LETTERS FROM BRUSSELS SAVING THE FORESTS NATIONAL AGM 2012 NATIONAL AGM 2011 LIVING CLOSE TO NATURE CASTLE OF HOHNSTEIN GERMANY F OF N HOUSE IN SCOTLAND F OF N HOUSES IN FRANCE / U.S.A. NORWICH NEWS F OF N HOUSES IN THE UK
LOCH TUMMEL, PERTHSHIRE, SCOTLAND UK taken from 'The Queens Viewpoint' June 2011
Foreword from the President F of N UK : John Bowles First of all, a very warm welcome to members old and new. I hope you are having a very 'Nature-friendly' year!! The UK Organisation of Friends of Nature is in a stable position as far as membership is concerned, with some 227 members. This has remained fairly consistent over the last few years. The National Committee are always looking at ways to attract new members. We advertise in magazines aimed at people looking for outdoor pursuits, environmental issues or recreational activities such as holidays abroad and who may be interested in joining Fof N Of course the Internet is an amazing source of information. Fof N has an excellent website: //www.thefriendsofnature.org.uk
John Bowles .......................................................................................................................................... A Message from the Bulletin Editor : Pat Rant As you know, there have been times when I have been despondent about the lack of contribution to the Bulletins; so much so that I queried at the National AGM whether it was worth the effort or, indeed, if the Bulletin was really wanted. Well, I am pleased to say that this year the I have had an excellent response, for which I thank you all very much. I hope you find the content interesting and enjoy reading it.
Pat Rant ............................................................................................................................................... International Friends of Nature once again has a Brussels office.and we welcome Seda who will be sending regular letters and news ( see pages 2 & 3)
Seda Orhan-Defranceschi IFN Policy Officer in Brussels Profile Seda was born in Tarsus (Turkey) and studied international political science in Ankara and Moscow. She graduated with two masters courses in the field of human rights and international development in Malta and Innsbruck. Within the last few years, and after her long-lasting commitment to human rights, she has specialized in â€œsustainable developmentâ€œ. Last year Seda was EU representative for the biggest Turkish NGO for organic agriculture and sustainable tourism.
Letter from Brussels
The first in a series from our EU Policy Office In Brussels It has been a few months now that International Friends of Nature once again has a Brussels office. What do we need that for, one may ask. Isn’t the Friends of Nature movement mostly about hiking, about enjoying nature and about community? What does that have to do with developments far away at the EU institutions? Well, it’s true that Friends of Nature is primarily a members’ organisation, living through its local sections that maintain the Friends of Nature houses and organise common activities. But the Friends of Nature movement is also about a common ideal of conscious engagement with nature and of a globally fair development of our society. Bringing this vision to life also requires an active engagement with political processes and societal debates. And a lot of that, particularly on environmental issues, is nowadays taking place at the European level. The new office is starting out at a good time, as many important decisions will be taken this year: New economic strategies are developed for bringing Europe onto a more climate-friendly, low-carbon path. The review of budgets and funding schemes offers the opportunity to adjust EU priorities, and the development of the next environmental action program will set the stage for sustainability efforts across all major policy areas. My exciting task is to increase Friends of Nature involvement in these processes. Of course Friends of Nature are only one relatively small voice in a big choir of interest representatives all trying to bring their perspectives into the political process. Cooperation is therefore key: Which ideas can Friends of Nature support, where can we collaborate with others? Once a month we coordinate our goals and activities among the “Green 10“, an alliance of the ten biggest environmental organisations operating at the European level. One of our priorities last year was meeting the new EU Commissioners to present ourselves and offer our input on environmental issues. International Friends of Nature is also a member of the European Environmental Bureau, a network linking more than 140 organisations across Europe. So the Friends of Nature office in Brussels in itself may be small, but if we join our voice – representing 500,000 members worldwide – to those of others, our message still carries some weight. From now on, I will be sharing a few of these experiences with you on a regular basis in order to make this aspect of Friends of Nature work a bit more tangible. More than half of the national legislation in its member states is actually based on EU initiatives – a good reason for Friends of Nature to also engage at this level to promote its vision for an environmentally and socially sound global sustainable development. With warm greetings from Brussels, Seda Orhan Defranceschi
EU Policy Officer
The Second in a series from our EU Policy Office In Brussels At the EU level promising developments are making our hearts beat. With the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, tourism is a new EU competence and since last year the Commission has a new tourism strategy with sustainability at the core! Tourism is now seen as a “key sector of the European economy”, in particular for regional development, where sustainable tourism is regarded as a major driver for local development and environmentally friendly investments. This is a great chance for Friends of Nature to promote its values and share its vision on how tourism can be genuinely sustainable. New opportunities will arise to spread our message. Based on our centenarian history we have indeed a lot to say! Sustainability targets are often big words of whose effectiveness should be measured against concrete actions. One good example for such tangible outcomes of IFN’s work in Brussels is Christian Baumgartner’s (General Secretary of IFN) active role in the Tourism Sustainability Group (DG Enterprise and Tourism, European Commission) where he contributed to the development of the indicators for “sustainable tourism”. Those indicators are now being tested in five regions of the project “Landscape of the Year Network”, meaning that the regions are not only closely linked with the new developments at the EU level, but that they also benefit from a stronger exchange and new ideas between the regions to learn from each other and create fruitful synergies. Sustainable, smart and inclusive tourism, which is responsible and respectful towards nature and future generations – isn’t that what we all want? Friends of Nature projects on the ground have been strongly contributing to exactly these EU targets for the past 20 years. Like the project "Landscape of the Year" - a regional development initiative by Friends of Nature - which every two years is proclaimed in another european cross border and ecologically valuable region. The next Landscape of the Year in 2013/14 will be organized in cooperation with three Friends of Nature organisations at the border-triangle of Germany, France and Switzerland. In the framework of the European Danube Strategy IFN’s recommendations for an environmentally, socially and economically balanced action plan have been directly taken up by the EU policy makers. It is good to know that we are heard! While Brussels might seem “far from home”, we will continue our work to contribute to tapping the full potential of sustainable tourism in European regions, both through concrete projects and by sharing our vast experience. With warm greetings from Brussels, Seda Orhan Defranceschi EU Policy Officer
NOBODY MADE A GREATER MISTAKE THAN HE WHO DID NOTHING BECAUSE HE COULD ONLY DO A LITTLE. Edmund Burke
Friends of Nature Germany (Naturfreunde Deutschlands)Anti Nuclear Demonstrations Friends of Nature German have been highlighting the problems and issues with nuclear power since the 1950's ... last Saturday some 250,000 participants took part in peaceful demonstrations in cities all over Germany. Berlin alone saw some 125, 000 participants peacefully and in good humour showing their feelings towards the nuclear industry, and in particular the current crisis at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. What strikes me is the good humour and the wide cross-section of people - young children with parents, teenagers and adults from all walks of life coming together to highlight, through the medium of Friends of Nature, their concerns over nuclear power...
As we have seen in the UK this last January with the government proposals to break up and sell off the Forestry Commission woodlands, the importance of public pressure and presenting a reasoned argument via a united voice such as Friends of Nature can bring results, and in this case a U-turn on government policy Simon Neil Environment Officer IN 2011 FORESTS ARE TAKING CENTRE-STAGE
International year of Forests One third of of the worlds land surface, which amounts to 10 per cent of the earth's total surface, is covered by forests. They serve as habitats for over two thirds of all species, as economic areas and economic assets and are, not least, part of our cultural heritage. Forests are water reservoirs, they protect us from floods,avalanches and erosion. They are green lungs that generate oxygen and they act as carbon sinks. The livelihood of over 1.6 billion people directly depends on forests Forests are endangered the world over. Every two seconds a forest area corresponding to the size of a football pitch is being destroyed. The forest clearing rate amounts to 13 million hectares annually- an expanse comparable to the land area of Greece. Added to this is the danger of slash and burn clearance and the conversion into plantations for for fast-growing,frequently genetically modified tree species. Proclaimed by the United Nations, the International Year of Forests 2011 is supposed to draw attention to the endangerment of forests and to make the them the focus of public interests. The United Nations underlines that only sustainable ecological forest management can in the long run safeguard the manifold functions of forests. Under the mottoâ€?Forests for Peopleâ€? events are staged the world over throughout 2011 for the purpose of drawing attention to the importance of forests. The website www.un.org/en/events/iyof2011 informs about ht International Year of Forests, Several countries, such as Germany or Austria have in addition set up their own campaign offices ( www,wald2011.de, www.jahrdeswaldes.at). Mira Beinert, Head of the Expert Group for Nature and Environmental Protection of Naturefriends Germany email@example.com
Public or Private Forests ? Friends of Nature say they are "for the people"... The big issue in 2011 which has been grabbing the public's attention in England has been the Governments' plans to sell off some 258,000 hectares of Forestry Commission forests and woodlands. Essentially a money raising exercise in which the Government hoped to raise an estimated £250 million for spending or deficit payments elsewhere. Friends of Nature here in the UK made our opposition forcefully to these proposals via a reasoned debate and campaign which was then submitted to our Environment Department. Our core view point being that Forestry Commission land, forests and woodlands are the nations assets, (the Forestry Commission is a public body) - they belong to the people and are an integral part of our heritage and future. We argue that the potentially conflicting roles of commercial operation, nature conservation and public access are best managed under the current single unified body. A key part of our campaign also had to be 'positive' and 'proactive' in suggesting safeguards that needed to be implemented should the sell-off go ahead despite the opposition - so for example we argued "Any disposal of species rich, publicly used or realistically manageable sized woodlands should be given to charitable trusts or local community groups for their stewardship “in perpetuity”. Where necessary operational grants should be made available. They should not be sold for purely commercial use by the private sector or for short term monetary gain. Public access on foot, cycle or horseback must be safeguarded as at present". As FoN here in the UK is a small group we often work in partnership with other groups and this seems to be the way forward for us, strength in numbers but also shared use of resources and showing a common front to the public and government. By engaging with the media the plans for the Foresty Commission sell-off were dropped in February 2011, a success for the groups involved but more really for the people of the UK and future generations. But we still have to watch and keep up the pressure as Government still plans to sell some forests by another route. By liaising with larger specialist organisations such as the Woodland Trust (500,000 members) we will keep informed!!
FRIENDS OF NATURE UK NATIONAL AGM 2012 The F of N National AGM will be held on APRIL 21st 2012 at 2:30pm at The Owen Barnes Room, Breckland, Road New, Costessey. Norwich. NR5 0RW. The Norwich AGM will be held in the evening of the same day at the same place at 7:00pm. It will be followed by a Cheese and Wine Evening with live entertainment. Some soft drinks will be provided, but bring any beer or spirits of your choice. Please contact Mick Mickleburgh by April 7th at latest for catering numbers. 01603 419879 : firstname.lastname@example.org
Friends of Nature National AGM Saturday April 9th 2011 This year, the National AGM was held at Court Hill, Wantage , Oxfordshire, Court Hill was a farm, but is now a Centre for social and outdoor activities such as walks, biking and horse riding. A bonus is the provision of a field study room on site ~ ideal for our AGM. You really must visit the place, as it not only offers facilities for those who wish to participate in outdoor pursuits but is a super spot just to relax and take in the views over the Vale of Oxford whilst enjoying the home baking from the on-site tearoom !! . NATIONAL AGM The National AGM was hosted by myself, which I felt went off well and ably supported by the members of the National Committee. A few of the notable points include: • Our new Membership secretary Debbie Duke is now in post and is eagerly awaiting to have contact with you and pending new membership. • Our Vice President, Erich Schmidt, agreed to continue for a further 12 months but will definitely stand down at the 2012 AGM. If anyone is interested in the post or finding out what the role involves please contact Erich, myself or our Secretary - contact details on back page. • Membership numbers are rising and both Norwich and Northern groups continue to offer a full programme of activities. • Government proposals to sell-off Forestry Commission woodland and forests was (and still is) a major cause of concern and we made our feelings know to Caroline Spelman (Secretary of State for Environment) directly and through our new Policy Office in Brussels. The threat still remains and is an area we will watch closely. • The house network seems to thrive with reports of both UK and overseas member useage. Possible further house in Scotland may be on the cards. • On the International level, 2011 sees the International Friends of Nature (IFN) 3 yearly Congress take place in Graz, Austria at the end of September. Presidents and delegates from all IFN member countries will be present for 2-3 days to discuss developments over the last 3 years and plan for the next 3 to come. About 20 members were present at the AGM, but because of its location, I suppose a lot of members found it difficult to justify travelling such a distance, due to fuel costs etc. As we held the AGM late Saturday afternoon this gave time for a full days activity and many members enjoyed walking along the Ridgeway in near heatwave weather, whilst others travelled to Oxford for a bit more of a cultural excursion. The evening meal was a roaring success and the food was both delicious and in prodigious quantities. Our thanks to Margaret and her team at Court Hill for looking after us so well. The small room accommodation was appreciated by many ~ especially those with youngsters or those who do not "do" top bunks...you know who you are !! On the Sunday morning Northern Group had their AGM and others variously made the most of the glorious weather and then headed for home. Just to finish, I would like to say Debbie and her mum Maureen Trett and I stayed at The Premier Inn, Didcot, and that I was led astray by having to go to the bar for a "NIGHTCAP", two nights running !.
Yours Naturefriendly and Berg Frei John Bowles
The AGM Weekend at Court Hill Court Hill Friends of Nature Hostel was the venue for the National and Northern AGM’s , held during the weekend away from 8th – 10th April 2011. Most members arrived during the Friday afternoon,in glorious sunshine, which gave us the excuse to have tea and scones or cake in the garden of the tea shop/café, which is housed in one of the beautiful dark wood rustic buildings of Court Hill. The hostel sits in a prime position on the top of the Ridgeway in Oxfordshire, with wonderful panoramic views over the Thames valley. The accommodation consists of various dormitory-type bedrooms ( no bunk beds) used primarily by school and youth groups. We, however were housed in a wing with 2 and 4 bedded rooms, (some bunk beds), with some members having a room to themselves. We were also joined by two members from Bolton who came in the early hours of Friday night/Saturday morning in their Camper van and slept in the car park! We had the hostel to ourselves On the Saturday morning, in glorious sunshine, most members set off for a walk, which lasted into the afternoon, along part of the Ridgeway long distance path, which ran very close to the hostel. 4 ladies went into Oxford, mainly by local bus and one member and her 2 year old daughter went to a nearby farm and plant nursery to see the animals. The national AGM was held at 4.30pm, followed by our evening meal, which was provided by the hostel. The Northern Group AGM was held on the Sunday morning starting at 9.45am, after which, the majority stayed for a self catered lunch, eaten outside the hostel to enable us to soak in the ever present sunshine and the far reaching views, complete with 3 hot air balloons. We then bid each other farewell in the hope that we would all meet up again in the not too distant future, as the lovely picturesque surroundings, the attractive, comfortable accommodation at Court Hill, with the added bonus of lovely sunshine all made for a really enjoyable weekend full of friendship. If you weren’t there, you missed a treat! Pat Lee. Northern Group Secretary
============================================================= Solar Panels at Trefin Chris and Sue have recently installed solar panels on the roof of their Friends of Nature house in Pembrokeshire. Visiting during glorious weather in May, Chris proudly showed us the control panel which indicated how much hot water the panels were currently producing, and was enthusing on the amount of energy which would be saved even on relatively overcast days. An added bonus being the fact that the panels are manufactured locally in South Wales, so keeping everything as local as possible. We wish Chris and Sue well with their future improvements in what must be one of the friendliest and greenest places to stay in this part of Wales. P.S. If you are stopping - make sure you try the Banana Porridge - one of Sue's secret recipes to die for and the talk of walkers on the Coastal Path !!
The Reality of Living Close to Nature at Jan and Allan Greens This was the title for a ‘come and see (and try)’ day on 2 nd October 2010. Different aspects of managing our 1½ acres in an environmentally friendly way were discussed and demonstrated. This is a brief outline of what we did. The House and land – We looked at photos of what the house and land were like when we moved here so that we could compare them with what was to be seen. We have fenced the fields, built a stable and barns, hedges and a wood area have been planted, and we have built 90 metres of dry stone walls from remains elsewhere on the land. It was explained how all built structures had been carefully placed to retain the view and hide eyesores. Still to do in the house are damp proof course (solid walls built about 1800), new central heating system (no mains gas), new kitchen (the old one has to come out to do the damp proof course), create upstairs bathroom (no toilet upstairs at the moment), re-lay yard flags, floor insulation (plain concrete and cold at the moment), pointing, etc. We spend a lot of time working at home but to compensate we do go on quite a lot of holidays and have days out, etc. The jobs don’t totally consume our lives but we do most of the work ourselves so it takes a long time. We intend to get them finished in the next few years! We try to keep jobs and pleasure in balance. Our main aim of managing our land is to benefit ourselves. We try to encourage and look after all the flora and fauna but if it’s to the detriment of us then it has to be dealt with accordingly. We spot treat with weedkiller when necessary. We occasionally put a few slug pellets down around newly planted seedlings, as we can’t afford our time and effort to be eaten up in a night. When we moved here there were no trees or bushes and very few birds or mammals. The most recent ‘first for us’ was a hooded crow. We watched and photographed it for about an hour one evening. Nobody knows why it was here as it’s the first sighting around here for about 35 years. Don’t know where it came from or where it went to! So our species list grows. Electric fence and weeds – The battery system was explained and why we have it – our horse doesn’t respect ordinary fences or walls and leans over them pushing the stones off or the posts over (grass is greener on other side). Also we have cows on the other side. We discussed weeds and which ones were a problem. The term ‘horse sick field’ was explained – a field with not much grass and full of docks, ragwort and soft rush (called ‘wicking’ around here) caused by bad management of the land. We regularly go around looking for these weeds and digging them out. Because our land is rather wet (and acidic we thought) we have a particular problem with soft rush, which is proving time consuming to dig out. It doesn’t help matters when surrounding fields have these weeds in them, which the owners don’t do anything about. The activity then was to go around the fields cutting down anything that was touching the fences (as that stops the system working properly) checking for bindweed, docks, and ragwort as we went and digging them out if found. Hazel nuts were identified and the ground around the small holly bushes was cleared. Birds and mammals – Whilst having a break we talked about the birds (about 60 species seen over the years) and mammals (voles, wood mice, weasels, rabbits, deer (not usually in our field but nearby) which we have here and the signs of their evidence. Various wildlife books were available for people to look at. Pest control – moles are a problem as the ground sinks and becomes uneven where they have runs and when there are molehills weeds grow there instead of grass so that the quality of the field deteriorates. We use mole traps if they start to become a nuisance. Magpies seems to steal our plums and gooseberries even before they are ready so we sometimes net the gooseberries and accept that we’ll have less plums Rabbits are increasing rapidly after years of never seeing any. We used to see hares but we haven’t seen any for a number of years now. Some of the problems caused by rabbits are holes covered by grass down the back of the hedge which we sometimes put our foot down and could twist an ankle, holes in the open field in which the horse could injure herself if galloping around, holes alongside the house wall, eating my wild flowers. A big problem was the rabbits eating our very small self-seeded hollies, which we carefully nurture in the hedge and by stripping natural regrowth generally. Tree screens around saplings is just not practical in a hedge. We now have to resort to shooting rabbits if there are too many. Garden – this area has had the original plants moved to other places and now consists mainly of self seeded plants – heathers, foxglove, bilberry, alpine strawberry, honesty, welsh poppy, feverfew. As it mainly looks after itself we have left it for now, with the longer-term plan to do ‘something’ with it. This will include making a larger pond as the one we have now is very small and doesn’t attract any frogs or toads. Soil acidity – certain plants (buttercup, soft rush) thrive in acid conditions and some grasses and clover disappear. We collected soil samples and tested them. Surprisingly we found that our soil is slightly alkaline. Woodland/hedges – our small woodland area has been left to grow and recently some non-native species have been added (buddleia) for colour and butterflies. The native hedges which go all around the fields are pruned every spring with about 1/3 of the larger bushes being cut down to the ground every year. One area of hedge has been left to grow to benefit wildlife, shelter/windbreak and screening. We have tried various methods of dealing with the substantial amount of prunings. We shredded and used the chips for mulch but it didn’t work very well, we had bonfires but we no longer have a suitable bit of land to use and now we take them to the tip for recycling. It’s a big, time consuming job for a few weeks every year.
Wildflower meadow – this area used to be a lawn, which we left to grow, and also planted some wild flower plug plants (field scabious, devilsbit scabious, toadflax, betony, ladies bedstraw, primrose, cowslip, purple loosestrife, musk mallow, black knapweed, greater knapweed, tansy, fritillary). Other plants have arrived without our help (yarrow, clover, buttercup, lady’s smock, sneezewort, vetch). Any self-seeded plant which turns up anywhere on our land might be transplanted into the meadow if I like it. This is a mixture of spring and summer flowering plants so not the typically recommended meadow. In late autumn (after seeding) the area is grazed by Chloe, our horse and then again in spring to suppress grass grown. Fruit – the woodland and hedges provide fruits for the wildlife. These include elder, holly, guelder rose, hawthorn, hazel, rowan, and dog rose. We had a lovely surprise in early spring 2011 when about 30 waxwings were feeding on our guelder rose fruits. We grow fruit bushes for ourselves, which are grown as part of the field hedge. These include gooseberry, worcesterberry, black white and red currants, blueberry, and goji berry. Gooseberry sawfly is a problem if we net the bushes to keep the magpies away as the smaller birds can’t get in. We like to rely on the small birds to eat the sawfly caterpillars but unfortunately they don’t seem to like them very much. The answer would be to build a cage with holes the size of the small birds but then that means more work! For now either the magpies get some fruit or the sawfly get the leaves. Last year they ate every single leaf. We also have a large strawberry bed, bordered by Japanese wineberries. The plum tree is down by the woodland area and the morello cherry (usually netted) is on the north side of the house. We’ve tried a few times to grow apples but haven’t succeeded. We do have a lot of fruit (variable depending on climatic conditions) so can afford to share some of it with the wildlife. We freeze what we don’t eat and this usually lasts all year. If we don’t grow it we don’t eat it so when on holiday or away for the day it’s a real treat to have a banana/peach/nectarine/apple/orange, etc. Vegetables – For years we grew all our own vegetables, and like the fruit, if we didn’t grow it, we didn’t eat it. So if one crop was poor we didn’t have any of that vegetable all year. A few years ago we decided to stop growing vegetables in an effort to have more time to concentrate on jobs on the house and land. Anyone self sufficient in fruit and vegetables will know how time consuming it is. A lot of people grow a few vegetables but to not buy any all year demands something other than just a bit of pottering about when you feel like it. Septic tank - Photos were shown of the massive earthworks undertaken a few years ago when the septic tank was blocked. A JCB had to dig a huge hole until a crack in the rock could be found for the water to drain away. It was like an opencast mine! Eventually a suitable crack was found and the hole could be filled in with large rocks to form a soakaway. The workings of the tank were explained and then we went to have a look at the various stages involved before the clear water drains away. Photos before and after the work
Trailer driving – something done on a regular basis to collect hay, straw, take things to the recycling plant, etc. Everyone was given the chance to try driving the car with the trailer behind. As expected, reversing proved quite a challenge! Target Practice – everyone was given the chance to have a go at shooting at a target with the air rifle. This proved a popular activity and not as easy as some expected .Horse care – grazing regime (strip grazing, resting fields) was discussed. Muck has to be collected on a regular basis and the muck heap kept in an orderly manner. This stops the field from becoming ‘horse sick’. Grooming was demonstrated and those who wanted to had a go. Foot and teeth care were discussed. The bed in the stable can be either changed daily or deep litter. We do the deep litter system which involves removing any droppings regularly and putting fresh straw on top so the bed is dry. By spring the bed is quite deep and warm due to it decomposing from the bottom. Once the weather is fairly warm and dry the bed is removed and put on the muck heap. A new bed is then put down in autumn. Some people groomed Chloe, some collected muck, and some put the new bed down. Once the muck heap is well rotted it can be used around the garden. We have a few different heaps of differing ages. The water from the roof of the stable/barns goes into a bath to provide drinking water for Chloe. Recycling – we reuse and repair everything we can (our summer house was made partly from my mum’s old garden shed), discarded items from family and friends, carpets (to cover the muck heap), etc. Most of our possessions are quite elderly - my washer is 31, microwave about 27, cooker 20, and that’s years! With most new items now you’re lucky to get that number of months out of them. I like my old items as they’re simple to use (and repair) and don’t make awful peeping noises. We only have one car, which is old but works well and Allan can repair it (unlike the newer computer regulated ones). Our television is old and I suppose we’re going to have to learn how to change to digital (another job!) even though we hardly ever have time to watch it. I suppose our newest item is the computer which we use to purchase things cheaper than we could buy them for in the shops and also don’t have to spend the time going to get them. Our holidays are usually planned and booked on the internet, often saving quite a lot of money. Jan and Allan Green
Be careful where you tread - protecting farmland Did you know that termite heaps are air-conditioned? Or that a mole eats its own body weight in food every day? Literally thousands of micro-organisms live in a teaspoon of soil, but we know surprisingly little about this most basic building block of our society. The astonishing diversity of this underground world far exceeds that of the planet above it, and is of fundamental importance for all life on Earth. Biodiversity in soil provides food for the plants that we grow, keeps pests at bay, helps clean our drinking water, breaks down pollutants, produces soil organic matter and is one of the key players in keeping our climate healthy. For the past few decades, there has been a progressive and slow decrease of soil biodiversity and biological activity. Intensive farming is a major cause, although there are others, but awareness is growing of the many important contributions soil makes to a healthy planet. Claude Bourguignon of the Laboratory of Soil Microbiological Analyses delivered a clear message to participants. "We must change our mindset about soil, lt is not dirt. it is not dirty. it is alive with billions of organisms that affect humans' daily lives,' he explained. Bourguignon, who advises farmers on the crops best suited to their particular soil, insisted that there was no such thing as bad soil, just bad agriculture. He gave some examples of the damage which intensive agriculture has inflicted on the land. During the last century, it destroyed one billion hectares of arable land. Together, soil erosion and irrigation were responsible for the desertification of 12 million hectares every year. In France alone, annual soil erosion has increased since 1980 from 10 tonnes per hectare to 40 tonnes and the biological activity of the country's soil has decreased by 90% over the past 30 years, Such an agricultural model was not sustainable, he argued. To compensate for the loss of arable land, 10-12 million hectares of forest are cut down every year. Intensive farming, with its widespread use of fertilisers, was destroying organic matter which in turn led to the disappearance of fauna which feeds on such matter. Charlotte Hollins of Fordhall Organic Farm in the UK told participants that her father had learned this lesson the hard way. Whenever he put more chemical fertiliser onto his land (a very light and sandy soil), plants took up what they could, and the rest was washed out. As a result, the natural fertility of the soil continued to decline, leaving weaker and more diseased crops in its wake. Eventually, he had to turn the farm over to grass. Bourguignon suggested some practical ways to prevent agricultural land from becoming further impoverished. He advocated the use of alternative farming techniques that protect the soil and its fauna and flora, and more crop rotation coupled with an increase in varieties. He also challenged the conventional wisdom in the farming community that ploughing should be deep. "When you protect the soil from the sun, its temperature falls. If it rises because of ploughing, for instance, you destroy biological activity", he warned. In addition to intensive farming, Professor Wim Van der Putten of the Netherlands Institute of Ecology pointed to other threats facing Europe's soil. These include the expansion of Europe's cities and paved areas and the removal of topsoil for open cast mining. Soil's many features may not be readily visible, but they affect the world around us. "All the interaction you see above ground is to some extent determined by what happens underground. That is why soil biodiversity is so pivotal to life on earth", said Van der Putten. -oThis is an edited version of one of the sessions held during last year's EU 'Green Week'. It offered a glimpse inside the Earth's engine room, and showed how we depend on a vast array of interlinked species that we know very little about. It appeared in the 2010 Green Week Supplement of "Environment for Europeans". The Speakers were: Prof. Wim Van der Putten, Head of the Dept Multitrophic Interactions, Netherlands Institute of Ecology (NIOO-KNAW) Charlotte Hollins, Fordhall Farm, United Kingdom Claude Bourguignon, Laboratory of Soil Microbiological Analyses (LAMS), France
THE CASTLE OF HOHNSTEIN in the S채chsische Schweiz National Park ("Swiss Saxony", Germany) Do you fancy staying somewhere with a lot of history and many stories to tell? Situated on a high rock the castle of Hohnstein overlooks the picturesque valley of the river Polenz and dominates the little town of Hohnstein. Of all the castles that were situated to the right of the river Elbe, only Hohnstein still exists. Being part of the Malerweg or "Painter's Path ", Hohnstein and its unique landscape were already praised during the Romantic Era. Today the castle still offers every visitor, be it hiker or mountain climber, an unforgettable experience. It is one of the biggest hostels in Germany.
CASTLE HOHNSTEIN THE HISTORY OF THE CASTLE Its origin can be traced back to the 12th century. One of the oldest documents from the year 1353 indicates thal the castle was the residence of a Bohemian noble family called the Berken von der Duba. Their duty consisted of safeguarding the trade routes and the border of the Mark Meissen. After the masters of the castle became robber barons, the castle was brought into the possession of the Wettiner by purchase and barter. In the following years it became a Saxon department of administration and justice for 5 towns and 48 villages in the region. Later, it was made the state prison and hunting castle of the Elector. Thanks to its favourable position, the castle has never been taken. However, its buildings were regularly destroyed by fires. After the office was dispersed in 1861, the castle was used as an institution to improve the behaviour of men with a criminal past, and from 1919 onwards it served as a youth prison. In the year 1924, young people of the German youth hostel association found shelter in the abandoned buildings. The "Youth Hostel " was festively inaugurated in April 1926. With its1000 beds, it was the biggest and most beautiful youth hostel in Germany and gained a world-wide reputation. These times of happiness ended in the year 1933. The castle was occupied by the National Socialists and was made into a so-called Schutzhaftlager (protective custody camp) for approximately 5600 political prisoners. This camp existed until August 1934. In 1935 the castle was handed over to the Hitler Youth. From 1939 on it was a camp for prisoners of war and, after the Second World War, it served as a shelter for refugees and exiles. After 1948, as one of the biggest youth hostels of East Germany, the castle was the centre of political events for young people in the district of Dresden. Towards the end of the Socialist regime, it was planned to build an internment camp for 800 enemies of the regime. Today the Castle of Hohnstein offers an exciting or a restful stay for many visitors
MUSEUM In the museum you can experience the history of the castle. The exhibitions inform you about the history, geology, flora and fauna of Hohnstein and the Elbsandsteingebirge (Elbe sandstone mountains). The castle is also the starting point for Hohnstein's nature trail. ROOMS IN THE CASTLE OF HOHNSTEIN 16 comfortable rooms in the Lower Castle with shower, toilet, satellite TV, telephone, sauna from 29 00 EUR for Bed and Breakfast to 55. 00 EUR for Half Board per person. 200 beds in the Youth Centre with shower, WC on the floors charged at 22. 00 EUR for Bed and Breakfast or 28. 00 EUR for Half Board per person. (This is a slightly edited version of a leaflet, in English, available at the castle.) Some of you may have seen the little town of Hohnstein, and this castle, shown in the last of Julia Bradbury's "German Walks" series broadcast on the BBC last autumn and also, I believe, more recently. It was this programme that prompted us to visit the area in early June his year - although we didn't stay at Hohnstein! Until 2005 or so Burg Hohnstein was listed in the German House List as a Naturfreundehaus along with a number of other houses in this area. For some reason there is now only one house (Wilthener H端tte) still shown on the IFN Houses website at: http://www.friendsofnaturehouses.net/ So, please note that Burg Hohnstein is no longer a Friends of Nature House but does still offer accommodation. Their website is at: http://www.burg-hohnstein.info/ A British Friends of Nature member, Neil McDonald/Anglo-German Walks, includes this area of Germany within his programme of walks although his year is fully booked. See: http://www.anglo-german-walks.com/ Alan G. ====================================================================== FOR YOUR DAILY 'LIVING GARDEN' TO FLOURISH Plant three rows of peas: 1.Peas of mind 2 Peas of heart 3.Peas of soul
Plant four rows of squash 1. Squash gossip 2. Squash indifference 3. Squash grumbling 4. Squash selfishness
Plant four rows of lettuce: 1. Lettuce be faithful 2. Lettuce be kind 3. Lettuce be patient 4. Lettuce really love one another
No garden is without turnips: 1. Turnip for meetings 2. Turnip for service 3. Turnip to help one another
To complete our garden, we must have thyme: 1. Thyme for each other 2. Thyme for family 3. Thyme for friends Water freely with patience and cultivate with love. There is much fruit in your garden because you reap what you sow. Author Unknown
Friends of Nature House on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. Situated approximately five miles from Tobermory on the Isle of Mull, Scotland, Dervaig is a very small whitewashed village with a pub a general stores, a church, a bookshop and a Friends of Nature House. Tobermory might be familiar to members with small children as it is the model for Ballymory; Mull is the most accessible of the Western Isles, famous for its sea eagles and untouched countryside. We drove up from London and then the next day on from Glasgow, passing by Loch Lomond and Glencoe. This is one of the most scenic routes in Britain, particularly impressive round the brooding valley of Glencoe. We then drove through Morvern; not the most direct route and sometimes on single lane roads, but if you have the time, I strongly recommend it. The road winds through 20 miles of desolate beauty before arriving at the ferry at Lochaline, which crosses to Fishnish on the island. Arriving at Dervaig we quickly found the Friends of Nature House, next to the pub! We made contact with the warden, Emma and entered Dervaig Village Hall and The Bunkhouse of the Friends of Nature.
The bunk house is part of the village hall, so be prepared to share the kitchen with the local aerobics class in the evening. However donâ€™t let this put you off as people in the village are friendly, and the hall is pretty with mobiles and plenty of wood. Our room was smallish, with four bunk beds but bright and clean with an en suite wet room and toilet. There is also a small cosy sitting room plus T.V. where you can eat at the coffee table, The house has a well-equipped kitchen where we found a bottle of wine in the fridge which we were told had been left by French guests who had just left, We started preparing dinner and opened the wine. Unfortunately, it turned out that the French guests had not left and they arrived shortly afterwards! Embarrassment all round but at least this was beginning to feel like a Nature Friend House. It turned out they had come largely for the fishing and had a good Scottish friend in the village. They were very understanding and we made friends over whiskies in the pub. The next day was warm and sunny (we had phenomenal weather and even witnessed a villager watering his garden) so we set about planning our day and exploring the village. We went straight to â€œBooks and Coffeeâ€? where a charming Englishman, having first made our coffee, gave us plenty of local knowledge and recommended a small guide book of walks in the vicinity Next we bought sandwich ingredients, applied sun cream and set off on our recommended 5 hour walk, going up the loch to the headland and back round through the forest. It was beautiful and peaceful and we met only one other walker during the entire time. We picnicked by standing stones, spotted puffins and waded through ferns. Then it was back to Nature Friends for food and to the pub for whisky! Eventually, it was time to return to Glasgow. Dervaig and its Friends of Nature House was certainly a success for us not least for the total peace it provided. On the return journey to Glasgow, we passed through more stunning scenery especially near Appin in Argyle. We are hoping to return and explore Mull and Western Scotland more thoroughly and recommend the Dervaig Friends of Nature House to you all. Maggie and Angus King
A Green Oasis In Paris: an urban stay with Les Amis de la Nature. By M Conway Wanting a short break in Paris we discovered that Les Amis de la Nature (the French 'Friends of Nature') had a house in the outskirts of the city. “Les Chaudrons”, is a place of calm and tranquility, an ideal place to retreat to after a day sightseeing in France's busy capital city. It is in a rural location, set in a few acres of land near the river Marne. The house offers fairly basic but comfortable accommodation. The main building is an interesting and well designed construction of two converted railway carriages. There is a well equipped kitchen and cosy sitting room/dining room, both with wood burners. At the front is a veranda, a lovely place to eat breakfast, or to watch the sun go down, and a barbecue area. In the main building a comfortable dormitory accommodates twelve people. There are two further rooms in the nearby annexe, for four and six people, in a mixture of beds and bunks. All bathroom facilities are in a building adjacent.
Paris is easily accessible from the local town, Lagny. You can either walk to the station along a riverside path (approx 30 mins) or go by bus from the stop 5 mins walk from the hostel. Euro-Disney is around 30 mins away by local bus from this stop. There are regular commuter SNCF trains which cover the 20 min journey from the station, Lagny Thorigny into the Gare de L'est in Paris. With FoN member, Simon Neil, I enjoyed a short break here last September, and we both felt “Les Chaudrons” offered the best of both worlds: a chance to explore Paris by day, and a peaceful, rural retreat to return to in the evening. A typical day of our short break was to enjoy a leisurely breakfast on the terrrace (yes, we had wall to wall sunshine), followed by the pleasant walk into the local town, Lagny, the train, into Paris and sightseeing. At the end of the day we enjoyed returning to the attractive, small, and typically French town of Lagny. We would stop for a cafe au lait in “our cafe” in a small square, overlooking the fountain, and watch the world go by. The biggest decision was which pastry to purchase from the Patisserie opposite. We would then wander through the streets, selecting provisions for our supper from the well stocked specialist shops and delicatessens, which were open until around 8pm. After walking back to the house, we watched the sun set from the veranda, with our picnic meal and of course french bread, wine and the inevitable tarte au citron. There are closer facilities a 5-10 min walk away in the sleepy village of Montervrain. Opposite the bus stop on the main road a new pizzeria was being completed, and there is a bar, boulangerie etc around the corner in the main village. There is also a large supermarket, as well as one in Lagny. We found we loved the peace of the area around “Les Chaudrons” so much that we never made it into Paris one day. We spent the morning exploring the local village and walked to Lagny in the afternoon. We found this to be the perfect antidote to the heat and bustle of Paris. The public transport system is excellent, with buses running to time, and there were other places we could have visited by train/bus if we had time, but we were more than content with some time in Paris, drinking coffee in the square, walking by the river, and spending time on the veranda. A perfect short break. Contact details: Janine Carnet (President de la Section Avril 50) was very helpful and welcoming. Tel. 01 60 07 18 86 e-mail: email@example.com or Henriette Goussu (reservations) firstname.lastname@example.org Fact sheet is available. More details at www.friendsofnaturehouses.net or www.amis-nature.org
Spotlight on North America: California Tourist Club – “The Nature Friends” By Christine Lemor-Drake The founders of the Nature Friends in California came from the “old country” and some of them were members of the original 'Touristenverein – Die Naturfreunde' (Nature Friends) in Europe. Surrounded by a region rich in scenic beauty, they thought it was the most natural thing to establish branches of their beloved hiking club in California. In the early 1890's hiking and mountaineering for pleasure were new concepts in the United States. The early Nature Friends in the US were often the only ones engaging in such outdoor recreation/sport, which now is a very popular activity. Eventually, the three existing clubhouses were built in this state to promote enjoyment of the unique natural surroundings in the San Francisco Bay and Los Angeles areas, along with a lodge and a cabin in the nearby mountains. The clubhouses and mountain retreats are still the only existing Nature Friends dwellings in the United States to this day. Founding members of the Nature Friends share a common story with many Americans. They were German, Austrian, and Swiss immigrants, mainly craftsmen with families, who worked hard during the week and wanted to enjoy their time off together with their families. They met every Sunday to hike. Through their hiking adventures they selected two locations in the San Francisco area to build clubhouses. One on Mount Tamalpais, near Muir Woods National Park famous for the Giant Redwoods, which reminded many members of the Black Forest; and the other in Oakland with sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay. The Los Angeles branch lies at the foot of a canyon at the edge of a wildlife area. Additionally, there is a younger Nature Friends group in the Pacific Northwest that has no clubhouse, but is active socially and in their community. In 1927, the San Francisco (est. 1912), Los Angeles (est. 1920) and Oakland (est. 1921) branches of the 'Touristenverein – Die Naturfreunde' merged to form the California Corporation of the Tourist Club – “The Nature Friends”; San Francisco being the seat of the organization. Building the clubhouses required significant effort from the members. They purchased the land with their own money, and proceeded to build the facilities with their own hands. Each weekend they took a variety of transport such as ferryboat or train, and then hiked to the chosen club location. Wood and other materials were hauled by members and donkeys on trails, as there were no roads. Just getting to the locations took hours. The structures were built in a traditional chalet style. The purchase and construction of facilities required significant financial and personal efforts that were gladly made by members. Today members still get together for monthly workdays at the branches.
Although members are of many nationalities, today the clubs continue to foster and preserve the European Alpine social activities and cultural heritage as traditionally celebrated by members. We have a folkdance group that wears traditional Tracht costume; musicians that play traditional folk music on traditional instruments and sing in Bavarian and Austrian dialect. We have Fests and Heimatabends with traditional music throughout the year. We still have members who speak German and travel to Europe on a regular basis. We are a small club which enjoys outdoor activities, social dancing, and seasonal festivities – a family oriented social organisation that values our traditions, clubhouses, preservation of our natural surroundings, and time spent together. Our four lodges have full time caretakers and are open to Nature Friends members from anywhere all year round. You have to provide your bedding and food in most of them. We can welcome groups up to 24 people at our San Francisco lodge and up to 100 people at our Tahoe lodge. Contact Christine Lemor-Drake, the San Francisco membership secretary and International liaison officer, for general questions about Nature Friends in California: email@example.com Details and location of the 4 houses can be seen on the IFN site: www.friendsofnaturehouses.net Additional information on the USA web sites: San Francisco branch: www.touristclubsf.org Los Angeles branch: www.naturefriendsla.org
Norwich F of N Holiday to Antalya, Turkey May 5th to May 12th 2011 For whatever reason, the Norwich committee did not get round to organising a group holiday in 2011 and I personally had written off a group holiday for this year. Then at the beginner of May I received a phone call from Miss Williams from Thomas Cook who had arranged previous holidays for the Norwich F of N group. I was offered a ÂŁ590 (book price) holiday for ÂŁ385, flying from Norwich airport. The offer was made on the proviso that all monies were paid within 48 hours and that eight or more people signed up so that it could be classed as a group holiday. Realising that most members had now made their own arrangements for a holiday, I still decided to make a few phone calls in order to judge the response from the group. As I suspected, most had made their own arrangements, but five couples said yes and all monies were paid within the 48 hour time limit. I would like to thank all those who went for making prompt payments. Before I phoned the travel agent, I checked on Trip Advisor and all reports for the hotel were excellent. May I take this opportunity to state that there was no time for a committee meeting to be called regarding the holiday as, in the time that this would have taken, we would have lost the opportunity to book this particular deal. We left Norwich Airport, and after a four hour flight arrived at the Antalya airport in Turkey. An hour later we arrived at the Alba Queen Hotel, Antalya, and what a hotel it was. At last my mind was put to rest. When you arrange holidays for other people your concern is that it will end in disaster. I need not to have worried about this. As stated in the brochure, it was a 5 star all inclusive luxury hotel, only 3 years old and with 24 hours of wonderful food and drink each day, it was the best hotel I have every stayed in. It had a large indoor restaurant and an outdoor restaurant with a wide variety of choices, as well as two a la carte restaurants. Walking down from the rear of the hotel to its private beach, you could stop at their fish restaurant and eat grilled sea bream,salmon and many other kinds of fish. There were also a sauna, jacuzzi, a Fitness Centre and Turkish bath facilities and, for the more active, table tennis, billiards,mini golf etc. The nearest town to us Side, pronounced Seeday, was 4 miles away and so the standard joke for the week was 'shall we go to Side this evening and Seeday by night'! This was a super holiday, all ten of us got on very well together. It was a nice end to the holiday for me when the group thanked me for a brilliant time we could not fault. I would recommend this hotel to all members - here's to the next time
J Hubbard , Norwich Group
The letter below was found by mum, Shirley Pitt, of the Norwich F of N Group, when she was clearing out her attic earlier this year. It was written by her son Tim, a then schoolboy, as part of his homework assignment I thought it would be interesting to read the thoughts of a very young, 'Naturefriend' (as it was then) all those years ago, when Norwich, and the Pitt Family, first became involved in the Group The Naturefriends by Tim Pitt 1983 My Family and I belong to an organisation called the Naturefriends. We joined about two years ago. We had to pay the subscription and go along to the meetings. The meetings are held at the Hotel Nelson in Norwich about once a month, and we have become very friendly with all the other members, as it is a very friendly organisation. At the meetings the holidays which are going to be organised in the coming year are discussed and certain slides might be shown. The whole purpose of the group is to arrange Group Holidays all over the world by means of hiring a bus and driver and going to different countries usually for two or three weeks. Last year I went to Belgium,Holland,Germany and Switzerland with them, and enjoyed it very much, although travelling was tedious at times. This year I am hoping we will go to Austria ad San Francisco. Although we will not go in a group this year, because not only does the organisation arrange group holidays, it provides information on the necessary things if you want to go on your own. On arrival in the different countries you make your own way to a Naturefriends House which is like a hotel with many facilities like adventure play grounds, table â€“ tennis tables, Restaurants etc; Previous to that, the Naturefriends group would supply leaflets on the house, how to arrive and help you choose the best possible route. Also this year there are trips to South of France and German again. In England, in fact, I believe Great Britain has not as yet got a Nature friend house, but our Norwich group are saving and every one is chipping in so eventually we can have one built Often buffets are arranged, open to members and friends. They are usually quite good, with a live group and plenty of food. These are usually held at the British Legion in Norwich. They actually attract about 500 people, although the Norwich Group, which incidentally is the only one in Great Britain, has only about 100 members at the absolute most. Although it is, and has been growing in numbers ever since we joined. It is very good fun, even at the meetings, because there is a bar there and a lounge where you can see friends and have a social evening after the meeting with other members, I would recommend any one to join it if they wanted to go overseas on these holidays See you at the next buffet! Timothy Pitt 1983 PS Norwich Group held many fund raising events and was in fact able to buy a 'Naturefriends house'. on the Norfolk coast in the late 1980's. Unfortunately interest dwindled in the hiring of the house and it became expensive to maintain. Sadly it was sold in 2005 The ideals of the Organisation remain the same today as in Tims youthful days
Friends of Nature Houses in the UK 1 - Court Hill Court Hill, Wantage, Oxfordshire OX12 9NE (0)1235 760253 firstname.lastname@example.org 2 - Earby 9-11 Birch Hall Lane, Earby, Lancashire BB18 6JX (0)1282 842349 email@example.com
8 - Lawrenny Millennium Hostel, Lawrenny, Pembrokeshire, Wales SA68 0PN (0)1646 651270 firstname.lastname@example.org
3 - Jack's Place Kessingland Beach, Kessingland, Norfolk (0)1603 409884
9 - Kirk Yetholm Friends of Nature House, Waukford, Kirk Yetholm, Kelso, Roxburghshire. TD5 8PG Tel/Fax: (0)1573 420639 email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
4 - Trefin The Old School Hostel, Ffordd-yr-Afon, Trefin, Pembrokeshire SA62 5AU (0)1348 831 800 email@example.com
For full details see the Friends of Nature Houses Guide or: www.thefriendsofnature.org.uk For the 800+ houses in Europe and the rest of the world see: www.friendsofnaturehouses.net IFN details: www.nf-int.org
5 - Skiddaw Bassenthwaite, Keswick, Cumbria CA12 4QX (0)7747 174293 firstname.lastname@example.org 6 - Wetherdown The Sustainability Centre, Droxford Road, East Meon, Petersfield, Hampshire GU32 1HR (0)1730 823 549 email@example.com 7 - Dervaig Dervaig Village Hall, Dervaig, Isle of Mull, Scotland PA75 6QW (0)1688 400491 firstname.lastname@example.org