Carlisle & District

Meeting Summaries 2017 - 18

Some areas covered over the year.

We started the year in September by getting feedback on many ideas members of the group had come across over the Summer.
Andrew had prepared some very interesting notes on air quality and diesel cars and as he talked us through them he covered the problems and some solutions as well as indicating the regulations. There was a deal of debate about the pros and cons and consideration of the complex decisions about renewing outdated and inefficient/polluting machines.

After our usual tea break we looked at the uses that land is put to in the UK and created a useful chart to help us decide where to start our research and discussions into this area.

October saw us looking back at the document 'Zero Carbon Britain: Rethinking the Future' which presents some ideas about how to change our use of land so that we can reduce Climate disruption by reducing green house gasses in the atmosphere. One significant change should be to increase the number of trees and so we decided to look into this for the next meeting.

In the November meeting the group explored some of the facts and figures on how carbon is stored in trees (and wood) when in harvested and unharvested forests. Following on from this we looked at the calorific value of wood products when used as fuel. It was also interesting to see how forestry has changed in the UK over the years – now a meagre 13%.

In December we looked at how the government, forestry organisations and others were working to increase the amount of tree cover that is great for improving biodiversity, recreation, education and economic production of wood. Of course some tree planting also brings us back to flood alleviation. 2 new forests have been granted approval - Lowther in Cumbria and Doddington in Northumberland.

We started the year in January looking at some work on improving the balance of nature within forests by the planned reintroduction of the water vole to the area. There are many steps to take before any such reintroduction to make sure that it has a chance of success and the change has as few unintended consequences as possible.

Although mink can be blamed for some of the problems water voles faced there has also been widespread habitat loss which also helped decimate the water vole population. As the otter population has been encouraged in the Kielder area the mink have moved out giving the water vole a better chance of survival. The otter is slightly larger than the mink and with a slightly different diet.

We watched 3 short clips of this re-introduction at
All this led us to consider the idea of rewilding with its advantages and disadvantages in general - In February we looked at more details of wolves being reintroduced to Yellowstone Park and some adjustments to Ennerdale (Wild Ennerdale project) where species are encouraged rather than specifically reintroduced. Again Youtube gave us some useful clips.

March weather defeated us but in April we were back to our theme of forests and looking at the many uses of timber that can replace the uses of petrochemical based materials such as plastic. There is so much research into new uses such as fabrics, packaging as well as the development of nanocellulose and its use in pharmaceutical, food and medical industries among many others. All this helps us with a more sustainable future.

In May we went up up to the RSPB Geltsdale reserve to meet Steve the site manager. We started by warming ourselves over a wood burning stove at the centre at Stagsike cottages while he explained all the work he and his fellow researchers were doing over this huge area. They work with the two farmers on the land to see how land can be managed for nature within the context of a commercial hill farm. It was fascinating to hear of the detailed research that is being undertaken. We then had a fascinating but rather chilly walk round the Stagsyke trail.

In June and July we continued to discuss the many diverse uses of wood and found lots of research being done in the Scandinavian countries. This is not surprising given their rich resources but of course we in the Borders are also surrounded by forests which could be developed even more. Egger, which produces wood-based panel products, has a factory in Hexham and they are hoping to attract more farmers in the Borders to plant more woodland so that they do not have to import so much wood – all better for the environment and perhaps the economy of the area. The government have announced a Borderland Growth Deal which could tie in with this.

We plan to visit Egger (Hexham) in October this year.