Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Bellingham Walk and Memories From 1988

Despite the rain and a dreary wet forecast we decided on a walk from the campsite at Boe Rigg to the village of Bellingham and then up to Hareshaw Linn, returning to Boe Rigg via footpaths to the north of the village. Don't expect many pics mind, it was too grey and miserable most of the time.

The first mile took us along the main road, before branching off and heading alongside the north Tyne to the centre of the village. The last time I was in Bellingham was 25 years ago and Pan Am flight 103 had just been blown up over Lockerbie. Ten days of searching Kielder Forest and the hills west towards Lockerbie for wreckage was tempered by the friendly welcome and hospitality we received from the locals.

01M-6885 Pan Am 103 Incident Room Bellingham Copyright David Forster
Bags of labelled aircraft wreckage and personal effects from Pan Am 103. Bellingham village hall

01M-6891 Pan Am 103 Incident Room Bellingham Copyright David Forster.
Incident room with Teesdale and Weardale Search and Rescue Team members taking a break.

Just like before people were friendly and everyone we met today either nodded, or spoke. On the Sunday when Graham's campervan alarm kept sounding in the middle of the village, there was even some good natured if rather merciless pi$$ taking from a few old blokes that I can only describe as Northumberland's version of "Last of the Summer Wine".

"Oy look everyone that lot is trying to nick yon van, arrest them". And "What's tha playin at we're a sleepy village, am gannin home I canna hear mesell think". All shouted at the tops of voices from one side of the street to the other. When we apologised and said at least it's after eleven, one old fella said, "aye but thall wake all the teenagers".

After a very civilised cafe stop we headed along to the start of Hareshaw Dene and noticed that there has been some emergency repairs to the bank sides of the burn to try and protect the houses. This area was hit by the thunderstorms of June 2012 which also caused some serious flooding throughout the Pennines.

01M-6812 Emergency repairs to alleviate damage caused by Harshaw Burn flooding

I have since found out, that residents blame repairs carried out to the opposite side of the burn and the removal of material from their side for their gardens subsiding. It's really is sad to see the homes of these folk under threat.

Children told to keep out of gardens as landslip fears grow

The 2012 storm was not as bad as the 14th May 1911 thunderstorm that hit the village. This storm was very localised and only affected the watershed above Bellingham. The flooding badly damaged a number of houses and businesses in the village and caused some buildings to partially collapse. In those days few people if any had anything resembling insurance and it is said that both village grocery businesses were ruined, along with the local Blacksmith who lost all of his tools. Fortunately it happened during the day, rather than at night and no lives were lost.

The 1911 Flood

Video of the 2012 Flood

Accompanied by rain and the slop of boots in mud we headed up towards Hareshaw Linn. Even in winter with trees bare of leaves this ancient woodland has the atmosphere of a dripping rain forest and it must be a wonderful place to visit in the spring, or indeed autumn when the leaves turn.

01M-6855 Waterfall in Hareshaw Dene Near Bellingham Northumberland England UK.
There are several waterfalls along the way. This one is just downstream from the main fall

Eventually we made it to the main fall at the top of the gorge.

01M-6846 Hiker Hareshaw Linn Near Bellingham Northumberland England UK
Hareshaw Linn

After a break for pics and food we made our way across the fields and moorland to the north of the village to arrive back at the campsite just as it got dark.

I am certainly not leaving it another 25 years to head back, it's a wonderful area even in the rain.

Text/images copyright David Forster www.bluestoneimages.com

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Time to Fight for our Ancient Woodlands

05D-7838 Beech Fagus sylvatica Leaves Catching the Morning Sun in Autumn Near Bowlees in Upper Teesdale County Durham

Please take the time to sign the 38 Degrees petition to Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary for the current government.

Please Click to Sign the 38 Degrees - Petition Save Our Woodlands.

Why Sign?
Owen Paterson has suggested that developers should be allowed to destroy ancient woodland as long as they agree to offset this by planting new trees elswhere. This so called "offsetting" is designed to give developers the upper hand when it comes to destroying what little we have left in the name of progress. I have always suspected Paterson's environmental knowledge could be summed up on the back of a postage stamp and yet again he has demonstrated this by being stupid enough to think that ancient woodlands can simply be replaced by planting trees in another location.

When it comes to making decisions about the environment it really does worry me that this is the same inept individual that was outwitted by the badgers because in his words "Badgers moved the goalposts" and the same person who "likened supporters of the fox hunting legislation to Nazis, claiming a "a ban would do terrible damage to sheep farmers" (1). The fact that gamekeepers and farmers who experienced problems with foxes (percieved, or otherwise) have always and indeed still continue to kill foxes was lost on him. Foxes are still killed and it was simply the killing of foxes with dogs for entertainment that was banned.

While any form of woodland is valuable, ancient woodlands need hundreds, if not thousands of years to develop. Ancient woodland in England is defined as an area that has been wooded continuously since at least 1600 AD (2). In human terms this may seem a long time, but it is a mere blink of the eye when it comes to the natural world and some of our ancient woodlands go back to the original wildwood which colonised the land as the glaciers retreated some ten to fifteen thousand years ago.

06D-6312 Acorn from the Pedunculate Oak (English Oak) Tree Quercus robur Laying on a Moss Covered Woodland Floor England UK
From acorn to mighty oak takes over a hundred years

The relationship between trees at various stages of their life cycle with other organisms such as invertebrates, flora, fauna and fungi are highly complex. A single oak tree may be considered mature at say seventy five to a hundred years of age, yet they are capable of living for several hundred years. Even in death they still play an active part in the woodland ecosystem and to go through its life cycle from acorn to mature tree and then return to the soil may take five hundred to a thousand years.

03D-6736 Fallen Tree Covered in the Many Zoned Polypore Fungi Coriolus versicolor
For some organisms death is only the beginning

With only 2% of the UK covered by ancient woodland and much of that with little on no legal protection (ref 3), its value as a wildlife habitat alone should be enough for us to want to protect it. That said these woodlands are also valuable as a places for people to enjoy, be it walking, biking, education, wildlife watching, or simply to sit and unwind. There are also economic benefits to local businesses that rely on tourism. Clearly destroying what little is left is madness.
There is more to woodland than trees alone

Sadly when it comes to the countryside and it's wildlife nothing is safe from the commercial interests of developers and their lackey's in parliament. People power stopped the forest sell off last year, so please take a minute to sign the petition and help put a stop to this as well.

Please Click Here to Sign the 38 Degrees - Petition Save Our Woodlands.

1. MP's Ban Foxhunting.

2. Natural England 30 May 2012. Version 3. A revision of the ancient woodland Standing Advice.

3. Woodland Trust 2002. Why is the UK's Ancient Woodland Under Threat?

Images/text copyright David Forster www.bluestoneimages.com

Monday, 6 January 2014

Up Close - Yellow Dung-Fly Scathophaga stercoraria.

This is one of those little (5-10mm) yellow flies you often see crawling around on the dung of large animals such as cows, sheep and deer. One to avoid getting on your sandwiches that's for sure.

06D-2844aYellow Dung-Fly Scathophaga stercoraria UK.
Yellow Dung-Fly Scathophaga stercoraria.