Shiny Seas

Shiny Sea and Cloud, Wiseman's BridgeSpring has brought a nice combination of cloud and sun to the coast – as the photos show, great for glitter. The swell lines were also picked out by the sunlight, but there was almost no swell there to pick out, just smooth sea.

There had been a heavy rainstorm just before the photos – and that’s more evident in the picture lower down. Anyway, rather arty.

I read a review of The Uninhabitable Earth which recommended it so I bought it  on a cheap offer (6.99) – it’s a global warming ‘possible trajectories’ sort of book. So far, most interesting. Of course, it is very unlikely under any of the current scenarios that the earth would ever be uninhabitable, so the title is just hyperbole (or a sales gimmick). Two things stood out for me – one was the statement that 50% of all the carbon we’ve released has been in the last 30 years (wow, though that does cover the period of the rise of China, now the world’s biggest overall emitter, etc), the other was the hopelessness of the response so far (the book suggests that 3°C of heating is probably the most optimistic that we can now be). Most people are, perhaps, aware that 2°C has long been the limit of non-catastrophic climate change.

So much for the big points, the book is also good at getting at the finer detail of the difference between no warming, 2 degrees, 3 degrees and more. It points out one of the major dilemmas in tackling climate change – individuals generally won’t change their behaviour (get rid of the 4WD, walk to the shops, rarely catch a flight) because most people aren’t highly determined by an abstract or reflective view of  ‘what’s right’ but rather by what keeps up with the next door neighbours, amuses them, makes them feel OK, etc, so you’d think it was governmental action that would be key – but no government making the sort of actions we desperately need (fuel escalator set to high, flight taxes, carbon taxes, big subsidies for electric vehicles, more subsidies for public transport, etc) would get elected – prevented by these very same people. Evidently whatever policy would have to make sure that the poor don’t lose their access to transport while the rich can still afford to fill up, but it doesn’t look electable, especially given the gilets jaunes protests in Europe. All those modules I took in ethical theory were rather irrelevant, it turns out, most people don’t bother with ethics as such, whether utilitarian or of virtue, etc. Social solidarities and pragmatics seem far more important. Indeed, perhaps morality, as Nietzsche said, is just a Platonist / Christian thing and now getting long in the tooth. There are many curious psychological features of how people don’t deal with climate change – a rather too assertive and unevidenced denial, silly alternative theories (the ‘natural not humanly caused’ sort of thing), displacing the blame (‘it’s the governments job’), an smug assertion of inability to change anything in their lives (‘kids have to be taken to school’, etc).

Wiseman's Shiny SeaThe book has also pointed out the obvious oddity of people condemning their grandchildren, supposedly their beloved offspring, to a dangerous, perhaps lethal, world of super heatwaves, likely resource conflict and tropical diseases spreading north, just because they can’t give up frequent flights (though most people don’t fly that much, a few people fly very frequently) and are too lazy to walk to the shops…. Yes,  I know you, dear reader and member like me of the conscientious 10%, walk to the shops but most people don’t….

There is an obvious link between the shiny sea and global warming – the beach will mostly have disappeared even with just a couple of degrees of warming – well, 2°C will give us, eventually, six meters of sea rise according to footnotes 13 and 14 in the chapter on ‘drowning’. Well that would certainly mean, eventually (a bit after my lifespan I suspect since the sea level effect lags the temperature rise), no beach.

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Spring Tide Walks

low spring tide at the eastern end of Marros SandsAt low tide on the Spring Tide – occur at the equinoxes – it’s possible to walk on sand all the way to both Tenby in one direction and Pendine in the other. In both cases there are places where the gap between cliff and rock and sea is a mere few feet – even at low tide – so timing is important! It certainly gives you a different view of the coast walking on sand past headlands that are usual surrounded by water. The  narrow point in the Tenby direction is between Monkstone Point and Tenby North Beach, in the Pendine direction it’s just at the eastern end of Marros Beach (a wonderful and fairly remote two mile stretch of sand that has no road to it and is shut in at both ends by headlands). The picture shows the pinch point at the eastern end of Marros Beach – as you can see it isn’t possible to walk on sand even at low tide without wet feet and the water is deeper than you might think.

The low tide (0m) looks impressive – acres of usually seawater covered sand are revealed, including remains of old forests (because Carmarthen Bay was, until the end of the last ice age, wooded land) and a few hints of old wrecks (well, there’s apparently some bits of a schooner from the early Nineteenth Century at the eastern end of Marros Bay though there’s little enough now to see).

We walked to Pendine on sand and back along the new-ish Wales Coast Path – excellent, though quite hilly. The views over Marros Bay are impressive. A great place to escape the crowds for a quiet bathe on a hot summer’s day and a good place for a walk on a cool and drizzly one! The picture shows Marros Bay from the headland at the western end, the tide has now come in two thirds of the total amount. Those waves are very dribbly – the sand shelves very gently and I’d guess that it doesn’t produce a very good surfing wave, Amroth or Wiseman’s is a better bet I think. The headland is now impassible from sea level – though there are footpaths connecting the beach to the coast path so at the expense of a few hundred feet of climbing you can get out and in. Lots of violets and spring blossom. It’s a great place for gorse. Of course…

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Planting Fruit Trees, Herbs, etc

I planted five fruit trees today – there’s already a pear (that was crushed between clumps of bamboo, now liberated) and an old, and rather too high to harvest, apple. I wanted some favourites, but I also wanted a couple of Welsh varieties, something that might appreciate a good deal of rain. Although Pembrokeshire is sunnier than most of the UK, it is also wetter than most, and I’m not sure how the average apple tree will react. I guess they’ll be OK if the drainage is sufficient, which I reckon it is. So I’ve got a Bardsey apple (found in the ruins of a monastery on Bardsey – island off North Wales so well used to rain) and a Abergwyngregyn Damson – from the Menai Straits. They are maiden, one year old, trees. I’ve also got a Bountiful, a cooker/eater, just because I’ve seen that in my mum’s garden and it seems tough, productive and tasty. And I also got a Warwickshire Drooper, partly because of the name (!) but mainly because of the Plum Jam I got from Morville Hall Dower House garden last year – when I went to an open day. With both a funny name and a superb taste, plus an interesting drooping habit, it seems an obvious choice. Plus being a Midlander as I am, I liked the idea of something from the midlands. Oh, and a Doyenne de Comice pear, largely on the combined recommendations from Monty Don and Bob Flowerdew in their respective writings. Being maiden trees they aren’t going to fruit this year – they have no network of fruiting spurs – but delayed gratification is good for you.

I’m getting into planting herbs – the rosemary that sat in the yard in a tub for more than ten years has now got a place on a west facing wall, sheltered and in glorious sun, as it deserves. It’s just along from another rosemary that I took as a cutting from it a few years ago and itself has sat in a pot for a couple of years – already seems to be growing well (in Feb!) in its sunny spot. Thyme, parsley, salad burnet, winter savoury and germander are all in that same area, some in tubs. And the fruit bushes (redcurrants and blueberries) have gone in to their respective slots – blueberries in ericaceous compost tubs. Probably the birds will get them all… they are well located for netting them though.

I’ll add a photo soon. Ah have done. Hmm, the sticks look a bit big for the little trees – but they’ll do. The front one is the Bardsey and the back one is a Bountiful. Give it a year or two and I’ll post another one of them to show the changes.

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Just how far away is that dot on the sea’s edge…?

Snow on the GowerSnow on the Gower on a recent cold but clear day. This is only about 15 – 20 miles away – I didn’t imagine that it would be possible to see the coast of Devon from the coast of Pembrokeshire – but on a clear day you do get a bit of Devon and you can also see Lundy. This is only possible if you are on the cliff tops by Amroth – though from the beach you can see a very high bit of Exmoor, though you wouldn’t realise it unless you’d already seen the view from Amroth – it just looks like a very distant cloud or ship. They are certainly a long way off, but quite clear if there is decent visibility. I’ll try to get a picture sometime, my phone just produces an indistinct blur on the horizon.

Recently I’ve been doing a loop on my bike taking in Saundersfoot, Lamphrey (via National Cycle Route 4), Carew Castle, West Williamston, Cresswell Quay (a gorgeous location), and then more back lanes to Saundersfoot. A good winter ride. Cycle route 4 is a great route – certainly the bit around here – low traffic, quiet lanes, historic castles and some excellent cafe and pub possibilities. Google maps says it is about 25 miles, with about 1000′ of climbing (and so 1000′ of downhill too!). There’s usually other cyclists on this route – which is nice because after cycling the back lanes of Ilkley and Burnsall we got used to heaps of bike riders and it’s nice to see a few here too.

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Pembrokeshire Cycling, New Home

Camarthen Bay CloudAfter many a year in inner city Bradford, my job has recently come to an end and it seemed like a good time to move house to somewhere else, perhaps be a bit drastic (well, no, I haven’t moved to rural Slovakia or anything) so we’ve moved to Pembrokeshire. Quiet lanes, beaches, coastal walks, gorgeous woodland are a decent incentive, and if a job proves hard to get, well it is after all a great place to do nothing (oh, err, anyone want to employ, remotely (ah yes, VPN), a slightly used Java, etc, programmer, good with virtual learning environments, happy with databases, with Linux as standard?).

The wuthering will still go on since we’ve got more long distance cycling to do – Australia and the Adventure Cycling Northern Tier route both looks interesting, and lots more local rides to plan too. It has been rather wet but I’m trying to do a regular day where I cycle to the swimming pool and swim 2km, since it is 20km to the pool and back it turns out neatly to be 20km cycling and 2km swimming. On a short winter’s day with rain falling steadily that has proved to be about right! The area has plenty of castles, well that’s Wales for you, and so bike rides can easily incorporate romantic prospects – such as Laugharne Castle, Manorbier, Pembroke, etc. Since the coast is hilly, it’s possible to do a thousand feet of climbing just by going along the coast a bit and coming back. Great for the legs.

The photo is a view of Camarthen Bay with a nicely situated cloud. My phone camera is not that good, but in this case it has given a decent impressionism to the whole thing. Not much surf that day, but nicely glassy. The semi-circular line of rocks is interesting – it is marked on the tourist map of that bit of coast as volcanic, and it certainly looks like a wave of lava.

The one thing that’s very much missing is a decent folk club within walking distance. Anyone in Bradford should treasure the Topic Folk Club!

The various plants seen in the yard in Bradford are now located either here in Pembs or else at a staging post in Stoke-on-Trent. There seem to be enough to populate a decent sized garden so that they fitted into a yard in Bradford is impressive, though the neighbours called the yard ‘the jungle’ when it was at its height in Summer. The honeysuckles, clematis, jasmine and some assorted herbs remain in the borders of my old yard, so at least there’s a legacy of greenery to combat the gradual disappearance of habitats for birds in BD3.

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First Puncture on the Leeds-Bradford Bike Route

My first puncture on the Bradford – Leeds Superhighway, due to a 1″ nail. Didn’t look like a deliberate sabotage since there was only one nail, and I managed to run over it! Well someone had too and the bang it made when the tyre punctured was perhaps worth the trouble. So my hardshell gatorskin met its match, though it is a couple of year’s old now. Didn’t take long to throw in another tube, though I will mend the old one. I’ve been using the ‘superhighway’ for just over a year, on and off, and I can’t say usage has increased at all as far as I can tell. It’s generally lightly used in Bradford, more heavily used during the rush hour in Leeds. Most people don’t cycle and Bradford is a tough place to start. Superhigway is a misnomer, it’s a discontinuous strip of tarmac alongside a roaring mass of metal and fumes. Miss Marple would not venture forth. The Thornbury area usually has some parked cars in the cycle superhighway just for extras!

I’m always amused by the people that walk in the cycle way while staring at their phone and listening to music on their headphone. These are people with a serious disconnection problem, though they think they are super connected. In my current Jean Giono book, Les Trois Arbres de Palzem, he predicts the failure of cinema and television in favour of the livre de poche, the paperback suited to the pocket, on the grounds that TV and cinema don’t engage the imagination in the way that a book does, that they are very rarely works of genius in the way that a book can be when it meets with a receptive mind. The reason he gives for this is that films are made in a compressed bit of time, they lack the leisure and time that goes into a book. Well, it’s debatable but he was a film maker so perhaps he should know. He’s probably right in that livre de poche has surely done far more good to the world than the TV and cinema, which  are, of course, just Plato’s cave and its misdirection all over again. Ah, but what about Antiques Roadshow, Wildlife Programming, etc? Wildlife programming is interesting since it usually delights in an exotic pristine environment far away and is precisely the sort of misdirection that the TV specialises in. If only it showed the desperate plight of the birds of BD3, with an ever decreasing habitat, as wasteland is in-filled and a yard is where  you park your car, and the few large trees getting ever fewer…  I think we’ll jet off to a National Park in Malaysia…

The wickedness of diesel is ever more apparent – amongst this week’s stories there was a medical report about the correlation between particulate air pollution and Alzheimers. It is, of course, difficult to prove that the first caused the second. One snag about the bike route is that it parallels a very busy road and so the cyclist does get hit by a fair amount of air pollution at rush hour. At least a bike rider is likely to notice the stink, whereas in a car with the air freshener making the driver think of woodland glades s/he may be completely oblivious to what’s going on in his/her lungs.

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The Bees Favourite…

bee and agastacheAgastache is a favourite with bees. There are some modestly popular cultivars, such as Mosquito Plant (doesn’t sound as good does it?) and Anise Hyssop. They are good for making herbal tea from the leaves. It’s worth planting just for the pleasure of seeing a parade of bees visit it. It’s on a par with bergamot for bees. Most of the bees visiting my agastache are not honey bees, and I imagine there are no hives very near (though perhaps the local allotments about a mile away have some). There are plenty of buff tailed and quite a few small dark bees. The neighbours have worried about whether they will sting, but this is, of course, very unlikely. They are no effectively no risk at all to us, whereas the human overpopulation is slowly killing them off with loss of habitat (as the concrete spreads over our local patch of rough ground!), loss of forage (agastache, etc), and disease spread by human’s wandering from continent to continent at an historically unprecendented rate. So plant some agastache, it will help to stop colonies dying out. But above all plant it because of the pleasure that bee watching and identifying should bring to you.

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Climb Every Mountain

view from langbar over bolton abbeyThis was the view from the third big climb in my ride last Sunday. It is the now familiar route taking in the Moor above Fewston Reservoir, Blubberhouses Moor (Côte de Blubberhouses since the Tour de France), Langbar Moor above Ilkley, then Ilkley Moor. Delightful, and must be about 50 miles or so long since I start at Menston and end at Bingley (commuter pass means I don’t need to endlessly cycle the dull corridor out of Bradford). Google maps amazes me by saying that the route includes 4000′ of climbing, well I guess that’s probably true.

The route is mostly quiet roads, though there’s a little bit of the A59 downhill, mostly, from the top of Blubberhouses. The ride ended up at the Welsh Society Evening Service at the Methodist Chapel in Bingley. What better language to sing lustily in than Welsh? Even if you don’t have any Welsh…

The bergamot has bloomed and the bees have expressed their preference. Bee balm it is. Though the Bishop of Llandaff comes in second, so a single dahlia is evidently a pleasure not just to the gardener but to the bee.

The Bishop of Llandaff may be gorgeous, but my reading is about the wonderful Bishop of Oxford (and other Sees), Charles Gore. Prestige’s book on Gore is a great traverse across a large chunk of nineteenth century history. It has at least one good effect, that of making the reader aware that if you thought the contemporary church was unique in its divided, struggling character, then you would be very wrong. Gore had little sense of success as a bishop, having failed quite to bring about the turn to the credal and gospel roots of faith that he had hoped for. Nevertheless, he gives a model of belief that is as valuable today as then. Charitable for the most part, thoughtful, faithful, free of the materialism of his age, free of being posbish of llandaffsessed by comfort and wealth, committed to living a gospel that was for the poor at least as much for the rich (‘The Christian Social Union’), escaping from narrow church party  politics so he could work with anyone who shared his practical and theological aims, he exemplifies much that is the best amongst Anglican bishops. He reached a point of despair over discipline though. How do you tell a clergyman (it was men in those days) not to use forms of liturgy that are theologically, very likely legally, wrong for the Anglican Church? A united front amongst bishops failed to materialise and Gore was enraged by clergy who knowingly flouted the rules he tried to impose on Oxford diocese, particularly over the reservation of the sacrament. There is some evidence, reading Prestige, that Gore wasn’t the best person for diplomatic handling of difficult situations. Gore failed to keep the monks of Caldey Island within the Anglican church, Gore publically requiring as a minimum a list of things that the monks of Caldey regarded as well beyond their maximum! Yet Gore had been in dialogue with them, had visited them; did he think they would accept episcopal weight? It may be, though, that no-one was likely to succeed with that particular situation and Gore was moved by exasperation! Although a liberal catholic, and therefore willing to make faith understandable in modern terms while remaining faithful to the creeds and councils, Gore campaigned against contraception. His reasons were the familiar ones to do with the point of procreation, written in nature by God. He also had an uneasy awareness of how sex and marriage might come apart further if contraception was easily available. His campaign looks, with the benefits of hindsight, utterly without hope of success. This was, of course, before the pill. His understanding of nature was, writing in the 1920s, innocent of the complexities of Darwinian theory or a sense of just how incredibly varied and complex nature is. The wider problem of holding a very disparate communion together remains, perhaps particularly within England, except now we’ve all got used to it. Preaching by untrained laity (though the worst sermon I ever heard was from a Dean!), poorly structured and with a highly questionable content, services that don’t quite make sense liturgically, and so on, are quite familiar situations. The book borders on some big questions – liberty and discipline in the church, faith and politics (in the early days of socialism), how far do you have to believe the creeds to belong / represent, at what point does identity dissolve in anarchy? At least he left a legacy – foremost amongst which, the Community of the Resurrection, as found in West Yorkshire….

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Gardening Competitions!

The yard is blooming, as it should do in late June. In the photo you can see the following in bloom – fuchsias, roses, feverfew, geraniums, honeysuckle. You can’t quite see the sweet peas that are just starting to bloom on the railings. The feverfew, in two different forms, has self seeded widely. There’s one variety with a big yellow centre, and another that’s almost entirely white with a tiny centre. The roses are a bit difficult to see, and are Munstead Wood roses from David Austin down in Albrighton. They are a superb rose, having lots of scent, a gorgeous purpley red colour, and a nice variation of form as they go from a tight bud to, by the end, a fairly open form. The other roses are starting to flower too, notably the Golden Celebration, which does have a particularly good rose scent. The honeysuckle is easy to see and is the bees favourite. This year even more than previously, it is absolutely covered in bees. The rough ground nearby is being built on so they are probably starving for food. The bees vary – but very few honey bees are present, it’s particulary buff tailed and small black bees. For areas with a lot of social housing, you need a social plan for ecology, community gardening areas. Perhaps a flat should come with a plant to look after. The mint won’t be allowed to flower since I need it for my tea: apple, pineapple, eau-de-cologne and peppermint mints. The lemon balm is having a good year, and similarly won’t get to flower until late in the year, if at all since it’s great in tea, along with the lemon verbena that survived the winter (surrounded by water bottles to stop it freezing, worked well).

There is a BD3 gardening competition, which is a great idea. I haven’t noticed many people doing very much with their yards around here, though there are one or two bit of veg and some impressive large shrubs / small trees. Along Leeds Old Road there are a few impressive front gardens to terraces, hanging baskets and blooms looking great. To conclude, a Munstead Wood rose…

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More Moors, Commuting by Bike

the orchard at hidcoteCycling from Menston to Bingley via Burnsall was hot and sticky a couple of Sunday’s ago. I decided to do four moors, so across the moor above Otley – Stainburn Moor – then Blubberhouses Moor (on the Bridleway), then along up to Burnsall, then back down to Bolton Abbey and then over Langbar (Langbar Moor?), then down into Ilkley and then up and over Ilkley Moor. The route reaches around about 1000′ four times and is about 50 miles. It’s gorgeous on a hot day. The woods around Bolton Abbey were looking wonderful, spring green and bluebells, with wild garlic starting to go over. Not many cyclists on that route, though a procession of old tractors was gladdening the back road from Burnsall to Bolton Abbey.

[Later... this has become a standard route - Bingley to Bingley via Burnsall, doing Ilkley Moor twice and Langbar moor once. A quiet route mostly, and very little other than lanes so feels quite safe.]

Yet more cycling on the bike path between Leeds and Bradford. Some drivers ignore all pedestrian crossings, whether there’s someone there or not, which explains the bunches of flowers that occasionally decorate even the light controlled crossings. The green man has ceased to be sacrosanct, many drivers ignore the red light and in spite of the pedestrian deaths it evidently isn’t a police priority. It’s curious but I’m possibly safer on a bike than walking! Pedestrians have to cross side roads at least and there’s fairly little respect and kindliness on the roads, especially during the commute.

An argument against commuting by car is that it does bad things to your attitude to other people, the endless pushing in and cutting up surely get into your bloodstream eventually. It is now Bike Week, not that the numbers on the bike route to Leeds have increased. The cycle superhighway from Bradford to Leeds certainly requires patience… pressing buttons and waiting… Mass cycling culture in the UK? As I cycle past the line of mobile phone using, red light running, one-person in a car enjoying their media with diesel fumes pumping car drivers, it’s evidently a long way off. The Antarctic will melt before we get there. More hopeful is mandatory electric vehicles and the end of humans doing the driving.

The photo is the orchard at Hidcote in Gloucs. BD3′s gardening festival is coming up so even more reason to visit inspiring gardens (even if it is about 100000 x bigger than my yard) It is a wonderful garden even if you only garden in a tiny space. It certainly shows how a ‘garden room’ can be imaginatively planted for beautiful contrasts, symmetries, focal points and a sense of sanctuary. The orchard has a lovely sense of being a big shaggy and wild, though I’m sure it produces a great deal of fruit. It would be great to grow an apple tree in a Bradford yard, but all I have at the moment are strawberries, mostly alpine. Lots of things about to flower – roses, honeysuckle and sweet peas in particular. Perhaps that’ll bring in a few more bees, I’m sure I had more last year. The long winter may have reduced their numbers.

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