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Nature Notes from Markstakes Common 

26 March 2023 

Today’s visit started in the last 15 minutes of a long spell of heavy rain; the woodland streams were seeping water like an upturned bucket on a linoleum kitchen floor. The area cleared by Friends of Markstakes Common has taken on the appearance of a mire’ the willow saplings clearly well suited to this environment.

Just south of the gate, there’s a fallen branch covered in split gill. Densely packed in shelves, they are daily nondescript from above, but below there are those amazing gills to admire, wonderfully drawn like something that might appear in a pre-Raphaelite stained glass window.

Taking the western path south through the Common, there’s a long-ago fallen oak stem, not a very big one, and an obstacle to avoid tripping over most of the year. Today it is covered in Mica Cap: some old and falling apart, others freshly emerging from the decaying bark. I took one home to create a spore print and it duly melted away into a wet, inky black mass.

I like to keep an eye on a couple of our’ notable Hornbeams so I cross over to the western boundary. The oldest Hornbeam and our only ‘veteran’ had a few porcelain fungi on it several weeks ago. This ancient tree looks brutally gnarled, with many broken limbs rotting on the woodland floor. I note how many stronger competitors are growing up around it, some exploiting spaces created by a large fallen stem. It is in this decaying stem that I see slime mould. There are patches of this around the Common, always on pieces of wood so decayed it is hard to believe there is anything left to give. 

My attention is on the trees, notable and ‘possible notables’ (PosNots, as I call them), but I clock the primrose by the flowing boundary stream that wraps from ‘Deep Pond’ and I tread carefully around carpets of bluebells, which have yet to produce a stem or flowers. Gorse is in flower, and catkins gradually flaking away. 

There’s a good deal of Hairy Curtain Crust (Stereum hirsutum) about on an immature, decayed oak stem on the boundary mound, west of Shallow Pond; then again south of ‘The Mire’ on fallen stems, branches and twigs and on what I call the ‘Rocking Horse Head’ a decaying branch of fallen notable Beech No.7 (the rotten trunk of which played host to bracket fungus when noted in 2010 and still has a small colony of ‘Artist’s Bracket’ (Gandoerma applantum). 

Jelly Ear is out in abundance too, on a long decayed Hornbeam branch also between Shallow Pond and the western boundary, but also on a branch used in den building. Brownish in colour, rubbery, gelatinous texture growing on dead and decaying wood in this case most likely on beech (or possibly willow). How I identify one long, rotted branch from another is currently beyond my skills, though indeed, these old branches used for making dens are from different trees. The local trees are Beech, Hornbeam and Oak, with noticeable swathes of Silver Birch, and willow elsewhere. 

Slime mould is not a fungus (nor is it a plant or animal). On first appearance, I think of them as a branch of polypores; they appear in similar spots, but of course they’re not using graving to release spores from pores. The release as such comes as the entire slime mould body transmogrifies from a white, gluttonous mass with a thin skin into a dried out, firm dry nodule, which eventually crumbles away (some of the decayed tree stem with it) into dust. I first spotted a couple (possibly the same mass in two lumps) on a long decayed broken stem of Silver Birch in ‘The Mire’ to the south of the Common. In the past week, this has changed from a white, glutinous mass the size of my fist to a brown nodule that is softening and will soon crumble to dust. I found another on a long-fallen, well-decayed Hornbeam branch under the Veteran Hornbeam (No. 5).  

The sound of spring, birds and bees, is somewhat diminished by the slow rumble, then roar, of jets departing and arriving at Gatwick airport (20 miles to the northwest; Chailey, like Lewes, is on a direct flight path from Seaford, one of the busiest airspaces on the planet). 

The Scarlet elfcup has been consumed by the locals—I’m thinking slugs and birds. Do squirrels or rabbits nibble on them? The only whole Scarlet elfcup left is tucked well amongst the branches. Humans do a neater job of foraging. I don’t forage on ‘my patch,” as it were. As an area that ought to be designated an area of Scientific Interest we ought not to forage (IMHO)

Black witch’s butter, or jelly fungus, has appeared on long-fallen Hornbeam here too. Black, gelatinous, smooth, and shiny. I think of it more as “Crow’s Snot” if we need a more suitable PC wording. Spores are produced on tiny bumps that are scattered across this fruiting body. 

I said hi to the notable Beech with companion oak (no. 31) and a nearby long-dead and fallen Hornbeam (though another fallen Hornbeam has life in it yet). 

I also make note of a companion ‘winner takes all’ (as I classify them): Hornbeam—one long, dead. I have a growing collection of ‘companions,” which I am sure demonstrate that there is nothing symbiotic going on here, not between different species nor between the same species—one or the other eventually trumps the others. All of these are conflated by holly or yew, or trees falling across their paths. 

I also make note of PosNots, which are possible notable trees that may have been missed in the 2010/2013 surveys. This is an oak with honeysuckle growing from one fat stem, as well as ferns and lots of lichen and moss, with other ‘ancient’ characteristics of rotten branches and fallen decaying branches. It is by the path running north and south towards the southeast corner.

Returning from this sortie I inspect the ‘Oyster’ log and half-living stump. It has a fungus or slime mould all over the bark. There are no remaining signs that Oyster mushrooms were ever here. 

Holly is shedding copious leaves; I guess this is because the canopy will imminently close into semi-darkness and the over-winter advantage Holly has is gone.

I circle what I have called the ‘Arthur Rackham’ Hornbeam. I imagine it suffered damage in the storm of October 1987 and has been growing back ever since. I find it wonderfully photogenic and atmospheric. Once the canopy closes in it is hidden in the gloom – another indication that it may struggle to survive against younger competing trees.


Nature Notes from Sussex Woods

Grey willow catkins, gorse in flower, slime mould, split gills, bitter oyster, half consumed scarlet elfcup, emerging bluebells, notable hornbeams and beech, and the trickle of a woodland stream – some of the pleasures of a walk in the woods in March. The rain was needed. The ground was brittle and hard after a dry February. All of this, and large fallen limbs from trees, and ancient woodland bank boundaries.

Life Drawing at Charleston

I’m in the Hay Barn life drawing at least 10 times a year and have possibly done 50 or more of these in the last six years, yet I also pack to go with trepidation, as if I will be doing a tightrope walk across the Grand Canyon and will forget how to keep my balance.

With the restaurant closed we take lunch. As usual I scrape some of last night’s lunch into a tupperware box, add some rice, take some soya milk, decaf: coffee and water.

Materials include: wallpaper backing, A3 sketch pad and a small sketch pad. I also took watercolour pencils, pastels, a large variety of pencils and charcoal. The rest I leave to the organiser Silvea Macrea-Brown: easel, drawing board and clips … and providing a model.

Liz is back

Liz inspired me last summer to move my art into the garden and start producing additional works based on the sketches made during these life drawing sessions. I took a long a display book containing some of my early efforts a printmaking too – featuring her.

There’s a pattern to the session. Arrivals between 9:50 and 10:05am for a 10.00am start. Chairs into a semi-circle, set up, some introductions and small talk: hello Susie, Ken, Charles, Lucinda, Laura etc: hello Silvia. Good to see you again Liz.

I tape three layers of wallpaper backing paper to a drawing board; this is how I start. three, four or five fast sketches on the single sheet just to ‘get my hand it’ – something might come out of it, something bold with a sense of movement and mood, or not.

Just relax. I tell myself. Let go. Follow the advice. Be bold, be fast, use my left hand.

Not wax crayons today, but something more sophisticated: pastels. I soon learn that they don’t have the rigidity of a child’s wax crayon. I break most of the box and get as much pastel onto me as I do the paper. That, and as I get through the sheets I smudge a lot.

I think I’ll go back to wax crayon! I can be more brutal with the movement. And this two tone thing might work better. I can’t see if I got much from this exercise other than warming up my hand/shoulder and brain. I like some of the colour combinations though.

These poses were around 3 minutes each.

For a short spell I used a fancy Japanese biro I got from Lawrences – it behaves more like the Lamy fountain pen I’ve used before. Saves on paper; I get a few drawings per page.

And as I show above, I try drawing with my left hand for a few minutes. Had I stuck with this a little longer it is surprising how quickly the non-dominant hand can pick up where the dominant hand left off. There are advantages to this – it frees up the mind, opens up the subconscious, offers you the unexpected.

I then revert to the larger sheets, each drawing complete in around 2 minutes. My aim is to create something simple and expressive that I can use in larger format, as a print. maybe a mural on a wall. I like to think big. One drawing per page, using, for want of a change, watercolour pencils, sometimes as a pair, rather than sketching with a soft HB or large pieces of charcoal.

The longer poses rarely work for me. I become too fiddly and exact. Perhaps I should be drawing large. I’m not good at slowing it down, even though my taught methodology was the three hour pose with a great deal of measuring and careful, exact placing of the image on the page. Not today, not today. Maybe instead of one 35 pose I should break it into 10 poese, or certainly 6 or 7.

Lunch was before or after these. We take over a large, Arthurian round table in the restaurant for an hour. I spent a good deal of time at talking to Liz about her music, planned travels to the Congo and ways to get more attention for her singing and songwriting.

Afterwards, it is back to the drawing-board – literally.

I took along my Liz Portfolio of chine collée prints I have made over the last two weeks. Silvea liked these and asked for photos. Liz liked them too so I let her pick on. She went for something simple – the blue block of colour over her torso in mid ‘qi-dong’.

Life Drawing at Charleston Farmhouse

A day sketching a life drawing model with coloured pencil, graphite and biro.

Playing the guitar and singing

Something on your “to-do list” that never gets done.

Resolutions since 2016

At least 8 years ago I made these new year resolutions of things to do. One, and they are interlinked, remains stubbornly undone. The guitar stand remains, its handy – the guitar (in its case) is in the shed. If I sing, it is with the guitar.

A life time ago, it feels, in a different place (literally) I sang the way I now walk the dog or visit a wood or take a walk by a river. I suppose.

I still have a swatch of songs, the lyrics and chords, all typed out in 1980 ahead of going off on my gap year which started in early December 1980 working the season in the French ski resort of Val d’Isere. As well as 20 or so pop songs: a lot of Bowie, some Beatles, Cat Steven, Simon and Garfunkel, I have my own songs written when I was 17/18. Happy teen songs, love songs and comical songs (not very good songs!)

I doubt I have sung, except once or twice in church, at a funeral or civic ceremony, for at least 10 years. Come to think of it, the singing stopped around the time I also, finally, stopped swimming. Are the two at all connected?

Will something get me started again? It used to be the case that I’d catch a tune in the radio, find a song street, and if the chords weren’t too onerous I’d give it a go. I should.

Is it having neighbours that has put me off? I’ve not performed for many decades. In my teens and twenties I busked and sand on stage. Or drinking waking that bored the household with calls to stop?

Once upon a time I travelled with a guitar to accompany my singing and a pad of paper and soft pencils to draw. No more. But looking on the bright side there is plenty here that I have done or still do.

I took up life drawing in 2016 and attend at least ten classes a year, initially at Sussex County Arts Club in Brighton, but now with Silvea MacRae Brown at Charleston Farmhouse. I’ve expanded this into large watercolours of the pieces created and since started print making at Bip-Art – I have work, glass, rollers and ink out before me.

Visits to France and learning French have slipped a bit but after a few trails with language Apps I settled on LingVist and have stuck at that for five years taking my vocabulary from 375 to many thousands – 2,500 or more words I know and have stuck from over 5,000 that I have studied. I’ve tired of the platform though and am thinking about a person/video based course picked up from Instagram. Perhaps. Other languages call!

I also got together with other French speakers twice a month in a group called ‘Rendez-Vous à Lewes’ – sadly we lost the habit during Covid-19 lockdowns and the dynamic has gone.

For five years I returned to dinghy sailing, owning a Streaker and competing with Newhaven & Seaford Sailing Club. I went out as crew on offshore boats and even crossed the Atlantic from Grand Canaria to Bermuda via Cape Verde. I sold my Streaker in 2021 and left the sailing club just this month – even though I could from time to time go out on Rescue Bot duties (I have the requisite Power Boat II licence). Other things fill my day – woods mostly! I’m in one most days. Somewhere in East Sussex.

Skiing does happen but has been ruined by a protracted legal battle with Clubhotel Multivacances and timeshares inherited from my late father who died in 2002. The family, five of us, have had to pitch in to pay ever increasing maintenance fees despite the flat being used rarely – and one flat never at all. That and the cost and appalling lack of fitness. Yet I will be in a set slope next weekend and have a month in the Alps planned for January 2024 to mark 30 years of marriage (skiing brought us together and we honeymooned in the Alps).

And then there’s Radio 6 Music. Not on the list but rather an illegible scribble for a song I must have liked. I’m habituated to listening to Cerys Matthews everyday Sunday and got a call out after Jane, my older sister died in April 2022 … and now there’s Craig Charles both are a ‘must listen’, ideally live, otherwise on BBC Sounds and often played two or more times over.

Vegan Christmas Lunch

What’s your favorite thing to cook?

With a daughter who has been vegan for over a decade and a son who is vegetarian when they come over for Christmas the entire family goes vegetarian. With some planning it works: a nut-roast, a rich gravy and lots of roast veg and green veggies.

Lewes: the place to go to see what the future looks like

If you were able to attend the Human Nature Phoenix Planning Application Launch on Friday (27 January 2023) at The Depot, Lewes what did you come away feeling? What key phrases rang in your ears? Have you done anything as a consequence? I did. 

To the event: it was heaving with people and full of the kind of bonhomie that The Depot is so good at. It was Robert Senior – The Depot who introduced things: “This is an exciting development for the town, and I’ve invested in it”, he said. In brief introduction he compared getting it right for the North Street Development as similar to the transformation of the former Harvey’s Brewery Depot site, with the same issues and expectations, but on a far larger scale. Robert Senior expressed his hope that the Planning Application will go through without a lot of issues.

Katie Derham hosted the event. She’s lived around here for 15 years apparently (closer to Haywards Heath than Lewes) and unless I am mistaken I taught her children to swim with Mid-Sussex Marlins at The Dolphin (hers was a familiar name amongst parents for a time) … I digress.  

Jonathan Smales, Executive Chairman, Human Nature resisted the temptation he must rightly feel to sell the virtues of the project for an hour or so and kept to his allotted ten minutes. He provided a potted history of  Phoenix Ironworks and the issues that arise from a ‘wickedly’ difficult brownfield site. In this context I understand the term ‘wicked’ to contrast with ‘messy’ – management speak for ways to describe different creative problem solving approaches, a ‘wicked’ problem having no easy fix, requiring as it does much subjective soul searching and inventiveness, while a ‘messy’ problem has to be addressed with logic and analysis. That’s my take on it, Jonathan Smales might say he just plucked the adjectives from there air. 

A planning application in Lewes passes through the gut of four planning departments: Lewes Town Council, Lewes District Council, East Sussex County Council and South Downs National Park Planning Department. Each has some, a bit, not much or a lot of influence on the other, or not, depending on the issue, and how aligned the thinking and understanding is across the individuals in these departments. That is my personal take on the situation after nearly four years as a Lewes Councillor and 25 years poking my mind into ‘local issues’ here in Sussex (20 years) and Warwickshire (5 years). 

To say that the North Street Quarter is “Not in great shape after 20 years of dereliction and blight” is an understatement. It is sad that sites like this are too commonplace – so good luck truly, bonne courage, to those who wish to take on and transform such sites that for multiple reasons can stagnate, become blocked or caught up in development/planner/legalistic imbroglios. 

The bullet points were:

  • The safest part of the town for flood defences
  • The only large-scale carbon regenerative development (in the UK, Europe, possibly the world/universe … I was getting my thumbs wrapped around ‘regenerative’ as I took notes on my phone (I should have just recorded a sound note of the entire thing). 
  • The involvement of 15 architects
  • A potted history of Phoenix Rising
  • The biggest affordable scheme in ESCC
  • £400m investment

As a someone who loves being on, in or beside water (lakes, rivers and the sea … and swimming pools!) I was interested in the slipway on the development (Lewes needs another with public access). Though not if this creates a safety risk or sees jet-skis on the water.

I am intrigued that artists often imagine the development at high tide (twice in 24 hours, not always in daylight), and in mid-summer, with the sun shining brightly through from the north east (around 4:00 am). The reality of living here will be different, not in a bad way: we have weather (cloud, rain, wind, drought) and we have constant change in the river. An animation, rather than artist’s sketches would better show what a place will look like and be like to live in (though costly I suppose). Trees too, mature 30-50 year old trees – Surely there should be no problem showing a three year old sapling and recognising that it will take generations to grow to maturity (unless of course, mature trees are going to be planted here). We shall see. I’m sure Audrey Jarvis of Lewes Urban Arboretum could provide advice.

The Lead Designer, from Periscope, Dan Ray then spoke. He talked about the development having to fit into Lewes, “for the next few hundred years”.

With the castle on the hill and the Saxon layout of the High Street and Twittens that might be rephrased ‘for the next thousand years’. It should be built to endure. 

Points covered included:

3 minutes walk

  • Flood attenuation
  • Landscape systems

Robert Ash of Ask Sakula Architects then introduced the first parcel of the development which will be at the far end of the site next to Wailley’s Bridge and the Pells. I was taken by how European it looked, with suggestions of Barcelona in the brightly coloured, sunny artist’s impressions or certainly something from the Netherlands, or of some community developments in Strasbourg. He’s a fan of shutters; so am I.

I don’t understand why external shutters aren’t commonplace across the UK, as they are across continental Europe both to shade windows in summer, but also to keep in the warmth in winter. The Georgians had internal shutters, why no more? Double-glazing? Cost cutting? We need them, the Phoenix Development will have them. 

There were various exemplars of sustainability, such as green walls. The community should grow to care for these, especially to find a way to keep them alive in the case of a drought. Will the development be able to extract water from the Ouse when water becomes in short supply? Drought as well as flooding has to be mitigated against.

The panel for the Q&A introduced themselves, of value in its own right, but it ate into time that might have been better spent taking questions from the audience. Half-an-hour for this and 12 minutes or more went on introductions – though I sense this wasn’t the place for tackling potentially awkwards questions which would have come up had it gone on longer – a shame, as the panel would surely have been able to address these, the ‘known unknowns’ and ‘unknown unknowns’. I felt like mentioning a few ‘known unknowns’ but felt better about it. 

Most impressive was Professor Raphie Kaplinsky, an Economic Historian (retired, he’s an emeritus at University of Sussex), formerly of The Open University. Google him and you learn that “Since his formal retirement at the end of 2014, he has begun working on the green economy and urban regeneration in Newhaven and Lewes (towns close to Sussex University), and in Greece” and more besides from his website Raphie Kaplinsky.  

He summed up 300 years of global Economic History in about 8 minutes flat, mentioning in passing four, what he called ‘long wave techno-paradigms’ from the Industrial Revolution with waves of creative destruction that interrupted conservatism, taking in periods of populism, standardisation, mass production, individualism and decentralised. Henry Ford got a mention; he might have added Jeff Bezos or Elon Musk. His rallying cry was “Lewes: the place to go to see what the future looks like!”

Others on the panel, none of whom took a question, if I recall which rather turned them into set dressing included: Julia Oxborrow, Environmental Campaigner; Kelly Harrison, a leader in timber projects.

Zoë Nicholson, of Lewes District Council, asked the first question. She spoke of a positive ‘alignment of partnership working’ and summarised the presentation made by Human Nature for the North Street Quarter by praising recognition of the importance of: housing density – and so not building on greenfield sites or close to and adjacent to ancient woodlands; sustainability, in relation to becoming carbon neutral and meeting the problems of the energy crisis, as well as affordable homes – so that Lewes people can live and work here.

David Cown qualified this from the panel saying that  the development has to be “a place where people live, not just a housing development.” There was criticism of the ability of the South Downs National Park to make the right decision, given that they have agreed to a widening of the Exeat Bridge over the Cuckmere without pedestrian or cyclist access.

Jonathan Smales used a footballing metaphor to describe having to “play the ball in front of you … and having to be ruthlessly pragmatic”, pointing out that the South Downs National Park “is obliged to listen to everyone”. 

A question came from Cllr Dr Patricia Patterson-Vanegas, Wealden District Council (Greens). She is the one who described the plans for the Lewes North Street Quarter as ‘music to my ears’. Her question concerned water – in particular relating to sewage, or “toilet flushing” as she politely put it. This opened up a discussion on rain gardens, water harvesting and flood management. 

Conversations continued for a short period over a buffet lunch. I was able to introduce myself to Prof Kaplinsky, felt too shy to ask for a selfie with Natasha (no one else was), noted the views of Patricia Patterson-Vanegas and spoke to several fellow Town Councillors ahead of the first of several upcoming meetings of the Lewes Town Council Planning ‘Task & Finish Group’ in relation to the Human Nature Phoenix Development.

When I got home I googled Raphie Kaplinsky and then ordered ‘Sustainable Futures’ which may be the first in several books I read through of his given how taken I was by what he said. Can Lewes truly be “what the future looks like” ? Not a bleak dystopian science-fiction future, but more Shangri La – a Blue Lagoon for families? Without the required climate impacts delivering Mediterranean weather to the South Downs.

Frosty Meadering around Markstakes Common looking for ancient trees and frosted fungi

It feels like this should be my fiftieth visit to Markstakes Common so I’m going to call it that. I’ve been coming here since late April/early May – not every week, and some weeks several times. I’m also a Friend of Markstakes Common’ so weather permitting I do some scrub clearing work with others for a few hours every Monday morning. Every walk I record on AllTrails as an aide-memoire to where I stop and what I find – I still struggle often to find gems I’d spotted early. One moss covered tree trunk can look very much like another. 

My interest comes from the number and variety of ancient and veteran trees in such a small space, the variety of ecosystems and its relevant proximity to Lewes (six miles to the south). 

I’m going on a tree hunt

A decade ago a number of surveys were carried out mapping the habitats and identifying 38 notable, ancient or veteran trees. I have surely seen them all by now, and can find 20 or so of them with relative ease. Some have remained elusive however because they can be amongst other trees of a similar type and generation so picking one out as different to the others can be tricky – more so through spring, summer and autumn when the canopy is dense and the understory dark and the tree’s silhouette hidden. I hope to tick them all off by spring. I feel, after months of struggling to get close or even pick it out in a busy canopy, that I have identified the Ash. 

No.1 Ash 3-Stemmed 

I’m less certain amongst the hornbeams in the lower (southerly) part of the wood because there are over a dozen mature/old looking hornbeams, some companion trees or with companion trees, surrounded in holly, or with bits fallen off them. A few times I have wondered if the tree I am looking for has been flat across the floor for a decade … 

As well as finding them on the map, I am photographing the tree in various ways: vertical panoramic, wide shots and close-ups of features, and a slow pan video of 20-30 seconds. Part of me feels I could be doing this to record a wood that could be gone in a few decades – we shall see. It coped rather well in the drought (though one person having a barbecue could have put paid to that).

Foraging with a camera

Fungi became the next interest in late summer and through autumn. The foraging instinct has until now been a spring thing looking for wild garlic. This year we also collected a lot of sweet chestnuts. I collect very little of what I come across preferring to photograph the fungus, using the PictureThis Mushrooms App, and once home digging through my two Collin’s Fungi Field Guides . I am ‘getting the picture’ in the most general of ways – of course I know and am told that ‘my’ fungus could as likely be one of several similar looking species. But you have to start somewhere.

Today I returned to old friends to assess their state after the hard frost: hairy curtain crust, crowded parchment, sulphur tuft , birch polypore, wood ears and King Alfred’s cakes …

As Markstakes Common is the responsibility of Lewes District Council I can talk to my fellow Green Councillors about the management of the woods and common. Compared to other spaces it is deliberately not invasive: unless they fall over a recognised path the trunk or fallen branch is left where it fell. I’ve seen trees that I am told fell in February denses invaded by a variety of fungi by late October. 

We have eaten those fungi that clearly will not kill us! Wood mushroom, porcelain mushroom, puffball and jelly ear. It still freaks me out and I’m aware of the risks and touch nothing that might be seriously toxic. 

Now that I know where certain fungi can be found it intrigues me to see what will happen in a frost: jelly ear broken down, sulphur tuft gone from a bright mustard-yellow of dark leather brown in a few days … the birch polypores and King Alfred’s cakes shaking it off. 

Author and journalist Dixe Wills gave an illustrated talk about living in Longyearbyen for a year. 

The theme of Dixie’s talk came after a short introduction, when, like Pte James Fraze from Dad’s Army he declared  “We’re all doomed” and related this to the impact climate change is having on Svalbard. 

He started with a bit of geography and history, how it was initially known as Spitsbergen, not Svalbard; the discovery of coal, the Treaty of Versailles and the laterly the Spitsbergen (remaned 

Svalbard) Treaty which gave the archipelago an open visa and mineral exploitation policy taken up by Norway and Russia. We learn that the Russian’s maintain a presence by running a mine but that all the workers are Ukrainian. 

One curiosity from World War II is the story of the German radio operators on the island who were informed of the end of the war in May 1915 but were unable to surrender until that September. 

Svalbard is also home to the Global Seed Vault and is one of those’/most see’ sights. 

For four months there is no light, the Northern lights appear day and night, and are viewed to  the south

Returning to the theme of Climate Change Dixie told us that Svalbard has seen an average temperature increase since the 1960s of 5.4 degrees. This rate of temperature change is six to seven times faster than the rest of the world. He then talked about the impacts, that the fjord used to be iced up for most of the year; you could ski across and the port was only accessible in the summer – now it is ice free all year. This greatly affects the ability of polar bears to hunt. 

The Ice Fjord, once completely iced over given you 35 miles round is now completely clear.

Looking to the north east a wine glass shaped  gulley of snow changing as it melts traditionally marks the beginning of summer – when the wineglass breaks summer has begun. This used to occur in August, then in July, and in 2022 on 5th June. Ave temp: 6 degrees.

“I am a victim of climate change” Dixie declared showing a selfie he took of himself with a bloodied and bandaged head. This happened after a sudden warming in March 2022 when the temperature rose by 2 to 3 degrees and there was rain, which subsequently turned to ice, followed by snow. He slipped on a jetty and split his head open which required six stitches. 

A hardy chap, he took a dip in the sea, at a time of year – 5th June, when there should have been ice.

Once they arrived in huge cruisers, now only smaller vessels –  but tourism is still a problem. Dixe feels that we shouldn’t be there – that it is human presence that is causing the greatest damage. 

Finally, Dixe mentioned that he had helped translate a book, ‘My World Is Melting’ by a Norwegian journalist  Line Nagell Ylvisåker who has lived in Longyearbeun for 15 years.

Ouse Valley Catchment Project with Matthew Bird 

Matthew spoke at the Lewes Greens AGM, to an audience in the hall and online, about the communities vulnerable to flooding along the Ouse and the creation of an illustrated ‘fly by’ from the coast to Lewes showing the extent of potential flooding which became the inspiration of projects that have developed since.

The desire has been to come up with practical ways to do something to address the many problems that have been identified. It has taken several years to bring many disparate groups together. Eventually ten key partners came together including the South Downs National Park, Greenhaven, Ovesco, Transition Lewes, Sussex Community and Sussex Wildlife Trust along with 60 or more organisations. 

In the first instance £150,000 of development money was secured to run a year of events which engaged with 110 groups from Barcombe to Newhaven, Peacehaven to Seaford.

More recently £2.5m has been awarded, one of only 16 projects in the country to be selected, which will seek to develop climate resilience, and knowledge of nature and skills, nature based responses to flooding by creating leaky dams and scrapes to hold water.

There are also a number of specific projects such as: the Cockshut alignment scheme, community scheme on the Neville, the zero carbon Barcombe scheme and climate hubs – a charter of ‘rights of the river’; working with the Ouse and Adur River Trust and Love Our Ouse to promote a passion for our rivers and One Planet Living – a framework for measuring sustainability.

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