The next newsletter is here.
We have had a long hot summer that has extended well into September. Temperature records have been broken including 100 deg F exceeded at Heathrow (not that far from here). Many plants have suffered, lawns look parched, trees started to loose their leaves very early as defence against water loss, and it seems to me that many garden flowers (such as my dahlias) have been so late that they have barely flowered before the frosts come, or (like my geraniums) have hardly grown since they were planted out. The fickle weather has not been hot all the time - for a short period in August within two weeks of those peak temperatures the daytime maximums were lower that the night-time minimums had been, and there was a risk of frost in some parts of the country.
The hot weather has a down-side for more than just the garden - it caused transportation problems. Our railway tracks were not designed for such high temperatures and so speed restrictions were imposed for a few days because of the risk of the track buckling. Naturally there were people protesting at what they saw as the incompetence of the railways and the excessive caution that resulted in the restrictions and consequent delays. I have no doubt that these same people would have been saying something very different if an accident had occurred as a result of not imposing speed restrictions.
Come the autumn and there is a classic 'joke' about railway delays caused by the 'wrong type of leaves' on the track. The wrong type of leaves are broad leaves (such as chestnut) which get compressed on the track to form a slippery coating. Since the end of the era of steam trains the problem has been getting progressively worse - sparks from steam trains regularly caused trackside fires which kept vegetation in check, now trees have self-seeded across the line-side areas, expenditure on trackside ground maintenance had been curtailed, and modern lighter trains have less capability to cut through the mulch. So now the rail authorities have had to embark on a major programme of tree clearance and lopping.
On the right is the view from the iron railway footbridge, looking towards the station. On the left in the foreground are the heavily pollarded remains of a horse chestnut, and along the bank the piles of chippings are all that remains of numerous self-seeded trees. Nearer the station it will be seen that narrow-leafed conifers and a sapling oak have been allowed to survive. I can't show you a 'before and after' because the 'before' picture would have just been the green leaves of the chestnut.
These are not the only trees felled this year. The natural landscape of the
area is heath. But in the absence of grazing, trees encroach and eventually
destroy the heathers. Much conservation work actually involves removing sapling
trees before they can develop. High Curley on Bagshot Heath is a local beauty
spot, now also known as Lightwater Country Park, and this year a major programme
of selective tree removal has been carried out on the slopes of the hill
in order to allow the natural vegetation to re-establish itself and provide
a habitat for the ground-nesting birds and other animals that live in heathland.
The tree removal has also served to restore the views to Guildford, Woking,
Staines and Ascot which, over the last 30 years, had become lost with the
growth of the trees.
We had a bit of a diversion in the village in July when Prime Minister Tony Blair hosted an international conference at the local Pennyhill Park Hotel. The police threw a security cordon round the area with some roads being closed to non-residents and we had helicopters circling overhead. They had even made plans to be able to close the main A30, but I don't think they actually did that. The press booked the use of a local hall just in case there was an incident and they needed a base - but it remained unused.
St Anne's Church was built in the1880's to the standards of the time - which meant a grand building on a high point on the edge of the village but with no additional facilities what-so-ever. A parish hall was built nearer the village in the 1920's and it was not until the 1950's that a single tiny toilet was added to the church - the only alteration there has been to the original Victorian building. The church is a marvellous example of Victorian architecture and has been so well maintained in its original state that it is now a "listed building", the area around it is a conservation area, and it borders what is now classified as "countryside beyond the green belt". All very nice, but
Such a building does not serve today's needs - no church will survive in the 21st century unless it is able to serve the community all week through, and provide acceptable facilities for the youth and the incapacitated. For years the church has dreamt of adding a 'church centre' to provide toilets, meeting and activity space suitable for youth work and the needs of other church-based community services, together with storage and office space, and be hireable for the sort of events that nice church halls get used for so as to provide a little income to offset the running costs. A generous legacy gave optimism that these dreams might be fulfilled and the church commissioned an architect to draft plans that met their aspirations. The bad news is that it became apparent that the planning authorities would not agree to the building to which the church aspired. So the plans have been scaled down to what it is hoped will meet with approval.
The design for a compact church centre situated 'behind' the main building has been submitted for planning approval and the plans are on display in the church. We can only hope that planning consent is granted and that the reduced building is sufficient to meet the needs of the church. It seems to me that it would be the ultimate irony if the beautiful church of St Anne were to be lost because "conservation" outweighed the needs of survival.
I guess you have been suffering, like me, with incoming virus email. Since I use a dial-up connection what annoys me most is the time wasted by the huge files that get sent. After quite a period with few problems there seems to have been a spate recentlty. What is sad is that every one of these represents someone who has my address in their address book being hit themselves. Should you be interested, I have a few notes about avoiding becoming a victim here.
Revisions and additions to the website since the Easter newsletter include:
|With best wishes to you, and those you hold dear.
The opinions expressed here are those of the author, writing on his own behalf and not representing anyone else or any organisation.
copyright © 2003 Neil Bartlett
ps: each time I do a mailing telling friends like yourself about one of these 'update' pages I get several bounce back as undeliverable because the intended recipient has changed their email address, and I have no way of knowing what it has changed to. So if you change your email please remember to put me on the list of people to tell if you want to keep in touch.
The latest newsletter is here