Tuesday, 31 January 2023

The Book of Trespass


 The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes

This is an engrossing and wide-ranging examination of how the people of England and Wales are kept away from 92% of the land and 97% of the waterways. Each chapter is based around an actual trespass made by the author. The interesting thing for me, here, is that each incident of trespass was carried out in such a way that if the author were in Scotland, it would not be considered trespass (our laws on trespass are much more reasonable north of the border). 

Using the author's own trespasses as a starting point, the book charts the history of land and property rights in England and Wales. The author examines the changing definition of trespass including the draconian English law as it relates to so-called aggravated trespass. The particularly draconian bit is that anything can be construed as being the aggravation, even something as benign as sketching or taking photos. Aggravated trespass is, however, most often used against protesters. This book looks at the history of protest in England starting with the 1932 mass trespass on Kinder Scout in the Peak District, (which was instrumental in the Peak District eventually being designated a National Park in 1953) and taking in the Greenham Common Protests, Extinction Rebellion and the residents of Sheffield who protested against their council's plan to remove healthy trees throughout the city in the name of improved highway maintenance.

Hayes examines how fox hunting and grouse shooting, typically pastimes of the wealthy, are tied in with the property rights of those same wealthy people and are used against what used to be people's common rights to the land and its riches. What was once seen as a person's right to hunt the land, becomes redesignated as the crime of poaching game from the wealthy landowners. 

Interestingly, he makes the point that established rights of way actually help to distract people from their lack of access to the rest of the countryside. Many landowners would then argue that restricting access protects the land, but as Hayes points out, an 'inconsiderate rambler may occasionally stumble into the eggs of a ground nesting bird, their effect on the wildlife of England is nothing compared to that of industrial agriculture' an argument that still stands despite the increasing number of incidents of dogs and people disturbing nesting sites across the country

He extends the idea of trespass through to immigration across international borders and slavery (where people are considered to be property, but also the fortunes made through slavery fed into the grand estates that are closed off to the general public). So the book covers a lot more ground than might be expected from the title. 

A fascinating read for anyone interested in land rights in the UK. With beautiful illustrations by the author. 

The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes, published (2020) by Bloomsbury.


If you're interested in land rights in the UK, you may be interested in this article on the Open Democracy website: England has long been starved of access to nature.

Thursday, 26 January 2023

climate change haiku

hot flush -
Antarctic ice sheets

previously published on Lothlorien Poetry Journal


If you're interested in how haiku can respond to the climate crisis, you may be interested in Twisting Point: the evolution of haiku in the climate crisis, a fascinating article by Jasmine Kirkbride for The British Haiku Society. 

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

Snowdrops and Ladybirds!

 It's lovely to see the snowdrops starting to show themselves! Yesterday I saw this clump in the Dells along the Water of Leith

and today I had a lunchtime walk round North Merchiston Cemetery, where several clumps of snowdrops are in bloom, including these

The Royal Botanic Gardens Snowdrop festival starts today! You can find out more here

Meanwhile, ladybirds are still hibernating on some of the gravestones, including these Pine Ladybirds. 

It was very nice that one of last week's BBC Winterwatch episodes featured entomologist Ashleigh Whiffin showing BBC presenter Gillian Burke the ladybirds in Edinburgh's Warriston Cemetery. Though, personally, I felt the segment was far too short to really do justice either to Ashleigh's enthusiasm or the ladybirds themselves. Winterwatch has also focussed on the Water of Leith in this series and will also be visiting other places in and around Edinburgh this week. It's nice to see Edinburgh's green-spaces featuring on national TV.

Saturday, 21 January 2023

Lauriston Castle

 We had a lovely walk round the grounds of Lauriston Castle today. It's a beautiful park with lots of trees, 

a pretty Japanese Garden and wonderful views over the Lauriston Farm fields to Cramond Island, the Firth of Forth and Fife in the background. 

We were very impressed by the displays of mosses in the old stone flower pots

Looking closely, we can see Wall Screw Moss (Tortula muralis)

and Capillary Thread-moss (Bryum capillare)

Also lovely to see are the Witch Hazel shrubs in the Japanese garden, which are in bloom, a lovely early sign of Spring along with a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker!

Tuesday, 17 January 2023

Monday, 16 January 2023

Carrion Crows and Grey Squirrels

 On Saturday we had a lovely walk round Warriston Cemetery, so I could show Crafty Green Boyfriend around (he's not visited that cemetery for years!). We met a very cheeky Grey Squirrel, which looked as though it was practising posing for when the BBC Winterwatch cameras visit over the next two weeks. 

We also watched these two Carrion Crows feeding on the top of a gravestone

If you look carefully at the wings of the crow to the left below, you can see hints of blue and green in the feathers! The feathers are iridescent and in the right light show colours other than black.

Looking more closely at some of the gravestones, we found an interesting array of invertebrates, including lots of ladybirds (there are Pine Ladybirds and Harlequins in the photo below, with a ladybird larva at the bottom of the photo)

We're very pleased that the invertebrates of the cemetery will feature in a segment of this year's Winterwatch! Ashleigh Whiffin, Entomology Curator of the National Museum of Scotland, will be highlighting some of the many interesting creatures to be found!

Thursday, 12 January 2023

Winter in Warriston Cemetery

 The popular BBC TV show Winterwatch is coming to Edinburgh this year! One of the places it will be visiting is Warriston Cemetery, the largest cemetery in the city. 

As I've recently surveyed the wildlife in Edinburgh's cemeteries, the council asked me to help them with mapping the cemetery for the production. 

So yesterday I spent a very chilly (but thankfully dry) day in Warriston Cemetery.

I was very pleased to find good numbers of ladybirds on some gravestones, as these are one of the most interesting aspects of winter wildlife in cemeteries. Here are a few of the ladybirds I found! 

Orange Ladybirds with one Harlequin and one 2 Spot.
A group of Harlequin ladybirds showing the variety of markings this invasive species shows
Two Spot, Pine, Orange and Harlequin Ladybirds
I was also pleased to find a large fallen branch, which was covered in lichens and mosses. Many lichens and mosses are found in much greater abundance high up in the trees, so we only get the chance to see them when a branch falls.  The photo below shows just some of the lichens on this particular branch.

I saw plenty of birds too, including Great Spotted Woodpecker, Treecreeper, Bullfinches, lots of  Long Tailed Tits and (very unexpectedly) Redpolls. I spent a coffee break with a very friendly Robin, which at one point looked as though it was going to jump into my rucksack. Part of the cemetery overlooks the Water of Leith, where yesterday I saw Goosanders and Mallards, but where you can often see Kingfishers and Dippers. 
A Water Rail has apparently been seen here recently.