Happy Birthday to you

Happy Birthday dear Knitting Friends

Happy Birthday to you!

The Knitting friends were 4 years old on Friday 28th August and celebrated in style with a fantastic cake made by Linda.

Linda's cake IMG_20150828_101112

Yes, all of it is edible apart from the knitting needles and ribbon trim! And I can vouch for its deliciousness personally :)

It’s now traditional for the birthday to be marked by a ‘bring and share’ lunch in the pavilion. The table was laden with a variety of appetising treats from tasty trout to a beautifully arranged fruit platter. I meant to photograph the spread but got sidetracked – focussed a little too much on eating and forgot!

As for entertainment:- this was the usual mix of scintillating conversation interspersed with rather dodgy jokes, and an unexpected cabaret turn from an pesky wasp which persisted in dive-bombing onto our heads and weaving in and out of the light fittings, until a few deft flicks of pampas grass sent it out of the door. Needless to say, the conversation then turned to the feasibility and design of knitted door screens! Not a bad idea :)    And I can recommend using pampas grass as a wasp swishing tool.

The knitters are slowly adding decorative touches to the pavilion and making it look quite homely.

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The latest accoutrement is a set of vases – an ingenious design that wouldn’t look out of place in a trendy store somewhere. And, it hasn’t cost more than a few beans. The cans have been recycled, the yarn is from our donated stash (beautifully knitted up by Sheila) and the dried teasels are from the park and would have been thrown away  if we hadn’t nabbed them. Nothing is wasted!

The Knitting Friends’ main aim is to raise funds for park improvements (apart from knitting and chatting on a regular basis, of course) and to date have raised nearly £2000. Some of this has been spent in previous years on a bench and obelisks and a third project is still at the planning stage but will hopefully happen soon.

But, the group does not restrict itself solely to park related activities. In an earlier post I wrote about the WI yarn bombing in the park to which the Knitted Friends contributed. They have also knitted squares for the Freedom from Fistula big knit challenge, hats and cardis for victims of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, teddies and toys for local charities, blankets for baby charities, twiddlemuffs for dementia sufferers, plus several sheeps-worth of garments for family and friends, some of which have even ended up in New Zealand. A regular monthly collection of food, clothing and knitted stuff is made for the Wellspring Centre in Stockport, which supports homeless and disadvantaged people.

It’s a pretty busy group!

Newcomers and visitors are always welcome – whether to knit or chat, or just to poke a head around the door to see what all the laughter is about.

On a personal note, I would like to thank all the Knitting Friends for coming along each week, or as often as other commitments/health/interests allow, for supporting the activities of the group and most of all for making it all such great fun. And thank you for the lovely and most unexpected birthday celebration gift :)

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The owls, tree wrappings and other decorations that the Heatons WI had installed in the park have now gone :(

But, some colourful items remain :)

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These wrappings (for want of a better word) are the work of the Knitting Friends and the aim is to keep them in the park for the rest of the summer. The wraps around the trees were donated to the knitting group by Carol a few years ago and were actually made by her daughter Susanna when she was little, so they are older than you might think. The method used is known as French knitting. In my day, we used wooden spools with nails we had knocked in ourselves, but these days you can buy ready-made and quite fancy dollies/bees/various characters with nails/stumps already inserted. No bruised fingers!

The railing wraps are strips of finger knitting made by one of the Knitting Friends from yarn donated to the group by Barbara, a local resident, who was a talented knitter until illness forced her to stop. If you want to know how to do finger knitting, have a look on Youtube where there are lots of demonstrations.

I like to think that this cheerful display demonstrates the ties and affection that users of the park, past and present, have for this lovely space and the community around it.

And, just in case anyone missed it, here’s a photo of an article that appeared in the Stockport Express a couple of weeks ago, following Stockport MP Ann Coffey’s  visit to the park.

Newspaper IMG_20150806_153809


Some interesting and thought provoking thoughts from Catherine, a regular reader and contributor to this blog:

Image courtesy of Pixaby

Image courtesy of Pixaby

The banning of smoking in the city’s public parks and on beaches is under active consideration at present in Brighton and Hove, where cigarette smoke is blamed for many premature deaths.  Such bans are common in the US, in cities such as Seattle and Philadelphia, and are being debated in other countries, such as Ireland and Israel.  In the UK generally, major public health experts, such as Lord Darzi, support such measures, and this has been much discussed in medical journals recently.

Lord Darzi of Derham,  was one of Gordon Brown’s GOATS.   He is an adviser to Boris Johnson, and in his moments of leisure is a highly-respected and expert surgeon at the Royal Marsden  in the field of minimally invasive surgery.  He has published extensively, is a recognised leader in his field, and a highly accomplished spokesman for the concepts of public and global health.  When Lord Darzi speaks, medics tend to listen, even if they do not always fully agree with him.   The Mayor of London made him the chair of the London Health Commission, and he has been much in the news recently for championing the idea that the capital, and by implication other cities, can be leaner, healthier and fitter.  Among several recommendations, the Commission recommends that  smoking should be banned in public parks.  By using byelaws, they believe that 40% of London can be smoke free.

The report is called “Better health for London” and can be read here.

Interestingly, the New South Wales government in Australia banned smoking in national parks on 1/1/2015; the aims were to minimise the risks of bushfires and to attempt to reduce the seven billion cigarette butts which litter the country each year, in addition to improving the nation’s health.  In 2011, the then-Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, banned smoking in all 1700 of the city’s parks.  In the UK, Glasgow will not allow smoking in children’s playgrounds, and in 2013 a “Tobacco Control strategy for Scotland” was launched.  The British Medical Journal recently published a debate on outdoor smoking bans, with excellent references to supporting evidence.   Here, Lord Darzi argues that this measure would promote behavioural change:  if one does not see others lighting up, it becomes less of a behavioural norm.

The opposite view is presented by Professor Simon Chapman of the University of Sydney, who feels that the public health benefits of such restrictions would be negligible and unmeasurable, and that such measures in themselves are paternalistic and even totalitarian, fascist.  “If it is fine to tell smokers that they cannot be seen to smoke anywhere in public, why not extend the same reasoning to drinkers or to people wolfing down supersized orders in fast food outlets??” he asks.  Professor Chapman also voices objections to the “litter problem” which smoking creates being dressed up as a public health issue, although one could argue that smokers needlessly exacerbate opposition and revulsion by treating public spaces, such as parks, as an open ashtray in which they can throw down butts with abandon.

The tos and fros of the debate, and the discussion it has engendered, involve the extent to which it is legitimate for government to attempt to mitigate harm to the public health, and to what extent this should be left to the individual.   Some say that a ban would be “the nanny state” and exhibit a slightly prurient Puritan disapproval; others reply that a public health emergency is imminent, justifying such measures.   Is it reasonable to ban smoking in a park, whilst large vehicles spew out pollution on roads close by?  Both sides cite technical  scientific publications which are somewhat difficult for the average reader to evaluate.

A further point often raised in the debate is that any such law would be very onerous to enforce.  Mayor Bloomberg and Lord Darzi tend to regard this measure as self enforcing: rather than it being a matter of a “de jure” law being imposed by government agencies, not smoking outside would become a moral and ethical norm, a “de facto” enforcement of a socially acceptable course of action, created by groups in society itself.  It would become something that people in general simply don’t do.  No law is completely enforceable in that people often don’t get caught breaking the law;  but this is not, in itself, a justification for not having a particular law.  The law on copyright is regularly ignored; people still use their mobile phones while driving.  Should these laws be repealed, because they are regularly being flouted?

Having commissioned the  above report, the Mayor of London has not rushed to implement all  its recommendations; he has been known to smoke a cigar outdoors himself.   However, the subject is unlikely to go away.  Dedicated public health campaigners, libertarians and obsessive cacodoxians of all kinds sustain the debate: is a cigarette an inalienable human right or one of the deadliest decoctions in human history whose inhalation must be abolished?  Is there a middle way?   Smoking yields revenue and tax as well as cancers.   Is it the most pressing public health concern, or are there other noxious forms of pollution which must also be tackled?

The use of the “totalitarian” or “health fascist” argument/nomenclature is interesting.   Hitler memorably threw his fags into the Danube, and Nazi Germany promoted smoke-free public spaces.  A certain amount of extremist imagery and rhetoric often creep into the debate, with phrases such  “antismoking ayatollahs” or “health talibans” , which tend to denigrate by association.  The German Nazis also enacted extensive animal protection laws, and Hitler may have been a vegetarian.  What should we deduce from this?

There were several people smoking in the park at the weekend, seemingly oblivious to the impasse in evidence-based efforts to improve health by eliminating tobacco, and untroubled, too, by the more radical suggestions for a way forward, such as phasing out smoking by making cigarettes unobtainable to those born after a certain date, or the development of alternative measures “plain packaging”,  or  e-cigarettes.  MPs may have time on their hands to debate this, but legislation looks unlikely.  It’s unlikely too that Lord Darzi and his colleagues will cease to fight for public health.

There is an open access article on the case for abolition in the BMJ here.  Opposing views can be found at http://www.forestonline.org/.   The park is a public space, for the whole public, whether they are libertarians, fascists, dog walkers, joggers, footballers, mums with prams, ……..    Should certain activities be banned there?  What do readers think?

Last Friday, one of the magnificent beech trees in the park was cut down. It was a huge tree, around 30″ in diameter, possibly one of the oldest trees in the park. Records show that several beech trees were planted in 1910 so this was probably one of those.

Its position, on a mound, gave it a fabulous commanding aspect overlooking the clover leaf field. And the leaves in autumn were simply stunning. But, three to four years ago it started to die off; the leaf growth declined and what was there started to drop earlier each year.This year no leaves were formed at all and the tree expert from SMBC declared it to be dead.

This photo was taken in May – the beech tree is on the left and you can see that the branches are bare. It should have looked like the beech tree on the right.

Beech 1 IMG_20150510_091701

And so, on Friday, tree surgeons got to work and we saw it going:

Beech 2 IMG_20150730_135432


Beech 3 IMG_20150731_094537


Beech gone IMG_20150802_090806

But, all is not lost! The tree trunk remains and will be a welcome place for wildlife for many years to come.

Beech seat IMG_20150801_092412

The flattened section looks very inviting :)  Bird table perhaps?

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The Green Flag awards for 2015/16 have been announced today and the Metropolitan Borough of Stockport stands out for its absence (again!) from the list of award winners in the North West. Of the ten Greater Manchester authorities, only two do not have any parks with a Green Flag award – Stockport and Bolton. Maybe this should be the start of a twinning arrangement? Residents could visit each other’s parks to compare notes of dilapidation and neglect.

I posted some thoughts about Stockport’s withdrawal from the Green Flag scheme two years ago ‘Green Flag turns to dust’ and although I haven’t read any more about it in the local press I assume that the reasons given in 2013 still apply. My opinion remains unchanged too!

It is quite galling to read in today’s Manchester Evening News that Manchester City Council is to spend £1.5 million on improvements to more than 40 of its parks. The funding will come from the city’s airport windfall – greater than expected profits made by Manchester Airport. So, just a hop skip and jump away from us, projects in Fletcher Moss Gardens, Chorlton Park, Wythenshawe Park, Debdale Park and Alexandra Park have either already been started or will be commenced soon. Work will include putting in new benches, path repairs, new flowers, trees and shrubs, plus improvements to sports facilities. If only Stockport councillors were as keen to improve our parks!  All we need in Heaton Moor Park is a regular qualified gardener who can maintain what is already there. But we can’t have this and we’ve even been told that we won’t be able to install any more benches, despite the cost to the council being negligible as they can be funded by public donations.

I am curious about where Stockport’s share of the airport windfall is to be spent. Although Manchester will get the largest share, the other Greater Manchester authorities will all receive something too. If any of our councillors, or anyone who knows the answer, reads this post, maybe they can let me know.

So, while we wait for investment in our parks in Stockport to be resumed, we can comfort ourselves with an occasional hop across the ‘border’ to see what Manchester has to offer. On second thoughts, maybe that’s not such a good idea as it may harbour resentment, jealousy, anger, despair, frustration……..

I don’t want to end on a negative, so to cheer you up, here’s a photo of the roses on one of the knitters’ obelisks just a few days ago:

Obelisk IMG_20150715_090403

Blooming marvellous! N’est-ce pa?

PS  According to an article in the MEN, it appears that Stockport’s share of the windfall amounts to £3 million. I have asked my local councillors if any decision has been made about spending it. When I receive an answer, I’ll let you know.

PPS I have to say that I’m impressed with the speed of response from our councillors. The decision on what to do with the extra money will be taken by the council executive on 16th August.

Introducing the ‘E’s: a rather exotic little group:

Eric, seen quite a few months ago; Ernie seen recently. Not a double act!

Ernie IMG_20150721_102436

Ernie lives in Bollington but was visiting in the area for a few days.

Another visitor, this time from Bramhall, is Ellie – a golden retriever of mature years and lovely temperament.

And permanent resident Ella,

Ella IMG_20150607_115657

who started life in Romania (I think!), was horribly mistreated, rescued by very kind people, and now lives happily in Heaton Moor.

Speckled wood b'fly IMG_20140612_094442

Did you take part in the butterfly count last year? If so, you were one of over 44,000 people who submitted their results and helped assess the health of our environment.

This year, the count is taking place between 17th July and 9th August. All you have to do is go out somewhere, into your park, garden, a field or wood, preferably on a bright sunny day, and make a note of the number and type of butterfly and moth that you manage to see during a 15 minute period. There’s more information on the Big Butterfly Count web site as well as an identification chart and free app. You’ll need to submit your findings online but you have until the end of August to do it.

This is a great activity for the kids during the school holidays, so. what are you waiting for? And it’s not just for the kids!


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