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Monday, 26 March 2012


Saturday I did a patrol as a voluntary ranger with the National Park around parts of the parish of Staintondale, the weather was amazing, I had discarded the thermal socks and got out the summer ones, just as well. I checked a bridleway, some signs need replacing, and then a couple of footpaths, before my favourite bit, along the Cleveland Way and then back along the old railway. Here is the nostalgic bit, see the photo below, it's what the station at Ravenscar looks like now, when I was a child my uncle was the assistant station master here (yes there was a station master too!)and on one memorable occasion I was allowed to hand the loop to the driver. When we travelled on the hill railways in India the very same system is still in operation.
looking down from
the Cleveland Way

the station now, it closed
in 1965

I am now off for a week, family here and then away, as I've said before that's what volunteers do, go off; that's why essential public services CAN'T be run by volunteers. I've done the paid work thing, then I didn't just push off, now I do!

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

not the prettiest of fences

Many sections of the Cleveland Way are falling into the sea, to try to prevent walkers doing the same, some sections need to be fenced. Today that is the task for Coasties. The section we are doing is particularly well used, as we discover as we carry out the work, just south of Whitby.

There is consternation when we learn that some one's car has broken down, he and his passenger have got lunch for several of us!

The fence is rusting and bits have already broken off, some posts are almost hanging over the edge. So the worst lengths of the wire fence are prised off, the staples apparently super glued into the posts, in some areas thick roots have trapped the bottom strand of wire. We work in short stretches as obviously we can't leave long lengths unprotected. The new fence sections are stapled back, tensioned and then fully fixed to the posts, some of which have been moved away from the edge, this makes the path narrower, but a lot safer!

a section of the old fence

Just before midday our lunch party arrives, they make themselves useful before we break to eat their supplies. Afterwards we carry on, we don't get the whole stretch done, that will have to wait for another day.

The purists will think that a fence should not be provided at all on this lovely, wild bit of coastline; once I might have agreed, but on balance I now think it should, it is very close to a town and holiday sites, many people use it who might never otherwise get to walk anywhere except in a local park. It is, crucially, also subject to constant erosion. There are parts of the coast, more remote, where no protection is provided, it is all a question of checks and balances.

There is a moment of real excitement, a peregrine falcon flies at great speed up the coast, only just off the edge of the cliffs, even the regular bird watchers have never seen one so close.

just the posts
the new fence

Monday, 19 March 2012

not everyone granted asylum here can be a brilliant football player

Everyone, including me, is wishing Fabrice Muamba all the best. However I wonder which of the tabloid newspapers in particular have noticed that his father was an asylum seeker many years ago, had he not been granted permission to remain then the young Fabrice could not have settled here and represented his new country at football.

Many other asylum seekers, like my friend, may not have his skills, but they have other skills, which, even at a time of high unemployment, are often still at a shortage in many parts of this country.

I hope now that some people will not be so quick to pass unkind and inaccurate comments on those whose own country is no longer safe for them to live in, indeed where their very lives are at risk, and who seek a safer life here. Most of them have skills and talents which they are willing to share with us to the benefit of us all.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Socrates put it well, over 2000 years ago

"a community starts to be formed when individuals find that they aren't self sufficient" hmm very true even today.

Well it's been a busy week, last Sunday was the AGM for the National Park's voluntary rangers, a chance for us all to get together and compare notes, quite useful, but may be more time to mill around and chat? Some one from the Forestry Commission assured us that after clear felling all footpaths are restored, some of us felt that it can take a very long time for this to happen, meanwhile the Coasties may have done it for them!

Tuesday was a very quiet Short Stop,, although rather worryingly one was a young woman who had spent the previous night on the street. Luckily the generous family who took her in were able to say she could go straight round, rather than as usual after 6pm, when the hosts get home from work. Two hosts rang back in response to my messages, to say they were free if required, if you're reading this, many thanks.

Wednesday was Coasties, misty and rather cold, we were making good a footpath after some clear felling, but not, I think, a Forestry Commission area, same principle though, if you make a mess clear it up!!! However over lunch we agreed that we probably made a much better job of it. As the physically weakest in the group, I only do one day a week on this sort of work, the others far more (well that's my excuse), my task was to clear that horrible trip hazard, self rooting bramble. So I pottered along behind, pulling and lopping as the bramble was uncovered from the mess of branches that had covered it. A necessary, but back aching task. Later we cut back the ubiquitous blackthorn, all agreeing that we had felt withdrawal symptons, as it is several weeks since we last cut back the prickly menace.

Thursday was the stress of reporting to the UKBA in Leeds, we had thought the last for a while, but no, the man last month had got it wrong, so hopes raised, only to be dashed again. My friend was very low, even my tales of my grandsons only raised a weak laugh. I promised her I would come over to Leeds again soon, and she promised me that she would keep on eating and going to college, her life line. I was reminded of my pupils in east London and how much education was appreciated by those whose parents had had none themselves.

Friday, and photos at last, I was on duty at the Mobile Display Unit at Farndale, the scene of the wild daffodils, the National  Park, see above, and Natural England are responsible for information and protection of this beautiful area. The MDU is staffed by voluntary rangers, who give out information, and wander along the valley to check that all is well, gates closed, daffodils not tramped on and dogs under control. The valley is all is private ownership so we encourage people to keep legal by staying on the footpath. Yesterday all the visitors were doing just that, even though some were a little disappointed that only a few of the daffodils were out.
the MDU, it can get a bit draughty
the sign that reinforces the message,
we hope!

and now a pretty picture

Only a few so far, but in about a fortnight the valley should be full of daffodils, so with apologies to Yeats, tread softly.

Monday, 12 March 2012

a Fairtrade fair

and here's another
I was at West Heslerton Church of England primary school last week for their Fairtrade fair. There was a raffle, a guess the number of biscuits in the jar and other similiar stalls and then there were the cakes, all decorated with a variant on the Fairtrade logo and all tasting just as good as they looked.
here's one of them

The school had asked me if I would have a stall as well, selling food and craft items from Fairer World in Gillygate, York. So, as you can see below, I laid out my goodies and waited for customers. Friendship bracelets were the top seller, followed by pencils and packets of jelly beans. Several people commented that they did not realise the range of fairtrade goods that are now available, especially the non food items. So, for things that you can't buy locally, buy Fairtrade, the two are complementary not in opposition.
the stall, thank you west Heslerton and thank you Fairer World

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

all around the world

Extraordinary, according to blogspot's statistics I am getting viewings from all over, Japan, the Philippines and Vietnam as well as further west, Iceland! I usually get people I know in France, Canada and Australia, but recently there have been viewings also from Ukraine and Hong Kong as well as Russia, what do they make of it all!? Someone I know is in Colombia, but Argentina and Brazil? My Canadian friend had to Google to find out the 'small society' 'big society' stuff, so she understands now, but others?

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

a depressing ps to today

I have just had a chat with my asylum seeking friend, she has just completed a two week placement in an old people's day centre as part of her college course. More than ever this is want she wants to do. Why, given the lack of people who seem to want to work with old people and offer them the dignity that she does, why, given all she has been through and all she has to offer can she not be given the right to stay here?

a supertask in the mire then 3 people in 3 welcoming homes

Every so often Coasties and the other voluntary groups get together in a 'Supertask', yesterday was one of these. The National Park, and Natural England had organised us to clear a mire, this is a swampy area with many rare species, as opposed to a bog, we are told, which only has a few. Anyway this mire, (which is an SSSI), in a valley below Newton Rawcliffe and adjacent to the North York Moors Railway,, has become overwhelmed with willow, which is not only sucking the wet out but shading out the rarer plant species, so away with it! As usual saws and loppers are the tools of choice, this is not the hard bit, because the only way to dispose of the willow is to burn it, too far and too expensive to remove from the site. And, the only area that can be used for a fire is uphill from the mire, so dragging the cut willow is hard, back breaking work. Over lunch we discuss walking, holidays and absent colleagues, gossip I suppose, oh dear!

The fire burns slowly to start with, the willow is fresh and the sap already rising, but a gusty wind soon gets it going and eventually all the willow, along with some gorse and the ubiquitous blackthorn is well away.

We chat to the Natural England person about the possibility of getting some grazing going to keep the scrub down, that would be the best, but finding a grazier prepared to do the necessary fencing is unlikely and neither Natural England nor the privatised utility company which owns the land can afford to, well the utility company can probably afford to, but wouldn't want to dent their profits. 

Finally the task is done, we climb a very long steep hill back to the mini bus and home to (for me) a hot shower. How soon before we are back to clear the willow again we wonder, these tasks are fun, but there are times when the job seems a bit like a labour of Hercules. Some volunteers are coming less often, but no new ones can be recruited to take their place unless they actually leave the group. Something else we discuss, but there seems no good answer.
the mire being cleared

the cleared mire

yet another fire

Readers must think we must be a bunch of pyromaniacs, but unless there is a good track and the brash is worth transporting away to burn in a stove, there is usually no alternative, there is a
limit to making habitat heaps!

Today is Short Stop, a couple of men I have placed before and then a young woman, unusual, but sometimes easier to place as we have several hosts who are single women themselves and have agreed to just take a single woman. Unlike the men she speaks very little English, but luckily there is someone to take her to the kind host. Mostly they need to take a bus; as I have posted before I struggle at times with the buses in Leeds and other places that are not familiar to me, how do they manage? One host is concerned that the guest will not be able to use their living room in the evening, as they have a crowded meeting there, I assure them that the guest will be happy in their bedroom, after their previous night in a night shelter I imagine the peace and privacy will be most welcome. Short Stop organised by Lassn and referrals from As I am typing this two hosts respond to the voicemails I left and say that are free if necessary, how lovely people are.

Two very different days, the sun has shone both days and spring is almost on the way, all is not well with the world, but I hope a little better than it might have been for 3 lonely  people tonight.

I have also rearranged my holidays, sadly not the middle east as we had hoped, maybe another year or two or three.............