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Tuesday, 24 December 2013

last post for 2013 - or only post in December!

wooden animals on sale at
Ryedale House
Time flies, they say, when you are enjoying yourself. If that is so then December must have been a most enjoyable month. Much of it was taken up in organising Fairtrade stalls at several different venues. The goods had to be collected from Fairer World in York,‎, taken to the venue, usually a school, and then the things left over, as well as the takings, picked up several days later. I did my best to minimise my mileage and usually managed to pick up or drop off at two places in one journey. One school ran out of jelly beans (yes Fairtrade) and earrings, but a friend in York picked  more of those up for me. I ran a stall myself at the local Council offices, the lovely staff in the canteen invite us there twice a year. This year shiny pens and children's toys were the most popular items. Last year it was earrings and bangles.

After the last few boxes of goods were returned to York and the money counted we had sold over £850 of Fairtrade goods. The schools keep something for their funds and the rest will help Fairer World continue to promote Fairtrade goods in York and its wider neighbourhood.

Sorry it's all gone
Meanwhile Coasties continued as usual, and I squeezed in a trip to see my grandsons. The last Coasties of the year was at Ravenscar, but not above Robin Hood's Bay as we usually are, but slightly further south, right by the 'centre' of the village. Those of you who know Ravenscar will understand the humour of the work centre! In a howling gale and some sharp showers we were cutting back the ever present blackthorn, a helpful off shore wind blew the cuttings far out to sea. However the best was at lunch time, warm mulled wine, mince pies and Christmas chocolate ginger biscuits as a thanks for all our work, thank you Bill and Andrew.

I had a trip to Leeds to see my friend, she has had a few problems in her new home, a break in and some precious things taken. Her friends have rallied round and I made several phone calls to try to sort other things out. Her phone is pay as you go, luckily I have a contract with masses of spare minutes; just as well as one call to her housing provider lasted over thirty minutes. We ate together, and I left her a little happier than when I had arrived.

So to the holidays. Short Stop is closed until the New Year,, several of the long term homeless asylum seekers have been found a place to stay for the whole period, others have friends who can cope for the holidays with an extra mouth to feed, but it will not be easy.

As usual much voluntary activity will close down until the New Year, once again I must point out that we are the icing on the cake, essential services cannot and must not be run by the likes of me and my colleagues.

Lastly I remember the Palestinians in Bethlehem; Christians, Muslims and the few non religious people, hemmed in, suffering from power cuts and water shortages, not much holiday fun for them. They are still occupied by a foreign power, just as they were 2000 years ago. So, no change there.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

Coasties is mud again, but lots of sunshine too

A few days away with a friend, then family to stay and now back to the usual round of mud, sun and the phone.

Coasties,, last week was at Falling Foss, a massive task which will probably take several weeks to complete. Part of the internationally famous Coast to Coast path goes through here and crosses the stream at a ford. Recently there has been a spate of accidents in the wet and the mud so the solution is a very long and, despite ups and downs, level board walk. It is near a well known beauty spot so the plan is to make it suitable for all ages as well as long distance walkers. The engineering and practical skills required are beyond my capabilities, but there are hundreds of pieces of timber to be moved, all across the swamp that is to be bridged. No-one wants to fall over, or lose their boots in the mud, so we set up a chain gang and hand each piece across the worst of the mud and carry them where is it slightly less wet.

Eventually the builders have all they need for several days and some of us set off to do some ditch clearing and then some path clearing. Luckily the sun is shining and we are surrounded by a fabulous woodland, unfortunately I have left my camera at home, so you will have to take my word for it!

Short Stop,, has been very quiet for the last few weeks. I am afraid that this is because several of the referring agencies have reduced their opening hours (because of cuts to their funding), rather than a reduction in the numbers of destitute asylum seekers. So more people are probably sleeping on the streets and also not receiving the advice and help that these agencies can give them. I have one referral one week and just two the following week, both placed fairly easily.

One evening I run a Fairtrade stall,, at a craft evening organised by Sight Support Ryedale, I don't sell a lot, but several people come up to tell me that they bought things at our big shop just a few weeks ago. it is a lovely evening, so thanks to Sight Support for inviting us. Still with Fairtrade, at the beginning of this week I take delivery from Fairer World,, of several boxes of Christmas things, food and crafts for West Heslerton School, They are having a stall all week and I will collect what is left next Monday, thank you West Heslerton for spreading the word about Fairtrade. By special request there are lots of chocolate coins!

just starting
some of the wood
to be burned
Finally Coasties is back by the seaside at Hayburn Wyke, working with the National Trust. There were two main tasks, burning a lot of dead wood, far too much for habitat piles, and pulling out the invasive  rhododendron that the Victorians planted as a visitor attraction. I opted to help with the fire and got very hot. By mid afternoon most of the wood was burnt and a lot of rhododendron pulled out and cut down, again the sun had shone, but very little mud this week. Finally we used water from a nearby stream to damp down the fire and went home, smoky and tired.

Another good two weeks for me, and, I hope, for the wider society I live in. Certainly the homeless asylum seekers and the walkers in the woods seemed pleased with our activities. Next year in Fairtrade Fortnight I hope to meet a Fairtrade banana producer to find out more about how Fairtrade is helping them. Earlier this year I met an olive farmer from Palestine who produces olive oil for Zaytoun,, Fairtrade and sometimes organic too.

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Musings on Palestine


These are some personal musings from my recent stay in Palestine. Others can and have recorded the history, this is something different.

  •  We are walking on the ramparts of the old city of Jerusalem, ahead of us a middle aged woman shouts, in English, abuse at a man in a garden below us. She is accusing him of throwing rubbish onto the old Ottoman walls, she is probably right. He swears back at her. She looks at us, expecting support, she has heard us speaking and knows we speak English, she speaks to us. I turn my shoulder and blank her; normally I would have agreed with her. But this is his quarter of the city, he sees her as the other, an interloper, despite the rubbish we know he is right, it is his city, and he may do as he pleases.
  • We are walking through the old quarter of Nablus; our guide shows us photos of a family on a wall. They were killed when the occupying force thought that one of theirs had been killed by someone in the house, so they all died. The last time I saw photos like this was in a village high in the Apennines in Italy, there a whole village had been killed by the occupying force when someone in the village had killed one of the occupiers. Plus ca change, plus c’est the meme chose.
  • Now we are in an olive grove, high above the Jordan valley, the land below us is rich alluvial soil; in this climate it could sustain two crops a year. But the people whose land it is may not irrigate, so only one crop can be taken, wheat or maize and the vegetable which could have been grown must be imported. Meanwhile the occupiers, in their new properties high on the hill tops, have lawns and swimming pools. Anywhere in the Middle East that sort of use of water would be profligate, like the green ornamental shrubs I saw in Dubai being irrigated, but here it is wicked beyond belief.
  • As we walk along a short stretch of road a young conscript jumps out of his jeep, he is almost young enough to be my grandson. He is not quite sure who we are, so he cautions us to be careful. I resist the temptation to ask him if there are lions around, as all the local people couldn’t be more friendly.
  • After a picnic lunch we visit one of the few water treatment plants that are allowed by the occupiers. One of the men treats us to an impromptu concert; the style in which he is singing comes from medieval Andalucia when the Moors ruled in southern Spain. It is ironic that in those ‘barbaric’ times all three Abrahimic faiths lived in a sort of peaceful co-existence, rare today indeed.
  • Two days later we are in Bethlehem, standing by a Banksy cartoon, which happens to be on a very big wall, odd how the height of the houses in the old ghetto of Venice look very like a wall too. I wonder why this wall makes me think of that?  I think of other walls I have seen, Hadrian’s Wall, the Berlin Wall, the former now a tourist destination, the later crumbled into dust, one day here too………
  • We return to Jerusalem on a local bus, our large suitcases in the place under the bus for big items. The soldiers of the occupation get on at a check point, they look at our passports and wish us good day, no one and no machine has checked our cases; clearly this is not a security check, but a system of control and humiliation. We’ve lived in London, we know what a security check it. Or is it a form of profiling, we are elderly and not Arab, we have seen profiling in London too, we know what it looks like.
  • Later in the souk, there are soldiers of the occupation  perhaps two hundred metres apart, the souk is crowded, one could do a lot of damage before they could stop you, so what is their point, simply that they can?
  • Finally I am at the airport. There is a huge water feature, water spraying up from the ground and down from the ceiling, I am sure it is recycled, but what a mockery of the country which I have just left, where water can be turned off at the whim of the occupying power. I spend no money, but drink a lot of the (free) water and childishly flush a lot of toilets.
taking the message to Palestine.
 Can you see the bullet hole in the
top right hand corner? This is the
entrance to the Church of the Nativity
this mosque is opposite
the Church of the Nativity
in Bethlehem

that wall

Back from Palestine

A new place to walk, in the olive groves and wadis of Palestine. It was too late for wild flowers, but we caught the end of the olive harvest. It is a small and encircled place, with a wall and the Jordan river as its effective boundaries. But the people we met were kind and generous, both the guides who led us and the people in whose homes we stayed. We also met many volunteers, mostly women, encouraging and leading other women to become economically independent. It made me feel rather inadequate; in their circumstances, water cut off without warning, constant harassment from illegal 'neighbours', their olive trees cut down, would I still be as resilient as they are? I am not at all sure. I will do a separate post of my musings.

this beautiful rowan tree
will be in a glade where
several of the new paths
will meet up
I returned home tired and rather dispirited, but luckily the first day back after a few happy days with my family was Coasties, The weather was perfect, and we were in Ravenscar with the National Trust,, as regular readers will know one of my favourite places. It was an exciting new project, opening up an area of bracken and dense undergrowth so that new paths can be laid for families to walk and cycle in and other wilder tracks for intrepid mountain bikers. It is part of the National Trust's programme of encouraging more visitors to use their country side properties as much as the 'big houses' that some people associate with them. So we cut and lopped and laughed and joked the day away. By the 2 o'clock, nearly an hour before we usually finish we had all worked so hard that the day's task was complete. Once again Coasties had exceeded expectations!
fair trade toys for sale

I can't decide what
to buy
Then two days in the Friends' Meeting House in Malton ‎for our annual Fairtrade shop, all the goods from Fairer World in York,

Both mornings a colleague and I tied arrows and signs to lampposts in the town, it seemed to draw people in on Saturday, but not so well on Friday, maybe the rain didn't help. However we still sold over £1500 of food and crafts, all fairly traded, giving the producers in developing countries a fair return for their labours. If you live locally you can see even more lovely crafts at the shop itself.

sloes, I had left it a bit late,
but the ones left were very big!
Then on Sunday the rain blew itself away and the sun came out and luckily I was being a voluntary ranger on the coast. I was blown along from Hayburn Wyke almost to Ravenscar and then back in the comparative shelter of the old railway line. On the way I managed to pick enough sloes for several bottles of sloe gin.

So lucky me, a safe and open country in which to do my bit for my small society. I listen to Joan Baez singing Jerusalem as I drive home and try not to cry.

The next post will be my second political post in this series.

Monday, 14 October 2013

A pretty standard week

A week with a bit of most of the things that my small society is involved with. So nothing of great excitement, but often that is the way, we volunteers plod on. Nothing wrong with plodding, so sorry if that sounds a bit Eeyoreish. I just mean that people who volunteer expecting excitement and constant change soon stop, because that's not how it is.

So on Monday I was to be a guest at the Pickering and area Fairtrade group's‎ They are more formal than we are in Malton and Norton, our AGM is usually tacked onto an ordinary meeting. Just as well we can be different, how boring it would be otherwise. It was interesting to meet another local group and see how we differ (mostly the activities we do) and our similarities (mostly frustration with local cafes).

Tuesday was my regular Short Stop phone coordination for LASSN,  It was another quiet Tuesday, a man from Iran and another one from Zimbabwe, both placed quickly, only one phone call from me for each one. It has been quiet recently, but now the weather is getting colder and wetter the street or park option will become less likely, so more calls can be expected. Next week we move up a technological stage, with a constantly updated lists of hosts, so I am hoping for another quiet day whilst I come to terms with how to manage it.

Wednesday was Coasties,, we were working on the section of the Cleveland Way south of Scarborough. A section prone to frequent landslips; the path I was clearing of overhanging brambles and nettles is a long standing diversion from when the original fell into the sea many years ago. Unfortunately, being on the edge of the town, it is also a dog walkers' path; much used it seemed by dog owners who imagine that putting their pets' poo in a bag and flinging it in the hedge will magic it away. Actually it won't!

Saturday I was being a Voluntary Ranger for the National Park, However rather than patrol along paths a colleague and I continued work that Coasties had started some months ago. Board walks are useful things when they are maintained, this involves clearing the vegetation from the edges and trying to keep the gaps between the boards clear of detritus so that they can drain. So we used hoes and shears and stiff yard brooms to continue clearing the board walk in Forge Valley, a beautiful National Nature Reserve If this isn't done the wood, however treated, will eventually rot. However the task would have been easier if the installers had left better gaps between the boards, note to future board walk makers. We didn't finish and hope to come back in the winter to complete the task.

Well that's all for this post. Sorry about the lack of photos, some next time I hope. I am off at the end of the week for ten days, hoping to meet some volunteers in foreign fields, more next time.

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Everything seemed to go OK

In my previous post I anticipated several events, well I'm pleased to say that they all went well, at least I thought so.

My presentation on the role of volunteers in maintaining the Cleveland Way to members of the North York Moors Authority,‎, was very well received. Thanks to Andrew, who put together a wonderful collection of photos, and my colleagues in the photos who certainly showed off their skills. My suggestion that perhaps we might be provided with waterproofs has apparently not been entirely dismissed. We shall see...................

A colleague and I from the Malton and Norton Fairtrade group spoke to members of Sight Support Ryedale,, about Fairtrade and where to purchase Fairtrade goods locally. We had a very good discussion and even touched on how politics can affect how Fairtrade can operate in many countries.‎.

So now to new events.

I have been to Coasties twice since I last posted. Once actually on the coast the other time well inland. The first time we were making sure that a section of the Cleveland Way on National Trust land in Ravenscar was looking its best. People from all the National Parks in England were due the following day and we needed a good clear path for them to walk along. It was damp and warm and the midges were biting, but we kept on with the cutting back; the bracken seemed to be their favourite habitat!

a public highway!
the start of the new path

The following week we were making a parallel path to the path on the left. It may not look like it, but this path can be used by any vehicle and so is frequently used by motor bikes, leaving it in the rutted state you can see here. Unfortunately it is also part of the Moors to Sea cycleway and the Tabular Hills footpath. So we set to and cut a path through the bracken, in a couple of weeks part of it will have a hard surface for the bikes and level grass for the walkers. The bikers can carry on making their rutted way through the mud.

Short Stop has been quite quiet recently, which is just as well as many of our lovely hosts now have Long Stop guests. Asylum seekers who may have to wait for many months for their cases to be heard can sometimes be found somewhere to stay for more than just a night; giving them and the hosts some certainty and the opportunity to plan their lives just a little. So I manage to find somewhere for everyone both weeks, even though one week it takes half a dozen calls before I even get to speak to someone. One of my fellow LASSN volunters is upgrading the Short Stop paperwork to keep it all up to date, let's hope this dinosaur will cope,

Meanwhile I have been contacting local schools about Fairtrade stalls in the run up to Christmas, several have said yes please, so I need to get all those sorted out and then contact my friends at Fairer World in York to arrange picking up the goods for the However the biggest thing for our local Fairtrade group is our annual two day shop, Friday November 1st and Saturday November 2nd, all day on both days at the Friends' Meeting House in Malton. Planning for that is now well under way, advertising, staffing and refreshments all, I think, under control.

My last activity was attending a local conference of Amnesty International in York last Saturday,,. We discussed extraordinary rendition, conscription and human rights in the chocolate industry amongst other things. Luckily the stall I was running had plenty of Fairtrade chocolate and I was placed right next to a Fairtrade vending machine. So let's end with two pictures.

the vending machine at
the Priory Street centre,York
a bar for every taste

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

my small society gives up for a few weeks

So, first of all I went away, walking in the Auvergne in southern France. It was very hard work, lots of hills, too many cows and then a lot of rain. Much of it was enjoyable and fun, and the scenery was stunning, and the food, but................. I returned with a rather sore knee and very tired legs. So no Coasties and then I cancelled my Voluntary Ranger patrol, being sensible for once!

I felt a bit guilty, but decided that actually my small society would have to manage without me, none of us is indispensable! This morning I was back for a while, it was Short Stop . Just one referral, from Solace,, a couple from Eritrea, I managed to place them with the first people I rang. I have met these hosts, so chatting to one of them on the phone was very easy. The rest of the day was very quiet, I hope it meant that on-one needed a bed for the night, it has suddenly got very cold.

Now I am off again, visiting family in the West Country.

I have a busy few days though when I get back. Monday is a presentation to the National Park Authority about the role of volunteers in maintaining and improving the Cleveland Way,
North York Moors National Park Authority. One of the staff has made me a Power Point presentation, so all I have to do is press a button and introduce the pictures. I hope it goes alright, the role of the volunteers is incredibly important to the Cleveland Way and I want the members of the authority to appreciate what we do, especially those volunteers who do far more than me and are much more skilled than I am. Tuesday will be Short Stop again and then a meeting of our local Fairtrade group. We have to plan for our annual two day pre Christmas shop in early November and start to think about renewing our town Fairtrade status. Wednesday will be Coasties before I am on granny duties again. As soon as I return I am talking to a local group about Fairtrade.

So the next blog will be into October, when hopefully my small society will be well back on its feet again and I can report on how all these activities went!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Hacking a way through the jungle, then a week off, then busy, busy, busy

before we started
the finished path
Two weeks ago it was one of those "so where exactly is the path?" moments. It seemed impenetrable and there was a very large tree with several twisted branches in the way. However we hacked and sawed and lopped and somehow dragged the branches out of the way, nothing deters Coasties, even when we are a long way from the‎.
There was one nasty moment, in a scene from the enormous turnip, some one trying to pull a blackthorn tree away from its neighbour tripped and sent me over too, luckily the next person in line jumped clear. Fortunately, except for some nettle stings, no one was hurt.

By lunch time we had almost finished and had reached the bridleway which this path then joined. It had been hard sticky work on another hot day, but as usual a great sense of achievement.

Then I took a week off. My small society can manage when its members go away, or in my case had family to stay, but people who absolutely depend on others can't; which is why the things I write about here can be done by volunteers, but essential public services need paid employees. Even Short Stop, finds another volunteer to do the coordinating when I'm not available.

Back in my small society again, I did a day at the the Mobile Display Unit at Saltergate on Bank Holiday Monday. It was a busy and quite eventful day. One of my fellow Voluntary Rangers had to tell two dog owners to catch, control and put their pets on leads, both dogs had been chasing sheep. One of the owners tried to hide, with his barking dog, behind a tree. It sounds funny, but last week two almost fully grown lambs were badly hurt in similiar conditions by dogs off their leads. Then we saw smoke in a forest the other side of the valley, this is serious, even after some rain, the Moors are still on extreme fire risk. We called the fire brigade, but luckily it turned out to just be a rather thoughtless farmer burning a lot of wood.

Yesterday was a very busy Short Stop day, two couples and two single men. It took nearly a dozen calls and several texts, but by mid afternoon every one had a room and a meal for the night. The current fighting in Syria has meant an increase in numbers of people from there seeking refuge here. As usual those hosts who can't take someone in are so apologetic; part of my job, I think, is to assure them that I will find the guests somewhere, and so far I always have.

Today, another warm sunny day, Coasties were back right on the coast. We were doing a variety of tasks for the National Trust at the alum works at Ravenscar, mostly trying to clear weeds, bracken and gorse so that the outline of these old industrial buildings can be seen.

Once again we packed our tools away with a feeling of a job well done, smug, well yes OK! Here are the remains of the old winding house, we left the hart's tongue ferns to decorate the old stones.

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

"A map? No I don't have a map"

I have always loved maps. In primary school I used to draw imaginary islands, with contour lines and inlets. My father taught me to use a road atlas as my mother couldn't. I always have an OS map with me when I am walking. The drawback of walking in other countries is their lack of the detail and accuracy in our OS maps.

So the comment above that I often get when I am doing a voluntary ranger patrol for the North York Moors National Park,, never ceases to amaze me. Some people do have a print out from a website or a piece from their local paper, some of which are quite detailed. However last Saturday I met two walkers who had a piece of A5 paper which showed the whole coastal stretch of the Cleveland Way, each mile squashed into a few millimetres.

This might be adequate in the summer and in dry, sunny weather; but as the evenings draw in and the weather deteriorates it could be dangerous. Last winter I met a couple who were going to walk on to a village with no bus service and who then wanted an alternative route back to their car with no map to help them find one!

There are many debates about how much signing the Park should provide for people who come out without a map. I am beginning to think that we should provide more. If we are going to encourage people to walk more, for their health and because the National Parks are there for all of us, then maybe there should be more practical help to do so. The Park puts on guided walks, publishes leaflets, so maybe some more directional signing in the more popular areas would be a logical extension to what is already being done.

Enough of all this theorising and back to what my small society has been doing over the last two weeks! Well, short stop, has been very quiet, no one last week and just one, a very young woman from Syria, this week. However with hosts on holiday it took me several phone calls to place her safely off the streets.
the view from our BBQ

Coasties has continued building steps and then this week in the alum works catching up with clearing some of the old industrial works of months of nettles and other weeds. However the best of all was our annual BBQ, held as usual in Ravenscar, site of so many of our tasks. Excellent food and company as ever, culminating in badger watching and then, very late, a bat walk.

Monday, 22 July 2013

a new house and some new steps, all in the summer sun

My friend in Leeds, who now has leave to remain, or as she and other people in the same position call it, 'status', has now moved from her temporary accommodation into her 'forever' house. It was a  very hot day when I and a kind volunteer with a small old van loaded up her stuff and moved it across the city. She is going to be renting a house in a refurbished area of Leeds, where once joy riders raced there are now road narrows and intimidating (to them) metal bollards. Many thanks to LASSN and Solace two local charities who have given her the strength to carry on her pursuit of safety. Also many individuals who prefer not to be named, if you are reading this you know who you are. A week later she tells me that most of the house has already been re-painted, mostly by her, but some friends have also helped.

all the wood and tools
were carried across
the beach

now walkers know which
way to go.
Then to the new steps, here they are, above Runswick Bay; at first they went no where, but we returned a few weeks later, put in more steps and some direction signs. The first time was quite warm, the second time was very warm, and everything had to be carried from the car park and across the beach. This is the same place where we got caught out by the tide last year (see November 17th). This year we kept our feet dry, although a swim might have been nice.

Partly cleaned up
In between this step building Coasties had started to clean up the board walk at Forge Valley. This might seem an unnecessary cosmetic task, but the damp vegetation and blocked drainage will make the boards rot and eventually collapse. So we hoed and swept and made it look better and last much longer.

Saturday I did a Voluntary Ranger patrol. Fortunately there was a lot of cloud cover so walking was much easier than it would have been earlier in the week. I had been asked to patrol the high moors and check that there were no fires. The hot dry weather has put the Moors on high fire risk and there were warning signs in many places. There were no fires and surprisingly few walkers, perhaps the threat of high temperatures had put them off. However I did see these strange fungi.
my foot shows you how
big they were
And now to finish off the photo gallery with some bog cotton, which seems to have liked the long cold spring and is flowering in profusion across the Moors.

Each Tuesday I have been placing people in Short Stop, the urgency seems less in the hot dry weather, but what ever the weather the streets are not a good place to spend the night. LASSN the organisers, PAFRAS the usual referring agency.
Off for a few days to a family birthday, back next week.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

two old ponds and a Fairtrade stall

Dragging mud and debris out,
the banks will green over
Last month I reported on a day in the cold and the wet fencing off a series of new ponds for the National Trust, well last week it was ponds with them again. However this time we were in dappled sunshine in the beautiful woods at Hayburn Wyke and we were continuing the clearance of some long forgotten, probably Victorian ponds. Two ponds, full of mud and tree debris, one below the other, with an overflow from the top one linking to the lower one. As we scrapped out the mud we came across the remains of stone surrounds and even, with some imagination, perhaps the remains of a stone cascade. We cleared ditches (which led springs into the ponds), found tiny little stone bridges and pushed branches under some of the bridges to clear decades of mud and twigs.
Poking around under an old stone bridge

It was wonderful towards the end of the afternoon to see water flowing into the top pond, out and down into the bottom pond and then out again and eventually to the sea. A group from a large local firm had started the work, we did a lot more, but there is still more to be done. We discussed what records there might be of how the woods were originally laid out, but at the moment, sadly, no-one either knows or has the time to find out.

yummy chocolate

At the end of the week I was, fortunately as it rained all day, indoors at Ryedale District Council offices. We had our regular Fairtrade stall, doing a roaring sale in chocolate. We also sold quite a lot of craft items, children's toys being a favourite. In fact one crocodile was so popular that we took orders and will deliver them next week. As usual all the goods from Fairer World in
some of the craft items

If you live near York, you can see a much wider range of Fairtrade food and crafts at the shop in Gillygate.

Our local group met earlier in the week and started the discussions on ensuring that we maintain our Fairtrade town status, more of this to come.

Monday, 24 June 2013

my small society has been active, even though the blog has been absent

Well, I have not been away all this time, although I did have one trip away in the middle of my absent four weeks. Excuses? Busy in the garden, with the advent of some warmer weather and longer evenings; for some reason more driving and less on the bus, so catching up with paper work in the evenings instead of blogging, sorry!

So, Coasties, has run the gamut of all different sorts of weather, wet and cold, damp and warm and even sunny.

before the fence; it was
even gloomier by the
time we had finished
The wet and cold was at Robin Hoods Bay, working with National Trust, to fence in some new ponds, made to increase the variety of habitat. The bullocks against whom the fence is designed came to watch, unfortunately it was too damp to take their photos. I and a colleague measured the gaps between posts, others dug them in and strained the wire from post to post. All of us then hammered in the staples holding it all together. Team work in action.

the path disappears in
the undergrowth
The sunny day was in Forge Valley, I had done a voluntary ranger patrol there the week before and had reported overgrown paths and the board walk, as well as fallen trees blocking other paths. So Coasties set to, with slashers, loppers, saws and strimmers and by 3 o'clock even if it wasn't quite finished it was a lot clearer.
a carpet of wild garlic

 I had heard a strange tale when I was doing my ranger patrol, a deer had actually chased a small dog that had presumably got too close to its fawn. The same day I had walked in this lovely woodland, fragrant with the smell of wild garlic.

The warm and damp had seen us near Cayton Bay, doing our regular task of step clearance, although here no repairs were required, just a lot more stone to fill them in.

Yesterday was a voluntary ranger patrol best forgotten, what had been forecast as showers turned into a three hour deluge, enough said. Except that I had not realised which of my waterproofs needed re-proofing, I do now.

Short Stop has been quite difficult over the last few weeks, more guests and fewer hosts, holidays and people moving have reduced their availability. However, I have been able to place all the people referred to me, even though one day I was on the phone for several hours before everyone was found a bed for the night. It was a worry, especially as rain was forecast that night and several of the guests had spent the previous night on the streets. I tell myself that we have all done what we can and not to let it get on top of me, but that day it nearly did.

I have been to Leeds once to see my friend, we walked, on the hottest day of this year so far, around Leeds East End looking from the outside at houses that she can 'bid' for. Each Friday she puts her 'bid' in and then may have to wait for a couple for weeks to see if she has been successful, however she still needs to go on 'bidding' in case she hasn't.

One of the village schools near by has had a Fairtrade food and craft stall at a parents' event; they were delighted with the range of pocket money small craft items. Many people think that Fairtrade is only about food, certainly not, at Fairer World in York,, you can buy craft items ranging from 50p to £40, jewellery, toys, wooden items and crockery amongst many other things.

So there you have it, a quick round up of the last four weeks, much of it is the usual stuff, but never enough the same for me to get bored.

One curious thing to leave you with, one day a week or so ago there were 100 views from Latvia, why?

We now know that intelligence agencies will be logging this, so here is one last photo.

I didn't make this up, or photo shop it, it exists

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Low numbers every where until today

Since I last blogged all my activities have seemed to result in low numbers, until today when Short Stop‎almost overwhelmed me.

The week had started badly when our attempt to do our bit for the BTO survey failed, as the fog on Fylingdales Moor was so thick we could barely see to put one foot in front of another. Short Stop last Tuesday was all done and dusted in an hour, three people needing a room for the night and two hosts found in ten minutes and two phone calls.

Coasties found us short of people. Only four of us, and the Cleveland Way ranger, to repair a long flight of steps
just a few of the steps
leading out of Robin Hood's Bay. To make it harder everything had to be taken down to the bottom in a quad bike, no room for the van and trailer, so that meant several trips.

The steps were uneven and the wooden boards rotting, so that meant realigning as well as new boards. As I have posted before steps are not my forte, but there was no choice. I dug out the old boards, 'lost' them in hidden greenery where they will rot totally and helped to put new boards in. Absent colleagues were badly missed, next time we hope they will be there! However we had a choice of benches for lunch and a sheltered place to sit.

Thursday we did the bird survey, but it was a freezing morning with a gale blowing. Before factoring in the wind chill it was only 5 degrees. No insects, so no sensible bird would have ventured out of a sheltered roosting place. We heard a sky lark six times, was it the same one? In the blustery rain we will never know.

a peaceful spot below Crosscliff
Monday I was at Saltergate helping with the Mobile Display Unit,‎  There were several Voluntary Rangers and not a lot of customers, so after lunch I went for a walk along the Old Wives Way. It was lovely and peaceful and I sat for a while enjoying the quiet away from the roar of the traffic (especially the speeding bikers) on the main road.
easy to be a ram

Later I came across this ram, dozing in the long grass. His job had been done in just a few minutes some months ago, now he could rest. At the other end of the field the ewes were busy, busy, busy. Their lambs were either demanding food or trying to escape through small gaps in the fence. I knew how they felt, my grandsons spend much of their time in the park trying to escape from sight.

To my surprise I met no other walkers or cyclists, usually this is a popular cycle route into the Dalby Forest. Our car parking charges are a lot less than the toll to drive into the Forest.

I passed the ancient Malo Cross, climbed back to the car park; along the last section a pair of lapwings were calling and swooping in the wind. A lovely end to a lovely walk, my spirits soared with the birds, fanciful I know, but just occasionally I can indulge.

And so to today and Short Stop again. Five people today, including one man who had slept out all weekend. Several hosts were away as it is half term and others on voicemail only. It was after 3 o'clock that I placed the last person, with a great sense of relief; it may not be so cold now, but rain is forecast for tonight.

A week of contrasts, the wild of the Moors and the very different desolation of a night on the streets of Leeds. But there is a link. If the total waste of money that is the Fylingdale Early Warning Station (warning against what?) were not there the Moors would be more beautiful and imagine what could be done with the money saved.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Mud and Fairtrade, but not together!

early or late for Christmas?
Well I knew it might be a bit muddy on Wednesday at Coasties,, after all it had rained all night, but this was muddy beyond compare. Before the mud though there was a surprise when we got out of the mini bus, had we gone back in time, or rapidly forward? This tree, carefully decorated with glass baubles, in the middle of the forest, are we early or late for Christmas?

For about half an hour we cleared an overgrown bridleway. Then, downing our loppers and saws and collecting a variety of spades and large forks we set off for the mud. For hours we laboured, cutting a ditch and trying to discover the whereabouts of a rumoured drain. This bridleway was so deep in mud that the strongest horse must have had difficulty getting through it. Every so often there was a cry for help as one of us sunk so deep that we needed a hand to be pulled out. Our wellies slurped and sucked as the mud threatened to go over the tops.
a very satisfactory flow
of muddy water
How many people to find a
drain pipe?

On the left, the drain is not a rumour, but is very deep; it will have to wait for another week to be properly connected. On the right the ditch is working and muddy water is draining off the bridleway down the hill.
All three photos of Coasties are courtesy of one of my colleagues, Tristan Eyre, as I forgot my camera.

Tomorrow is the Malton Food Festival and the Malton and Norton Fairtrade group, is having a stall in a local church, thank you to St Michael's, We have tried a new form of publicity this year with a display in House Martins window,, thank you House Martins.

Only chocolate wrappers, not the real thing, on display, this window can get very sunny. I will be missing the selling, but I have done my bit transporting the goods to Malton, team work in our small society.     

As usual all our supplies are from Fairer World in York,

Back to my small society on Monday for the annual bird survey on Fylingdales Moor watch out for results next week.