Ghost Hunting

Ghost Hunting

Been tracking peregrines in Essex with JA Baker helped by the references in My House Of Sky, an autobiography of his life written by Hetty Saunders and published by Little Toller. My idea of a perfect day, a bike, a good book, a thermos and some beautiful countryside to cycle through.

ghost hunting equipment

Ghost hunting equipment

heading out to hunt peregrines

Gracies Walk

Grace’s Walk

the ford

The Ford where Baker’s peregrines bathed.

trying to spot peregrines near the ford

hunting peregrine outside Chelmsford

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Medlar Jelly

medlars

Medlars By Jules Grandgagnage (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

This spicy jelly is best made after frost has allowed the apples to blett. It is well worth the effort and would go well with cold meat, cheese or on toast. It is the perfect taste for Christmas.

Medlars are brown, hard fruits which are native to England and can sometimes be found growing wild in hedgerows. I picked mine from the apple orchard at Othona in Essex and left them in my cellar for a few weeks to blett. This is a process where they become soft and brown. The frost seems to have the same effect and we have experienced that even in Kent this year. Once bletted the fruit looks rotten but don’t despair this is when it is at its best.

You will need

41bs medlars

3 pints of water

1 large lemon

sugar (as per instructions below)

Instructions.

Wash and chop the medlars and put into a large saucepan with enough water to cover them. Simmer slowly until you are left with a brown pulp. Strain the pulp through a scalded jelly bag or pair of tights. I found the juice did not run easily so gave it lots of squeezing. Measure the juice and weigh out 12oz sugar for every pint.

Put the sugar in a bowl and place this in a cool over until warm and dry. Add the lemon juice to the pan of juice and bring to the boil. Stir in the warm sugar and stir without boiling until it has all dissolved. Increase the heat and boil the liquid rapidly until the setting point has been reached. (about 25 minutes) Skim off the scum and pour into warm sterilised jars.

 

 

CPRE win victory in battle with developers

Dover-Farthingloe-from-Mount-Road-Vic-030Fabulous news today as the Campaign to Protect Rural England won a landmark victory at the Supreme Court to prevent a development in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

The developers, who wanted to build over 500 homes and a retirement village in the beautiful countryside around Farthingloe near Dover in Kent, were supported by Dover District Council and local MP Charlie Elphicke, who was recently suspended from duty after allegations of sexual misconduct.

Despite Charlie Elphicke’s outburst in which he claimed the Supreme Court had put the views of an out of touch campaign group over the needs of local people, the supreme court felt that Dover District Council had not give adequate reasons for granting planning to the developers in the first place.

Well done CPRE for seeing this through and taking action against inappropriate developments and councils who appear too often in the pockets of the money men behind these hideous housing estates.

It is Charlie Elphicke that is out of touch with what is really happening in his constituency if he believes that any of the jobless youth of Dover, an area where unemployment has soared, could ever afford one of the houses that the developers would have built in this beautiful area of countryside.

Day in the Life of an environmental consultant – November 2017

Day in the Life of an environmental consultant – November 2017

November began with a meeting between staff from the Stour Internal Drainage Board and their contractors Rhino Plant to review the cutting of Shalmsford Street Dyke.

The dyke once supported white clawed crayfish and was a nursery ground for trout but has become degraded with silt covering gravels and an excess growth of watercress across the channel.
shalmsford street 2016

excess watercress in stream

These problems are exacerbated by high nitrate levels and poaching of channel banks by livestock. Sheep stand in the channel to graze the watercress causing further poaching and nutrient enrichment.

Fencing would be one solution but landowners often don’t want the expense. Fencing can also cause problems for rivers if the fence line is too close to the channel edge and prevents bankside management. When this happens river banks can begin to scrub up creating dark channels which are impossible to manage.

During the meeting we looked at ways the cutting of the channel could help alleviate the situation. Narrow channels are often faster flowing with better oxygen levels and less silt drop out but this needs to be balanced against flood risk.

We decided that parts of Shalmsford Street will be cut manually which creates less disturbance to the channel bed and can give a more sinuous cut working with the natural processes of the river while other parts will be machine cut in order to create more open conditions to allow for winter water levels.

A further meeting took place with the IDB and EA in the middle of the month to talk about improvements to Buxford Dyke, near Ashford. Again poaching by livestock is causing issues here, pushing banks and silt into the river where it can cover gravels. Other sections of this channel are prone to drying out and there is potential to create off line ponds which could provide refuge for macro invertebrates during drought periods. Further discussions are needed with landowners before work can take place.4 cattle crossing leading to nitrate problems (2)

November also saw the annual IDB AGM where I gave a presentation to the board on the work we have completed in the last year and some of the challenges we face including managing invasive species on Chislet marshes and deciding which IDB channels to reduce maintenance on as we take on management of main river channels as part of the Environment Agency Rationalisation programme.

The Rationalisation Project looks at changing the status of some of our main rivers downgrading some of the smaller channels to Ordinary Watercourses. This would allow the Environment Agency to reduce the cost of its maintenance programme.

1251044_586eb6a2

Lampen Stream is a channel which could be transferred to IDB management

It is proposed that the downgraded rivers are managed by the Internal Drainage Boards, whose costs are met by landowners who pay drainage rates for the channels to be managed. Several areas have been chosen to trial the project and the River Stour board is potentially one of the pilot areas, chosen partially because of its good environmental track record.

As the River Stour Board takes on the maintenance of more kilometres of river then they need to reduce maintenance on channels they currently manage. One of my main areas of work at the moment is deciding which channels would most benefit from reduced maintenance.

This project offers great potential to improve habitat for species such as Shining Ramshorn snails who like rivers with more in-channel weed and I have been liaising with Kent Wildlife Trust to choose which ditches in areas like the Ash Levels would benefit the most. Other species prefer more open water habitat and here I have been talking to the County Plant Recorder to make sure that channels with species such as hair like pondweed continue to be managed on an annual basis.

tub wat drop close up

tubular water dropwort may benefit from reduced maintenance

This will create one of the biggest changes in the drainage district for many years but one which provides exciting opportunities for wildlife.