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  • : The blog of Frank Beswick. It deals with my interests in religious, philosophical spiritual matters and horticulture/self-reliance
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April 16 2014 4 16 /04 /April /2014 12:16



The picture above shows zebra mussels


Britain is a trading country with wotld wide connections, and so many species have been introduced to our shores, sometimes intentionally, other times accidentally. Some are a positive blessing, such as the potato, but others are nuisance species which harm the environment. Both animals and plants are to be included in this category of nuisance species. There is soon to be a E.C, list of nuisances which cannot be grown, owned or moved.These nuisances can be classed as invasive species.




There are several intrusive animals. One of the most well established intruders is the grey squirel, which has effectively left the native red squrirrel near to extinction, as it not only out-competes the red for food, but also carries a virus fatal to reds. It is almost impossible to eradicate. The mink, imported for fur farms after the war, got into the wild when some escaped, and others were released by animal rights activists who raided the farms and released them to roam free. This was a death sentence for bank voles, who are being massacred by the mink.


Another problem is the harlequin ladybird. This is larger than the native species and has a habit of eating them. It has a nasty bite. As ladybirds are an essential part of the nation's defence against aphids, these harequins have to be eliminated as soon as possible.  


Other imports are not a problem. Sika deer have escaped from parks, and as they readily interbreed with red deer, they are diluting the genetics of the red deer population, but this is not a problem. Similarly muntjac, small barking deer, have escaped into woodlands. But they are not a nuisance and are a food supply to some hunters.There are other escapees from farms, one of which is the wild boar. This is the most dangerous escapee, although no humans have been hurt by these shy woodland creatures. But it is hard to class them as invasive, as they are a native species that went extinct.


It is some aquatic animals that are causing problems. The zebra mussel, pictured above, is harmless in itself but after  it arrived in ballast water from ships it took to water courses and settled in profusion in pipes, and is thus a cause of blockage. Much money has had to be spent to keep the pipes clear. The Chinese mitten crab has found its way into the Thames, where it is undermining the river embankments. These crabs have the ability to migrate across land to find other water courses. So far they have been confined to the warmer areas of Southern England.But there has been talk of controlling these edible crabs by fishing. These crabs are edible, and in 2009 scientists decided that their flesh was safe to eat. In some areas they harbour the bilharzia parasite, but in Britian this is not so, as the parasite's secondary host is not present in this country.


Another invasive species causing havoc to the tiny native white clawed crayfish is the American signal crayfish. They outcompete the native and carry a virus deadly  to the smaller crayfish.  It is legal to hunt these if you get a licence, but you can only get a licence for one day at a time in one specific waterway. Beware of them, their claws are powerful and can detach your thumb. You need to know what you are doing to hunt them.


There is concern over the Asian killer shrimp, found in a lake in East Anglia and possibly hitching across country on canoes. This is an aggressive little beast that gobbles up other wildlife. Whether it is edible I do not know.


Invasive plants


Japanese knotweed stands out. It is a fast growing species so invasive that it is illegal to grow it. It can outcompete any native and has no predators or biological controls. Recently a psyllid, a small insect,  that feeds on it was introduced from Japan, and tests are under way. Knotweed can be eaten, and the Japanese eat the young shoots. It is a  relative of rhubarb and can be cooked in the same way, but there are doubts about whether pregnant women should eat it. Play safe. Having nibbled a leaf, I can tell you that it is forgettable.




There are others. Himalayan balsam, shown above,  is a beauty on the riverbank, but as it damages watercourses it is having to be eradicated. It is not as dangerous as knotweed, but it is a threat to bank stability. Rhododendron has  friends and enemies. Some people love it, but others hate it, and point to its ability to take over whole areas, as is happening in parts of Snowdonia. The plant exhibits allelopathy, the abaility to give out a toxin which suppresses other plants in the soil. The main cultprit is a species, Rhododendron ponticum, which is having the most widespread ill-effects. The trouble is that, while these plants are beautiful, their wood is useless fo carpentry or fuel, as it spits and burns unevenly.


There is a range of pond and waterweeds which are considered nuisances, some of which are banned from sale. These include Crassula helmsii, from New Zealand,and Canadian waterweed. These weeds cannot be put into waterways or private ponds, as they grow in such profusion that they deoxygenate the water and thus kill waterlife.


I doubt whether we  will eliminate all these species, but we need to keep them under control, by culling or finding a use for them.

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January 5 2014 1 05 /01 /January /2014 22:24



Deep Country, by Neil Ansell, is a record of the author's five years of completely solitary living in the Cambrian Mountains of South Wales. To a great extent the book is the author's way of exploring a dream, of getting away from it all to a remote cottage. The dream also included an economic life that combined occasional writing with estate work on a casual basis, free therefore from the burden of employment at a paid job and able to spend the bulk of his time observing and studying wild life.


The book is written in a clear and fluent style, and it is evident that Ansell is writing about an experience that he loved. His writing shows a great deal of knowledge of the countrysie of the Cambian mountains, and any wildlife lover will find this book very much to his or her tastes. Besides his keen interest in wildlife he shows us what life in solitary conditions is realy like. While many of us are aware that there are technical difficulties to solitary country living, he details the difficulties of having what is essentially a very old, run down cottage, though one must say that the estate to which it belonged was friendly and supportive.


The book does not tell us what emotional problems he experienced in his solitary life, but that may be because he wishes to focus on the wildlife side of his experience.He does tell us of the physical disease that drove him from his chosen existence after five years. Thus the personal experienceside of the book  is limited, and we do not find out much about his relationship with the female who gave him two children, with whom he now lives in his native Brighton. We do not discover anything much about how he earned his living during those five years, save some references to articles and occasional work for the estate.


The quality of description is high and makes the book well worth reading. Ansell shows a significant level of knowledge and high writing skills. This is a book that will be enjoyed by widllife enthusiasts. It is not a work that focuses much on the good life and how to live it. As such it is akin to " A Last Wild Place" by Mike Tomkiss, who also spent many years in a Scottish wilderness, and which is enjoyed by wildlife enthusiasts. It is a book that will be enjoyed by people with a taste for detailed information about wildlife observation.It is a pity that the book lacks photographs, and the only illustration is line drawing of the cottage and its immediate surrounds. There are no maps that would enable the reader to locate the cottage, though we can work out the broad area where it is located.


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August 16 2011 3 16 /08 /August /2011 07:49

Deforestation occurs when forests are destroyed, but are not replaced. There is an immediate effect on the flora and fauna, on the soil of forested lands, and a loss of some valuable resources such as sources of medicines.The wider effects include global warming, through the release of carbon dioxide, and flooding.


Deforestation facts

One definition of deforestation is the loss of forests when trees are extensively cut and are not replaced through the planting of new trees.

The primary cause is land-clearing for agriculture and logging. Rainforest logging causes problems because rain-forest soils are poor and only sustain fertility by a cycle of leaf and tree's fall and renewal. Eliminating the trees breaks the cycle and leaves the soil too poor for growth.

The result is a quick economic gain from having logs to sell. However, there is long term loss, as once the trees are felled, the land is of little economic use.

Habitat loss

Another problem is habitat loss and the consequent loss of biodiversity. Whole species can be eliminated. This matters, as the ecosystem is a complex web whose stability is sustained by biodiversity. The loss of any species is therefore, bad. Some plant species might be the source of useful antibiotics and other beneficial medicinal chemicals. So, losing these plants deprives humans of the ability to discover these chemicals. For example, chemicals from the now-extinct Madagascan periwinkle plant improved the survival rates of children suffering from leukaemia, from 20% to 80%.

Wider issues

Forests are the lungs of the planet. Trees draw carbon dioxide from the air. Much carbon dioxide is stored in the wood of a tree. If the tree is cut down, it cannot store this carbon dioxide. If the wood is burned, this gas is released.

Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that stores heat. As it rises in the atmosphere, more heat is trapped and the planet warms up. This can cause icecap melting and a rise in the sea level. This is not an argument against cutting trees, it is an argument for sustainable forestry whereby what is felled, is replaced.

The effect of deforestation includes flooding. For example, floods in Bangladesh have been worsened because deforestation has occurred in the Himalayas. Tree roots sustain water and release it gradually. If the tree roots are lost, rainwater runs off mountain slopes all at once. Massive amounts of water then, pour off the Himalayas too quickly for the river system and the flood defences to cope with.

Had there not been the deforestation of the mangrove swamps on the shores of Thailand, the tsunami's intensity could have been checked. Human lives could also have been saved.

Forest1 Deforestation in Newzealand (South Island: Tasman, Westcoast) | dateflooding
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July 19 2011 3 19 /07 /July /2011 07:51

Schools in the United Kingdom can apply for a range of grants to augment their income. These can come for a variety of purposes such as sports, skill development and equipment. They come from a range of sources in the UK and European Union, and there are several websites and other sources that provide details of these grants. This article delves deeper into this subject.

The purpose of grants

Funding for schools

While funding is provided by the state, schools may apply for grants for several purposes. These can be for equipment, building (either new or repairs), sports, events, I.C.T, health and environmental issues and special subject areas of interest to the granting body. There may be grants for teachers to undertake research or further training. There may also be grants for clothing, such as school uniform, which may help poorer parents to buy school uniform.

Who awards grants

Some grants come from national bodies. There can be grants from the National Lottery, Sport and Arts Councils. There can also be grants under the single regeneration budget, which aims to develop skills and employment opportunities.

There is a wide range of trust funds which operate in local areas, and there are charities such as the Foyle Foundation, which gives grants for the development of school libraries, and the National Tree Council. The British Ecological Society gives grants to make the teaching of ecology more interesting. The European Union provides some grants under the communities initiative.

Schools must meet the criteria for the grant-awarding body, and very few schools can fund a whole project on the basis of a grant. Most commonly small grants for the purchase of materials and for sports equipment among others, stand the highest chance of being funded in full.

Where to find information


There are several sources that can help schools to find grants. There is the Charities Aid Foundation Directory of Grant-making Trusts. Many are online such as Grants4schools, which is a subscription service. It is, however, comprehensive.

Governmentfunding.org.uk provides information about government grants. There are also Grantsonline.org.uk and Grantsnet.org.uk. There is Comenius in-service training, which provides grants for teachers to undertake further training to develop their skills and knowledge.

Religious organisations

Some grants are available through religious organisations. One is the Jerusalem Trust that exists to provide grants for the purpose of purchasing religious education materials.

European Union grants will be administered through the Directorate-General of Education and Culture, which can be accessed online. The website Welcome Europe (WE) can be helpful in dealing with European Union grants

the new mom is out for the first time in about 10 monthsEaglebrook School Archives, the 1980s
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May 6 2011 6 06 /05 /May /2011 10:08

Helping endangered animals involves understanding the causes, nature and extent of the danger that an animal species faces. Having established this, we must work out what the human contribution to the cause of the danger is. We must then work out what we can do to rectify the danger so that that the species is preserved.

Action with understanding

Understanding the causes of endangerment

We must make sure that we understand why a species is endangered.

Loss/destruction of habitat

Danger generally derives from loss of habitat, which means that food supplies, shelter and breeding opportunities become limited. Sometimes habitat problems are nothing to do with human activity. For example, koalas only eat eucalyptus leaves, so they are vulnerable to damage to that tree. Humans also contribute to destruction of habitat, for example in Borneo, where orang utans are under threat from logging and deforestation.

Understanding the human contribution

We have to determine what humans are doing and who is to blame.


We might identify problems of criminal activity, such as illegal logging. We might also find that the activity is legal in its own country, yet ethically wrong. The activities of irresponsible companies and governments will come to our attention.

Fur / ivory trade

The key to helping the animals is to locate the web of economic activities that are threatening them and determine that we will respond to it. This means identifying retail outlets that might be profiting from trade that threatens endangered species,, for instance trade of fur, ivory or crocodile skin.

Using our knowledge

Knowing that a species is threatened by human economic activity enables us to make purchasing decisions, refusing to buy from companies that endanger animals.

Boycotts/protests marches/petitions

We may join boycotts of some companies. However, we must also be vigilant so that materials from irresponsible companies do not slip in unnoticed. We must check the labels very carefully. We might also put pressure on irresponsible governments that tolerate danger to habitat (by swamping them with letters and petitions).


If you want to help to save animals, donate to animal charities working for endangered species. Some charities buy up areas of forest and keep them as reserves.


We need to be aware of companies that pollute the environment and pressurise them through a refusal to purchase from them. Some people might become shareholders and speak up at shareholder meetings against irresponsible policies.

Trade prevention

It is also important to prevent trade in endangered species. There is a problem with reptiles being smuggled into Europe as exotic pets, although they are totally unsuitable for this. We should discourage people from keeping these creatures as pets so that they can stay in their proper habitat.

Giant Tortoisegrumpy
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