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Haven’t had such a misty morning for quite a while:

 

misty morning

It was beautifully quiet – until the machinery on the corner of Peel Moat Rd and Buckingham Rd burst into action! There are loads of road works in the Heatons at the moment with road closures popping up when and where least expected.

This morning I was reminded of a song from my infant school years, which was a firm favourite and probably drove my family nuts because I sang it so often:

One misty, moisty morning

When cloudy was the weather

There I met an old man

All clothed in leather

There I met an old man

With his cap under his chin

And, how do you do

And, how do you do

And, how do you do again.

I can’t find anything about the origins of this song, which is described by some as a nursery rhyme.  But, I rather think it may be an old folk song.  Here is Steeleye Span’s rendition but it’s not the same tune that I remember.

I didn’t see any old men clothed in leather in the park today nor any with caps under their chins. But, there was one old man who said ‘How do you do’ – it was just the once though!

I’ve been regularly posting blogs on this site for nearly two years now and it’s time for some reflection. If you are a regular reader you will know that although most of the writing is mine, a fair number of contributions have been made by others (mainly Catherine). I am a sort of editor, I suppose, and manage the blog. My aim was to learn about blogging and to try the format out as an alternative to a paid-for website.

WordPress is a brilliant blogging tool or CMS (content management system). It is intuitive to use, has many helpful hints and tutorials, and also provides extremely useful statistics. If you haven’t blogged and want to try, I absolutely recommend WordPress. And it’s free!

Many blogs are started enthusiastically but then fizzle out when the writers find that they don’t actually have that much to write about, or that too much time is required to keep the blog going. But, even if a blog does keeps going and has regular posts written in it, does this constitute a success? That rather depends on whether it is achieving what it set out to do. So now might be an appropriate time for a bit of scrutiny and evaluation of this blog. The questions that intrigue me are: Who reads this blog?  and  Why?

The statistics are very interesting:

Regular posts started appearing in March 2013. There were 56 posts in 2013 and 57 posts in 2014 – more than one a week!

By far, the greatest number of readers comes from the UK, followed by the USA, France, Ireland, Australia right down to single figures from Hong Kong, Azerbaijan, Argentina, Sweden, Republic of Korea and quite a few other places. In 2014, the blog was visited by readers from 41 different countries!

In 2014, the average number of daily visitors to the blog was 5 and the average number of page views was 12 per day. The greatest number of views was during the month of June – probably because people were looking for information about the Summer Festival which took place on the 22nd of June.

The most active day for comments was 3rd of March 2013 – congratulatory comments on the blog’s first steps! Since then there have been 134 comments, mostly coming from just a few individuals.

So, what do these figures tell me?

I am not at all surprised that most of the blog’s readers come from the UK. I am, though, intrigued by the visits from far-flung and exotic places. I assume that where there’s been one visit from a country, then that probably happened purely by chance. We’ve all dropped in on sites unexpectedly when Googling, haven’t we? As for the quite large numbers of readers from countries outside the UK, I sort of hope that these are people who are either ex-pats wanting to keep in touch with what’s going on in their old stomping ground, or friends of local residents who have an interest in the area and what their friends get up to.

It would be interesting to be able to break down the UK reader numbers into cities or counties, to see how many are locally based, but this analysis isn’t possible. Maybe in the future?

A more difficult question to answer is why people read this blog. Some regular readers are obviously interested in what’s been written because they comment on various posts. But, there must also be people ‘out there’ who read the blog every day, maybe even with great interest, and just don’t feel it necessary to respond or participate in any way. However, it would be interesting to hear from the silent majority – who are you? why do you read this blog?

I probably know the answer: I think that most people drop in only occasionally and usually it’s to find out if there’s any information about events in the park; there’s often a spike in views around Christmas, Easter and the Summer Festival dates. There are probably only a few people who are regular readers. One way of getting hear about new posts is to sign up to ‘follow’ the blog or to receive email notifications. There are 45 followers of this blog but fewer than 10 are local or appear to have any connection with the park or area. I suspect that quite a few have signed up to ‘follow’ in the hope that by doing so their own blog will receive publicity.

So it’s hard to know who is reading and why.

Ultimately, the most pertinent question is probably: ‘Is it worth continuing with this blog?’

And I have to say that I don’t know the answer to that one.

 

When I’m stuck for something to write, along comes the blogging elf, aka Catherine, with helpful contributions:

Musings on opera tickets, Waitrose bags and their deconstruction ………

Litter Pixabay

The last few weeks in the Commons have been interesting for many reasons.  In a time of complex tragedy, there were high-minded encomia on freedom of speech.  PMQs provided the usual torrent of opportunistic abuse.  There will, it seems, be a glittering event in London in February, to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta where one can network with many distinguished bankers and  legal and PR experts, discussing the importance of this excellent document which enshrines the rule  of law in the country.  Perhaps there will be a discussion on the European Convention on Human Rights, if the UK has not withdrawn from it in the meantime.

Also fascinating is the fact that the Communities and Local Government Committee is conducting an enquiry into a subject dear to the hearts of those who love the park:  litter.  Representatives of the food packaging industry, various councils and the Campaign to Protect Rural England, and other interested bodies, have presented much interesting evidence, detailing what various bodies are trying to do about this problem, about the balance between what councils should be doing and what private firms should be doing, and about the cost.

For example, a speaker from the Foodservice Packaging Association said, inter alia:

We do feel that those who litter are not all the same and that differences in motivation and inclination exist so we would wish to encourage the trial and further testing of bins such as the Big Belly which overcomes the issue of bins overflowing by crushing the contents and sending a signal to the waste collector once the bin is full.  …..We applaud the Litter Angels charity campaign organised by Gordon Henderson MP.  This campaign takes a strong message to school children to show the anti social nature of littering and demonstrates the benefits to the local environment of overcoming litter. 

The Big Belly is a positive idea, although I do not know of any instances of it being trialled in the UK.    Mrs K has already pointed out the possibility of talking bins, an original initiative which aims to encourage people in public  to care a bit more about their surroundings, and the effect of littering on others.

The submission from David Sedaris has attracted the most press attention.

Mr Sedaris, a US writer living in England, has told the Committee that Britain has the worst litter problem in the world.  Further evidence he presents is that, on litter picking forays, he never picks up opera tickets, and has only once retrieved a Waitrose bag.  Bags from other supermarkets abound.  He finds more Mayfair cigarette butts than any other, the cheapest brand.  This has led him to conclude that certain-socio economic groups are the principal culprits.  Not only are the poor unable to cook, it seems, but they are throwing down a lot of litter on their way to and from the takeaway.  He notes also a “staggering” amount of rubbish thrown down by pupils attending a school near his home; the head teacher thinks it is “demeaning” to make pupils pick up the rubbish they drop.

Many points made by Mr Sedaris resonate locally.   Here, much litter is observably caused by school pupils, and there seems little point in seeking the help or support of their teachers.  Dozens of cigarette butts are discarded, although I am unable to identify the specific brand.  I also have never picked up opera tickets in the park; I am not sure where one would go locally to hear Der Ring das Nibelungen, Turandot or Il Barbiere di Siviglia.  Nor can I recall a single Waitrose bag; Tesco and Morrisons beat them hands down.  The nearest Waitrose is probably in Cheadle Hulme or Poynton.  The Ocado van does trundle about, though, but I have never seen a champagne bottle or lobster slathered in charmoula butter hurled from its windows.   So I am not entirely sure what inferences to make, qualitatively or quantitatively, from the presence or absence of these items.  At which point, let us, all together, quote Carl Sagan:  “Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.”   What are our chances of doing a randomized, placebo-controlled, double blind, crossover design trial to establish hard data?  Not good.

I find myself disagreeing with Mr Sedaris on the contention that litter is mainly emanating from low socio-economic groups.  Those whom I observe in the park who obviously take pleasure in throwing down rubbish tend to radiate a sense of entitlement, of security, certainty.  They are a privileged group who act as they please and others deal with the consequences; they are sure that whatever mess they make will be picked up by their social and genetic inferiors, like me.  To what extent might the problem be a reflection of the ubiquitous class system?  Or is it part of the perception that there is no such thing as society, a feculent neoliberal chicken coming home to roost?

The situation defies any sort of solution.  Mrs Thatcher memorably chastised the nation about littering, a long time ago, to no discernible effect.  Bill Bryson’s thoughtful entreaties were to no avail.  Some friends cogitating on the subject assure me that the only way forward is a tough enforcement crackdown, with as many fines as possible being handed out ruthlessly, to dispel the sense that one can litter with impunity.    Mr Sedaris suggests road patrols which stop traffic and fine anyone with clean cars, presumably on the assumption that they have thrown litter out of the window.  Draconian, but it might work.

But we soldier on.  In December 2014 Keep Britain Tidy published a report seeking to establish a fuller picture of the  economic cost of the litter all around us .   The Clean Europe Network had a “summit” in Brussels in the same month.   There are also fears that the cuts to council budgets could further curtail council refuse collections, as reported in the Independent.    Perhaps the Commons Committee will come up with some magical solutions.

Does anyone else remember being shown “In the Bag” at school?  I’m still trying to deconstruct that, fifty years later.

Mrs K:

This isn’t about parks or Heaton Moor but it’s not too far off topic and today is an anniversary of the event!
A fascinating blog post from a trainee at Stockport Local Heritage Library who found around 100 photos of children who attended the Mayor’s Juvenile Ball on 10th January 1898 and has put together a small display at the library.
Enjoy!

Originally posted on A Journey Through the Past:


While processing some orders in the Image Archive a collection of photographs caught my attention. This collection features around 100 photographs taken of children in spectacular fancy dress costumes and labelled The Mayor’s Juvenile Ball. Written on the back of each photograph was the name of the child and their chosen fancy dress character, and going through the photographs I was both impressed and amused by the efforts that went in to these elaborate costumes. As the name of each child was given I thought it would be quit interesting to do some background research, so I select a small number of photographs and got to work.

I first looked into the ball itself, and from browsing through the library newspaper cuttings collection I discovered that the ball was hosted on 10th January 1898 by Stockport’s Mayor Atherton during his second consecutive term in office. The ball was held at the Stockport Armoury…

View original 2,150 more words

Is this a record?

This morning, I saw a couple of bumblebees in the park! It’s the earliest that I’ve come across them and I wasn’t the only one taken aback by the sight.

January bumblebee IMG_20150108_100035

Quite amazing! But not, it appears, entirely unheard of.

The Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s web site has a great deal of information about these beautiful creatures and while many do spend the winter in hibernation, it seems that the milder weather may have brought a few of the hardier ones out earlier than usual, unless the ones I saw today haven’t been hibernating at all. This makes it even more important to have flowering plants available all year round.

I don’t know what the plant in the photo is, but I’m sure Edward will tell me!

Over the last dozen years or so, entomologists and naturalists have noted winter activity of Bombus terrestris, the Buff-tailed Bumblebee, (which I think is the one in the photo). Worker bees have been seen foraging at a wide range of winter-flowering plants, and males have been reported flying in February. It seems that a small proportion of mated queens establish nests in the Autumn, and these can exploit the increasing amount of forage resources available throughout the winter in our gardens, parks and amenity areas.

Someone in Edinburgh took a lovely photo of a Buff-tailed bumblebee just last week – see it on Facebook, so, if they’re around up in Scotland, it’s not that odd to see them here where it’s milder.

 

I love to receive contributions from readers. The end of 2014 brought a flourish of musings from Catherine, which I’m afraid I sat on for a little while, having taken a break from the blog for Christmas. So, here it is now; better late than never!

Tree in winter

“’Tis the year’s midnight, and it is the day’s……….

         The sun is spent, and now his flasks

         Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;

                The world’s whole sap is sunk;

The general balm th’ hydroptic earth hath drunk,

Whither, as to the bed’s feet, life is shrunk,

Dead and interr’d; yet all these seem to laugh,

Compar’d with me, who am their epitaph.”

 

This time of year invariably calls Donne’s “Nocturnal upon St Lucy’s day”  to my  mind.  It portrays the whole earth as completely dead, buried in winter.   The park, at the moment, seems like this, dank and lifeless.   Like many of Donne’s poems, it is difficult to understand.  He is comparing the debility of the earth and sun in winter with his own desolation.  It is an exhausting statement of worthlessness and purposelessness, the kind of text we studied extensively in deeply religious Irish schools.

And so one tries to fight back, looking for green shoots, good things and cheer, even at the end of a year which has been remarkable for the press and television spectacles of cold and calculated savagery across the globe, the march of killer viruses in resource poor countries, the baffling ubiquity of beer-and-fags-politicians/buffoons, the “militants” who claim they are carrying out God’s will, but feel the need to cover their faces…………  The year when we are told that the poor don’t know how to cook, when  I should reflect that I’ve not been in the Cabinet, I’m not  an award-winning broadcaster, I’m not  a Queen’s Counsel…………….  One fights back by thinking of the kindness of friends, the boisterous energy of the park dogs, the gloss on the fur of a stray cat who now eats lots and sleeps on a warm blanket.

Some comfort can be had from the certainty that the park will soon be green and fecund again.   And there are some resilient and hopeful groups in various places who are planning impressive  innovation and even metamorphosis in the concept of the public park.

 

I very much hope that the Liverpool flyover plan comes to fruition.  Its website states:

We want to turn a concrete flyover into an amazing urban park for Liverpool – a vibrant place full of life, trees, shops, exhibitions & joy. Help us bring our vision to life!

The Flyover is the ultimate in urban re-purposing & regeneration, delivered by citizens coming together to conceive, develop & implement.

 We will take an existing structure and create an urban walkway/park that costs less than its proposed demolition. Our vision will deliver a public space of benefit to residents & visitors, connecting neighbourhoods & civic buildings with the rest of the city & world famous waterfront.

Rather than spend a lot on demolishing a brutal concrete flyover, the idea is to repurpose it as a vibrant and flourishing urban park.  The plan has similarities to the Promenade Plantee in Paris, and the lovely High Line in New York.  Money needs to be raised and the proposal to include cyclists is controversial, as this would affect the quality of the walking experience on the flyover.  Enough seems to have been raised so far to fund a feasibility study.  Good luck, Liverpool.

 

The inspiration of the High Line is spreading far and wide.  The Kulbroens Venner Assocation in Aarhus, Denmark, hope to renovate an old coal bridge and make a flourishing urban park.  The bridge is an eyesore which has been derelict for years.  Hopefully a beautiful park  will open there  in 2017.   Godt gået Danmark!

 

In London, there are hopes for a development with homes and a raised garden in the old and derelict Bishopsgate Goods Yard.   There is ample room for a park on the existing Braithwaite viaduct.  However, proposals also include residential tower blocks and these are controversial, with considerable animated discussion about what actually constitutes “affordable”.   http://thegoodsyardlondon.co.uk/about/

 

Even more inventive is the proposal for a “Low Line” in New York.  Green space in the city is naturally precious, so why not go underground?  As the project explains:

“The Lowline is a plan to use innovative solar technology to illuminate an historic trolley terminal on the Lower East Side of New York City. Our vision is a stunning underground park, providing a beautiful respite and a cultural attraction in one of the world’s most dense, exciting urban environments.”

Apparently there is an 116 year old abandoned trolley terminal beneath the Lower East Side.  Theoretically, sunlight could be filtered down to create a subterranean oasis. This can be done through fibre optic cabling.   Its proponents say, phlegmatically, that technical challenges will have to be faced.   Go, Delancey Street, go.

 

And there is music to the ears of those of us who pick up discarded plastic bottles by the dozen in the park on sunny days.  An ingenious plan in Rotterdam is to retrieve plastic pollution from the New Meuse river, just before it reaches the sea. This retrieved plastic  can then be  recycled into floating blocks which will be configured into new nature landscapes; a floating park.  Its website explains:

“The blocks are designed in such a way, that not only nature can grow on top, but also the bottom should accommodate new life. In this way nature should benefit from the new landscape in its optimum form.”

This is a bold vision which has been well researched and is now being crowdfunded; more details available at  http://recycledpark.com/introduction.html.    Didn’t Erasmus say that fortune favours the bold, the audacious?

 

No such grandiose visions are forthcoming for Heaton Moor park.  But there will be croci, tulips, daffodils, green leaves roiling on the trees.  Even today there are cheeky squirrels in the star tree and sparrows by the hundred twittering around the Buckingham Road gate, waiting for cake.  Some of the dogs are wearing elegant new coats………

 

“Earth cares for her own ruins, naught for ours.

Nothing is certain, only the certain spring.”

 

If you haven’t already seen it, please complete the survey about your own cinema use and what you would like a new Savoy Arts Centre to be.

Here’s a message from the Savoy team:

Hi folks! We hope you had a wonderful Christmas, and are still enjoying the Christmas break!

Just a quick note to let you know that we will leave the Savoy Survey open until 2nd January to give everyone a chance to complete it over the holiday period. It’ll take about 10 minutes of your time, and it will really help us build a case to Save Our Savoy.

We are planning to share our results with you in due course, so the more responses we receive, the more representative the results will be.

Thank You again for your continued support!

Kind regards
The Savoy Arts Centre Team.

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