Tuesday, 2 June 2009

New plants growing in the wood

Thanks to people on the Wild About Britain forums who helped ID these. First, a Heath Speedwell, which has started appearing in various places in the coupe we cut in 2007/08, which has tiny but pretty flowers:
Next is Scarlet Pimpernel, which is growing in the wayleave just outside the wood. Apparently it likes growing in disturbed ground, so no surprise it's where the tractor was driving with the oak thinnings just over a year ago:
And down at the other end of the wayleave, near the gate, is Ragged Robin, growing where there's a seasonal pond in the winter:
Also in the coupe are more common plants, but still good to see as they weren't there a couple of years ago, like Dock and Nettle:
Oh, and the bluebells are getting ready to scatter their seed now:
We're pleased to see so much new stuff growing in the coupe we cut in 2007/08, and as we're going to keep the rides cut back, much of what's there should be able to establish itself.


Click here to read the rest of this post.

Monday, 1 June 2009

Rhododendron killing

On Sunday I went to the wood to check on our trail camera (still nothing interesting...), but also dealt with this while I was there:After half an hour's work with loppers, an axe and a spade, I was left with this:
It's important to remove rhododendron wherever you find it in a wood, as it's an invasive non-native species, and can take over if left to itself. I know I didn't get all the roots out for this one (which is in the wayleave), but will check back over the coming months for any shoots indicating the presence of roots to be removed.

In the evening we went down to the beach with our friends John and Helen, after the crazy crowds had gone. They'd left their litter though:
Mind you, the gulls didn't mind - lots of scraps for them to eat. I think someone must come and clean the mess up each morning, otherwise it'd be several feet deep by now...

There were still some people flying kites, this one looked cool:
But not as cool as this Great Black-backed Gull:As sunset approached the beach emptied of people
and we were left with the moon overhead
and the sun setting over the dunes
but now it's back to work, which is very busy for both of us over the coming two weeks.


Click here to read the rest of this post.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

A couple of hours in the sun

Today we went to the wood and helped Butterfly Conservation in their survey of this year's migration of Painted Lady butterflies, which is the biggest for many years.
This involved sitting at the edge of the wayleave from 11:00-13:00
and counting all the Painted Ladies that flew across in front of us - they're going the same way, as they migrate North.
In all, we saw 77 in the two hours! We saw other cool insects as well, such as this damselfly:
and various dragonflies:
The other thing we were doing in the wood was checking the trail camera we'd left by the badger sett last night, but there was nothing apart from a video of me walking away from the camera and coming back to it! We've set it up again in a different place and with different sensitivity settings, so we'll see what we get... Anyway, I did at least get a nice photo of the moon last night:

Click here to read the rest of this post.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Ashden Awards Imperial College conference - 10 June 2009

There are still a few spaces available at this event (which I'm in charge of), so if you'd like to come, please send your name, organisation and email address to me at: conference@ashdenawards.org

Local solutions to climate change
The Ashden Awards Imperial College Conference

10 June 2009

The conference will bring the achievements of the 2009 International and UK Ashden Awards finalists to a specialist audience of practitioners, academics and students with a practical interest in sustainable energy. We will show short films about each finalist’s work, and then you will hear from them in person, talking about what has made their work so successful. With Q&As built into each session, and time during breaks to meet the finalists, there are ample opportunities to find out what you really want to know.

The Ashden Awards promote the widespread use of local, sustainable energy which can address climate change, alleviate poverty and improve quality of life. Find out more about us and our work at www.ashdenawards.org

We are delighted to be running this conference in partnership with Imperial College, London, and we are most grateful for significant support from the Faculty of Natural Sciences.

There is no charge for the conference or lunch, but numbers are limited, so please confirm names, positions and email addresses of people attending, by email to conference@ashdenawards.org. If you subsequently find that you are unable to attend, please let us know so that your place can be offered to someone else. The lunch provided will cater for vegetarians; if you have any other dietary requirements, please mention them when you confirm attendance.


09:30 Registration and refreshments

10:00 Welcome and introduction to the day
Professor Sir Brian Hoskins, Director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change, Imperial College

10:10 Session 1: Buildings for the future

  • Jonathan Hines (Architype, UK) Reducing energy demand through people-focused building design
  • Vincent Stauffer (GERES, India) Solar greenhouses producing fresh vegetables in the Himalayan winter
  • Questions

10:50 Session 2: Green energy businesses
  • Max Lacayo Cortes (ECAMI, Nicaragua) Supporting rural development with photovoltaic power systems
  • Abasi Kazibwe Musisi (Kampala Jellitone Suppliers, Uganda) Agricultural residues fuelling industries and institutions
  • Patrick Sherriff (Geothermal International, UK) Design and installation of ground source heating and cooling systems for the commercial sector
  • Questions
  • Refreshments

12:15 Session 3: Mobilising communities
  • Samson Tsegeye (Solar Energy Foundation, Ethiopia) Bringing affordable photovoltaic lighting to communities
  • Melanie Sealey (Devon County Council, UK) Renewable Energy 4 Devon: generating employment by supporting renewable energy businesses and customers
  • Richard Davies (MEA, UK) Motivating communities to reduce carbon emissions
  • Questions
  • Lunch

14:00 Session 4: Radical carbon cuts
  • John Doggart (Sustainable Energy Academy, UK) Old Home Superhome: Inspiring people to retrofit through practical exemplars
  • Vivek Gupta (Saran Renewable Energy, India) Replacing diesel generators with biomass gasification systems
  • Richard Dunne (Ashley C of E Primary School, UK) Antarctic expedition inspires carbon saving at a primary school
  • Questions
  • Refreshments

15:30 Session 5: Scaling up
  • Phil Webber (Kirklees Council, UK) Rolling out insulation across a large metropolitan borough
  • Dean Still (Aprovecho Research Center and Shengzhou Stove Manufacturer, USA/China) Mass production of efficient fuelwood stoves
  • Amitabha Sadangi (IDEI, India) Treadle pumps increasing income and quality of life for poor farmers
  • Questions
  • Closing presentation and networking time

Click here to read the rest of this post.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

A new badger sett

Tracy was up in the woods today with a friend, and in Sweep Wood they found what appears to be a new badger sett:
Seeing as our shiny new infra-red trail camera has arrived this week, we're hoping to go and set it up tomorrow night to watch this location and see if we can get some pictures.


Click here to read the rest of this post.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Nesting Great Tits, a singing Robin and a foraging Blackbird

The highlight of this weekend was on Saturday, when we found a family of Great Tits using the nesting box we'd put up in late February. The disappointment was going back on Sunday with the camera tripod to try and get some better pictures and finding that the youngsters had all left the nest! We weren't too surprised though, as looking back at the pictures it was clear that the chicks already had all their feathers - here's one poking his head out of the box:
and here's a parent checking it's safe before revealing the location of the nest (though the box kind of gives it away to humans...):
Baby says "hurry up with my food!":
And here it is in four quick photos: arrive, in, out, and away:And if you'd rather see it in video...

While I was waiting to get video of the Great Tits, I also got a little bit of a blackbird foraging:

These weren't the only birds in the wood though. Our little friendly Robin (we call him Rob, predictably) was guarding our camp as usual:
But he was very obliging and also sang for us:
here's a video of him alternately singing and preening:

Last but not least, we saw where a woodpecker has been working at a dead branch in an oak near the entrance to our wood (this is why dead wood up a tree is important!):As you can see, they're not big enough holes to nest in yet, but we'll see how they develop over the years...


Click here to read the rest of this post.

Woodgas camp stove demo

You may have noticed in some recent posts that we've got a fancy new stove to use at the wood - well, here's a demo video of how it works. (Still pictures and a text explanation are below)

It's a WoodGas CampStove XL. What it does is "gasify" the wood, burning the gas produced in an efficient manner right under the cooking pot. Basically there's a cylinder inside it that you fill with small sticks:
If you look carefully you'll see some small holes at the base of this cylinder - these allow in a small amount of air to gasify the wood. Gasification means allowing the wood to partially burn, resulting in a mixture of gases, including hydrogen, methane and carbon monoxide (so don't use it indoors). These are all flammable gases, and as they rise up the inside of the stove they meet with more air injected through a ring of holes at the top of it:
The gas mixes with this additional air and burns. Right above it sits your cooking pot, resting on a simple but effective pot stand:
The air is drawn in through holes around the the outside of the base of the stove, which encloses a small fan. In the picture below you can see the two power sockets for the fan (high and low speed), and the air inlet holes:
The battery pack contains two AA rechargeable batteries (I reckon my 3200mAh batteries will run it for over 15 hours), and you plug it into the high or low speed socket depending on how much heat you want out of the stove:


Click here to read the rest of this post.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

More bats in the wood

Earlier this week we went up to the wood for dinner with our friends John and Helen, who live just opposite us. After dinner we settled round the camp fire and once it was dark got the bat detector out. We heard and saw far more bats than last time, we think there were at least three at once feeding in the coupe we cut two years ago. Perhaps there are more insects there than in other parts of the wood? Or maybe it's just easier to hunt there, with fewer large trees in the way at the moment?

Anyway, here's a video. You might want to watch it in high quality mode, so it will take a bit longer to download, but if you look carefully you'll see the bats silhouetted against the fading light in the sky - watch out for them when the bat box is making more noise.

Talking of night-flying creatures, we also saw three Puss Moths outside our front door, two of them mating:

That's all for now, but we have some exciting news about the bird box we put up coming shortly...


Click here to read the rest of this post.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

King Canute of Camber

You may have heard of the (mythical?) story of King Canute (or Cnut), who had his throne set on the beach and commanded the tide to stop where it was - he got wet. Well, we have a similar thing going on in Camber. Between the village and the sea are large sand dunes, which keep the sea out but are also hard work to walk over. Because the beach is popular, the council uses diggers to clear sand out of the paths over the dunes:
The only problem is that as soon as they've done it, the wind picks up and literally within 24-48 hours the sand is all back where it started! You can see the wind carrying it over the dunes here (that's not mist, it's airborne sand):
So they expend lots of money and fossil fuels moving the the sand back onto the beach, and the wind moves it back onto the dunes for free! Isn't nature great, and people stupid?


Click here to read the rest of this post.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009


... is the name of the mystery flower. Thanks to Sean for the tip. The only puzzling thing is it has too many petals, but the leaves are definitely right. A hybrid perhaps? Here it is again:
I wasn't around last weekend, hence the lack of new photos from the wood. We did pop up briefly on Monday night, but that was just to take some materials for track repair. We'll be doing this again on Thursday I think. We're trying to fill in some of the tractor ruts in the wood so that when we eventually get our land rover we'll be able to drive right through!


Click here to read the rest of this post.