Plastic Population

I’ve never been one for giving things up for lent. As soon as I try to resist chocolate, it consumes my thoughts and I’ve failed before I’ve barely begun.

But giving up plastic for lent? Yeah I could give that a go.

The problem that is plastic is ever present through the incredible tv documentaries such as Blue Planet and A Plastic Whale. We really cannot go on discarding single use plastic and not give a thought to what happens to it once we’ve put it in the bin. Even the stuff that makes it to the recycling centre can often not be recycled and it turns out the plastic we thought was biodegradable merely breaks up into micro-plastics which we are now undoubtedly consuming through the food chain.

The madwblog family have been trying to cut down on plastics for some time by taking the shopping bags to the supermarket, recycling effectively and reusing where we can but single use plastic permeates every part of our lives. Just think about the plastic in each room of your house. In your car. In your work place. It seems such an enormous beast to beat.

But as the old saying goes – how do you eat an elephant?

One bite at a time.

Reducing our reliance on single use plastic can be done in small progressive steps. Giving up one thing at a time leads to a change in habits which lasts. In the madwblog house we gave up buying sandwich bags first and invested in more reusable tubs to put our lunch items in. Next we stopped using bags to put fruit and veg in at the shops. Now we take canvas or string bags to carry the apples and oranges. We’re trying to remember to take a reusable cup out when we think we may make a coffee stop off and once all the liquid hand soap bottles are empty, we’re switching to bars of soap instead.

The Church of England have issued a program for lent to give up the plastics and it looks pretty doable. The madwblog household are going to give it a try and, unlike the battle with chocolate, if we can’t manage it all we will have managed some and we will have begun to defeat the plastic beast. And also unlike chocolate, we won’t be going back to using single use plastic once lent is over. It’s a win-win for us and the environment.

Lent begins on Wednesday 14 February and Madwblog will be reporting on #plasticfreeforlent throughout the 40 days. The Great British Spring Clean is on the weekend of 2-4 March when, as last year, there will be community litter picks in Clayhanger again over the weekend. Keep an eye on madwblog on Twitter (@madwblog) and Facebook for details.

Join in. Accept the challenge. Go #plasticfreeforlent.

30 Days Wild: Day 29 – Pot of Gold

Image madwblog.

Image madwblog.

One of the things I have really enjoyed about #30dayswild has been just waiting each day for nature to pop up and reveal something to me. Today, the penultimate day, nature pulls out a corker in the form of this lovely rainbow.

For some it is the sign of a promise of love and better things to come, for others, it’s a fairy tale pot of gold. I’m sure though, for everyone, it is just simple beauty and the wonder of the world represented by a colourful arc of reflected light. In times where nothing seems certain and everything could change, how wonderful it is to look up and take in the simplicity of the rainbow. It instantly transports you to childhood again and reminds us that we are so, so, small in the grand scheme of things. Some things are just much, much bigger than we are.

30 Days Wild: Day 28 Woody Woodpecker

Image animalwall

Image animalwall

After taking a walk out with local birder Chaz earlier in the spring, I have been trying to identify birds by their call. One which I learnt very easily was the Green Woodpecker. The cackling,  manical laugh is unmistakable once it’s been pointed out to you. Often heard, but not so much seen.

Well, what should I spot when pulling into the bottom of the cul-de-sac this evening but a Green Woodpecker! It flew off very quickly and I suspect it was a juvenile. Nice to see him though.

30 Days Wild: Day 27 – All of a flutter.

Image madwblog. Ringlet butterfly.

Image madwblog. Ringlet butterfly.

I do think it’s sad that we don’t see as many butterflies as we used to.

Maybe my memory is fooled by nostalgia, but I remember seeing all sorts in mum and dad’s garden. Lots of them too. I used to catch them and let them go after having a good hard look at them. I’m not so good at identifying them now but we do get a lot of peacock butterflies when the buddleja is in bloom.

Never seen one of these though. A ringlet butterfly. Not flashy like the peacock, but pretty and rather gothic-looking when it flies. It’s a deep brown colour and quite hard to spot if it weren’t for the rings on the underside of it’s wings.

Here’s hoping for a good show of butterflies later in the summer.

 

30 Days Wild: Day 26 to bee or not to bee

image

Image madwblog

I could put it off no longer. The garden/jungle had to be tackled. Although letting the weeds grow 6 feet tall has brought plenty of wildlife. My favourite has been watching Mr and Mrs Bullfinch eat the seed heads off the dandelions. I shall definitely leave a patch of them in future.

The hound retires to her favourite cool place when the sun is out. The bush she is under is alive with bees and occasionally she lazily snaps at one. She hasn’t learnt her lesson from the thick lip she got last year.

Image madwblog

Image madwblog

Perfect gardening weather. Result.

30 Days Wild: Day 25 Litter Picking!

Saturday morning at 8.30, brought the beginning of the second Clayhanger Litter pick.

Meeting once more at the co-op carpark, 8 volunteers gave their time to have a ‘Summer Tidy’ around the village.

Litter pickers and bags are provided by Walsall Council Clean and Green and the full bags are collected by Clean and Green at the end of the pick.

After a quick tidy round the co-op and along Northfields Way, volunteers set to work along the hedgerow on Clayhanger Lane towards the bridge. Another team began working down Bridge Street towards The Spot. It was the plan to tackle the litter in the undergrowth at the entrance to The Spot. However, it quickly became evident that this was a much bigger job than the time available and required more intensive support from Clean and Green. Steve Wade, recently re-elected Labour Councillor for Brownhills and Clayhanger, has offered his support in organising this for later in the summer. Perhaps it could be a large community event? Litter pick and BBQ?

The area around The Spot has recently seen some anti-social behaviour and the litter is evidence of this. Due to the thick undergrowth there are several areas where ‘dens’ have arisen. I like a den as much as the next person, but please take your rubbish home with you!

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With half and hour or so left, three of us took to Clayhanger Urban Community Woodland and had a tidy around there. This is a fantastic resource and very popular with local dog walkers who like to keep an eye on what is going on up there. Indeed, I met both familiar faces and a new face belonging to a very friendly lady called Sue and her border terrier who explained that she often comes out with her own litter picker and has a tidy as she walks the dog around the fields and paths of Clayhanger.

It seems that Walsall Council have done some work to clear the drainage ditch, presumably in order to relieve the flash flooding on the Pelsall Road we have seen during the heavy rainfalls recently. Again, some of the thicker hedgerows and ditches are full of rubbish and need some attention.

Stepping into the wooded areas, the sound of the roads nearby is muffled and the sounds of nature are beautiful. An oasis indeed.

image madwblog

image madwblog

It’s surprising how much litter can be collected by 8 people in just under 2 hours. Thirteen bags. A success again. Thank you Clangers. Your village and wildlife love you!

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The next ‘Clayhanger Autumn Tidy’ is Saturday 17th September 2016, 8.30-10.30 am. Meet at co-op car park. See you there.

30 Days Wild: Day 11 – On the right track

We are blessed to live so close to such a fantastic resource as Chasewater Country Park. It is another of my favourite walks with the hound. Indeed, when The Boy was a toddler, I would bring him to Chasewater to let him run free and wear him out. Much like I do with the hound…

11.06.16

image madwblog

This evening, the skies are moody and we did get a good downpour of rain. Neither of us mind a drop of rain. The hound gets a free bath and she romps about in the long, wet grass having a ball.

image madwblog

image madwblog

Tomorrow is the Staffordshire Ironman which begins at Chasewater, with a 1.2 mile swim, and ends at Shugborough Hall. The water is all set with marker buoys for the swim and on the far shoreline there are event tents set up next to the visitor centre.

image madwblog

image madwblog

The red deer are in evidence this evening. Tracks in the mud show tell tale signs of where they have been. I think the rounder imprint must be a cow and the more pointy ones are red deer.

image madwblog

image madwblog

Among the females, a couple of males with antlers already at least a foot long.

image madwblog

image madwblog

I’ve always been fascinated with fox gloves and indeed snap dragons. Mum and Dad grew loads in their garden and as a child I used to watch the bees going in and out of the tubular flowers.

On the way back, two pairs of Grebes are preening and bobbing about on the water. They make a funny sound. Almost like ‘boing boing’. They seem quite cheerful birds, bobbing and diving, the distinct rust colour on their cheeks flashing as they move.

As ever, it has been a thoroughly satisfying walk, if a little wet.

image madwblog

image madwblog

30 Days Wild – Day 9 desperately seeking…

Do bats know when they are being counted?

I’m sure the ones I regularly see around my house do. There I sat, patiently waiting for my batty neighbours to emerge, wrapped in my favourite blanket on the comfy chair in the garden with pencil poised. How many bats did I see? One. ONE.

I frequently see at least 4 or 5. Not last night. So disappointed. Maybe it was the earlier rain, the change in temperature or the noise and clatter of the neighbourhood. I shall try again another night.

During my vigil, I did very much enjoy listening to the birds roosting and really savoured that moment when the world went quiet as everything sleeps. It’s quite magical. I shall certainly do it again. In fact, it was so soothing I did drop off a couple of times. Perhaps that accounts for my lack of bat spotting.

To make up for the lack of bats, I consoled myself with this view of a farmer’s field which has been left fallow this year. I am lucky enough to be working where I’m surrounded by countryside at the moment. Lovely.

image

Image by madwblog

30 Days Wild: Day 5 – life and death

I do like it when I’m up and no one else is. As I’m not an early riser, this is a relatively rare occurrence. I managed it this morning though and was rewarded.

There is always a chorus of birdsong in our garden, being so close to the common, and one day I will learn to distinguish between the different calls. This morning I was alerted to a raucous tweeting and chirping over the fence. I tried in vain to see what was making the noise but came to the conclusion that it was a cluster of fledglings, maybe blue tits. My neighbour has an annual nest in the corner of their garage so maybe it was them.

Disappointed, I turned and was delighted to spot the aptly named ‘dead man’s fingers’ growing from an old tree stump. It’s a grim fungus, but I rather like it. I wonder how long they will grow?

'Dead man's fingers' image madwblog.

‘Dead man’s fingers’ image madwblog.