Saturday, January 31, 2009

For Your Convenience

the Redbridge section of the Toilet Tube mapAs reported earlier we now have a layer on the i-map for Redbridge which tells us where all the public toilets are. It’s in the community layer. So now, when we are taken short while out and about in “Redbridge - A Better place to Pee” we can whip out our 3G i-phone and look up where the nearest convenience is.

But that’s not all. This is Local London report that Transport for London has issued two new tube maps, one showing step free access across the network and one showing toilet facilities. Whoopidoo!

The toilet one is quite simple. It uses the usual signs that we all know but they are either in black or red. Red means the toilet is inside the ticket barrier, which means you need a ticket. And black means the toilet is outside the ticket barrier, so is available to anyone. But here’s the problem. I am assuming that the toilets shown are TfL facilities only, because there is a Redbridge Toilet outside Gants Hill Station which is not shown on the map.

The other map is a bleedin nightmare. It uses Red, Amber and Green smarties to indicate how big the step is between the platform and the train. These smarties then have either the letter A, B or C imposed upon them to indicate the size of the gap between the platform and the train. One thing that pleased me no end was that the measurements are given in millimetres and inches with a helpful ruler gauge for each at the side and bottom of the map. Good touch that, we are dealing with the elderly here as well as the infirm and disabled. Then we’ve got multi-coloured polo mints. The colours represent the colour of the tube lines where step free interchange is available, but not ingress and egress to the station itself.

Some station names are shown inside a box which means you need to arrive at the correct entrance for the direction of travel you wish to proceed in. These seem to be surface stations like Woodford where there are entrances either side of the track, and a long journey at street level between if you don’t get it right, with a footbridge between the platforms. But not all stations like this give step free access on both sides, one such being George Lane South Woodford which only has step free access “eastbound”; except that the line here runs north-south, as is also the case with Barkingside.

I am now going to brew myself a nice cup of tea and then have a lie down.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Don’t Let Go

a mass balloon releaseIn July 2007 I posted on Plastic Plankton. How plastic discarded by us humans is having a devastating effect on ocean wildlife. Not all of it is due to carelessness or those of us who just couldn’t be bothered. Some of it is down to people who do care, who are bothered but just don’t realise what they are doing.

Jenny recalls attending the centenary celebrations at Westwood Recreation Ground in 2002 [item 12, page 4] where balloons were released. Unfortunately, she was not aware of the environmental implications back then. Now she is and draws our attention to the Marine Conservation Society and their Balloon Awareness Campaign. Those released balloons don’t stay up there, they float away and eventually fall to ground, river, sea or ocean, sometimes in bits after bursting and therein lies the problem.

To be blunt, Balloons Kill Wildlife. They think its food and swallow it. It then blocks their digestive tract and they die of starvation.

But we don’t want to be party poopers do we, so MCS give us advice on wildlife friendly balloon use and alternatives to balloon releases.

MCS report that in the last year several local councils have banned or put in place voluntary agreements to prevent mass balloon releases. Others are promoting awareness about balloons.

So, the question for those councillors who read this blog is: does Redbridge have a policy on balloon releases and, if not, can we have one please?

Minus one, Plus one

a ballot boxAs predicted here, the Liberal Democrats have won the Valentines Ward by election, a gain from Labour. This is the LibDems second by election gain from Labour during this term and both in the south of the borough, Mike Gapes constituency. What’s more Labour slipped to third place behind the Conservatives with the LibDems leapfrogging both from third place in 2006, on both occasions. In Clementswood they overturned a pretty sizable majority, but in Valentines in was more modest. Looking at the 2006 results things can only get better could get a bit rocky for Mike and Labour councillors in 2010.

Ilford South now lines up as all 17 Labour councillors, plus 5 each for Liberal Democrats and Conservatives.
There are no Labour councillors in the north or west of the borough.

See Ilford Recorder one, two, three.

Redbridge Full council now looks like this:
The Liberal democrats, 11 seats.
The Labour Party, 17 seats
Conservatives, 33 seats
BNP, one seat
Independent, one seat: and the subject of my second prediction for 2009.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Academy

Mortar Board and certificateA barney is brewing over Redbridge Council’s plans to build an Academy. Leaving aside the proposed site, the subject of objections in its own right, there aren’t many options left to the council as to where to locate it.

Academies, if I remember correctly, were the pet project of ex Prime Minister Tony Blair and the government plan to roll out some 400 of these throughout the country.

From what has been reported we need a new secondary school to cope with the projected numbers and the only funding available is that for an Academy. So, its an Academy or nothing. The heavy hand of big government riding roughshod over local decision making again. Look, if it was a good thing, then people would want them and the pressure would be on local councils to provide them. Why does government need to force the issue?

But apart from the obvious distinction in that they are run by private sponsors, the main objection of the National Union of Teachers, are they any different to a normal state school? As I recall, and I may be wrong, they are intended to address the “culture of low aspiration” but then shouldn’t state schools be doing that and providing for all children of all abilities and backgrounds?

I don’t quite know what to make of it, any suggestions or contributions welcome, particularly from teachers and ex-teachers [that’s you Joyce and Margaret].

Absolute Return for Kids
Teachers strike over academies
What are Academies?

Sonia’s Sausages

Barbeque sausagesThere were five hopefuls to become the Conservative Candidate for the position of Mayor of London in 2008, and anyone could register to vote in the contest. I did and I went to the hustings held at Ilford Town Hall. What’s more I got to ask a question.

“Politicians who challenge an incumbent always talk about what they want to change. I want to know what you are not going to change, that is, what have been Ken’s successes?”

Only one of them gave a decent answer. Andrew Boff cited Community Policing, the introduction of dedicated teams for every ward in London, a Sergeant, two Police Constables and 3 Police Community Support Officers. Boris just said “it’s a short list”. Sitting here right now I can only remember one of the other three names nor can I recall what they said, it was that impressive.

I was also invited to a local evening talk last Saturday given by Andrew and hosted by Sonia. Unfortunately I was on baby sitting duties and therefore missed Sonia’s sausages – damn! Roger says they were really good.

I also missed the talk, which was about delivering the Olympics in 2012, a subject that now needs to be viewed in the context of our changed circumstances – the recession. Roger Evans though posts on the evening here, but doesn’t give much detail. Maybe he or Sonia can fill us in?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Great Scott!

a pedicabIt seems our local MP is making a name for himself on the blogosphere. I picked this up from Dorothea at Conservengland who in turn was alerted by Dizzy.

Lee has put down an Early Day Motion calling for the removal of Pedicabs from our streets on the basis that there has been a [that’s one] fatality in Seattle [that’s in the USA] during 2008. Dorothea wonders whether Lee’s constituency of Black [that’s the cab not necessarily the driver] Cabbies has anything to do with it.

Question: How many cyclists have been killed on London’s roads this year 2009 and last year 2008? This blog from our neighbours in Waltham Forest may give an indication. As far as I know there is no “Crap cycle lanes in Redbridge Blog” but if anyone would like to supply the evidence it could well be published here.

Bristling Badger considers how to keep Death off the roads and follows up with an extract from the prequel written by George Orwell in 1946.

I, and we [B21] like Lee, he is a good constituency MP, as was his predecessor, but I somehow think he has taken his eye off the ball here.

UPDATE: Lee explains that his primary concern is passenger safety, pointing out that pedicabs are not licensed or monitored [and presumably not insured]. “If we are to have them they must be regulated and safe with set charges like other types of vehicles.” He is in favour of cycling, including deliveries.

Airstrip One

a dirty aeroplane take offAccording to Iain Dale, Boris was up the Thames Estuary today looking for a site for Boris Island Airport.

Meanwhile, Greenpeace report that there will be a vote in Parliament next Wednesday on the governments support for the expansion of Heathrow with a third runway and a sixth terminal.

This should be fun. Apparently 57 Labour MPs signed an early day motion against airport expansion last autumn. This includes Harry Cohen but not Mike Gapes. Greenpeace are suggesting that we give these mavericks wreckers principled people some encouragement to withstand the expected pressure from Emperor Gordon Brown and Lord Vader Mandy.

The trouble with airports, as with any centralised hub, is not just the volume of aeroplanes, but the traffic they generate in the surrounding area with people and goods having to get to and from the hub at ground level. Just take a look at Heathrow now for a glimpse of what Boris has in mind for us here in the east.

Quite what this Flight of Fancy entails I don’t know. Will it be on the north or south side of the estuary? Or in the middle, a Boris made Island? Hmmm, there’s possibilities here. We could build it with all the recycling we now don’t know what to do with. So we won’t need all those nasty Incinerators. A new island in the middle makes a new river crossing east of Dartford that much easier and a new Thames barrier to boot. We’re gonna need it with all the extra CO2. It could even have Tidal power electricity generation to compensate. An extra stretch of railway to the south to link with Chunnel rail and we’re off to Stratford, Central London or Europe. Extend Crossrail from Shenfield to the east and we have a direct link to Heathrow.

Huh! Where am I? I must have dropped off. That was a strange dream. Back to reality.

Fullwell SNT News

Safer neigbourhoods logo

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The European Omission

the European Union FlagIt’s time for your editor to put his hands up and admit he’s made a boo-boo. I have been asked in the past to put links to other local blogs on the side bar but they were overtly political sites and, after consultation with the committee, I declined.

B21 is non-party political although your editor is a member of a political party, and he tries very hard to provide balance across the political spectrum. It is OK for me to link to a political site within the text of a specific post where that site is being used as a reference. It is OK to have links in the side bar to our elected representatives because readers may wish to find out who they are, what they are doing and to contact them. Our MP, our GLA rep and our local councillors all have links in the side bar. But not, until today, our Euro MEPs. A drop off, a clanger, a blunder. But why?

Why did I forget to do it, and what has prompted me to do it now? Well, firstly the Euro elections are coming up on June 4th this year and the campaigning has started, not that most people will have noticed. Secondly MEPs are a bit remote, they are over there in Europe somewhere passing directives that our National government ignore, unless it suits them. The system doesn’t help either. We don’t vote for a person, we vote for a Party and seats are allocated via a Party List based on the D’Hondt formula – don’t ask, I’m as baffled as anyone else.

In short we in London have nine MEPs [reducing to eight in June] who all represent all 7 odd million of us. So, if you’ve a question or an issue to raise, which one do you approach? Or do you tackle all nine? I can’t say I’m overly enthused by the system but it does seem typical of the stuff that is “made in the EU”.

Anyway here they are click, all nine of them. How many do you recognise? One of them has featured quite a lot on this site. It is she who is one of only three elected Green representatives we have here in Barkingside, [the other two being London wide GLA members, see what our GLA Tory has to say about them here] and she is my first point of call when seeking Green input to the political balance I referred to earlier. It also helps that she lives just up the road in Walthamstow.

Anyway I don’t know if all nine are re-standing in June, but I do know that Jean is number one on the Green list, although I don’t know who number 2 or number 6 is. But they’ve all got websites so now you can find out who they all are and what they have been up to before you cast your vote.

Westminster Wriggles

I am alerted to this by Iain Dale, thanks. If you go to the “They Work for You” website you will get a pop-up as follows:

Sorry to interrupt, but democracy needs your help!
On the 16th of May 2008 the High Court ruled that MPs’ expenses must be published under the Freedom of Information Act.
This Thursday, MPs are voting to change the law to keep their expenses secret after all, just before publication was due and after spending nearly a million of your pounds and seven months compiling the data.
Your MP may not even know about this proposal (it was sneaked out under the Heathrow runway announcement). Please take a few minutes to alert them to this attack on Parliamentary transparency and ask them to vote against the measure.
The outcome of this vote will be prominently displayed on every MP’s page until after the next General Election.
Lee Scott, MP Ilford NorthI emailed our MP at 14:13 asking if he would be there for the vote. We already know his views on this. I received a reply at 14:16 saying “you bet”.

If you live in Ilford South, you might like to email Mike Gapes? Anywhere else go here.

See comments for Updates.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The Plot Thickens

So, the Government have caved in to the Airport lobby and given the go-ahead for a third runaway [sic!] at Heathrow. But do you understand what their strategy is? Are you sitting comfortably? Make sure there are no sharp objects within falling distance off your chair and I’ll tell you. I don't want Elf 'n Safety paying me a visit.

First, devalue the pound to the point where it’s worth a potato. This makes the UK a cheap and attractive tourist destination, and those tourists need somewhere to land and take-off again to go home. Yes, I know that in the past some of them have sort of forgotten to go home, but do you really think they will want to stick around with the current state of our economy? And did you really think those extra flights were for you to travel abroad? Forget it. You can’t afford it anymore. That little nest egg will be worthless in no time. Our “Prudent” saviour is on the case. You won’t even be able to afford to emigrate. And the underlying beauty is that it all contributes to Climate Change, so we can expect Mediterranean weather and Vineyards to attract even more of those tourists any day soon. It’s good for the economy and good for jobs. Yup, minimum wage jobs. At least you won’t have to repay those loans it took to get your degree. That job in the City ain't there no more.

Now to an update on the earlier post titled “Direct Action”.

Greenpeace, along with Emma Thompson and Alistair McGowan have purchased a plot of land about the size of a football pitch slap bang in the middle of where the new runaway is proposed to be placed. Ha, ha. I like it. What’s more they are inviting people to become “beneficial owners”, who have to be consulted in any compulsory purchase order. The last time I looked there were 10,000 of them and rising. Ingenious, says the Evening Standard.

Here’s Emma expressing what many people are thinking.

Then there is John McDonnell MP who picked up the Mace [OMG] and was “named”. Mr Cameron is not pleased either.

And “Climate Rush”.

On the stroke of seven o'clock, the coats and backpacks fell aside to reveal flowing white dresses, patterned waistcoats, cummerbunds, and an impressive array of picnic items. Four people who seconds earlier had been avoiding eye contact morphed into a string quartet, flourished their instruments, and began to play. Airport staff and an array of police officers looked on in slight confusion as the picnic got going.
Do we really have to throw bricks to get our point across?

And there’s more.

The Generals are revolting and suggesting that Trident should be scrapped. Whatever next?

Oh! I’m informed that there is to be another “Arms Fair” at the Excel Centre this year and there is a "Musical Protest" tomorrow [Saturday 17th]. Fat chance of our Military getting their
hands on any of it, but it’s good for the economy and good for jobs you know. So long as the "collateral damage" is somewhere else!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Tax and Spend

The Ilford Recorder reports on the Redbridge Cabinet meeting on Monday 12th January. They have, as expected, approved a 2.7% increase in Council Tax for 2009-10. It’s only £30 per year for a Band D they say, but this is a time of recession when real people are feeling the pinch. Particularly those on fixed incomes and those who hitherto had relied on interest from savings to top up their disposable income. While the economy contracts the state carries on as if nothing is happening, oblivious to their own failings and their own contribution to this crisis.
the road outside Central library - as it wasBarkingside 21 is interested in what this extra revenue is going to be spent on. One such potential item came up at the same Cabinet meeting: reported by an independent observer. The Traffic Order for Clements Road was rescinded. Obviously there is a legal process of notification to go through before it actually happens, but what then?

The road outside Central Library, Ilford, will then be open to all traffic. Since the new and present street layout and architecture was designed for "Buses Only" does it now have to be re-visited and re-arranged back to what it was in the first place, complete with pedestrian safety railings, and at what cost and to whom?

One thing you never ever see in the accounts of Public bodies, including Government and Local Authorities, is the proportion of spend [of OUR money] on putting right their own cock-ups, ie the “Cost of Failure”. Nor does anyone ever seem to be responsible or voices of dissent heard.

Redbridge Wildlife Photography Competition

Are you a budding photographer? Interested in wildlife? The London Borough of Redbridge Nature Conservation Ranger Team are holding a wildlife photography competition. An exhibition displaying the entries received will be held at Central Library [be careful if you visit: see next post], Ilford on 16th-28th March. A public vote will decide on the best photo.

Prizes will be available for 1st, 2nd and 3rd places. If you would like to submit any photos please send them, along with your contact details, to the following address:
The Nature Conservation Ranger Team,
Hainault Forest Country Park,
Romford Road,
Chigwell, Essex, IG7 4QN.

Entries can be submitted either in hard format or on a CD. Please include details of when and where the photo was taken - all photos must be taken within the London Borough of Redbridge. Entries must be received by 9th March 2009.

Whilst not encouarging entries via email, submissions up to 1 megabyte are acceptable.

Here's last years winner: Foxglove by Jennifer Charter.
last year's winner - Foxglove by Jennifer Charter Tip: I had a Green Woodpecker hopping around my lawn today. I had the zoom wound up so much that the photos came out off centre and blurred. What I should have done, I now realise is to wind down the zoom and then crop and enhance the photo. Silly me.

Hainault Forest Rambles

the Nature's Gym logoSunday 8th February 11am – 1pm. Visitor Centre
Tree identification walk
If you are interested in learning how to identify trees come and join Brian Ecott on this informative walk. Identification sheet available and the chance to collect samples.

Sunday 8th March 11am – 1pm. Visitor Centre.
Lower Plants Walk
Let Brian Ecott teach you how to recognize some of the common lichens, mosses and ferns found in the forest on this informative guided walk. A hand lens or magnifying glass would be useful. Identification sheet available and a chance to collect samples.

Saturday 21st March 11am – 1pm. Visitor Centre.
Spring Equinox Woodland Ramble
Join Daphne Gilbert on a ramble around Hainault Forest to mark the Equinox, when night and day are the same length. Discover Spring is in the air. You will be shown things of interest and the wildlife that can be found at this time of year.

Sunday 26th April 11am – 1pm. Visitor Centre.
Bluebell and Blossom walk
Spring has sprung. Come and join Brian Ecott and see all the attractive wild flora and fauna that can be found in Hainault Forest at this time of year.

Enquiries to Linda Herbert, email or
020 8500 7353.

Virtual walks here!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Watch the Birdie

Four Posts rolled into One.
1. RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2009

As some of you know, the Big Garden Birdwatch is almost upon on us… 24-25 January 2009. What’s that? I hear you say. The RSPB is asking you to give up one hour of your weekend and count birds from your garden. Garden size does not matter and don’t worry if you don’t see many birds because that’s valuable information. For me, it’s an excuse to put my feet up with tea and biscuits and tell the other half ‘I can’t do the chores now dear, I’m doing important conservation work for the RSPB’. It works for me anyway… For more info, please see the website.

What about the kids? I hear you say. A free teacher’s activity pack is available, so any parents or teachers reading this newsletter should pass it on to their school.

Tajinder Lachhar
2. Local RSPB meeting

Tuesday 13th January 2009,
7:30pm, price £1.50
Location: Oakdale Junior School, Oakdale Road, South Woodford, E18 1JX
Indoor Talk: Birdlife International's Global Seabird Programme
The RSPB's Senior Marine Conservation Policy Officer, Helen Booker will begiving a fascinating insight into the work the RSPB and other Birdlife International partners do overseas as part of the Global Seabird Programme, including the vital work being done to save Albatrosses. Every year 100,000 albatrosses are killed by longline fishing. This carnage is having a devastating impact on albatross populations across the world. So come along to this, our first indoor talk to find out more about the problems, the solutions and how you can help the RSPB's Save the Albatross campaign. E-mail: Website:
3. New Local Bird Blog

By Pastor Daniel Erickson-Hull:

4. Ron Jeffries wonders why his Robin Redbreast is Yellow?
a yellow breasted Robin

The Great Plant Hunt

a sun flowerGot young children or grandchildren? Then be prepared. This coming spring they will be asking questions and probably getting mucky in the process.

Inspired by a year of celebrations to mark the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (RBG Kew), will be sending every state primary school in the UK a free resources pack in Spring 2009, as part of a programme commissioned and funded by the Wellcome Trust.

Clearly mapped to the primary science curriculum, the free resources can be used by individual teachers or as a whole-school activity. The resources are designed to be easy to use and offer fun, hands-on activities for use in the classroom, online and outdoors. The Treasure Chest will contain everything needed to take part in this UK-wide school science project. Oh yeah! What about help for granddad with answering those awkward questions?

Register here in advance.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Wanstead Chestnut

Our matey, Richard Cooper, down Wanstead way reports on a tree that is possibly the only one in the UK to have a postcode - E11 1AA. This is because people were actually living in it and it had a letterbox back in the days of the M11 protest. The WWG takes up the story.

This was the 300-year old Chestnut tree on Wanstead Green that made way for said thoroughfare. The remnants were left on the green but now the trunk has collapsed sparking fears that it will just be lost and a campaign to preserve it for future generations, supported by the effervescent Cllr Sue Nolan.

the remains of the Wanstead ChestnutThis reminds me of a tree closer to home – the Fairlop Oak. We don’t know precisely where the original Fairlop Oak stood but we do have a New Fairlop Oak besides the pub of that name. It stands on the island of the Fullwell Cross roundabout and was planted[?] back in the 1950s. Morris will correct me if I’m wrong. But the original oak lives on. Fragments of it were used for other things. Daniel Day, apparently used part of it for his own coffin. There is a masthead carved from it that is currently in Valence House Museum in Dagenham and there is a pulpit in St. Pancras Church which is made from the wood of that very tree. And more.

Sadly though, those long lost days when bits started to fall off the Fairlop Oak were also the days when we had skilled craftsmen and a creative eye for using otherwise waste products.

I fear for the Wanstead Chestnut.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

What’s in my garden?

Great tit Parus major (left) and coal tit Parus ater (right).  The great tit is larger with a black bib and a full stripe on the belly.  The coal has a distinctive white spot on the nape and double white wing-bars.
Guest post from Tajinder:

I’ve been doing the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch for a number of years now. However, for the last 69 weeks I have also been taking part in a different kind of survey known as the Garden BirdWatch organised by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). The survey costs me £15 a year because it pays for the administration of the survey and I receive a quarterly magazine called Bird Table.

I wanted to share my experiences with you because I thoroughly enjoy the bird watching experience from my garden. It allows me to learn my garden birds and their song/ call. I also get to see some interesting bird behaviour.

As a garden birdwatch ‘surveyor’, you decide how many times a week and the number of minutes you want to record the birds in your garden. Once you have decided this, you should stick to this commitment as it allows the BTO to make weekly and annual comparisons of how your garden birdlife is doing. I have committed myself to watching my garden birds every Sunday from 10-11 am. I put my feet up, binoculars in one hand and a notepad/ pen in the other (plus tea and chocolate biscuits as back up). And then I watch…

I submit my records on-line because it is a really easy system to use. You can also pull up your previous records and create graphs with the touch of a button. So, not only the BTO scientists get to see your results, you do as well!

For more information, please go to the
BTO website.

I’ve recorded over 20 bird species and here are a few:

Top place: blue tits Parus caeruleus & greenfinches Carduelis chloris
2nd place: Chaffinch Fringilla coelebs
3rd place: Robin Erithacus rubecula
Rare visitors: coal tit Parus ater & song thrush Turdus philomelos
Bird of prey: sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus
Scarcer species: green woodpecker Picus viridis, swifts Apus apus – yes swifts do count. Unlike gulls and other birds that fly over, these count because they are aerial feeders

I get jays Garrulus glandarius, but they never come when I’m doing the survey.

When I first moved in to my house, I didn’t see any house sparrows Passer domesticus. However, I spent a few years making my garden a little wild and then getting really lazy which allowed patches of bramble to develop. The bramble attracted a small group of house sparrows which included 6 fledglings this year. I’m so proud of my laziness.

Sharing your garden bird records
If you have any wildlife sitings, please share these with the LBR Nature Conservation Ranger Team who can be contacted on 020 8501 1426. These records will go into GiGL which is the Greenspace information for Greater London database. This database helps us to track London wildlife and work out whether species are increasing or decreasing and if possible to formulate plans to save some of the declining species.

Tajinder Lachhar

Natural Play

an example of a natural playground
Fiona, one of our council’s former Nature Conservation Rangers has been seconded to a new job. She has been asked to lead a new project for Redbridge looking at improving play opportunities in the borough. Significant funding has been secured from the DCSF [Department for Children, Schools and Families] to increase participation in what is termed 'natural play' which broadly means getting children into the natural environment and allowing/teaching them how to play. It is sadly the case that opportunities for this kind of play have significantly decreased over time. Over the next 3 years it is hoped to increase our provision and try to change attitudes towards activities that might be deemed high risk (tree climbing, for example). She has offered to come along and give a talk, and we will book her up for a summer coffee morning.

Here is my mate Philip Booth, over at Ruscombe Green explaining what Natural Play is in more detail with lots of graphics.

Nature’s Gym

a pair of wellies
The London Borough of Redbridge Nature Conservation Ranger team are running a series of volunteer workdays and events throughout the next few months. No experience is necessary, just enthusiasm! If you would like to get involved please contact the team at 020 8501 1426 or email so that we know to expect you.

Tuesday 20th January: Hurstleigh Gardens (11am-3pm)
Come and help us create small glades throughout the woodland to encourage ground flora diversity. We will also be clearing any overgrowth onto the woodland path. Meet at the corner of Fulwell Avenue and Hurstleigh Gardens.

Monday 2nd February: Roding Valley Park (12pm-3pm)
It’s World Wetland’s Day. Come and help us clean up the riverside by collecting litter and clearing scrub. Please bring your wellies! Meet at the bus stop outside Tesco on Southend Road (near Charlie Brown’s roundabout).

Saturday 7th March: Roding Valley Park (11am-1pm)
Come and learn how to look for the first signs of spring and what wildlife can be found in your local area. Suitable for children over 6 yrs. All children should be accompanied by an adult. Meet at the bus stop outside Tesco on Southend Road (near Charlie Brown’s roundabout).

Tuesday 10th March: Roding Valley Park (10:30am-3pm)
Have a go at cutting back the wildflower meadow near the pumping station to encourage re-growth and prevent the spread of competitive species. Meet at the entrance on Roding Lane South, near to Whitney Avenue.

Saturday 21st March: Roding Valley Park (11am-1pm)
Join us for a gentle walk along the river to enjoy the coming of spring. Meet at the bus stop outside TESCO on Southend Road (near Charlie Brown’s roundabout).

Saturday 28th March: Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve (11am-1pm)
Join us for a gentle walk through Redbridge’s only nature reserve. We’ll be following the nature trail, which details the history of the site and some of the wildlife that’s found there. Meet at the entrance on Forest Road (no parking within the reserve).

Tuesday 31st March: Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve (11am-1pm)
Come and help us create wild woodland herbs raised beds in the reserve. They will add colour and fragrance to the reserve and attract invertebrates. Meet at the entrance on Forest Road (no parking within the reserve).

Monday 6th April: Hurstleigh Gardens (12pm-3pm)
Have a go at following a nature trail through the woodland. See what wildlife you can spot along the way as you hunt for treasure! Suitable for under 10s. All children should be accompanied by an adult. The trail will begin at the corner of Fulwell Avenue and Hurstleigh Gardens.

Get Redbridge Active

a sign pointing to the stairsI have deliberately saved this post until now, just after the Christmas binge when New Year’s Resolutions on diet and weight loss are to the fore.

At our meeting last November, Alison Puddle, LBR Sports and Physical Activity Manager, gave a presentation that included the initiative “Get Redbridge Active” followed by “Let’s Get..... Active / Going / Together / Competitive / Volunteering”

This is a joined up piece of partnership working, or so it is intended, involving the likes of schools, voluntary groups and the Primary Care Trust. All very well, but it doesn’t inspire confidence when the PCT builds a hospital where we don’t have access to the stairs, and Alison doesn’t mention Anne’s favourite word – Allotments!

As one of our guests indicated, health and fitness is about building activity into your daily life. This is not easy when you are under time pressure and bombarded with messages to persuade you to buy the latest labour saving devices. Perhaps these manufacturers should be obliged to put warnings on their products? All too often opportunities to exercise are designed out - it's time to fight back and get them designed in.

Try thinking of Housework, gardening or DIY not as chores but as free exercise. If it’s a nice day try getting off the bus or tube a stop earlier and having a walk. Park the car a street or two away from the school or shops and have a walk. Think about how far you do walk when visiting a supermarket or shopping mall; I’ll bet it’s more than the length of your local High Street. Try getting out of the lift a floor or two earlier and use the stairs.

The best way to lose weight is not dieting, it is regular, gentle daily exercise.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Personal Services

This is the time of year when bloggers typically look back in self congratulation mode at the size of their readership. It seems to be a blokey thing, with each comparing the size of their “vital statistics” and arguing about “unique” and “absolute unique” visitors and accusing each other of cheating. Some even go so far as to title the post “Stat Porn” in the hope that the inclusion of that word will generate even more visits via an internet search engine. These are the big boys, the likes of Iain Dale, Guido Fawkes and our own Alex Hilton [although he has a Libel case hanging over his head].

This blog, however, is not a blokey blog. According to the
Gender Analyzer it is with a 91% degree of probability a female blog. So, we are going to take a different course of action and expose our cleavage.

This is a local blog for local people, but it does have regular readers in Canada, Australia, Spain and also scattered throughout the United Kingdom. These are mostly ex-pats from hereabouts. We also have a Green readership, although we are not party political. So, to the flesh:

The Hit counter has just popped over the 100,000 mark. Some of those will be mine of course because I don’t always log in from my own computer. There are 803 posts meaning an average of approx 127 hits per post. But the Hit rate, per day, per week or per month has been increasing steadily since the start. More interesting is the data from Site Meter, which started at a point when the Hit counter was at around 8,000 [February 2007]. This shows nearly 43,000 visits and 104,000 page views, so a page view is clearly not the same as a Hit. The point is that there is an average views per visit of 2.4 plus an average visit length of around 4 minutes. Which means that when people pop in they generally stick around.

In addition to this there are also readers who view blogs indirectly via a newsreader. These do not show up on either the Hit Counter or Site Meter, but they do show up on Feedburner. According to that we have about 50.

Then there are links from other sites. We don’t get an awful lot of that. In top place is the
Gants Hill Tube Station feature on Wikipedia followed by Jim Jepps Best Green Blogs. Neither do readers here use the out links much which I believe is known as a “sticky” site.

Now to hits from search engines. About a third of traffic comes from this source and some of it clearly is not finding what is being looked for. But most of it is.
Way out in front in top place are searches for Barkingside 21 [or Barkingside21 or Barkingside Agenda 21]. In second place is “how to save our nature” or words to that effect [interestingly most of these come from India and the far east] and third is “Forest Farm Peace garden”.
Other interesting ones are:
Who is the MP for Barkingside
Alan Weinberg MP
Effect of flooding
Paving of front gardens

These are the Quantitative stats. The much more important Qualitative stats are the feedback we receive from people we know. This is a local blog and most of the readership is known to us. Apart from our members and members of other associated local groups plus locals who are just interested, a fair percentage of our elected Councillors and council officers are known readers. We can put names and faces to most of them and have a face to face chat when we bump onto them in the High Street, Pub or at a meeting.

That’s the difference between a “supermarket” blog and a “High Street” blog. We offer a truly personal service, for some!

S&M LegoNevertheless I have now signed up for Google Analytics.

My thanks to Jim for the lego graphic, I'm just thankful that that version was not available when my kids were growing up, BUT I do have a grandchild - OMG!

Crystal Balls

a crystal ball Ten predictions for 2009
Updated with outcome in italics below: 28/12/2009

1. The LibDems will win the Valentines by-election.
- On the nose!
2. Cllr Harold Moth will re-take the whip, one way or another.
- Back in the fold, but losses elsewhere.
3. Small tufts of prairie grass will be seen blowing down Barkingside High Street.
- not quite yet.
4. Council Tax [and councillor allowances] will not fall in line with deflation.
- well, it was a cert.
5. The £ will reach parity with the Potato.
- Almost
6. The demand for allotments will rise steeply.
- and it did.
7. Potato theft will double.
- well, it did but was legalised as the Sub-Prime potato market.
8. A small child will observe a naked Cabinet.
- the grand daughter came round to visit just after I had finished stripping an antique cabinet. You didn’t think I meant anything else did you?
9. Fairlop Waters will be the focus of a Time Team special on life in the 60s and 70s.
- there’s always next year.
10. Most of Redbridge and the UK will miss all this while watching the new C4 production “Strictly Pole Dancing up a cockney bruvver’s factored X-Jungle saga”.
- Inconclusive.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Energy from “Waste”

a waste mountainHow quickly things can change. Only last August I posted links to two pieces in The Times:
The high price of plastics raises the prospect of mining landfill sites and Rubbish is fast becoming the new gold as cost of raw materials rises.

Now we’ve hit the economic buffers, the demand and therefore price, for recycled materials has, apparently, fallen through the floor. Leaving us with mountains of officially “recycled” rubbish and no way to deal with it other than landfill or ship it off to China.

Not so, says IMechE. They have
published a report [PDF 2MB] saying that waste is a resource that can be turned into Energy. Waste is not a problem to be dealt with, it is a resource to be used, just the same as we use natural waste products like coal and oil. Coal and oil are, after all, nature’s past landfills.

IMechE bemoan the confusion between an EfW [Energy from Waste] plant and an Incinerator pointing out that they are NOT the same and explaining the difference.
“Defra, for example, constantly refers to EfW plants as ‘incinerators’ and despite public consultation on this issue appears to have ignored the feedback!” and “Ironically, the European Directive governing EfW plants is known as the Waste Incineration Directive (WID) whereas, for large utility power stations, the relevant directive is known as the Large Combustion Plant Directive. Since the latter is describing a virtually identical process to EfW, it is not at all clear why the Government has decided that one is ‘combustion’ and the other is ‘incineration’.”
They point out that waste will still have to be streamed because only combustible or bio-degradable materials can be used and that metals and glass should still be reused or recycled.

In Denmark they have local EfW plants which take waste from that community and then supply the community with both electricity and heating via large scale district heating systems; with quite a few being consumer owned. There’s a social novelty! And the proximity principle – saving on transport costs and therefore fuel. And these babies are energy efficient – unlike conventional power stations they trap and use the heat generated instead of just pumping it out to the local river or atmosphere, not that their remote locations lend themselves to heating a local community.

And it’s not just Combustion. Back in
August 2007 I posted on Breweries generating their own heat and electricity with a Combined Heat and Power [CHP] plant fuelled entirely by biomass including the spent grain used in the brewing process. This is described by IMechE as Gasification.

Then there is Pyrolysis which produces a carbonaceous char, oils and combustible gases. Depending on the process, the oil may be used as liquid fuel for burning in a boiler or as a substitute for diesel fuel in reciprocating engines, although this normally requires further processing.

And Anaerobic Digestion, a biological process used with liquid and semi-liquid slurries such as animal waste. Poo!

But for some, Combustion remains a problem.
Here’s Derek Wall on the subject.

“Why recycle when goods can be made to last longer and be repaired more easily, and over-packaging can be outlawed? Zero waste is about producing less waste in the first place.”
All very well, but there remains essential packaging for hygiene purposes and goods will still wear out. Not exactly “Zero waste” is it? This is akin to the pipe dream of perpetual motion.

Zero waste is when there is nothing left over and all resources have been used productively. Left-overs being stuff that nobody wants and can’t think of a use for, has no value and is discarded. Using energy to get rid of it – “Incineration” or Landfill – is a Waste of that energy. Reclassifying waste as fuel and using it locally to generate something useful like electricity and heating is Re-Use, the second tier of the waste hierarchy.

Which brings me back to the beginning; these things are driven by economics and that, as we have seen, can change very quickly.

Footnote: We still need Incinerators for Medical waste and what is the difference between an Incinerator and a Crematorium?