Tuesday 19th July, 2022. 33 other locations also exceeded previous top temp records.

CORNWALL June 1976 and the top temp at BUDE was 33.9 degrees. This record lasted all the way until now (Tues 19th), when 36 degrees was recorded, again in BUDE.  

We certainly have to hand it to the weather forecasters! This explosion of shattering heat records was loudly predicted, along with tons of advice on how to cope without damage to health. We also had warnings about transport, melting roads and rails, sagging power lines and more.

Perhaps what was also needed, to a greater extent, was a warning about the potential spontaneous ‘wild fires’ that could follow. After the fact, the BBC reported:-  

More than 400 firefighters have been battling at least nine blazes that began on Tuesday afternoon, in Greater London and Essex. Homes in Wennington, east London, were evacuated, after a grass fire spread to properties and left several gutted by flames. Two people were also taken to hospital following a fire in Dagenham.   https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-62224618

Friends who live in Croydon also sent me film of the fires in Shirley Hills, to the south. 

Blackened gorse and shrubs on Shirley Hills

On TV later I found an interview with a fire service official very revealing, when he said (I paraphrase) we have never used the term ‘wild fires’ in this country, until now. It just wasn’t normal for grassland and trees to blaze, without a physical reason like a barbecue or cigarette to ignite it.’

I am sorry to say it, but it seems obvious we will get more incidents like this in future. Research will undoubtedly reveal what elements of buildings or items on the ground are susceptible to catching fire; but who will conduct that research? I hope that COBRA considered it, but have my doubts. 

WAR with WASPS and TICKS in m’ TROUSERS!

Some of us, living on the coast, are thanking our lucky stars for sea breezes and not expecting wild fires. But a completely unexpected result of global warming and trying to ‘do the right thing’ has revealed itself to me. You may remember how happy I was with leaving lots of margins to re-wild around the meadow. Well, now I am not so happy. I would happily lay concrete all over, right now, but why?

As a result of my gardening and walking activities in long, wild grassy areas, I have had the misfortune a) to disturb a wasp nest and be stung repeatedly and b) to become host to a prolific egg-laying tick!

My usual choice of attire for outdoor work is loose below-knee shorts, or cut off old trousers. A brave tick got herself into one of these articles (still not certain which ones) and – lying in my bedroom overnight – had a spree of egg-laying. Days later the bugs hatched all over the place, most of all in my bed. I have been eaten alive and had to learn very swiftly how to knock them out, using alcohol (unexpected use of cooking brandy, I might say) and then remove with tweezers.

I hope that the strategy I have adopted of moving out for a few nights, storing bed clothes for a half day in the freezer, followed by a long, hot wash, will put paid to their invasion. The best sources of info on all this is America, where house owners routinely have to book in help from a company called ‘Mosquito Joe’ https://mosquitojoe.com.

UPDATE FRIDAY The freezer and hot wash approach did not work. The black bug above was still crawling about on my bed sheet, after all. However, I am fortunate to have an excellent homeopath advising me (Julia Williams) and fortunate again this morning, when I met a pro pest man, walking in the woods. He told me, use the weather to your advantage. Wash everything and put it outside in hot sun all day; the UV kills eggs. Then he added, steam everything in your house. That will do it. And finally, off my own bat, I visited the vets and bought a really interesting spray – yes there are 3 chemicals, all beginning with P. but the last ingredient is Chrysanthemum flowers, which produce a natural insecticide called pyrethrum. And online, I bought Neem Oil, from a tree native to India, with similar insecticide properties. Fingers crossed my multi-pronged approach will succeed!

UV treatment for mattress & bedding
Neem leaves & oil
Pyrethrum from flowers in the Aster family

PESTS in future

OK, you might think this is hilarious & I wouldn’t entirely blame you! It must be funny to read. But it has got me imagining what a final outcome could be, especially if legislators keep imposing more and more restrictions on ways to eradicate unwanted pests.

Following on from last week, emails came in with plenty more suggestions of how to deal with slugs and snails: –

On the left we see use of a physical barrier. This would be a bit too fussy and time-consuming for my big areas.

On the right is another suggestion, using coffee grounds or strong coffee liquid.

 I know coffee works as a deterrent for moles, who will re-locate to avoid the aroma, but hadn’t thought of it for slugs. Well there I was, happily writing this up, when I came across news that EU legislation has BANNED use of caffeine and ‘any home-made solution’ for this purpose!

In The Garden magazine, the RHS warned that such a gardening technique is breaking EU law and gardeners could face big fines. The Independent reports that Dr Andrew Halstead, principal scientist for plant health at the RHS, said that any home-made solution without EU approval is against the law.

That sounds outrageous! Quite apart from the Brexit question (presumably we can now ignore their rule on this?), what it alerts me to is the possibility of other re-wilding schemes getting out of control. Humans and human food sources could be seriously affected, simply due to well-meaning policies that allow eco systems to get out of balance.

BISON

Here is a feature on re-introduction of the European Bison. https://www.rewildingbritain.org.uk/explore-rewilding/reintroductions-key-species/rewilding-superstars/european-bison

What are we doing? Has there really been sufficient research and risk assessment prior to this?

The European bison is not native to Britain, but its close relative the globally extinct forest bison (Bison schoetensacki) was here, at least during the Pleistocene. The surviving European bison is a suitable surrogate for this extinct species. Can we have them in Britain? Yes. The Wilder Blean project in Kent reintroduced bison in July 2022, to help with woodland recovery and management on a controlled site. 

I want to know more about the potential dangers and how a controlled site is being operated. In Scotland they are very clear on the risks to those who look after them and to the unsuspecting public.

https://www.gov.scot/publications/dangerous-wild-animals-species-guidance/pages/bison/

Publication – Advice and guidance

Dangerous wild animals: species guidance

Published 7 January 2019    Bison bison – American buffalo or bison
Bison bonasus – European bison. Additional information   Bison are subject to normal cattle regulations.

Once you start to think this through there are other introductions of wild species that are a cause for concern. I have written about beavers already, but then there are

WILD BOAR

There are several confirmed breeding populations of wild boar in the UK. In England they are established on the Kent/East Sussex border, in Dorset, in Devon and in Gloucestershire (Forest of Dean). Animals from the latter site have crossed into Wales and become established in Monmouthshire.

There you go; get a new introduction started and you can’t stop it expanding. Boar, like Bison, can also be dangerous, at times. The BASC (British Association for Shooting and Conservation) gives the following guidance:-

Scottish officials are policing re-wilding, but what about in England and Wales?  

The answer seems to be no-one is giving it due care and attention. I would have expected The Guardian newspaper to take a critical look, to consider balance rather than going overboard in its enthusiasm. But no, this article just relays all the bubbly optimism of those involved, such as the Ranger Donovan Wright, who describes Bison as “gentle giants”, which are like “jet fuel for biodiversity”. There is no further explanation of why they are deemed so valuable.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/dec/31/new-species-to-look-out-for-in-the-uk-in-2022-aoe

Writing this, I am reminded of my father and grandfather raging about mink in our streams, when I was a child.

MINK

American mink first arrived in Britain in 1929, but only in commercial fur farms. They were first reported to be breeding wild in the UK in 1956, as a result of escapees and deliberate releases. Today it is virtually impossible to estimate the number of mink living in our waterways.

The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust tell us all of the history, ending with –

As yet there is no official national strategy for managing mink. Some very large regional projects have developed in Britain and in other European countries, following a variety of different models for resourcing the work.

Almost all now use the GWCT mink raft as a standard tool. Fundamental questions no longer include ‘Is it possible to trap and control?’ but are now more commonly ‘How much control can we afford?’ and ‘Is the situation achieved through mink trapping tenable in the long term given available resources?’

I am sure this will be back on the agenda in future, but my final comment today is that authorities took forever to respond to the mink escapes. Then it was too late. I just hope that bison, beavers and boars will not be treated in a similarly cavalier fashion!

And finally, some good news

Yesterday it was a pleasure to welcome a representative of Visit Cornwall to the Meadow Barns. The conversation with Charlotte Green ranged widely, across many different topics as she outlined their G7 funded plans for a new system of recognition for Cornish businesses with green credentials. I will tell you much more about this as it develops, with Meadow Barns helping to shape various aspects, from wider aims and identity to content and speakers of various webinars starting in the autumn.

Picking out just a couple of items from Charlotte’s good news collection, let me tell you about

Clean Cold Power Ltd (so very nice for this hot weather) and W.I.T.T.

Clean Cold Power    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dtq6rkgM4mQ&t=80s

Although this film is introduced by an American voice, the company began in the UK and is widely operating here. Their trucks are fueled by liquid nitrogen, not diesel, for the engine itself and the refrigeration processes. I should like to find about more, as this really sounds like a great invention.

W.I.T.T. is a patented system, invented and honed to near perfection by one family, the Wicketts from Scotland. Whilst we are all quite familiar with electric being generated from movement in one direction or plane (for instance an axle turning a wheel or wheels), movement in real life natural world situations is much more likely to occur in random, chaotic patterns – up and down, side to side and at other diagonal angles.

Mairi told me how her husband, Martin, has made a system where multiple directions of energy, such as experienced by a buoy or other installation in the ocean, can be harnessed to arrive at one electrical output. This has already been found of enormous value for operations that need constant power out at sea. Sounds like a lot of good news already, with potential for much more as bigger buyers and investors come on board. I will keep you posted.

Last but not least – I was pleased to learn that more people are discovering and using the blog about glow worms, and being able to report sightings. AND glow worms have been spotted in Cornwall recently. 😊

8 July, on The Dodman, Gorran Haven and 9 July, in a private garden at Retallack.

Thank you Bruce for answering my query.

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