Flowers and birds at Corsenside

Was wonderful to work today  on the roadside verges project with Jennifer from Revitalising Redesdale –  Northumberland Wildlife Trust. Anne Middleton, Bill Burlton and I were leading small groups in identifying the plants in the churchyard before moving onto the verges.

Especially wonderful because I lived here for over 20 years and have lots of happy memories of events in St Cuthbert’s 13th century church. If you are visiting, check the altar cloth. Annabel and I worked with the boys in the Sunday School to create it – well Annabel and the boys did.

During that time Annabel and I also carried out a couple of botanical surveys after summer services and picnics with the Sunday School and congregation. It was lovely to see some old friends, to see the results of the scything project and to check whether the bulbous buttercup was thriving.

Then Jennifer said Carol (photo credit – church and rose-bay willowherb) and I could stay to watch Anne and Martin ring the young swallows nesting close by.

Hushed while surveying bare peat sites

On top of the world between Teesdale and Weardale collecting data in collaboration with the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership. Phil’s dissertation is investigating the effect of management techniques on the revegetation of bare peat: brash spreading, Sphagnum and Eriophorum plugs, stone dams, coir rolls.

This shows the coir rolls, stone dams and brash

Phil is looking at the vegetated site, the photo looks south towards Teesdale

This photo looks nouth. If you zoom in onto the hillside in the distance you will see an orange flash. Phil thought the hill was on fire, I thought there was an invasion by a Whoverian orange fungus – then we remembered about Hush …

Hush is the art installation created by Steve Messam commissioned by the AONB. I was lucky enough to catch Steve’s presentation and visit the site during its short life between 19th July and 4th August 2019.

Hush – monumental art installation in Upper Teesdale

Open Days for Environmental & Natural Sciences at Newcastle

A prospective student enthusiastically discussing the beautiful fluorite with Dr Jon Telling, lecturer on the Earth Science degree. Tom, stage 3, is remembering how 4 years ago he was looking round the universities deciding which to attend. Note not just the rocks, but also our beautiful lichen display and our mini globe stress or juggling balls (depending on how many you manage to take away).

It’s been a really good and enjoyable couple of days talking to students. I have also been round a few universities with my sons  over the past few years (and have the cloth bags as evidence) so remember how it feels to talk to lecturers and students and to get the feel of the place. If you came to visit, thanks so much for coming, I hope you enjoyed it and it helped you choose. Do get in touch if you have further questions.

Bird ID course

An astonishingly wonderful and fun week with excellent tutors, Prof Mark Whittingham and Tom Cadwallender. Trips to the tranquil NWT Hauxley to see the wildfowl, to the  Farnes Islands to see the busy, busy seabirds. I twitched with the experts for the first time in my life, and caught the buzz for the Baikal Teal and the Gargeny. The day I missed for an exam moderation board, they caught and ringed a Kingfisher. Wow!

But best of all – was the trip to the moor where we saw this absolutely magical golden plover with her chick. That is a life highlight. The chick sadly disappeared from the scope by the time I looked, but I’m sure a saw a yellow blob that must have been the chick. So thanks so much Ian Cole for allowing me to use your beautiful photo.

Lichen Outreach in Blyth

Small boy: Are you a tree inspector?

Me: No I’m looking at lichens

SB: What’s a lichen?

Me: Come and see

Then a dozen small boys, aged 10 -12 playing on scooters came to see the lichens on the sycamore and cherry trees in the B&M car park in Blyth. I showed them how to use the hand lens to look at the few lichens there were. They saw Xanthoria and Physcia, mostly, looking like whole worlds through the hand lens.

SB2: Wow! I’m not being funny but they actually look amazing! (can’t remember his exact words, wish I could)

We chatted about algae and fungi (they said they knew about these from school) and pollution indicators. They all took turns to look. I said to take a photo and they had the great idea of taking it through the hand lens (see above). 

SB3: I’m going to show that to Dr XXX (teacher’s name) and I might get a GOLD MARK. Yeah!

I hope Dr XXX gave them all gold marks. I was only in Blyth cos I had to drive to pick up my phone that I’d carelessly left on the coach after fieldtrip. Feeling guilty about carbon footprint of driving all that way. Hope my sharing a bit of lichenology with 12 young boys mitigates.

TEA – Teaching Education Awards

Absolutely brilliant to be nominated and then shortlisted for a TEA this year for employability. How do you feel when you don’t win? Of course Chris who won, has done an amazing job with Stu Brew – so no surprise and well deserved. But still, I can’t pretend it would not have been nice to walk home with a glass teapot.

Then Phoebe, 4th year MEnv came to see me this afternoon. She said she was sorry I didn’t win. I asked her if she nominated me and she said, ‘we all nominated you’ – we sent a message round to say, ‘let’s all nominate Helen’ and we all did. Do you know, that was like a hundred glass teapots to me 🙂

Agrics (2nd yr) assessing grassland

Give the agriculture students a spade and a field to look at and they will be happy, as evidenced in this photo, though I’m not sure where they have hidden their spade. They were deciding whether to enter the fields into Countryside Stewardship, convert to arable (there used to be turnips here) or whether they needed to introduce more rye-grass. This is a small farm near Brampton, Cumbria.

Also pictured, talking to the group, is Hannah Davis, PhD student and former Organic Agriculture MSc. I can honestly say that I would not have survived the last year or two without her ability to turn her hand to anything I ask her to do at any ridiculous amount of  short notice. Thanks, Hannah. 

Masters in Environmental Science – Presentations

It is such a pleasure to watch our 4th year MEnv students present their dissertations.  As first years they were conscientious and engaged so their hard work and enthusiasm have paid off as they present these high quality, high impact pieces of research. Jackson audited and made recommendations regarding sustainability at Barbour (an enormous task), Gabby investigated paper cup recycling at Newcastle Uni and Phoebe researched bio-stimulants as alternatives to conventional fertilisers to promote sustainable agricultural production. Their slides are of such high quality and the confidence with which they stand before their audience and present their work and answer questions cannot be faulted. I feel pretty proud of them, but their families can be prouder still.