"To see a world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower,
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand
And eternity in an hour."

From "Auguries of Innocence"

by William Blake

Sunday, 26 April 2015

A Trip to Oxford and a Talk on Bees and Pesticides

I'd been invited to a talk on bees and pesticides last Friday evening in Oxford and D and I decided to drive down in the afternoon so we could have a walk and look at some of the colleges and buildings beforehand.

I managed to park the car in Parks Road outside Wadham College. Impossible to get a photo of anything in Oxford without including people and/or bikes!

Museum of History and Science

The Sheldonian Theatre - built from 1664 to 1668 after a design by Sir Christopher Wren and the official Ceremony Hall of the University of Oxford. A Grade 1 listed building.

I rather liked this owl mask in one of the Shops.

While David was looking round a newsagents I spotted this churchyard opposite full of wildflowers - a wonderful sight in a city centre. The church is Saint Mary Magdalen. Would have liked to go in and explore but I was supposed to be waiting outside the shop and had he come out and wandered off I would never have found him (he's one of the few twenty somethings in this country who does not possess a mobile phone!)

Dandelions in flower behind the railings.

I think this might be corydalis finding a foothold in a wall.

Magnolia flowers

No chance of exploring the churchyard when D re-appeared as I'd promised him we'd go and have a look at Radcliffe Square

Hertford Bridge, also known as the Bridge of Sighs, connecting two parts of Hertford College over New College Lane.

Radcliffe Square is the historic heart of University of Oxford. Created by the University authorities, after they had demolished medieval houses in the 1730's, to make a University forum. The Square is dominated by the central Radcliffe Camera (constructed 1737-1748). Its a classical building - "camera" means "room" in Italian. The square was the idea of Architect Nicholas Hawksmoor but the project only took off after the death of a Dr John Radcliffe in 1714. He had studied at University College and became a doctor to the wealthy including King William III, Queen Mary and Queen Anne. He donated £40,000 towards the building of a library in the centre of the square and another £100 per year towards the purchase of books. Hawksmoor provided designs but died before completion and the project was taken over by the Italian trained James Gibbs who is most famous for St Martins-in-the-Field, London.

St Mary the Virgin - I so wish we had had time to look round this church.

Academic meetings and ceremonies were held in the church from around 1200 onwards. All Souls College once bought a cherry orchard which had belonged to the Parish of St Mary the Virgin and once a year the congregation mark the boundaries of their parish by "beating the bounds" i.e. they draw chalk marks on the boundary and then hit them with sticks. After partaking of this activity for a whole morning they are rewarded with cherry cake in remembrance of the orchard! Fascinating place Oxford!

This is Brasenose College built 1509 to 1518. It gets its name from a "brazen-nosed" bronze door knocker which once hung on its gate. Former students include Michael Palin, David Cameron and highwayman John Clavell! I shall refrain from further comment!!!!

The Bodleian Library was built 1509-18 - a few photos of the Quadrangle - Sorry some of the photos in this post are not good. For some reason the automatic focusing on the camera was really playing up. Am just hoping it rights itself and I don't have to send it off for repair!

This would be a good way to see Oxford.

Time to move the car - I was lucky enough to get a space just opposite the bookshop where the talk was being held. We had a meal in the White Horse just visible in the photo to the left of Blackwells. Great pub and atmosphere, excellent service and food - highly recommended :) - good value too :)

Then off to attend the talk arranged by Pale Blue Dot. The talk was being given by Professor Dave Goulson on his research into the impacts of pesticides (Neonicotinoids in particular) on the UK Countryside and our systems of food production. I am sure many of you know of Dave Goulson who is a Professor of Biology specialising in the ecology and conservation of bumble bees. He founded the Bumble Bee Conservation Trust and has also written several rather good books.

The talk and presentation were excellent and exceedingly interesting.

I won't go into too much detail as I am likely to go into rant mode over the use of neonics but research has shown that these pesticides are linked to a decline in honey bees and affect the foraging behaviour and efficiency of bumble bees. It really does make me wonder if we have learnt anything at all since Rachel Carson wrote "Silent Spring".

Neonicotinoids can accummulate in the soil where they last for years and spread via ground and surface water (and in dust spread during seed drilling) to rivers, streams and ponds and even into wild plants growing in agricultural field margins and hedgerows. Evidence is gathering that although there are many reasons for the decline in birds, butterflies, moths, fish and small mammals, neonics could also be a contributory factor. Just one maize seed is coated with enough neonic to kill a small bird and seeds are obviously spilled during the sowing operation.

Scientific research in the US and Canada has revealed that plants in some garden centres contain neonics. It is absolutely horrifying to think that the insect-friendly plant you have bought from a nursery to try and help pollinators may actually have the opposite effect. I really must do some research into the latter point and how we stand in the UK on labelling plants and seeds.

We are currently just over half way through an EU-wide 2 year moratorium on the use of 3 neonics on crops considered to be attractive to bees such as oil seed rape, maize and sunflowers. The UK Government is abiding by the ban even though it rejected the science behind it!!It makes you wonder if the Government and DEFRA have even heard of the Precautionary Principle. It all sounds rather familiar, in my view, to their attitude to and interpretation of scientific research when they went ahead with their inhumane, unscientific and unnecessary badger culls.

On a lighter note and before I start to ramble on all night I bought Dave Goulson's latest book which

I was able to get signed!! So looking forward to reading this. "A Sting in the Tale", his last book was just superb and highly recommended.

Finally, sorry another long post!! a few photos D took with the Canon Bridge Camera - partly because his composition is better than mine and also because the Canon deals with grey skies in a much better way than my Olympus. The zoom came in handy again too :)


David Turner said...

I don't blame you for getting so annoyed about the issue you highlighted above. For those of us whom love not only the countryside but all the wildlife and natural diversity which dwells within it then it can be infuriating when we see the widespread harm being done to it! Unfortunately I don't think it will make a blind bit of difference whomever forms the next government but as you say it is important to make our voices heard on this troubling issue.

On a lighter note I enjoyed this tour of Oxford and even though my personal allegiances are with its great rival it is undoubtedly a beautiful city :-)

Kindest regards & best wishes :-)

amanda peters said...

Another place I would like to visit, and the church yard full of wild flowers is just what we want...

The talk sounds very interesting, and I would like to know the plants I'm buying are safe to use in the garden, for the insects...
To be honest I get a bit overwhelmed with all the bad stuff we are doing to our land and frustrated that some people do not see the bigger problem they are causing further down the line using pesticides cutting down trees so on and so on... I feel I should be doing more, but were do I start? putting my head in the sand will not make it go away...

On a lighter note, TK maxx had a Green Man plaque in, to go on your wall, I thought of you...
Amanda xx

Ragged Robin said...

David Turner - Thanks very much. Yes, I love Cambridge too (always preferred it tbh!!) although perhaps shouldn't say that! Haven't been for quite a few years though.

Yes, it can be very very disheartening to see and read about damage to wildlife and countryside. Just feel so strongly especially about badgers and bees and don't even get me started on hs2!! Swings and roundabouts who you vote for really - not one party that really represents how I completely feel. But I am afraid the Conservatives have lost my vote for ever. Will probably vote Green although there are a quite a few of their policies I don't agree with.

Amanda Peters - Thanks Amanda. I was really chuffed to find that churchyard :) Will try and find out about plants and seeds in UK and let you know.

Its difficult to know what to do about issues you don't agree with. You can support financially - I am a member of so many wildlife and conservation charities I've almost lost count or you can volunteer for them. I write to my MP a lot too and sign every online petition going!! Are you on Twitter - I have found it a great place to raise awareness and tweet organisations and Govt Depts about things I feel strongly about. Its a great community and I am certainly aware of a lot more issues than I used to be. I did attract some rather horrible pro cull types when I used to tweet a lot about badger culling and had some right rows with them but in the end you just block them or ignore them. I eventually learnt my lesson that its not worth arguing with these people - some of them get very nasty.

Word of warning though Twitter is very addictive and time consuming - apologies if you are already on there and know how it all works!!

I am not sure about Facebook as I don't use it but it may be similar. Also all the big wildlife charities, like Wildlife Trust, RSPB plus Badger Trust have pages on their website on how you can help with campaigning such as signing petitions, writing to MP etc . etc.

Thanks for info re: Green Man - I have huge urge to visit there all of a sudden!!

Ragged Robin said...

Amanda Peters - Sorry for such a long response above Amanda - hope I didn't sound patronising! Trying to cook a meal at the same time and I've never been good at multi-tasking!! :) I think having a blog like yours with so much wildlife is a great way to publicise the diversity of wildlife and raise awareness. We all do what we can depending on time and money available :) Sorry going to finish off now before I start rambling :)

SeagullSuzie said...

Oh don't get me started on DEFRA what a useless undecided bunch they are...far too scared to actually stand up for anything real...and have the guts tosay so...."yes" is the only word they know when it comes to answering our useless government......there now you see you got me started!
Great images and a lovely trip.Quite a few more bee talks around here for the holidays. I might go to one at Occombe Farm "Meet the Bees" talk (Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust).

Ragged Robin said...

SeagullSuzie - Thanks so much Suzie. The talk at Occombe Farm sounds very interesting.

I could do many a post on the uselessness of DEFRA!!! They really make my blood boil - I was speechless at times at the stuff they came out re: badger culls. Got so angry and Natural England aren't a lot better either. I'd resign if I worked for either of those organisations. I dread to think what will happen to the wildlife of England if the present Government is re-elected :( If they are and roll-out the cull to Warwickshire I'll be the first to join one of those Badger patrols.
Oh dear, I am ranting again!!

Better go and put the shopping away and think of something else!!

Countryside Tales said...

One of my favourite cities :o)

I've got two Dave Goulson books. That's a talk I would have loved to have gone to. Sounds fascinating. You already know I am with you on neonics and the irritation caused by politicians failing to address wildlife issues, so I will resist the temptation to go into rant mode too!! x

Ragged Robin said...

Countryside Tales - Thanks CT :) Thought of you when I drove past the NH and Pitt Rivers Museum. So wish we could have gone earlier in the day and visited both. Also considered the Snakeshead Fritillaries at Magdalen College but not enough time :(

Will resist any more rant mode comments!!!

Toffeeapple said...

I am just now catching up here. What a wonderful post, I get too emotional about bees and other wildlife to stay coherent, so I shall refrain from making any remarks and simply thank you.

Ragged Robin said...

Toffeeapple - Thanks so much for your lovely comment. I know the feeling - I do worry about my blood pressure at times!! Know the feeling too about catching up on blogger - I think at times I will never keep up to date! Have a good weekend.

ps If you see this reply - have sent you a further email. After our discussion I had another idea. Please let me know what you think whenever you get a spare minute.