Monday, 24 February 2014

Chic(k) Homes

We've just seen the end of national nestbox week (14th - 20th February). But as I sit in bed listening to a noisy crowd of house sparrows rioting as they decide who will nest where in the eaves this year  I wonder what they'd make of the stylist nest boxes that are being auctioned at London Fashion Week. The 11 boxes have been dreamed up by prominent designers and proceeds will go towards creating more homes for nature through the RSPB's work. The money will definitely create more homes, and in a more traditional style than the boxes but I wonder who the lucky blue tits or sparrows will be to have such high culture homes for their new families. Bidding is still open so go to the website before noon today to take a look. Click here for chick chic.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Flowing Fast

There's been a huge amount of water around the South West recently. Thankfully Exeter has been lucky and the city's flood defenses have held. The river is still high though with the weir and flood overflow near our flat still pretty much full. So, this week I thought I'd share a few pictures of the power of water.

The river Exe high against nearby gardens

Foamy waters beneath the weir, whose normal drop of a few feet between water levels has become only a few inches

A small wood that is slowly rising out of the flood waters again, we saw a little egret happily fishing and some snow drops reaching up out of the pools

The flood channel, doing exactly what it should

A weir in wet times, a nice path across the grass in dry ones. It's amazing how weather can change the local area

Monday, 10 February 2014

All Aflutter

It's cold and wet in Devon at the moment. But today, for a while, the sun was shining and it felt like spring. Flowers are beginning to open and I've seen quite a few bees and insects out and about even in this horrendous weather we've been having. I haven't seen any butterflies yet though.

Even thought it's only February butterflies will be appearing soon. Peacock butterflies hibernate over the winter, sticking it out through the cold weather until spring arrives. There was an interesting programme on these amazing creatures on Radio4 this weekend. Living World is on at 6:30am on Sundays and so I haven't come across it before. But I'll definitely be catching up on this episode over the next few days and am very pleased that Butterfly Conservation popped it into their February edition of their e-newsletter all aflutter.

Also in the newsletter was an appeal for donations to the Match Pot Appeal.  Almost two decades ago a tax on landfill operators was introduced to encourage recycling and waste production. This money is then used to support environmental projects which I think is a brilliant idea. For charities to be eligible they have to raise 10% of the funds for a project themselves, then the rest is donated from the fund and this is what Butterfly Conservation need help with. A one off donation of £1 will mean £10 goes towards saving amazing places for butterflies and moths.

While reading the newsletter I was multitasking by booking an Aquafit class for tomorrow at my local pool. The class costs £5 and gives me an hour of fun and exercise. But that £5  could be turned into £50 (£62.50 with gift aid) and would mean some really amazing things for butterflies and moths. So I decided that I could afford to buy butterflies an Aquafit class too (or the equivalent cost) to help their populations return to better health. I might even get some exercise running around looking at them next summer too.

What could you give nature this Valentines day? It really needs our love at the moment. Take a look at the Match Pot Appeal here

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Change The World For A Fiver

A few years ago a friend at university gave me a book. It wasn't a particularly thick book but it was a brilliant book. Created by the we are what we do  organisation (they also create the I'm not a plastic bag campaign!)  Change The World For A Fiver contains 50 easy actions that will make you happy and make the world better.

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Over the years I've rediscovered this book again and again and it always makes me smile. There are lots of days when the news is filled with so many problems that it's easy to think there is just to much to fix, but this book reminds me that everything we do has an impact and can make a difference.

 I'm determined to try all 50 actions this year but let's start with the first 10 for now (I've got all year!). So what have I already done and what have I got left to do? Here we go...

1. Decline plastic bags whenever possible

This is already an obsession for me. Normally I remember to bring old bags with me, but I have been seen walking out of supermarkets with pockets full to bursting and arms laden whilst insisting a bag isn't needed. I politely refused a bag today in fact, in Boots, and the lady gave me a big smile when I did; maybe she hates plastic bags too.

On average every person in the UK uses 134 plastic bags each year and each bag can take up to 500 years to decay. There's no sensible reason not to really.

2. Read a story with a child

This is tricky since I don't know any children locally. But I'm sure I can find someone who wants to hear a story. It's one to work on over the next few months.

Reading with children is fantastic. They learn to read and discover amazing stories, you feel warm and fuzzy and won't stop smiling for hours.

3. Fit at least one energy saving light bulb

When we moved into our flat we made sure all the bulbs were energy saving. Did you know over a bulb's lifetime an energy efficient one could save you up to £65 compared to a normal one? Then there's all the good it does for the planet too...

4. Learn basic first aid

Unfortunately I can't "do" this one this year as I already know first aid. But I can refresh my knowledge regularly.

Helping a stranger in trouble is a powerful feeling; knowing how to put your housemate in the recovery position when they suddenly collapse is ever better. Statistically you're more likely to perform first aid on someone you know than a stranger so get learning and get your friends learning too. You might need each other one day!

5. Smile and smile back

I smile a lot in the job I do. Sometimes I smile so much that I come home and my checks ache. But it's worth it.

Smiling actually releases chemicals inside you that make you feel good too. It's cheaper and safer than alcohol or drugs so give it a try. Why not smile at the next person who serves you at a till in a shop, you never know who needs a smile to cheer up their day.

6.Take public transport when you can

I think I do this most of the time. I always look at train routes before driving somewhere (sometimes it's impossible though!) and the buses around Exeter are great.

A double-decker bus carries the same number of people as 40 cars, and you can practice smiling at people or read to a child while you're travelling!

7. Plant a tree

I need to think about this one. Included on this page of the book is a packet of Scots Pine seeds so you can grow your own Christmas Tree. But we have no outdoor space so I'm not sure how big our tree would get. Maybe I should try it anyway and if it gets too big I can give it to a friend as a gift.

Each tree planted will provide oxygen for two people for the rest of their lives, that's pretty good for a tiny seed.

8. Have a bath with someone you love

I have done this in the literal sense, but being almost 6ft baths aren't always long enough for me on my own, let alone with someone else. So instead, in the same spirit, we regularly share a bath but one after another. It saves water, saves time and saves us heating two baths rather than just one.

Sharing a shower is even more water efficient because a two minute shower uses less water than a bath.  So share a shower too, but make sure you don't linger...

9. If it says 30mph, do 30mph

I agree completely with this. We've all seen the advert. At 35mph you are twice as like to kill someone if you hit them than at 30mph. Also, it's the law. I can't complain about people breaking environmental laws (that I care about) if I ignore other laws myself.

10. Turn your thermostat down by 1 degree

I don't have a thermostat as all our heating comes from electric radiators in each room of our flat. But in most of the rooms we don't have the heating on at all. In the living room we only have it on when it's essential; and when we're already covered in woolly jumpers. But maybe it's time to turn it to 5 rather 6 six when we do have it on.

If you do have a thermostat and you turn it down a degree you can save about £25 a year. What else could you spend that on...

So it's looking pretty good for the first ten, I need to find a child to read with and plant a tree. Both of those sound quite exciting. How many of these do you do regularly? Are there any that have slipped off your done list? We'll see how the nest ten look in the not to distant future. For now, I'm off to find some soil.