bellies full of bilberries

Four days on the Stiperstones National Nature Reserve, Shropshire. Up on t’ moors again, carrying out heathland vegetation quadrat surveys. Well, more like helping the expert botanists. A few steep climbs, up and down (with the old knees a trembling), some stomping through jungles of bracken and gorse – taller than us. And bellies full of bilberries.


It is all very colourful indeed, but the colours are brought on by the unusual heat and aridity affecting the plantlife. Though the poor old sphagnum mosses, they don’t like this weather at all, all dried out and colourless – so sad.

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dear Cheshire East

Here are my ideas/suggestions for reducing single use plastic in Cheshire East (and beyond).

  1. Make all Cheshire East town markets ‘single-use plastic bag free’. Getting all market traders to provide paper, fully compostable, or no bags at all.
  2. Encourage other market/event organisers (e.g. Treacle Market) to become ‘single-use plastic bag free’.
  3. Reward/give recognition to shops that are ‘single-use plastic bag free’.
  4. Make Cheshire East the first ‘single-use plastic bag free’ county in England!
  5. And while we’re at it, let’s ban plastic stirrers, plastic/polystyrene cups, plastic cup lids, plastic cutlery, plastic/polystyrene plates, non-recycle-able plastic coffee pods, and plastic cotton buds. Why wait for new national policy, lead the way instead.
  6. Encourage all types of markets/events to invite keep-cup and refillable bottle manufacturers to exhibit/sell their wares.
  7. Make Cheshire East a balloon-free county.
  8. Educate our community on the difference between biodegradable/degradable/compostable. There is national confusion with most people believing them to be the same thing and not understanding that degradable plastics still leave micro-plastics in the environment.
  9. Tell the public what happens to our recycling – where does it go, how is it processed, what is it made into? Many people do not believe that it is recycled at all. Dispel the myth.
  10. Encourage recycling companies to have Open Days, where the public can see what happens to their recycling.
  11. Reward/give recognition to or feature articles on local businesses/manufacturers who are single-use plastic-free.
  12. Encourage local initiatives such as allotments, nurseries and garden centres to set up plant-pot swaps. Plastic plant-pots are not recycle-able.
  13. And for those who will never care about our environment, wildlife or their own children’s futures – work out how to make being ‘plastic-free’ cool and trendy.

“Plastic bags may be marked as “biodegradable” when cornstarch has been added to regular plastic. That way the plastic will partially decompose, but the tiny plastic pieces left over from this process may be even more dangerous for the environment. Faster decomposing plastic bags are used in a similar way, in which case additives (often metals) make the bags friable in nature. This kind of plastic seems to disappear but in reality the same microplastics are left over. Microplastics endanger marine animals and are easily assimilated into the food chain. Almost every person tests positive for microplastics in their bloodstream, which definitely was not the case just decades ago.”

“It seems to be a common misconception that degradable or biodegradable bags are a suitable alternative to plastic bags, but they’re great in theory and environmentally destructive in reality.”

“firms including M&S, Unilever and PepsiCo back the phase-out of the plastic, which is widely used in packaging and plastic carrier bags and has previously been touted as an environmentally friendly alternative to conventional plastics.”

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First Dibs

Dibbinsdale SSSI & Brotherton Park. All artsy like.

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Really bad DIY

I’ve just read an interesting article in British Wildlife, on how Red deer culling in Scotland improves the welfare of the deer (those that were not culled obviously!).

Now we all know that we have no large predators in the UK. We killed them all donkeys ago. And many people accept that where there is no predator to keep the natural order of things then humans have to step in and do as the predator would do. Basically, we killed off the wolf so now we have to kill the Red deer, which was the wolf’s job.

If you’ve seen documentaries on the wolf reintroduction of Yellow Stone Park, you’ll understand how the habitat and all its wildlife was not functioning properly. They reintroduced the Apex predator and bingo the whole ecosystem was healthy again. Even beavers faired better.

What I found interesting in this particular article was an aspect I’d never given any thought to. And I should have. If there are too many Red deer in Scotland, it’s not just the trees and those species that rely on the trees that suffer. The deer themselves suffer. It’s obvious really. When one does think on it.

Culling experiments have shown that for the remaining deer there is reduced mortality in the winter months, reduced calf mortality, heavier healthier individuals, healthier calves.

I don’t like killing anything. I’m all for reintroducing our predators to Scotland to let them do their fine job. But in the meantime, what would you prefer? To be shot or to starve to death in the winter? I believe that both types of death are inflicted by man. One from our ancestors’ stupidity and ignorance, the other by our attempting to fix what our ancestors did with really bad DIY.

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It’s that time again

June is always the Marine Conservation Society’s Plastic Challenge month. But this year they changed it to July!!!  Anyway, this year is my 4th. The more you do it, the easier it gets. After all, each challenge you come across and resolve is only a challenge the once. So anyway, I’d like to CHALLENGE YOU to take the Plastic Challenge.  Can you survive a whole month without buying a single bit of throw-away single-use plastic?

I thought I’d put a few tips together for you. The challenges I’ve resolved already, to make it a little less painful.

  1. Water. Before ordering it in a restaurant, ensure it’s from the tap or in a glass bottle.
  2. Ice cream. Always tell them you don’t want the little plastic spoon before they plunge it in.
  3. Straws. As above.
  4. Toiletries. Lush. Lush. Lush. Shampoo bars, conditioner bars, deodorant bars.
  5. Bags. You may have to repeat to shop assistants ‘I don’t need a bag’ several times for it to sink in.
  6. Toothbrushes. Not exactly single-use, but try bamboo anyway.
  7. Crisps. You can survive without them for a whole month, regardless of what your cravings tell you.
  8. Onions/garlic/lemons. Those natty net bags are single-use plastic. Buy them loose (your onions, not the bags).
  9. Hot beverages. Obviously, take your own keep cup everywhere, and a stirrer too.
  10. Fruit/veg. take your own bags. Markets, green grocers, organic veggie box.
  11. Pitta bread. Make your own.
  12. Humus. Make your own.
  13. Pasta/rice. Some brands still use cardboard packaging.
  14. Bird feed. There are plenty of pet supplies stores that sell it loose. Refill your old bags. If there isn’t such a store near you, have a look at these guys –
    The seeds do come in plastic re-sealable bags. However, you have the option to send them back for free. And they will keep reusing them.
  15. Coffee. Loose from your local deli. Yom yom.

My biggest challenge each year is sourcing the ingredients for my home-made muesli. In other parts of the country one can find stores that sell dry goods loose. You scoop them up into your own bags and pay on weight. Alas, I’ve found nothing of the sort here in Cheshire.

My biggest discovery over the years/challenges has been that it is extremely good to talk. Rather than walking away thinking ‘oh well, I can’t buy that as it’s wrapped in clingfilm or served in polystyrene’ I found that by telling folk that I was taking the plastic challenge, they will go above and beyond to find you a solution. They then like to have a good old rant about the unnecessity of plastic packaging. And perhaps, hopefully, that small interaction will influence them into making different purchase choices. You never know.

It’s 15th July already. Any challenges yet? Well I’ve not been shopping much. Fruit and veg, I took my own bags. Waitrose still have a lot loose, as does the market and the local Green Grocer. I may run out of oats for my muesli, but I know that a HJ Lea Oakes sell Mornflake oats, who put some of their products in paper bags (why not all of their products?). I have however run out of raisins. There is nowhere local that sells plastic-bag-less raisins. So to make up a fresh tub of muesli this morning I dug deep into the back of my food cupboards. Dessicated coconut, one year over it’s eat-by date. That will do perfectly. For now.

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Glee Me He

A sunny evening walk around Burton Mere on the Wirral. I had stopped to scan with my binoculars, peering into the far and hidden corners of the pool, when I had the sensation that I was being watched. I slowly lowered my bins and discreetly looked around me in closer proximity. And there he was, hidden in the reeds just a few metres away. Beautifully camouflaged. Watching me. We watched each other for a long time. Me just overdosing in my glee, and he? Who knows.

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