Category Archives: coast, national park

Save Druridge Bay – Again!

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Save Druridge is a local group that is opposed to the proposed Opencast Coal Mine at Highthorne, Cresswell.

The planning permission was given the go-ahead by Northumberland County Council in the summer but since then the government have overturned that decision and called in the application. There will now be a Public Inquiry where all parties will be given the opportunity to present arguments to support their cases for and against the opencast.

It is estimated that the campaign will need to raise around £10,000 to cover legal expenses for which they have already set up a Just Giving page.  In addition there will be a series of fundraisers around the North East over the coming months. The first two fundraisers are going to be held in Alnwick on Friday 2nd December and in Newcastle on Saturday 3rd December.

Please do what you can to help.

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Friday 2nd December: Alwnick Fundraiser 7PM to Late
At St James’s Church Centre, Pottergate, Alnwick, Northumberland, NE66 1JW
Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/910805495722582/
Tickets £10 and include food, are available from World of Difference, Narrowgate, Alnwick

Tel: 01665 606005

Saturday 3rd December: Newcastle Fundraiser 12NOON to 11PM
At Bar Loco Newcastle, 22 Leazes Park Road, Newcastle upon-Tyne, NE1 4PG
Facebook Event Page: https://www.facebook.com/events/225641737852408/
From 4PM

Pay at door suggested donation around £5

 

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Spring Forward, Fall Back

Beaty Rubens has woven a wonderful tapestry of sound and voices out of the NCLA’s  recent project based on Lindisfarne.  I’ve just listened to it on Radio 4 and it should be available to ‘listen again’ (and is repeated next Saturday evening at 11.30).  Although our last visit in April seems a very long time ago, hearing the words, the sea and the general hubbub brought it all back – in the way only a recording can.

Twelve poets were commissioned to write a poem marking this summer’s return of the Lindisfarne Gospels to the North East.  I wrote mine in response to the gift of a photo of some Silverweed growing on the sea shore from Ajahn Sucitto, a monk in the Theravadin Buddhist tradition.  His discipline, although less austere than St Cuthbert’s, is still impressive in its rigour and integrity.  I find such counter-cultural commitment and restraint very moving – a good model but hard to follow.

Aren’t we all pilgrims?  One step forward, two steps back?

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Silverweed

Argentina anserina

You send me a pilgrim-monk’s-eye view –

our lord’s footsteps, cinquefoil – gold and silver

sprung out of the sand, leaves like feathers, spray.

Crimson runners are lines on a manuscript,

join what needs to be joined, arteries

of earth and heart: the shudder of the sea

not far away; a sadness in the stretch

and snap of the waves, the way they suck themselves

back, sadder.  You steer your course with such grace,

a brother’s footsteps I try to follow,

asking for nothing – amazed when what blooms

in the imprint of each carefully planted heel

and toe is a sudden illumination

of silver and gold, home for the mutual,

that amniotic salt we’ve been berthed in

over and over.  All I need to do

is open the book of my heart and keep on

looking.  Here, traveller – goosewort, richette

tuck some fresh leaves inside your shoes

to leaven the crossing, our long walking.

 

You can hear more – live – later in November…

Antiphonal

A talk and poetry reading

Location: St Edmunds Chapel, High Street, Gateshead
Time/Date: 15th November 2013, 19:15

There will be a talk by Professor Clare Lees, King’s College London, about the Antiphonal project, a performance by poets involved and a chance to experience the installation created by sound and interaction artist, Tom Schofield. A published pamphlet of the specially commissioned poems, Shadow Script, will be available to buy on the night. The exhibition runs from 15 to 21 November.

Tickets for this event are free, but should be booked in advance from the NCLA site.

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Botany Bay

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One of the places I knew I wanted to visit before even coming to Australia was Botany Bay, the place where Cook and his men first landed in 1770.  On board the Endeavour were two naturalists, Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander, who gathered examples of local species of plants and insects.  In just eight days Sydney Parkinson, the ship’s artist, made as many drawings as he could of kangaroos, birds and flowers, as well as of the Aboriginal people they encountered. Altogether he made 243 drawings of Australian plants that have survived; although he didn’t, dying of dystentery and fever on the voyage home.

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No one I spoke to had been to Botany Bay; most looked askance, muttering about oil refineries, heavy industry and the working harbour.  There is no train station at Kurnell, the nearest settlement – getting there would involve a train ride then a bus.  There’s a cycle route from where I’m based but it’s too far to walk.  Many places in Sydney are harder to reach than they look because of all the inlets – it’s taken me a while just to get my bearings, to know where people mean when they talk about ‘the North Shore’ and the ‘Inner West’.

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In the midst of preparing myself for my departure, my lovely friend Donna kindly offered to drive me there on her day off.  We went south on the Princes Highway, crossed the Captain Cook Bridge over the George River and travelled down the peninsula to Botany Bay National Park.  They have renamed it Kamay Botany Bay to honour the original Aboriginal ownership and this sensitivity to its history is reflected in much of the interpretative information, created in consultation with local Indigenous elders.

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When the Englishmen set foot on their land, the Aboriginals went into hiding, watching from a distance.  That has been their strategy ever since as the White man has claimed governance of the colony, refusing to countenance a world view other than their own – anthropocentric, rationalist, linear, hierarchical and competitive.  Only in very recent times have gestures begun to be made towards apology and healing, allowing the Aborigines to come out of hiding and start to share some of their wisdom.  In the midst of the current global environmental crisis, their deep understanding of the rhythms of the natural world has an important part to play in managing change.

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When Banks took his inventory of the plant species at Kamay – first named Stingray Harbour by Cook, then Botanist’s Bay or Botany Bay because of the rich diversity found there – there was indeed a wealth of different trees, shrubs and flowers, recorded by Sydney Parkinson, and later added to Banks’s Florilegium.  In the subsequent years of clearing, development and industrialisation much variety has been lost and many individual species are in danger of disappearing altogether.  Work is underway to conserve as much as possible and regenerate ‘the bush’ here and elsewhere.  Although I’m afraid it will take a while – I’ve heard too many stories of a widespread scorn for anything ‘green’, seen as anti-patriotic and un-economic by many Australians.  Meanwhile scientists continue to report major extinctions of plant and animal life across this vast and beautiful continent.

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There’s not much botany at Botany Bay but I’m glad I saw it.  Maybe I’ll go back some time and do some of the longer walks they’re creating in the National Park.  It feels an important place – where something noxious started that can’t be erased but that can, like a bushfire, set in motion a whole new beginning.

Donna

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Save The Reef

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Rainbow Warrior is currently docked in Sydney Harbour as part of Greenpeace’s campaign to stop the building of nine coal terminals in Queensland. The resulting shipping traffic (I per hour) would seriously damage the Great Barrier Reef, a World Heritage Site, which is supposed to be protected.

Apparently there are more different species of animals and plants in a cubic metre of the Great Barrier Reef than in any other environment in the world – including tropical rain forests.

I had a great tour of the boat (with wonderful views of the Bridge and Opera House) and learnt more about Australia’s plans to more than double coal production from Queensland and New South Wales in the next decade. Already the world’s largest coal exporter, this would add an extra 900 million tonnes of carbon emissions to the atmosphere.

One academic reportedly said ‘If you’re not angry, you’re not listening.’

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Gymea Lily

The name Gymea Lily  derives from the local Eora dialect.  The plant is indigenous to the coastal areas of New South Wales, where Aboriginal people used to roast the stems and roots for food.

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Its botanical name, Doryanthes excelsa, means ‘exceptional spear flower’.  I have seen it both in the wild and at the Botanic Gardens and it really is.  Even the leaves are about a metre long but the flower spike shoots up to around six metres.  I’ve yet to see one in flower and am hoping the ones in the garden might open before I leave.  These sound quite exceptional too – a large cluster of crimson blossoms – first described by priest, philosopher, statesman and botanist, Jose Francisco Correia de Serra (1750 – 1823), a close friend of Sir Joseph Banks, colonial botanist extraordinaire.

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Last week, inspecting a scorched (by sun or fire, I don’t know) Gymea head in the National Park, I found what I thought might be a seed.  It looked suitably exceptional.

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And then I put my glasses on.

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My research is not conclusive but I think it might have been a male Redback spider, the female of which is nastily venomous.  He’d found a perfect sleeping place in the Gymea seedpod and wasn’t bothered by my getting quite close to take the photos.  When he found himself disturbed, he slowly crawled away, trailing skeins of sticky silk behind him.

 

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Drumsticks

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A small shrub, Ipsopogon anemonifolius has yellow flowers in the spring and summer. These have turned into cones with the arrival of Australia’s autumn … Seen today on a coastal walk in the Royal National Park, south of Sydney.

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Towards the end of the 19th century NSW Premier Sir John Robertson saw the need for a people’s park where Sydneysiders could escape from the pressures of urban living and enjoy nature. Traditionally the land of the Dharawal people, mudflats and mangroves were replaced with grassed parkland and exotic trees. The Park has evolved to accommodate more contemporary ideas about conservation.

It covers 16,300 hectares on a sloping sandstone plateau and contains over 700 species of flowering plants. The deep river valleys also support tall drifts of turpentine, blackbutt and bluegum, as well as areas of rainforest.

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