Saltford Environment Group
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Saltford's history and the mystery of the Piltdown Man hoax
It is fascinating what we find including links to national and world events as we research Saltford's past, but this is as surprising and amusing as it gets. We just had to share this with members.
The zoologist and archaeologist who studied and described the condition of the Roman skeleton (that of a 20 year old man) found in a stone coffin in Saltford in 1948 were Martin A C Hinton (1883-1961) and his wife. The wife in question was most probably Hinton's second wife, Dr Dina Portway Dobson a 'distinguished archaeologist', who he married in 1949 the year of his retirement to Wrington, Somerset; his first wife Jane had died in 1948. The description of Saltford's Roman skeleton was provided by "Mr and Mrs Martin A. C. Hinton" and published in 1950 in an official report of the find for the Somerset Archaeological Society.
Martin A C Hinton, however, is one of the suspects for the infamous paleoanthropological hoax, Piltdown Man, that was perpetrated in 1908-1912 but did not come to light as a forgery until some 40 years later in the 1950s. The link to Hinton as a possible perpetrator was not made until after his death.
Piltdown Man was a composite of an altered human skull and ape jawbone planted, and subsequently 'discovered', at a dig in Piltdown, Sussex, in 1908-12 and presented as a missing link between man and ape. A trunk belonging to Hinton left in storage at the Natural History Museum and found in 1970 contained animal bones and teeth carved and stained in a manner similar to the Piltdown finds. This was some 9 years after Hinton's death and subsequently raised questions about his involvement in the deception.
One theory concerning Hinton's involvement is as follows (source: http://www.britannica.com/topic/Piltdown-man#ref374472):-
In 1996, two decades after a trunk marked with the initials M.A.C.H. had been discovered in storage at the British Museum (Natural History), bones found in the trunk were analysed. The British paleontologists Brian Gardiner and Andrew Currant found that they had been stained in the exact same way as the Piltdown fossils. The trunk apparently had belonged to Martin A.C. Hinton, who became keeper of zoology at the British Museum (Natural History) in 1936. Hinton, who in 1912 at the time of the original discovery was working as a volunteer at the museum, may have treated and planted the Piltdown bones as a hoax in order to ensnare and embarrass Arthur Smith Woodward. Woodward was keeper of the British Museum's paleontology department and it was he who announced the find at a meeting of the Geological Society of London in 1912. Apparently Woodward had rebuffed Hinton's request for a weekly wage. It is presumed that Hinton used the bones in the steamer trunk for practice before treating the bones used in the actual hoax.
The Piltdown hoax is infamous for the attention paid to the issue of human evolution, and the length of time (40 years) that elapsed from its original discovery to its full exposure as a forgery. The identity of the Piltdown forger remains unknown, but suspects have included Martin A. C. Hinton, Charles Dawson, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Arthur Keith, Horace de Vere Cole and even Arthur Conan Doyle.
SEG is not claiming that Martin A C Hinton was a perpetrator of the hoax but is reproducing information already in the public domain concerning his possible involvement in this mystery. An article in the New Scientist (2.7.1981) by L. Harrison Matthews stated that Hinton during discussions with Dina Dobson and BBC producers in Bristol in c.1953 did say that he knew that the forgery had been done by someone in the British Museum (Natural History) but that he could not reveal the name as the man was still alive. Martin Hinton and Dina Dobson took this secret to their graves.
Wombles Update and October activity
The council have very kindly cleaned up the verges on the A4 and the farmer has cut back the hedgerow so we can now see the litter again! A few Wombles who walk into Keynsham collect the litter on their way there and back. If you would like to do this please let me know so that I can lend you a litter pick and give you the correct bags to use.
Manor Road seems to be a hotspot for litter! Lots of residents have complained about this so if we could all make a concerted effort into whenever we are around this area to collect litter, that would be great. Perhaps some residents would like to join the Wombles and take ownership of their road.
Another area which has again come to light is the cycle path and alongside the river, which as the weeds are dying back the litter is showing its ugly head! I would like to organise a litter pick for Sat 10th October and hopefully we could start tackling this area as once the autumn comes we can really hit these areas.
So, see you all by the Bird in Hand for 9.30am on 10th October. More information about Saltford Wombles can be found on our "Waste" page from this link:
Julie Sampson (Tel: 01225--874603)
Could you be our volunteer Auditor?
Saltford Environment Group is looking for a volunteer to audit our annual accounts. Although this is not a legal requirement, we would like a qualified person to review our accounts on an annual basis for the sake of good order.
We currently have a modest annual income of approx. £1000 and around 50 transactions in a typical year.
If you are an active or retired accountant and are able to help us with this, please contact the Treasurer, Andrew Stainer, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Countdown to COP21 Paris climate change summit
From 30 November to 11 December 2015 COP21, the 21st Conference of Parties to the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), will be taking place in Paris when 192 nations will be meeting to produce a global agreement to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
If you want further information or to follow progress on this important conference that will affect all our futures, you may find the following web links helpful:
Even if the international community manages to limit the average global surface temperature increase to the goal of no more than 2°C above the pre-industrial average through cutting greenhouse gas emissions, it is already accepted by the scientific community that such an increase will lead to impacts on society and wildlife and increasing incidents of extreme weather events that we are already experiencing.
This means we need to adapt to those changes and SEG seeks to help Saltford meet that challenge by providing advice and guidance for householders and local businesses on our climate change page >>
Saltford Weather Station
With the mellowness of autumn upon us, this is a reminder, especially for our newer members who may not be aware of this, that our climate change page includes an online Saltford weather station.
This can be useful for picking up the 5-day local weather forecast at a glance, check for flood warnings, and see the rising or falling river level in Saltford.
Upcycling Craft Group - Thursday 15th October
Halloween Magic! A fun session making things for Halloween from items we would normally throw away. Our group is growing so come along and join us on 15th October, 7-9pm at Signs of Saltford, 559 Bath Road for a coffee/tea - its free!!
Contact: Tina - 01225--874037
Saltford Air Quality Action Plan consultation 14th Sept - 4th Dec
B&NES has launched a consultation on a draft Air Quality Action Plan for Saltford and comments are sought by 4th December.
Nitrogen dioxide from road traffic in Saltford is the only pollutant that exceeds the government's National Air Quality Objectives as an annual average. As a result an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA) has been declared and B&NES is seeking feedback on the measures it is proposing to include in the Action Plan for Saltford. The Saltford Air Quality Management Area includes the building facades on either side of the A4 road and extends east along the Bath Road from its junction with Beech Road until 150 metres south of the Glen.
Actions proposed in the plan include: tree planting on the A4 to deflect and collect pollutants; advice to land owners on planting that protects from air pollution; electric vehicle charge points for each new property across the district; Community Air Quality Group; Electric Zone - signed entrance to AQMA encouraging switch into electric mode for hybrids; secure cycle storage at each new property; lobby government for incentivising uptake of non-diesel cars; and continue feasibility work for reopening of a station at Saltford.
You can view the action plan and submit your own comments online from this link: www.bathnes.gov.uk/consultations/saltford-air-quality-action-plan
An event for the Saltford Air Quality Action Plan will be held by B&NES on 14th October between 4pm and 8pm at Saltford Hall (Avon Room).
After the consultation period a report will be produced and the final Action Plan developed.
Plastic bag charging can be your catalyst to start making a difference
With all waste or pollution,
With the introduction in October of a law to require retailers to charge 5p for single-use plastic bags, this is a timely reminder of the need to reduce the waste we generate as well as making a move to greater use of re-usable shopping bags.
According to the Government, in 2013, supermarkets gave out over 8 billion single-use carrier bags across the UK. That is nearly 130 bags per person. This equates to about 57,000 tonnes of single-use carrier bags in total over the year.
100,000 dolphins, whales, seals and turtles are killed every
Discarded plastic bags are a very visible form of littering and can cause injury to wildlife. With large amounts of litter including that made from plastic entering the sea each year, the mass of plastic debris in the world's oceans, including the microscopic breakdown products from plastics, is steadily increasing - often with fatal consequences for countless sea creatures. Toxic chemicals are absorbed by plastic and these pollutants accumulate in the food chain, resulting in an even higher concentration of pollutants inside fish, including those consumed by humans (www.theoceancleanup.com, 2015).
Plastic bags are used on average for 20 minutes before being
The effect of plastic bags on the environment goes beyond littering and their effect on wildlife. They consume resources, including oil, in their creation. Even when disposed of responsibly, plastic bags can last for long periods of time in landfill sites.
If you hate seeing litter in Saltford, in addition to regularly clearing it from the pavement areas outside your own home and, being a good neighbour, your neighbour's home, you can also engage with the litter picks organised by Saltford Wombles (or borrow a litter picking tool) and really make a difference. It is a satisfying use of time to remove litter from Saltford's public areas.
Our Less Waste page provides tips and ideas for reducing the waste in our homes and businesses and how to get involved with Saltford Wombles.
Saltford Santa Dash, 6th December
It seems too early to be thinking about Christmas activities, but you may wish to be aware of (and start training for?) this year's Saltford Santa Dash that will be held on Sunday 6th December. It will start from and finish at Saltford Sports and Social Club Sports field in Wedmore Road BS31 1BY. As previously the Mini Santa Run around the sports field, about 1 mile, will start at 10am and then at 11am the adults' 5 mile run through the lanes to Keynsham and back will commence.
This year any profit from this community event will be shared between Time2Share and The Carers Centre. Further details including contacts and registration at http://saltfordsantadash.webs.com.
Saltford station latest
Representatives of SEG's Saltford Station Campaign, Chris Warren (Campaign Chair), Phil Harding (SEG Chair) and Rob Taylor (Campaign team member), had a constructive first meeting with the new Conservative administration at B&NES on 1 September to discuss the next steps in taking forward the ambition to reopen Saltford railway station. Present from B&NES Council were Cllr Tim Warren (Leader of the Council), Cllr Tony Clarke (Cabinet member for Transport), and Peter Dawson (Group Manager Transport & Planning Policy). Matthew Barnes from First Great Western was also present.
SEG underlined the democratic wish of Saltford for re-opening our station, expressed most recently in the Saltford Parish Council (76% turnout) and B&NES Council elections (May 2015) where all 11 elected Parish Councillors and the two elected ward Councillors for B&NES had taken a pro Saltford station stance as a priority issue in their election campaigns.
The meeting agreed that a decision was required from Network Rail to show that timetable provision of a half-hourly peak time service stopping at Saltford could be made within the existing and proposed long distance InterCity services. That information should be known by Christmas 2015 in the context of the current MetroWest feasibility work and discussions. A half-hourly service at peak times was required for making the financial case for reopening Saltford station; once this is known then B&NES Council would be in a position to proceed with GRIP (Governance for Railway Investment Projects) stages 3 and 4.
The notion of an alternative site for the station in the Green Belt was discussed. SEG reminded the meeting that (a) the elected Conservative B&NES Councillors and Saltford Parish Councillors were against Green Belt development, and (b) the GRIP process would ensure the optimum site was chosen. SEG also showed Network Rail's schematic plan for the signalling infrastructure work at the station site which included provision for the construction of the station (see plan above).
Since the meeting with B&NES Council on 1st September Network Rail, in response to an approach by Saltford Parish Council, has said that the responsibility rests with B&NES Council as a member of the West of England Partnership for seeking inclusion of Saltford in the timetable development for MetroWest. The Parish Council and SEG have asked B&NES Council at Official and Member level to pursue this so that work on GRIP 3 and 4 can proceed without further delay.
For more information on our station campaign visit our station page >>
In our modern everyday lives the value of moss is not immediately obvious. Here in Saltford, close inspection of almost any handful of moss will reveal an important ecological role - that of providing shelter and humidity, a microhabitat, for a wide diversity of invertebrates. It is its position at the base of the ecological food chain that underlines the value of the moss that we see in and around Saltford.
According to the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), there are over 600 species of moss in the UK (and over 10,000 worldwide). Mosses can form large, coarse, loose, green or yellowish-green tufts, densely matted tufts, or compact green cushions. We have more moss occurring in Britain compared to other similar latitudes, for example the rest of Europe and Asia, as our humid climate provides the right growing conditions thus making our wildlife and habitat so special.
Mosses can be the first to recolonise bare areas of ground recently cleared. In damp conditions, moss is like a sponge, providing semi-aquatic conditions for a whole variety of other tiny creatures, as well as a wonderfully damp nursery that allows the germination of tree seedlings and other flowering plants. When it dries out, some species of moss can be a popular nest material for a large variety of the wild birds that visit and inhabit our gardens.
But moss also has an aesthetic role by helping to keep our landscapes lush and green and on closer examination, many mosses are stunningly beautiful. Perhaps before we rush to clear moss away from our gardens we should hesitate, appreciate moss for what it is, marvel at its natural beauty and allow it space to carry out its essential role in the cycle of life.
Further reading (on the web)
The Moss Grower's Handbook by Michael Fletcher, recommended by the RHS: http://rbg-web2.rbge.org.uk/bbs/resources/fletcher.pdf (pdf on external website)
The British Bryological Society website is full of information on bryophytes (mosses, liverworts and hornworts): www.britishbryologicalsociety.org.uk
The Soil Association has come up with 30 simple and affordable small organic changes you can make throughout September to the food and drink that you consume. To help you on your way, they will be sharing on their website a whole host of special offers and exclusive discounts from some of the biggest organic brands and they've also teamed up with some of the UK's best chefs to inspire you with ideas of what you can make using your fresh, seasonal organic produce.
There are lots of ways you can get involved in Organic September, for example:
For more information including on events that are being organised, visit: www.soilassociation.org/organicseptember
Saltford's History six months on
We launched SEG's History of Saltford Project six months ago, so it's a good time to give you an update. We'd like to thank everyone who has given us photos, information, ideas and artefacts to photograph - please keep them coming!
We've built up a fabulous resource on the website - do take a look at what we've gathered so far. This includes:
The scope for widening and deepening our research is endless - so, whatever you're interested in, as long as it's connected with Saltford we'd love to hear from you. We welcome your old photographs, maps, stories or even theories about how Saltford came to be as it is today. Much of what we are publishing fits with the school curriculum so we're keen to work with our local schools to help bring history to life.
With the kind permission of landowners, survey work on trying to locate further evidence of Roman settlement in Saltford has already commenced.
Bath Spa University's School of Humanities and Cultural Industries has allocated to SEG three students as project placements who have volunteered to help research different aspects of Saltford's history. We hope this will be the start of a long and fruitful relationship with our local University, schools and the wider community.
At SEG we believe that only by valuing our history and origins can we gain a better understanding of the importance that we as a community should take care of the land and people that support us all. By combining a love of our village and its history with the modern media approach of our web-based resource, we can reach out to a wide audience with all the fascinating material that we capture and share.
You can visit the project's web pages from this link >>
SEG's History Project Production Team
B&NES Energy at Home and the end of the Green Deal
The recent government announcements in July about the closing of the Green Deal finance company and the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund have fortunately not affected the Bath & North East Somerset Energy at Home scheme's ability to help residents. The Energy at Home scheme is still able to offer free, expert home energy advice, and generous grants to help fund energy saving home improvements, including up to £6,000 for solid wall insulation, and up to £2,000 for other measures. Extra help is available for those on a low income or in receipt of qualifying benefits.
If you were hoping to use Green Deal Finance, or use the Green Deal Home Improvement Fund, then the following changes have taken affect:
For more information about the changes, or to get free expert energy advice, please contact the Energy at Home Advice Service:
Grow some of Saltford's natural heritage in your garden - Free offer to members
Members may recall that SEG distributed over 700 Bath Asparagus seeds to several of our members in 2013. After a poor growing season last year for this particular nationally scarce plant (also known as the 'Spiked Star of Bethlehem', Ornithogalum pyrenaicum), we are pleased to be able to offer some free seeds again to our members, subject to demand.
These seeds have been sourced from the only two clumps of Bath Asparagus growing wild in Saltford using the Wild Flower Society's Code of Conduct based on the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. Our seed stock of this plant is genuine "Saltford" Bath Asparagus not Bath, Keynsham or Kelston sourced Bath Asparagus.
If you wish to know more about this attractive and nationally rare edible* plant that was thought by some to have been brought to Bath by the Romans (between AD 43 until c. 410), see our wildlife feature item from this link where we also give advice on how to grow this plant from seed. It is highly recommended that you read that advice to maximise the chances of a successful planting in your garden.
*(Editor's note: It may have been a delicacy for the Romans, but I wouldn't eat this plant! - however it looks attractive growing amongst long grasses or in wooded areas.)
The seeds are available on a first-come-first-served basis, so if you are interested please contact our Chairman, Phil Harding, by email (email@example.com) with the subject heading "Bath Asparagus Seeds" and please include in your email request your address and your telephone number.
You do need to be a patient gardener to grow this plant as it takes 4 to 5 years to reach flowering maturity so make sure you read our cultivation advice before seeking free seeds - you also need to be confident that you have a spare corner of your garden that can be left undisturbed for the coming years.
No onshore gas exploration in the Saltford-Keynsham area for now
The 1st tranche of the 14th landward oil and gas licensing awards was announced by the Government on 18th August. 27 blocks were announced, with another 132 requiring further environmental assessment under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. In the West Country there are four blocks out for environmental assessment to the SE of Bath and seven on the North Somerset coast between Weston-super-Mare and Minehead, but none in the area between Bristol and Bath.
In particular the blocks that were offered for our immediate area (ST 55, 56, 65, 66, 75 and 76) were not awarded. The map above shows the blocks concerned (blocks marked green require environmental assessment and those marked beige are current licensed blocks).
For reasons of commercial confidentiality the Government does not reveal which blocks were applied for but not awarded. There is no reason to believe that blocks in our area were applied for in the 14th licensing round although we cannot be certain. In December 2012 UK Methane relinquished its licence for the block covering their previous plans for Coal Bed Methane test drilling at Hicks Gate, Keynsham.
Whilst this will be welcomed by most in Saltford and Keynsham, the announcement will be seen as bad news in the 27 new licensed areas (that cover about 1,000 square miles) as well as in the 132 licence areas that are subject to environmental assessments which span about 5,000 square miles. Areas of natural beauty, including the North York Moors and the Peak District, have been licensed for drilling. As have swathes of land near Lincoln, Nottingham and Sheffield. The response from Greenpeace to the Government's announcement has been to say that "the consequences could be devastating... extracting gas from rocks beneath our towns and countryside will put water supplies, and delicate wildlife protection zones, at risk. And drilling for more fossil fuels will keep us hooked on dirty energy for years to come, accelerating climate change even more."
Further information on oil and gas licensing rounds can be found at https://www.gov.uk/oil-and-gas-licensing-rounds or for information on onshore gas exploration and local campaigning visit our feature page on Fracking >>
Great British Bee Count results are out
"If the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe then man
The results of the 2015 Great British Bee Count undertaken in May of this year have been published by Friends of the Earth. This annual survey helps raise awareness of the importance of our bee population and the more we as a nation learn about bees and report sightings, the more we can do to protect them.
With 104,280 bees counted, the key findings were as follows:
More information about the Great British Bee Count can be found from this external link: www.foe.co.uk/page/great-british-bee-count-2015-results.
We give tips on making our gardens more bee-friendly on our wildlife page >>
Open for business, even in severe weather?
Two-thirds of small businesses have been hit by the negative impacts of severe weather in the past three years, says a new report from the Federation of Small Business (FSB) published in July. 'Severe weather - a more resilient small business community' also shows that many small businesses need further support if they are to be resilient to severe weather. Recommendations from the FSB include encouraging small businesses to develop their own resilience plans, and calling on the government to take steps to ensure affordable flood insurance.
According to the report:
SEG provides useful tips and links to key sources of resilience advice and guidance including management tools for Saltford's businesses and householders on our climate change page >>
The FSB report can be downloaded from this link: http://www.fsb.org.uk/frontpage/assets/fsb-severe-weather-report-final.pdf (300kb pdf from external site, opens in new window).
Cycling with a purpose
An account by Paul Goddard on how he got himself motivated to get cycling
I've recently got back from a 92 mile bike ride in preparation for cycling from Land's End to John O Groats early in September. What relevance has this got with the SEG cycling section I hear you ask? The answer is purpose. Let me explain.
23 years ago I bought a mountain bike and then spent the next 16 years looking for an excuse to ride it. Then the tyres deflated and the bits that should move didn't. The excuses went on. In 2008 I had to move jobs from Glasgow to Bournemouth. I was faced with a dilemma; my new place of work was only 4 miles away. Too far to walk, not on a bus route and by the time I'd fired the diesel car up and driven to work Terry Wogan wouldn't have finished waffling and still not played a record.
Enter the bike. Now I had a purpose to use the bike not an excuse not to. Once I'd replaced the perished tyres and squirted oil in the right places I was off, a cycling commuter. I still use that bike once a week to cycle to Keynsham Leisure Centre.
After I'd got my cycling legs I bought a racing bike and entered a triathlon. Now I had a new purpose, to complete a race. This is now my commuting bike, 13 miles to Filton along the old railway path. It is also the same bike that will make the 969 mile journey in September.
So to wrap up, do you have a cycling purpose? The recently resurfaced cycle path between Saltford and The Avon Valley Railway station is fantastically smooth, away from the road and has lovely scenery. It's also only 2.5 Miles from the Bird in Hand, whilst Warmley is 5 Miles from the Bird in Hand. Both have a cafe. Or you could go the other way. Bath is only 5 miles away and like the rest of the cycle path it's flat. Bath has the added attractions of more cafes - see the common thread here?
Don't think of excuses, think of a purpose, and enjoy your coffee at the half way point!
The Big Butterfly Count
The big butterfly count is a nationwide survey run by the charity Butterfly Conservation and is aimed at helping us assess the health of our environment. It was launched in 2010 and has rapidly become the world's biggest survey of butterflies. Over 44,000 people took part in 2014, counting almost 560,000 individual butterflies and day-flying moths across the UK.
Butterflies react very quickly to change in their environment which makes them excellent biodiversity indicators. Butterfly declines are an early warning for other wildlife losses. That is why counting butterflies can be described as taking the pulse of nature.
If your children are looking for something to do in the school holidays this is one way of engaging them with the natural world. All they need do is simply count butterflies and moths for 15 minutes during bright (preferably sunny) weather during the big butterfly count (17th July - 9th August).
You can submit separate records for different dates at the same place, and for different places that you visit. Remember that your count is useful even if you do not see any butterflies or moths. You have until the end of August to submit your count record which should have been made between 17th July and 9th August.
To find out how to participate, visit www.bigbutterflycount.org. You will be able to download a handy identification chart to help you work out which butterflies you have seen.
You can send in your sightings online at www.bigbutterflycount.org or by using the FREE big butterfly count smartphone apps available for iOS and Android.
Green Deal funding ends
On 23rd July the government announced it was to cease funding of the Green Deal, the scheme that offers cashbacks, cheap loans and incentives on such things as double-glazing, insulation and boilers. The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said it had taken the decision to protect taxpayers, citing low take-up, poor value for money and concerns about industry standards. However, no replacement scheme or policy was announced. Critics of the Green Deal have expressed concerns of the complexity of the scheme and frustration at the stop-go approach from Government to improving energy efficiency in the domestic sector.
SEG will aim to keep members informed of any new schemes giving energy efficiency support.
In the meantime, for free and impartial energy advice you can ring the B&NES Council and the Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) "Energy at Home Advice Service" on freephone 0800 038 5680 or visit www.energyathome.org.uk. Energy advice is also available from the Energy Saving Trust's easy to navigate website at: www.energysavingtrust.org.uk or from their telephone helpline 0300 123 1234 (national rate call).
Discovering more about SEG's History of Saltford project
On the 23rd of July our Chairman Phil Harding and Dick Bateman from our history project production team gave an illustrated presentation in Bath to a well attended gathering at the Bath Royal Literary and Science Institute (BRLSI) about the Saltford Carthaginian Coin and how SEG is researching and publishing Saltford's fascinating history online.
Phil is willing to come and speak to local schools and groups who would like to see and hear how SEG's innovative approach to publishing our history online is really putting Saltford on the map as it reveals new information about our past. Contact Phil if this would be of interest to your school or group.
Hummingbird Hawk-Moths in Saltford
Two members of SEG have seen the Hummingbird Hawk-Moth in their gardens on the south side of Saltford this summer. This fascinating day-flying moth is worth keeping a watch for during warm sunny days.
Native to North Africa and southern Europe, the Hummingbird Hawk-Moth (Macroglossum stellatarum) is increasingly common in southern England. This remarkable day-flying moth is named from its appearance that is very similar to a hummingbird as it hovers, probing flowers for nectar with its long proboscis. It is smaller than any hummingbird and yet it emits an audible hum from its fast beating wings.
The Hummingbird Hawk-Moth drinks the nectar from flowers, such as Red Valerian, Honeysuckle, and Buddleia, and can be seen hovering and probing nectar-rich flowers in sunny locations. The caterpillar feeds on various species of bedstraw; the female adults lay eggs on the buds or flowers of these plants. Hummingbird Hawk-Moths cannot normally survive British winters although increasingly they are managing to do so; they migrate to and from southern Europe and North Africa in autumn and spring.
Watering the birds
Water is the driving force of all nature
A bird bath in your garden, whether a ready-made purchased one or homemade provides a great service to garden birds from the much needed water they need to drink or to help them keep their feathers in good condition.
According to the RSPB, ideally bird baths should have shallow sloping sides (so avoid steep sided bowls and dishes), be no more than 10cm deep and be as wide as possible, and at least 30cms across. Remember that birds are vulnerable while they're drinking or bathing, so have a think about where to place it. Think of it as a "puddle on a stick". It is ideal to put it about a couple of metres from any bushes where a predator might lurk, but not too far out in the open. Check that the inside of the bird bath is not too smooth (slippery). If it is the birds might slip into the water so put some pebbles or rocks in the water to give them a better grip.
Birds most need us to give them water when the weather is very hot or very cold. You'll need to keep the bird bath well topped-up in summer and ice-free in winter. In frosty weather, you should never use salt or de-icer. Pour in warm (not hot) water, or gently knock the ice out and replace with fresh water from the tap.
Observing the birds in our gardens and around Saltford can provide a great source of relaxation and a welcome diversion from the stresses of modern life. A bird bath also provides great entertainment for children and adults alike as we start to recognise our regular visitors and new ones too.
Encouraging children to keep a record of the different birds they see helps them learn to identify and value our wildlife. For information on the species of birds that are regularly observed in Saltford see our wildlife page >>
A cleaner, solar powered future?
According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) the role of renewable sources of energy (solar, wind, geothermal, hydropower, bioenergy and ocean power) in the global power mix continues to increase rapidly as renewables maintain the lead as the fastest-growing power source. As global renewable electricity generation expands in absolute terms, it is expected to surpass that from natural gas and double that from nuclear power by next year (2016), becoming the second most important global electricity source, after coal.
Globally, renewable generation is estimated to rise to 25% of gross power generation in 2018, up from 20% in 2011. The IEA expects solar to become the biggest single source of energy by 2050 and the dramatic falls in cost of solar PV means that the sector in 2014 was around five years ahead of where the IEA had previously thought it would be.
The IEA's 2014 report "Technology Roadmap - Solar Photovoltaic Energy" envisioned that up to 16% of global electricity will be from solar PV by 2050. For bulk power on the grid, PV electricity can already be price competitive at times of peak demand, especially in areas where peak electricity is provided by burning oil products.
A more rapid move towards solar energy has many benefits, especially as improved energy storage technologies are developed. As the IEA points out, solar energy is widely available throughout the world and can contribute to reduced dependence on energy imports. As it entails no fuel price risk or constraints, it also improves security of supply. Solar power enhances energy diversity and hedges against price volatility of fossil fuels (oil and gas), thus stabilising the cost of electricity generation in the longer term.
Once PV panels have been manufactured, solar PV entails no greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions during operation and does not emit other pollutants (such as oxides of sulphur and nitrogen); additionally, it consumes no or little water. As local air pollution and extensive use of fresh water for cooling of thermal power plants are becoming serious concerns in hot or dry regions, these benefits of solar PV become increasingly important.
Can we do more to involve our youngest residents?
SEG was invited in the summer to address and discuss with three classes of 8 and 9 year old boys and girls the subjects of protecting the Green Belt and reopening the local railway station. Our Chairman, Phil Harding, by way of introduction gave a few examples of SEG's activities within the community and then gave an illustrated presentation (including videos) followed by a Q & A session.
The way the children engaged and responded with interest and enthusiasm was encouraging. It is reassuring to know that many of our youngest members of the community really do care and have an interest in the natural world around them and are increasingly aware of the impact our actions and personal choices make; this is something we can encourage and develop within our community.
The pupils at Saltford School are a real credit to their parents, teachers and Saltford. SEG shall seek further opportunities to work more closely with the teaching staff. Our History of Saltford project is just one example of how we can engage with all generations, litter picking through Saltford Wombles is another way we can all help keep Saltford clean, and the assistance from Saltford Beavers, Scouts and Guides on some of our habitat work gives our young people an opportunity to participate collectively in wildlife enhancing project work.
As the Chinese proverb says:
"Tell me and I will forget.
Fairtrade: Big Things from Little Acorns
At the Fairtrade Group's request Saltford Community Association agreed that the 2015 Saltford Festival would be Fairtrade Friendly. The Fairtrade logo was printed on all of the promotional literature and posters which reached a wide audience both inside and outside of Saltford, and that was just the start.
Chris Essex and his team supplied and delivered Fairtrade tea, coffee and sugar to every SCA affiliated venue that served refreshments. The Fairtrade Group donated tea, coffee and sugar to the Guides' and Brownies' open evening events. We are proud to say that Fairtrade products were used at every event at Saltford Hall (who have been Fairtrade Friendly for some time now), The Saltford Golf Club, The Saltford Rowing Club, and Eastover Farm. Following the Festival our hope will be that these venues will continue to support Fairtrade.
All of this was made easier by the wonderful support of our local shops. The chocolate treats on the Fairtrade stalls during the Festival were kindly donated by Tesco. The Saltford Co-op have a worthy record of supporting Fairtrade and this year worked together with the SCA and helped keep the coffee cups full, the tea brewing and the wine flowing throughout the Festival. The Bird in Hand and The Jolly Sailor sweetened your tea and coffee using Fairtrade sugar and so the Fairtrade Friendly Saltford message spread.
The Saltford Festival will live in our memories and the 'festival buzz' is still with us leaving a great legacy of local togetherness. Please remember that when you buy a bunch of bananas, some castor sugar or any Fairtrade produce you will be supporting emerging country farmers to achieve fair prices for their produce and give them the means to support their families and villages in a way of their choosing. You don't have to go far to buy Fairtrade produce either, it's all in our local shops.
A big thank you to Saltford Community Association and the village of Saltford for making Saltford a truly Fairtrade Friendly Village. There is more information about Fairtrade on our Fairtrade page >>
Saltford Fairtrade Group
Saltford's Greater Dodder
The Greater Dodder (Cuscuta europaea) is a nationally scarce plant, found in only a few riverbanks and wetland areas in southern and central England. It can be found in Saltford - the photographs (July 2015) are of Greater Dodder found growing wild in Saltford. Flowering in July-September, the plant contains no chlorophyll; instead it absorbs food through haustoria (rootlike organs) that penetrate the tissue of a host plant, typically nettles but including Himalayan Balsam, and may kill the host.
The dodder's seed germinates, forming an anchoring root, and then sends up a slender stem that grows in a spiral fashion until it reaches a host plant. It then twines around the stem of the host plant and throws out haustoria, which penetrate it. Water is drawn through the haustoria from the host plant's stem and xylem (tissue in vascular plants that transports water and nutrients), and nutrients are drawn from its phloem (living tissue). Meanwhile, the root of the dodder rots away after stem contact has been made with a host plant.
As the dodder grows, it sends out new haustoria and establishes itself very firmly on the host plant. After growing in a few spirals around one host shoot, the dodder finds its way to another, and it continues to twine and branch until it resembles a fine, densely tangled web of thin stems enveloping the host plant.
This article was first published on our wildlife page in July 2015.
When drinking Saltford's water could be fatal...
We never know the worth of water
The hot summer weather reminds us of the value of our excellent water supply here in Saltford. But this was far from the case in the late 19th Century when it was not just a serious issue of public health for the local inhabitants but proved fatal for some.
SEG's popular history project has published the full text of local press articles from 1886 and 1893. These give a fascinating insight into how public affairs were conducted in Saltford in the 1880s and 90s. They also show just how dangerous the local water supply had become due to contamination from raw sewage leading "to some 30 cases of sickness" from "a population of 421" and at least 6 cases ended in death.
The account of the public "vestry meeting", a meeting of ratepayers, held on 19 May 1893 in Saltford School makes interesting reading. The meeting almost descended into farce as attendees argued over who should be allowed to attend the meeting.
You can read the press articles from this link: Saltford's Water Supply in the late 19th Century.
Toxic Giant Hogweed in Saltford: Health Warning
Saltford Environment Group has again discovered the highly toxic Giant Hogweed growing on the river bank in The Shallows during June (see photograph). We reported it immediately to B&NES Council who gave us permission to deal with it as soon as possible. This we have done.
The sap from this plant can blind you permanently if rubbed into the eyes and cause severe acid-like burns and blisters to your skin if you touch it. Contact can cause long term skin damage causing nasty and scarring burns when skin is exposed to sunlight for several years thereafter.
This was found in the same location last year and dealt with by B&NES Council and, having reappeared, has now been dealt with again this time by SEG. We shall keep a close watch on the area concerned but advise all who walk along the river bank or use the river for recreational purposes to be wary of this plant; if you find it DO NOT TOUCH or attempt to remove it yourself but report it immediately to B&NES Council and to SEG.
For further information about Giant Hogweed and what to do if you discover it, visit our wildlife page >>
Re-signalling project at Saltford station site
Residents might notice some limited construction work taking place at the Saltford station site (see picture).
Network Rail has assured the Parish Council that:
"The construction, which is for the Bristol re-signalling project, has been positioned to allow for the Saltford station."
"Network Rail is aware of the third party aspiration to reopen a station at Salford. As part of our planning for electrification and other infrastructure enhancements, we endeavour to take into consideration such future aspirations to ensure that our works do not preclude or incur additional works to enable these ambitions to be achieved. Therefore, I can confirm that the current signalling works will not preclude the re-opening of Saltford Station."
Saltford Carthaginian Coin proves popular with festival visitors
Over 400 people visited the 2,300 year old Saltford Carthaginian Coin displayed at the Saltford Festival on 13th and 20th June by Saltford Environment Group (SEG) alongside a specially prepared exhibition display on local pre-history produced by B&NES Council via the Roman Baths exhibition team.
Phil Harding, SEG's Chairman and team leader of the "History of Saltford" project, gave one of the festival lunchtime talks in St Mary's Church Hall on Tuesday 16th June. Phil's illustrated presentation showed how SEG was revealing images and information from Saltford's past that was little known by the vast majority of residents. He also explained how the project was involving and engaging the local community.
Phil said: "Saltford is a fascinating village once you dig beneath the surface. From the Mediterranean traders coming through Saltford 2,000 years ago, the Roman occupation, the Anglo Saxons, the Normans and the English civil war to our ancient buildings, and the arrival of Isambard Kingdom Brunel and the GWR railway, our history project is piecing together the most amazing record of what life has been like in this small corner of North East Somerset."
Saltford Festival was held from 13th - 21st June and the organisers and volunteers put on an extensive and successful range of events and activities. The high level of attendance at most of the events underlined the strong sense of community in Saltford.
Industrial nations agree to phase out fossil fuels
Climate change is not an environmental issue, but much more to do with security and economics
The G7 leading industrial nations (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, and the United States) have agreed to cut greenhouse gases by phasing out the use of fossil fuels by the end of the century at their summit in June. Summit host German Chancellor Angela Merkel said they had committed themselves to the need to "decarbonise the global economy in the course of this century". They also agreed on a global target for limiting the rise in average global temperatures to a maximum of 2C compared to pre-industrial levels.
Whilst G7 leaders did not support Angela Merkel's proposal to agree to immediate binding emission targets, they agreed to back the recommendations of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions at the upper end of a range of 40% to 70% by 2050, using 2010 as the baseline.
The United Nations Climate Change Conference, COP21, will be held in Paris from 30 November to 11 December 2015. The objective will be to achieve a legally binding and universal agreement on climate, from all the nations of the world. The G7 commitment on phasing out fossil fuels is a hopeful sign that real progress will be made in Paris.
'Are YOU doing your bit? Think global, act local'
If you want to start cutting your own carbon footprint at home or at the workplace, check out our Energy page for tips, ideas and sources of grants, advice and guidance.
The national bird is...
...the Robin. Nearly a quarter of a million people took part in the National Bird Vote to choose Britain's favourite bird that ended on May 7th. In fourth place was the Wren, third place the Blackbird, second place the Barn Owl and in the top spot the Robin.
Here is information about the about the Robin, courtesy of the RSPB, some of which you will already know but some information may be new to you:-
Male and female Robins (Erithacus rubecula) look identical, and young birds have no red breast and are spotted with golden brown. Robins sing nearly all year round and despite their cute appearance, they are aggressively territorial and are quick to drive away intruders. They will also sing at night next to street lights. Robins eat a diet of worms, seeds, fruits and insects.
As with the nightingale, the song is usually delivered from a concealed perch within a bush or a tree exposed perches are infrequent. Autumn and spring songs are distinctly different. The autumn song starts after the moult, from late summer onwards. It is more subdued and melancholy in its tone, while the spring song is powerful, confident and upbeat.
The spring song can start as early as mid-December, reaching full force in spring. Its purpose is two-fold: to defend a territory and to attract a mate. Therefore, spring song is far more powerful in males.
Robins are adapted to life in poor light and are often active in half-light when few other birds are about. They tend to be among the earliest birds to start the dawn chorus and one of the last to stop in the evening.
The Robin is one of the few birds that hold a territory all year round. In summer a territory is defended by a mated pair, while each bird holds individual winter territories.
Breeding territories average 0.55 hectares in size - about six Robins would fit onto an average-sized football pitch while winter territories are around half of this. The exact size depends on the quality of habitat and the density of birds in the area. In some areas, such as Scottish pinewoods with well-spaced, mature trees and few shrubs, breeding densities can be as low as 10 pairs per sq km, while a lowland woodland can support as many as 200-300 pairs per sq km.
Territory boundaries are fluid, and change frequently as circumstances change. The sole purpose of a Robin's red breast is in territory defence: it is not used in courtship. A patch of red triggers territorial behaviour and Robins are known to persistently attack stuffed Robins and even tufts of red feathers.
Along with other small songbirds, Robins are relatively short-lived. They live, on average, only a couple of years, but a few reach quite an advanced age. The oldest known wild individual was 11 years 5 months.
Mortality is high and its causes are many and varied. Only around 40 per cent of fledged birds will survive from one year to the next. High levels of mortality are compensated for by high productivity and the Robin population has increased by 45 per cent since 1970.
Severe winter weather can have severe impacts on Robins. A bird can use up to 10% of its body weight during one cold winter's night, and unless able to feed well every day to replenish its reserves, a prolonged cold spell can be fatal.
In normal circumstances the fat reserves built up by the bird will keep it going for a few days, but mortality tends to increase rapidly if a cold spell continues into a second week.
Bird tables can make a big difference to the survival of urban and suburban Robins. The favourite bird table treat is mealworms. Other useful foods are meaty kitchen scraps, fat, cheese, cake and biscuit crumbs, and dried fruit. Peanuts are also taken, but they are better shredded or crushed than whole.
We remind members that it is unwise to feed bread to our garden birds. Its nutritional value is relatively low (an 'empty filler'), uneaten bread can attract rats, and a bird that is on a diet of predominantly or only bread can suffer from serious vitamin deficiencies, or starve. This is one reason why the National Trust, for example, asks visitors not to feed bread to ducks at its properties.
"Mayflower" steams through Saltford and we capture it on video
The Mayflower "Catherdrals Express" came through Saltford Tunnel on 4th June. This was a rare opportunity to see a steam train coming through Saltford prior to electrification and the inclusion of overhead wires and gantries etc.
A member of SEG's "History of Saltford" project production team captured this event on video film which you can now see on our new Videos about Saltford page that is part of our "History of Saltford" project.
Need help obtaining free local horse manure for your garden?
As a service to our community, SEG is prepared to deliver horse manure to elderly or disabled residents in Saltford who are unable to collect it themselves from the free supply in Manor Road. We are willing to deliver up to 30 litres (approx.) per resident. This is for a trial period initially during the summer and autumn (2015).
If you wish to take advantage of this, please contact our Chairman Phil Harding (click here for contact details >>) providing name, address and telephone number with your request.
Older news stories from SEG
'The SEG Newsletter' page carries some of our past and recently published news stories.
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Our October Newsletter is out:-
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