Category Archives: Miscellania

Lampreys return to North East England as water quality improves

A species  of rare and protected fish has been spotted in the region’s rivers following improvements in river water quality.

The Environment Agency, working with local angling groups and Natural England, has been surveying North-East rivers searching for Lamprey.

So far one spawning site on the River Wear and a total of 20 adult sea lampreys have been counted.

In North Yorkshire, Natural England has a project underway in search for sea lampreys on the River Ouse.

River and sea lampreys are also expected to return to spawning grounds on the lower River Wharfe, Swale, Nidd and Ure.

Experts say the rare, jawless fish are a good indication of the high quality of the river water and scientists are continuing to search for more lampreys on the Wear and the Ouse river catchments.

Paul Frear, Environment Agency fisheries officer, said:

“We welcome the return of the lampreys back to Yorkshire and the North East. The lampreys are like swallows. They return to the same spot to spawn within the same few days every year.

“These illusive fish are extremely selective with their spawning sites and will only nest where the water quality is good. Their appearance is a ringing endorsement of the water quality in these areas.”

Scientists say lamprey are extremely unusual. The most primitive fish in the world, it uses its mouth like a suction-cup to attach itself to the skin of a fish and rasp away tissue with its sharp probing tongue and teeth.

They outwardly resemble eels because they have no scales and an adult lamprey can range anywhere from 13cm to 100cm. They have large eyes, one nostril on the top of their heads, and seven gill pores on each side.

Claire Horseman, from Natural England, said:

 “We are hoping that the lamprey projects being undertaken by Natural England and the Environment Agency will help us better understand the migratory behaviour of these primitive species and the challenges that they face along their migratory route. With this increased understanding we can work towards restoring lamprey populations to their former status.”

During the Middle Ages lampreys were widely eaten by the upper classes throughout Europe, especially during fasting periods, because their taste is much meatier than that of other fish.

The deaths of two English kings,  Henry I and John, are said to have been from overindulging on the fish.

Source ; http://northstar.boards.net/thread/218/lamprey-return-region-quality-improves

A&A forum banner

Leave a comment

Filed under Miscellania

Crowdfunding appeal to save the Greek economy

An ambitious bid to solve the Greek debt crisis via a crowdfunding website has attracted more than £200,000 of donations in two days.

Thom Feeney  has set up the campaign to raise €1.6bn to save the Greek economy on the IndieGoGo site, and is appealing for Europeans to donate a few Euros each.

Mr Feeney, 29, said:

“All this dithering over Greece is getting boring. European ministers flexing their muscles and posturing over whether they can help the Greek people or not.

“Why don’t we the people just sort it instead?

“The European Union is home to 503 million people, if we all just chip in a few Euro then we can get Greece sorted and hopefully get them back on track soon. Easy.”

Mr Feeney has promised a range of treats for people who pledge their support, from a €3 postcard of Greek Prime Minister Alex Tsipiras sent from Greece; a €20 bottle of Greek wine; a €5,000 Greek holiday or “a lot of gratitude from citizens of Europe and particularly the Greek people” for donations of €1m.

Full story : http://northstar.boards.net/thread/156/crowdfunding-appeal-save-greek-economy

A&A forum banner

Leave a comment

Filed under Miscellania

Mysterious hoard baffles cathedral experts

The discovery of a forgotten time capsule has baffled history buffs at Durham Cathedral.

Workmen dismantling a Victorian bookcase to make way for a new door were surprised to find two newspapers from 1880 hidden under the base – and names written on the timbers in pencil.

The discovery has puzzled historians who believed the towering bookcases were installed when the stunning Monks’ Dormitory was opened in the 1850s.

Cathedral archaeologist Norman Emery now believes the Dormitory, a library, may have been extended at a later date.

But even that theory raises questions, as Mr Emery explained:

“Perhaps the library was extended at a later date and the new bookcases made as exact copies of the existing ones, but they appear to me to have all been made at the same time, which is baffling.”

Meanwhile, Mr Emery and colleagues are investigating the graffiti, bearing the names John Milbanke, believed to have been a Victorian builder and joiner from Church Street, Durham, and Robert Robson , a builder, mayor, alderman and justice of the peace whose eldest son served as the cathedral’s clerk of works.

The newspapers unearthed were the Newcastle Daily Chronicle of July 13, 1880, and the London Weekly Times of June 17, 1880.

Stories of the day included parliamentary debates, imperial affairs and a Sunderland manslaughter trial, all featured alongside adverts for assorted miracle cures and agricultural show results.

The Times carries a name and address written in ink across the centre page: Mr R Yelloby, Berwick on Tweed.

“It would be fascinating to know the link between this man and the man who ended up with the newspaper,” Mr Emery said.

The mysterious find follows the discovery of Roman pottery and a single pre-historic flint under the cathedral’s Great Kitchen in April.

The cathedral is undergoing major renovation as part of the £10m Open Treasure programme, which will see the creation of a world-class exhibition space capable of hosting priceless artefacts from the cathedral’s collections and across the world.

For more information, visit durhamcathedral.co.uk/open-treasure

Source –  Durham Times,  30 Oct 2014

.

A&A forum banner

Leave a comment

Filed under Miscellania

Seaside Surrealism

The New English Landscape

Studland Bay_001

Studland Bay, Isle of Purbeck (2011)

Towards the end of a cycling holiday in Dorset and Somerset some years ago, our small group spent the last night at Castle Corfe, arriving in heavy rain. The morning after was perfect sunshine and the castle itself appeared like something from a fairy tale. Further visual derangement was to come. Piling the bikes in the guard’s van of the early morning steam train to the nearby seaside resort of Swanage, we discovered the carriages teeming with vintage train enthusiasts celebrating a local railway anniversary, as well as crowds of Morris Men, many blacked-up and covered in ribbons and bells, attending an international folk dance festival. The whole morning was like an extended scene from a 1950s film by Powell & Pressburger.

At the time none of us appreciated that Swanage and the Purbeck peninsula was the home ground of English surrealism. This was…

View original post 461 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Miscellania

First recorded trainspotter was a 14-year old girl

It may come as a shock to most people’s preconceptions – but it seems the very first trainspotter belonged to an age when the anorak hadn’t even been heard of.

In fact the modern stereotype of a true ‘spotter couldn’t be further from the origins of the oft-maligned hobby, according to research by experts at the National Railway Museum.

As the York museum prepares for a special Trainspotting season, its team has come across a reference to a trainspotter that dates back as far as 1861.

 And the person who was recording locomotive numbers as they passed a station in London, was not a man clad in an anorak, but a teenage girl named Fanny Johnson.

The 14-year-old’s notebook about Great Western locos passing Westbourne Park station in 1861, is referenced in a 1935 article in the GWR magazine, and is the earliest evidence found to date of trainspotting, the collecting of locomotive numbers.

Associate curator Bob Gwynne said: “This is exciting because trainspotting is perceived largely to be a 20th century hobby for men, although railway enthusiasm has existed as long as the railways itself.

“This mention of a notebook titled ‘Names of Engines on the Great Western that I have Seen’ turns this stereotype on its head.”

 He added: “The hobby of taking numbers is often thought to originate with the ‘ABC books’ first printed in 1942. However it is clear that ‘spotting certainly started much earlier than that. We would just love it if someone had Fanny Johnson’s journal and was prepared to show it to us.”

The researchers came across the reference in advance of the museum’s Trainspotting season, which will run from September 26 to the beginning of March.

It will explore what was once a very common hobby. Among those involved is Yorkshire-based poet and broadcaster Ian McMillan.

Trains are my second home and my office space, my thinking room and my window on the world, so I’m really happy to be associated with this wonderful project,” he said.

With trainspotting being firmly lodged in the nation’s psyche as an activity for men clutching notebooks on station platforms, the museum plans to challenge people’s perceptions through a full programme of events and activities.

A new art commission by acclaimed artist Andrew Cross will use a blend of personal and archival material, revealing trainspotting histories which “connect time, place and memory” while a major new filmwork will feature footage from the UK, America and mainland Europe.

Source – Northern Echo,  27 Aug 2014

 

A&A forum banner

Leave a comment

Filed under Miscellania

Off the map study by Newcastle University professor highlights secret places

In a city whose story goes back to the Roman occupation there will be many little-known nooks and crannies left behind by history.

From the vampire rabbit opposite St Nicholas Cathedral in Newcastle to the “plaguey burial ground” at Byker, there would seem to be no spot left undiscovered.

But Alastair Bonnett, professor of social geography at Newcastle University, has laid claim to one.

He came across the city’s “lost island” on his journey to work from his home in Heaton.

The discovery led him to clamber over the barriers on the Central Motorway East – at a quiet time, it has to be said – to investigate.

His destination was a wooded, triangular piece of land left marooned by the building of the motorway and its slip roads in 1975.

Since then, the island has remained unregarded and unnoticed by the thousands who drive past it each day.

“These places are easily ignored, but once you start noticing any particular one it can start to exert a queasy fascination,” says Prof Bonnett.

It’s as if you are seeing a landscape that is invisible to everyone else.

Could I claim this island, become a 30-minute Crusoe amid the din?

Having reached his island, Prof Bonnett found a mix of maple and alder trees and self-seeded shrubbery.

His excursion was part of his interest in an age when Google Earth would suggest that every discovery has been made and every adventure had.

Not so, says Prof Bonnett, who provides the evidence in his new book Off the Map, from Aurum Press at £16.99.

In the book he explores 47 places across the world – and the island on his doorstep – which qualify as being off the map.

It will all be included in his talk on maps and the imagination at the Edinburgh International Book Fair on August 19.

Part of Prof Bonnett’s argument is that places matter to people – where they come from and where they live.

We are, he says, a place-making, place-loving species.

What makes your place special – its diversity and character – is important.

But paradoxically, says Prof Bonnett, was as well as the attraction to place there is also the human need to explore, to discover the new.

That manifests itself from the great voyages of discovery over the centuries to the carrot of exotic destinations dangled by the travel industry.

Our fascination with the hidden, the lost, the secret and mystery is evidenced by the obligatory use of the words in the titles of a certain type of TV programme.

We can develop intense relationships with places,” says Prof Bonnett.

But I have been increasingly concerned about how our sense of exploration and relationship to place has withered away as more places become similar and every high street has the same shops.”

One of the main components of character and specialness is evidence of heritage and history.

When you get rid of the past, it’s like a form of ideological cleansing, where only one vision survives,” says Prof Bonnett.

He is originally from Essex and moved to Newcastle in 1993.

He says: “ I saw that in Newcastle a very distinctive identity and culture had survived, and it was one of the inspirations for the book. The North East has been through the same process as everywhere else, but nevertheless it has retained something special.

“It’s a good place to write a book about the importance of a sense of place.”

Prof Bonnett’s list of Off the Map places includes:

The island of New Moore, which emerged in the Bay of Bengal as a cyclone washed material down rivers into the sea.

It was claimed by both India and Bangladesh. India stationed troops on it in 1981 and erected a flag pole.

But before the arguments could start the island sank beneath the waves.

Zheleznogorsk, 2,200 miles east of Moscow, was established in 1950 to make nuclear weapons. It did not appear on maps and was referred to by a PO box number.

It was only in 1992 that its existence was officially confirmed and entry is still highly restricted.

Derinkuyu, Turkey. A chamber was revealed when a wall gave way.

It led to the discovery of underground rooms large enough to house 30,000 people, wine and oil presses, stables, food halls, a church and staircases, all built it is believed by early Christians living in what was a lawless area.

North cemetery in Manila and the City of the Dead in Cairo. Both are home to thousands who have moved in among the tombs.

North Sentinel Island, 800 miles to the east of India, which has no natural harbour and is surrounded by reefs and rough seas.

The five-mile wide island is home to a tribe of around 100 who fire arrows at anyone who attempts to come close.

Wittenoom in Western Australia, whose only industry was a blue asbestos mine.

The town of 20,000 officially ceased to exist in 2007 because of the levels of contamination.

Kjong-dong in North Korea – a fake place where lights go on and off in tower bocks with no glass in the windows.

There are no residents or visitors. The blocks were built to suggest North Korea’s progress and modernity and to lure defectors from South Korea.

Source – Newcastle Journal,  13 Aug 2014

.

A&A forum banner

Leave a comment

Filed under Miscellania

North East parks are our ‘Natural Health Service’

UNEMPLOYED IN TYNE & WEAR

It’s called the Natural Health Service – and sums up the therapeutic benefits flowing from green spaces and contact with wildlife.

Nature is good for us. This is something that we intuitively know, and for which there is mounting evidence,” says Northumberland Wildlife Trust chief executive Mike Pratt.

Stroll through a nature reserve, or just watch wildlife from your window – all contribute to our physical, mental and emotional well being.”

For many urban dwellers, it is parks which offer a link to the natural world.

Many people talk about “the other NHS” – the alternative and preventative health benefits that nature provided for free,” says Mike.

After all, we are animals and are intrinsically linked to the ecosystem and life support provided through the surrounding environment.

“So it’s no surprise that we feel better when we interact with wildlife, and enjoy…

View original post 1,112 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Miscellania