Hereford River Carnival 2023

The Hereford River Carnival and the Hereford Indie Food Festival were both held over the recent August Bank Holiday weekend (26th - 28th August 2023). Lots of stalls, food and music to suit everyone's taste.

We popped over to the River Carnival on Friday night (25th) to see the lighted floats ...

Photo 1: River floats outside Hereford Rowing Club ready for the off

... and listen to some music on the King George V Playing Fields.

We returned on Saturday (26th), as Mary was playing in Bandemonium, to have a look around all the stalls and listen to more music! Standing on the Old Bridge, we watched the floats drift by ...

Photo 2: Five Floats Afloating

... then another one ...

Photo 3: Float No 6

... and another one ...

Photo 4: No 7

... and another one ...

Photo 5: No 8

... and still more ...

Photo 6: The Ninth One

... and, finally, the tenth and last float ...

Photo 7: Bringing up the rear

All in all, an impressive display of creativity and rivercraft.

While the River Carnival was geared more towards families and the older generation, the Indie Food Festival was definitely targetted at the Millenial and the early Gen Z groups. Plenty of food and drink with music and DJ sets to keep them fed, watered, and entertained. We popped in on the Monday afternoon and it was certainly lively.

A great weekend in Hereford with something for everyone.


The Polluter Pays Principle

HM Government appears to adopt the "Polluter Pays Principle" in theory, albeit with lots of caveats, which the current Conservative government has no intention of following in practice. An announcement was expected yesterday (29/8/23) to scrap the requirement for housebuilders and developers to not add to the nutrient pollution currently killing our rivers and waterways. As citizen scientists working hard to understand and prevent further degradation of the River Wye, this is a big kick in the teeth.

Photo 1: Pollution on Newton Brook, Hereford

It is also a double whammy for 'Joe Public' (and Josephine Public) who will not only get to see rivers and waterways turned into open sewers but will also be asked to pay to clean up all the pollution created by the house builders and developers while they walk away with all the profits. Why? Because the current government has seen fit to use £280 million of taxpayers' money to ameliorate the extra pollution caused by newly built homes located close to rivers where nutrient levels are already too high.

What makes this wanton destruction even more senseless is the government's claim that, by relaxing these rules, up to 100,000 extra homes could be built by 2030; i.e. just 13,000 per year out of an annual target of 300,000 new homes.

The current legislation, inherited from the European Union, applied only to environmentally sensitive areas near rivers and waterways. It was also not particularly onerous for new housing developments since it only asked the builders/developers to not make things any worse than they already were. So, I ask the question, why do the house builders and developers not pay to clean up their own mess as required by the polluter pays principle?

It cannot be because the builders and developers are too poor. The average profit margin per new house is 130% (ranging from 70% to 200% depending on location). Including land costs, a house builder can expect a profit margin of 12-30%. If the average price for a new house is just under £400,000, then the housebuilders' profit is between £48,000 and £120,000 per house. At a building rate of 200,000 new houses per year, they would have to give up just £1400 profit on each house built to cover the £280,000,000 of taxpayers' money this current government has so generously donated to the industry.

One thing we can definitely be sure of is that the generosity of the Conservative Party towards house builders and developers has nothing to do with party political donations. I feel certain that the £60 million donated to the Conservative Party over a 10-year period by property developers would, in no way, influence the decisions of Tory ministers; not even if those donations made up 20% of all donations to the Conservative Party. [note: I have low confidence in the ability of other major political parties to improve on the dismal showing of our present government]

Rather than give the house builders/developers free taxpayers' money, why not ask them to 'do no harm' to the environment instead. They successfully lobbied the previous Tory administration (Cameron/Osbourne) in 2015 to get rid of the UK's carbon zero building policy. That was under the pretense of protecting taxpayers. History has shown the fallacy of that claim as householder energy bills rose exponentially after Russia invaded Ukraine and the current Government spent £40 billion protecting households and businesses from spiralling energy costs. How much better that money could have been spent insulating poor UK housing stock and/or increasing the capacity of renewable energy.



View from the Rear Window - July 2023

 "July 2023 confirmed as hottest month on record" - World Meteorological Organisation

"If I had my way, I'd remove January from the calendar altogether and have an extra July instead" - Roald Dahl

After a hot June in Hereford, July was a little disappointing - cool, wet and cloudy. Globally, July 2023 was the hottest on record with severe heatwaves recorded in southern Europe, North Africa, Russia, China, Japan, southern USA, and Canada plus lots of wildfires.

The rear garden benefitted from plenty of rain which thankfully reduced the need for hand watering the plants, vegetables and fruit - a huge change from the weather conditions of last July.

The next three photos show the rear garden on the 1st, 23rd and 30th July. The buddleia was in full bloom at the start of the month, attracting the odd butterfly, and mostly finished by the end of the month. Photos 2 & 3 feature some additional wildlife (2 x collared doves and Mary).

Photo 1: Back Garden (August 1st 2023) 

Photo 2: Back Garden (August 23rd 2023)

Photo 3: Unusual Wildlife in the Back Garden (August 30th 2023)

A time-lapse slideshow of July's daily photos is presented in Video 1.

Video 1: Daily Garden Photos (July 2023)

Summary of Weather Parameters for July 2023

Cooling and Heating Degree Days have been added to the list. Sunshine hours are estimated from average daily solar radiation values measured by the Davis weather station. A list of average and total weather parameters is given in Table 1.

Maximum daily temperatures in July 2023 did not exceed 30 ℃ in contrast to the previous 3 years (2020, 2021, 2022). Weather was fairly settled throughout the month - the right sort of weather for the garden with sufficient rain and cool/warm temperatures. Certainly, my next-door neighbour was cutting her lawn more frequently! However, sunbathing weather it was most certainly not. 

Table 1: Average/Total Weather Statistics for July 2023

July 2023

Weather Parameter

Value

Dates

Average Monthly Temperature 

17 oC


Maximum Monthly Temperature

29 oC

7th

Minimum Monthly Temperature

7 oC

26th

Number of Air Frost Days

0


Number of Hot Days (> 25 oC)

4


Monthly Precipitation

55.4 mm


Greatest 24 h Precipitation

9.6 mm

13th - 14th

Number of Dry Days

10


Monthly Sunshine Hours (estimated)

163



Average Wind Speed

3 km/h


Highest Wind Speed

40 km/h

1st & 9th

Maximum Barometric Pressure (Sea Level)

1020.5 hPa

17th

Minimum Barometric Pressure (Sea Level)

994.5 hPa

15th

Average Barometric Pressure (Sea Level)

1009.7 hPa


Heating Degree Days

73.5


Cooling Degree Days

22.6



Figures 1 & 2 present the daily temperature, rainfall and sunshine hours for July 2023. Generally, pleasantly warm during the day (only 4 days failed to reach 20 ℃ maximum) but the evenings and nights were on the cool side. Rain was distributed fairly evenly throughout the month and there were no sustained sunny periods due to the presence of clouds on most days.

Figure 1: Daily Min/Max Temperatures (July 2023)

Figure 2: Rainfall & Sunshine Data (July 2023)

Figures 3 & 4 compare this July's weather with previous July months (2020-2022). July 2023 was cooler than normal, but not exceptionally so, due to much lower maximum daily temperatures (Figure 1). Rainfall can be variable in July (Figure 4) but was plentiful in 2023 concomitant with reduced sunshine hours and fewer dry days.

Figure 3: July Temperature Data for the Period 2020 - 2023


Figure 4: Sun, Wind & Rain Data for July over the Period 2020 - 2023

The UK Met Office's weather report for July can be found here and is summarised thus: "July was an unsettled month - often cool, dull, windy and with a lot of rainfall, in stark contrast to June". This was down to the position of the jet stream to the south of the UK throughout July preventing warm air from Europe from reaching the UK.

Figure 5 summarises the mean UK temperatures for July 2023 with Herefordshire highlighted. Compared with the 1991 - 2020 average, Herefordshire was about 1 ℃ cooler than expected. July is usually the warmest month in Herefordshire but was surpassed in 2023 by June

Figure 5: UK Mean Temperature Anomalies for July 2023 (Met Office)

Figure 6 shows the relative rainfall for the UK with Herefordshire circled; precipitation was about 150% higher than the 1991-2020 average. The nearest Met Office weather station at Credenhill, a few miles down the road, records an average July precipitation value of 48.54 mm. My Davis weather station recorded a value of 55.4 mm (Table 1), an increase of only 14% above the average, though I suspect my station is in a bit of a rain shadow due to its urban location.

Figure 6: Relative UK Rainfall, July 2023 (Met Office)

UK sunshine hours distribution is presented in Figure 7 showing Herefordshire received only about 70% of its expected July sunshine. Relative to 2020-2022, July 2023 had only about 85% of its expected sunshine.

Figure 7: Relative Sunshine Hours for July 2023 (Met Office) 

Jobs in the Garden
  • Harvesting raspberries, gooseberries, blackcurrants, redcurrants, French beans, cucumbers, courgettes, new potatoes, onions, celery, snap peas, salad leaves
  • Summer pruning of fruit trees - apples, plums, pears
  • Plant out brassicas (calabrese, cauliflower, red cabbage) and broad beans
  • Watering (from water butts), composting, weeding, mulching, etc
Flora and Fauna
  • 4 x Blackbirds (male, female plus 2 x young)
Photo 4: Blackbird parents and two juveniles
  • 3 x Blue Tits (2 x adults plus 1 x young)
  • 3 x Collared Dove (2 x adults plus 1 x young)
  • 4 x Crows (2 x adults plus 2 x young)
  • 1 x Great Tit
  • 22 x House Sparrows
  • 1 x Magpie
  • 15 x Starlings
Video 2: Juvenile Starling on Bird Feeder
  • 2 x Swifts
  • 3 x Wood Pigeon (2 x adults plus 1 x young)
Photo 5: Wood Pigeon Parents with Young
  • 2 x Gatekeeper Butterflies
Video 3: Slo-mo Gatekeepers
  • Lots of Small and Large White Butterflies
  • 1 x Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
  • 1 x Speckled Wood Butterfly
  • 1 x Holly Blue Butterfly
Photo 6: Holly Blue Butterfly
  • 1 x Red Admiral Butterfly
Photo 7: Red Admiral Butterfly
  • Green-veined White Butterfly
Photo 8: Gree-veined White Butterfly

And, finally, a few photos from the garden:

Photo 9: Rev Wilks Apples


Photo 10: Hydrangea Flower



Photo 11: Medlar Fruit

Photo 12: Sunflower

Photo 13: Festival Squash Flower

Photo 14: Dahlias

Photo 15: Flower Mixture

Photo 16: Looking Down the Secret Garden

Photo 17: Dahlia


Top Three Most Surprisingly Difficult Materials to Compost

 With hot composting (see blog posts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11), you stand as good a chance as any of successfully composting most kitchen and garden waste. Soft green waste (e.g. lawn mowings, cooked & uncooked kitchen scraps) are the easiest while hard woody stems/branches are the most difficult. Cutting/chopping the material before adding to the compost pile speeds up the decomposition process by disrupting cell membranes (allowing bacteria faster access to the fleshier more easily digested innards) and increasing the surface area which is the frontline of bacterial attack. That is why I shred garden waste and chop up kitchen waste before adding to the compost pile. 

Photo 1: Thermal Infra Red Image of HotBin Contents (including 3 probe thermometers)

Some everyday (eggshells, some teabags) and not so everyday (avocado skins) items can make it through the hot composting process in a still recognizable form. With teabags, the contents (tea leaves) will have successfully composted but the bag itself may remain largely intact. Either discard the bag or recycle it through the next hot composting process. Eggshells are predominantly calcium carbonate so cannot be composted down - they are, however, a valuable source of calcium which is an important plant nutrient. And, finally, you could be a little less posh and not eat avocados!?! While avocados are exceptionally nutritious, tasty and versatile, that comes at an environmental cost that may not be sustainable. As a general rule, we no longer buy avocados for home use though I must admit, that is due, in part, to pinpointing exactly when those 'ripen at home' avocados are perfect for eating! I did enjoy a recent vegan breakfast at the Rocket Kitchen Cafe in Hereford that included a deliciously ripe avocado.

Photo 2: Vegan Breakfast at the Rocket Kitchen Cafe 

So enjoy your avocado as a treat rather than an everyday food item like Posh Spice.

Back on topic, the three items that regularly appear in my garden waste pile (almost exclusively from neighbours!) that are difficult to compost.

1. Dried palm leaves

My next-door neighbour has a palm tree of some description ...

Photo 3: Neighbour's Palm Tree

... from which I receive a fairly regular supply of long dry brown leaves. I chop these into 10 cm lengths with sharp secateurs before processing them through the shredder.

Photo 4: Palm leaves after pre-cutting with secateurs

The plant fibres are tough and run the length of the leaves and so 'shred' in the same direction. Furthermore, they have poor rewetting properties essential for the bacterial decomposition process - on the other hand, they make excellent building materials! These materials will eventually break down into usable compost but will need at least 3 cycles through the hot composting process. As a general rule, shredded palm leaves are added in small quantities - say up to 10% with plenty of green waste.

2. Clematis Woody Stems

Back in March (2023), I took delivery of around two cubic metres of old-growth woody clematis stems from a neighbour. This was the first batch of 10 bags ...

Photo 5: First batch of woody clematis stems

... followed by a further 15 bags. We have our own vigorous clematis which grows over the summerhouse; see below ...

Photo 5: Clematis "Snow in Summer" (Aug 1st 2023)

... and which is cut back hard every year.  The cuttings are easily composted because there is no multi-year growth to deal with. Our neighbour clearly had not cut back her clematis for several years and had finally decided it was time to get rid of the resultant unruly mess.

I had two issues: (i) the fibrous clematis stems were dry and difficult to shred, and (ii) even the shredded stems were not easily wetted (see above, re palm leaves). Stone Age people apparently used clematis stems as ropes which is understandable considering their toughnesss and durability.

Photos 6 & 7 were taken before and after shredding the clematis. The shredded material varies from dust to fairly long fibres depending upon the sharpness of the shredder blade.

Photo 6: Tangled Clematis Stems before shredding

Photo 7: Clematis after shredding

Processing old-growth clematis is a new experience for me. I add it to the hot compost pile in small amounts (up to 20%) mixed with plenty of moist greens. Even after a few days, it still looks dry and unaffected by the hot composting process. We will have to wait and see how it comes out at the end of the composting period. I suspect it will need to be recycled through extra composting processes.

3. Thatch and Moss

We do not have a lawn so, until recently, my 'supply' of thatch and moss occurred once a year in Autumn when a neighbour scarified his lawn. It was quite a big lawn so I received about 120 litres of the stuff. Since this neighbour moved a year or two ago, I no longer have to process thatch & moss - thank goodness!

Thatch is the layer of dead turf/grass just beneath the surface - it contains about 25% lignin (similar to wood) which explains why it is slow to decompose in the composting process.

Mosses (and their close relatives: liverworts & hornworts) are bryophytes and have been around for 450 million years living through many climatic changes. They are tough and born survivors. By way of example, I use an electric weedburner to keep our paved driveway free of weeds. The weedburner claims to reach temperatures up to 600 ℃ which is sufficient to burn away common weeds (e.g. dandelions) but has little or no effect on the tiny liverworts that come up between the cracks. Unsurprisingly, the temperatures found in a hot composter (50-70 ℃) don't cut the mustard either.

In my, albeit limited experience, the scarified moss/thatch can have a detrimental effect on the operation of the hot composting process (e.g. HotBin). Thatch (high lignin content) & moss (tough resistant cell walls) do not add anything in the way of nutritional value for the composting bacteria to thrive and multiply and may have a negative effect by absorbing water (thereby reducing its availability for the composting process) and reducing the ability of the compost pile to self-aerate. You might want to find an alternative disposal method for your thatch/moss but if you must add it to the hot composter - no more than 5% by volume.









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