News

Make a swift nesting box for your house

Decline of swift nesting sites

Swift flying

Photo: Pau Artigas CC BY-SA 2.0

Swifts migrate 6000 miles from sub-Saharan Africa to breed in Britain. It was only in 1994, when the Breeding Birds Survey was initiated, that their numbers began to be monitored, and so there are no accurate records of the numbers breeding in Britain before then. However, since 1994, monitoring has indicated an alarming 38% decline in swift numbers, which are now estimated at around 87,000 pairs. As a result, the species has been placed on the Birds of  Conservation Concern’s Amber list, denoting a decline in numbers or a contraction of the species’ range. While several factors are likely to contribute to this sharp decline, lost of nesting sites is certainly one. Swifts, which are sociable, and prefer to nest in colonies, have evolved with humans to take advantage of our houses for their nesting sites. They like to nest high up in the roof space under the eaves of old houses and churches. However, modern building design and the refurbishment of old houses has resulted in the loss of nesting sites as access to roof spaces has been sealed off.

In Bristol, a recent survey by Bristol Swift Conservation Group has indicated just 5 small colonies of 2-3 pairs in the Redland area. Our house is one of those, with a small colony of 2 pairs. It is one of the highlights of our year to welcome “our” swifts back in early May, to be able to watch at very close quarters as they enter and leave their nests and to hear their calls (so-called ‘screaming parties’) as pairs within and outside the nest communicate with each other. The skies seem empty when the swifts depart at the end of July.

We can increase the number of known colonies in Redland, by retrofitting swift nesting boxes under the eaves of our houses. Swift boxes can be purchased, or alternatively, you can make your own.

Would you like to make a swift nesting box for your house?

Swift nesting box workshop

Mark Glanville of Bristol Swifts and Matt Collis of Avon Wildlife Trust (AWT), both members of the Bristol Swift Conservation Group, recently teamed up and in November held the first of what is hoped to be a series of swift nesting box workshops. Eight participants working in pairs, including my husband and me, made a nest box each, using materials and tools provided by Mark and Matt. The design of the box has been worked on and incrementally improved over many years by Mark, who, with his wife Jane, has what must be Bristol’s largest colony under the eaves of their house in Stoke Bishop. In 2017, they had 14 pairs, which fledged a record number of 20 chicks.

Redland Green Community Group would like to collaborate with Bristol Swift Conservation Group and hold a workshop for residents of Redland and surrounding suburbs. The workshop would be held on a weekend day before spring, probably at the AWT’s Bennett’s Patch and White’s Paddock reserve on the Bristol Portway.

The cost of the workshop is currently £15 per participant, to cover the cost of materials. Mark and Matt donate their time. Between 6 and 10 people, working in pairs, is an ideal number per workshop. The AWT currently has funding to assist in putting the boxes up.

If you would like to take part in a workshop, please send an email to Julie Parker at redlandgreen.comgp@gmail.com to express your interest, letting me know how many people might take part. Workshops are suitable for anyone aged 16 or over. We will then arrange a date (or dates) for the next workshop(s).

Julie Parker
Redland Green Community Group

Posted in News

What’s in a Hedge

By Karen Shergold

If you have been to Metford Road Community Orchard in the past, you may need to do a double-take as you approach it now. I’ve been an active member for many years, and I certainly did when I arrived for the second day of hedge-laying on 19th November. I had been there at the start of the previous day to welcome Malcolm Dowling and his 17-year-old grandson Ollie who is his trainee, but I had taken my bad back home after an hour.

Malcolm (or ‘Grandad’, his trading name) has won many national prizes in six regional styles of hedge-laying, but he chose to use North Somerset style for our sloping site. He started at the top, wielding his chain saw to bend a 20ft high tree across the path above. He then sliced the top off and wedged the remainder behind a stake he made from a straight branch. He then worked his way downhill in the same fashion, teaching as he went.

We asked him to leave a yellow plum as a tree part way down as the small round fruit are so delicious, but we did decide after much deliberation, that he should include the tall Sea Buckthorn in the laying process as it did cast shade on a plum tree and on the neighbouring allotment – we do have some regrets about that but hope it will spring up again. To our knowledge, the Sea Buckthorn has never fruited, which is a shame, as it’s fruits are supposedly high in vitamin C. I pulled off some small side branches and plan to see if they will take as hardwood cuttings.

There were two willows along the run – one large crack willow which we had permission to remove (but didn’t), and one smaller goat willow. He took the crack willow down to a low stump, and the goat willow to a stump around a meter high – they should both come back and we hope to coppice them in future years (basket-making anyone?). Other plants laid include several Dogwoods, Hawthorns, Blackthorns, Hazel and Dog Roses. Malcolm took great delight in passing around a severed branch of Dogwood and instructing us to sniff it – the reference to dog was quickly obvious to all!

Hedges are a valuable resource for wildlife in terms of food and habitat, especially in winter. Getting this run of out-of-control hedging (i.e. trees) laid has also massively improved the light levels and airflow in the orchard and the neighbouring allotment.

We have local law firm Barcan+Kirby and their Corporate Social Responsibility budget to thank for getting this job done professionally after our inadequate attempt to do it ourselves last year (sorry Joe – we just didn’t come up with the manpower to do justice to your workshop!). We will be working hard on fund-raising during the year ahead, so that we can get Malcolm and Ollie back to do the hedge bounding the other side of the orchard.

Our biggest fund-raiser is our annual stall at Whiteladies Road Farmers’ Market on Saturday morning 9th December 2017. Do please come along and buy some cake, jam, jelly, medlar butter, chutney, honey, hand cream or whatever else our members offer for sale to help us on our way. We orchard members will appreciate every penny spent (and I like to think that the hedge-in-waiting would say the same if it could make itself understood by humans!).

Posted in News

The Renewables Revolution – A Good News Conference

Until very recently, integrating renewable energy technologies into buildings has been a ‘nice to have’ addition, the main barriers being capital costs, competiveness with fossil fuel energy and scepticism. However, recent evidence shows that these barriers either no longer exist or will soon become invalid.

For example:

  • The cost of photovoltaics has plummeted to 70% below 2010 prices (pre-Feed In Tariff)
  • In the first quarter of 2016, UK renewables’ share of electricity generation (hydro, wind and other renewables) was 25.1% and rising
  • 21st April 2017 was the first day since the Industrial Revolution that the UK has not used any coal for energy generation
  • Even hard nosed investors now consider that renewables are competitive with conventional fossil fuel energy, becoming cheaper in the near future (see topdocumentaryfilms.com/breakthrough-renewable-energy)

The Green Register is holding a conference in Bristol on 7th December 2017 which will bring together a host of experts in the field to discuss:

  • Local and national renewable energy policy
  • The current and future state of the UK energy mix – what a 100% renewable UK would look like
  • Cost comparisons and financial benefits
  • Technological innovation in solar, wind and biomass
  • Breakthroughs in battery storage for buildings
  • Case studies with integrated renewables

There will also be an open-to-the public renewable energy exhibition and an electric vehicle will be on display.

For further details see The Renewables Revolution – A Good News Conference.

Posted in News

Home Energy Surveys – Vacancies

C.H.E.E.S.E. is a non-profit scheme led by local community volunteers that shows you where your house leaks heat and money by means of thermal imaging and suggests what remedial action to take.

Surveys are reasonably priced and free to low income households and will be available through the winter from November 2017 onwards.  Find out more and sign up at cheeseproject.co.uk.

The best recommendations come from people who have already had a survey, so if you have found a survey useful in making your home warmer and/or in saving energy please pass the word around.

 

Opportunities to work on the CHEESE project

The project is currently looking for enthusiastic people to help with the upcoming survey season, in paid and voluntary positions.

Intern: This appointment will be from late October until the end of March, a paid position, up to 3 days per week. It is a flexible role, helping with different aspects of the project, such as development of the website and literature, data analysis, assistance with our surveys and conducting follow ups with previous CHEESE customers.

Energy Tracer training: We are offering free training course for CHEESE ‘Energy Tracer’ surveyors, beginning with a training weekend on the 21st and 22nd October. Trained surveyors are paid £40 per survey. We expect a commitment to help with/carry out at least one survey a week (on average) during a 19 week season from November till end March 2018, with a break from 10th-31st December. Surveys are typically scheduled at weekends and sometime evenings and take approximately two hours, so it can be fitted in around a full-time job. There is more information about Energy Tracers and our survey on the website at cheeseproject.co.uk.

Volunteers to assist with surveys:  In this role, you will provide support to an Energy Tracer surveyor with the handling and setting up of equipment, and engagement with householders. This is a great opportunity to gain experience of our work and surveying approach.

If any of these roles interest you, or you would like more information, then please email to introduce yourself to info@cheeseproject.co.uk.

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The Street Party kit needs a new home

Several years ago, Sustainable Redland supporters set up a borrowing service for people holding street parties.

The street party kit includes road signs, bollards, bunting and other useful items that can be used to close off, decorate and hold an event in a residential street. The kit was bought using one of the first grants awarded by our local Bishopston, Cotham and Redland Neighbourhood Partnership.

The service has been very well used, with around 20 street events each year in our area making use of the kit. You can find out more at the Bristol Open Streets website.

For the past two years, the kit has been hosted by Bristol Children’s Scrapstore. However, they are not able to offer to do so after this season. So we are looking for a new home for the kit.

If you, or someone you know, has a small storage space (about 1m x 2m) and would like to support local events, please get in touch. Looking after the kit would also involve liaising with those holding events to collect and return what they needed for their event, at mutually convenient times. Most events are held in June or September, so it needn’t interfere with summer holidays. It is also a role that in the past has been shared amongst two or more people.

To talk through what might be involved, with no obligation, please contact us.

Posted in News

Metford Road Community Orchard Open Day

Metford Road Community Orchard is a small organic orchard based on permaculture principles. It will be open on Saturday 17th June, 12noon – 5pm, as part of North Bristol Get Growing Summer Open Days.

With a stream at the bottom and numerous ponds, the orchard is teeming with wildlife in the summer. It has a compost loo and custom built gazebo-style oak shelter. There will be guided tours, tea and biscuits/cakes, produce and plant sales. Access is through the gate by no 37 Metford Road, Redland BS6 7LA. Turn left at allotments to reach the orchard. As the site is on a steep slope sturdy shoes are required.

Posted in Events

Community Tent at the May Fair

Sustainable Redland will be hosting a stall at the Redland May Fair on Redland Green again this year, on Monday 1st May. We will also be helping clear up at the end of the Fair. It would be great to see some of our supporters there, and better still if you would like to volunteer and lend a hand with either.

Because of our help clearing up after last year’s Fair, we have been offered a free stall this year. Several local community groups organise their own stall, but it is not so easy for smaller groups to run one on their own. So this year we have offered to share our space with other groups. So far, we have had five other groups who have expressed interest in using the space to promote their work. It is a chance for a community group to show what they do and potentially sign up new members. By sharing the space, and the time needed to look after the stall, even the smallest group can participate in one of the most popular Redland events of the year.

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Electric car charging

How to spend £7.5 million…

Vassili Papastavrou

In January 2016, it was announced that Bristol was one of four major cities to receive a grant (in our case £7.5m) to promote the use of electric cars and other ultra-low emission vehicles. To me this seems a huge sum of money and I feel it should be spent carefully.

I have now had a Nissan LEAF electric car for six months so I took an interest in this announcement and tried unsuccessfully to find out how the money will be spent. And to have an input on behalf of Sustainable Redland. Our LEAF does about 80 miles on a charge and has already been superseded.

2017 will be the year of the electric car with several manufacturers promising 200 miles or more on a charge. Whilst not a complete solution, electric cars can play a role in reducing CO2 emissions, improving urban air quality and in decreasing reliance on oil, which all too often seems to fuel conflict.

In my six months of ownership, I’ve discovered that the car works fine but the charging infrastructure (especially in Bristol) doesn’t. Most of Bristol is terraced houses or flats and so residents are unable to get an electric car off the road to charge from a domestic socket. Public charging points are in car parks and who in their right mind is going to pay repeated parking fees when they only live around the corner?

Another problem is the variety of cards and mobile phone apps that are needed, often with different subscriptions. Frankly, it is a nightmare.

One year later, we still don’t know how Bristol will spend its £7.5m. Or whether there will be a genuine consultation about some of the basic principles. If Bristol really wants to make life easier for electric cars, some of the money needs to be spent on public charging points. Amsterdam can do it, so why not Bristol? And even in small French villages there are now electric charging points in public spaces.

This electric car charging point is in Cahagnes, Normandy (population 1,319)

And the card problem? Also to be sorted in Normandy with the installation of contactless payments using a credit card just as you would pay for any other purchase.

Rural France and Amsterdam first – Bristol next?

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Whiteladies Markets Xmas 2016

whiteladies_winter_200x156Whiteladies Road Farmers and Fair Trading Market will be held as normal during the 2016 Christmas Holiday period, so there will be Markets on Christmas Eve, Saturday 24th December, and on New Year’s Eve, Saturday 31st December.

 

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Thermal Imaging Surveys

cheeseAfter successful pilot surveys last winter, the CHEESE project is again offering surveys in BS6/7 from November 2016 – March 2017. CHEESE is a non-profit scheme led by local community volunteers that can show you where your house leaks energy and money by using thermal imaging. They can then suggest remedies, many of which are low-cost. You will also be helping Bristol satisfy its climate change obligations.

The CHEESE project is also looking for enthusiastic people to train as thermal
imaging ‘Energy Tracer’ surveyors.

For more information and to apply go to www.cheeseproject.co.uk.

 

Posted in News