Weasel Spring 2004

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How ethical is an ethical policy?

You may have heard of them and you may even bank with them but should the OCV bank with them- that is a different question altogether.
The Co-operative bank has a blue and grey logo which reads: Customer led, ethically guided. It has 103 branches throughout the UK. I admit I've never seen one- but then my glasses tend to get fuzzy when I sweat and toil to cut brambles and lay hedges! Well, the bank may not have branches in the fields we visit but it does have an unusual approach to banking. To make money for its shareholders and customers the Co-operative reliably invests in businesses that do not contribute to global climate change, chemicals in the environment, unsustainable use of natural resources or uncontrolled release of GMOs. The bank also does not support the arms trade and abuse of human rights, and this also means it promotes fair trade for developing countries. Of course the secret may lie in the small print. Is it possible to prevent spread of GMOs even when one tries to control the crops?

However, this is a step in the right direction given that they provide services like most other banks and are accessible. Their interest rates are only slightly lower than the bank where OCV is currently saving money towards a new van and a brighter future (!) So, OCV is considering moving at least one account to this bank. And this is the heart of the matter: does this mean we are becoming political? The Co-operative support campaigns and choose their policies based on opinion polls from their customers. So, what is to prevent the OCV supporting policies that go in a non-environmentally friendly direction? Democracy. Discuss your views and direct OCV policies fortnightly at the Gardener's Arms.


Hot Air and Hollywood

Recently I was invited to a preview of the latest Hollywood disaster movie 'The Day After Tomorrow' arranged by the Thames Valley Energy Centre for green NGOs, local politicians and environment employees. The film was hugely enjoyable, full of spectacular effects, scary moments and a great deal of cheese! I'm no film critic but if you get a chance to see it I recommend you go, and see it while it's on a big screen.
The consequences of climate change as portrayed in the film, however, are more fiction than fact. There is a risk for green groups in associating any campaigning with the film as there is a danger that if the public regard the film as fiction that they will dismiss the whole issue as fiction and 'throw the baby out with the bath water'. Despite this, the film may be important in bringing the issue of climate change to the public attention which, as a gradual long term phenomenon, is very difficult to get into the event-dependent media. The film may also bring the dangers of climate change to an audience that would not normally watch science programs or read scientific literature. It may make everyone think about the effect that each of us has on the planet.
The showing was followed by a scientific response from Dr Chris Jardine, Environmental Change Institute, Oxford, who, along with some interesting facts, suggested that our response to climate change should be like 'poking a cat. It could purr or bite, you don't know until you poke it, so it's best not to poke it!'
To calculate your annual carbon emissions go try the Carbon Calculator: www.carboncalculator.org
For general energy saving advice, government grants and renewable energy go to: www.tvec.org.uk
And to help with the worlds largest climate change prediction model: www.climateprediction.net

Jane Fisher


Climate Change

According to Dr C. Jardine, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford:
Climate models predict a global warming of 1.4 - 5.8oC in the next 100yrs

Localised cooling is possible, though after an initial warming over the next 50yrs
65% of greenhouse gases arise from individual consumption (35% transport, 30% in the home).

A discrepancy between models and the actual data on global warming, namely that temperatures in the lower atmosphere have been rising far slower than models predict, has been central to the arguments for sceptics. Recently however, a team, from the University of Washington and the Air Resources Laboratory in Maryland, have provided evidence that explains this based on a study of the interaction of the troposphere and the stratosphere. This study of microwave emissions recorded between 1979-2001 finds that the observed stratospheric cooling, an established consequence of greenhouse gases, may account for the discrepancy in temperature trends if subjected to statistical analysis (Fu et al., Nature 429, 55-58; 2004).

The result has been controversy between scientific leaders in the field and also, unexpectedly, a vigil held outside the Clarendon Institute, on Broad Street in Oxford!! This has also coincided with a report from the Pew Centre on Global Climate Change predicting that global warming could shrink the US economy.
Perhaps the important point is that neither economic or scientific analyses are likely to affect the US climate change policy at the moment. But a blockbuster film might!


The Thieving Magpie (or What Happens on Tasks)

Pica was a mischievous bird of black and white plumage. Under the tree branches, she would eavesdrop on conversations, seeking an opportunity to rob well-meaning volunteers of their thimbles and their buttons, which glistened under the foliage...

Some volunteers debated the merits of sandals and the wisdom of combining them with socks. A trend that was set by one of the volunteers and which David Beckham of the famed right foot has been keen to religiously follow. In Swanage, music was the main theme, whether it was Elvis or a local band, to which volunteers happily loosened their footwear, revealing red socks, and tunefully gyrated.

Incidentally, at Tackley Polish was spoken, Pica is well-traveled, whilst slow worms and sunlight were discovered accidentally. But Pica's nest is at Aston Rowant, between newly-planted juniper trees. She feeds on forget-me-nots and orchids, watching volunteers drip blood over the hawthorn and side-step fairy rings. These mushrooms of St. George's, which grow in friendly circles, she picks on irregularly to avoid hallucinations.


Snakes & Ladders: a quiz for the wizened volunteer

Q1. What is 'global dimming'?

Q2. What is 'glacial rebound'?

A. The answer to 1 is not related to 2. Miss your turn to roll the dice.

Q3. Which county makes tea, puddings and billhooks?

Q4. Which county makes cream and billhooks?

A. Gollum Smeagol would not know.

Q5. What do you call a snake that drinks gin?

Q6. What is the difference between a stoat and a weasel?

A. Find out by emailing weasel_ocv@hotmail.com


Oxford Walks

Marguerite sends her good wishes and describes a walk that takes in BBOWT's Abbey Fishponds, where some of you will remember donning waders for the challenge of clearing the pond!

WALK D. Along the Hanson Way beside water-filled gravel quarries to Radley, returning via Abbey Fish Ponds. 4 miles

From Abingdon's Market Square cross to St Nicholas's Church and pass under the Abbey Gateway to its right. Go along Abbey Close into Abbey Meadow. Turn left and walk beside the Abbey Stream. Just before the weir cross the wooden footbridge to your left. There are usually many water birds in this area.
Follow the sign to Barton Court, then the one to the Hanson Way, the Sustrans Number 5 cycle and walking path between Oxford and Didcot. This particular stretch was formerly a railway branch line from Radley to Abingdon, closed during the 1960's Beeching era. Walk along it, with newly-planted ornamental bushes on your left. Gravel has been excavated here between Radley and the Thames for more than a century. Some of the pits, when exhausted, were left to fill with water. The lakes thus formed are now the habitats of water birds. Other worked-out quarries have been filled with fly ash from Didcot Power Station and are covered with wild flowers and shrubs.

The remains of Ice Age animals were found during the excavation of one pit, recalling a time, some 80,000 years ago, when reindeer herds and wolf packs roamed the area. Follow the Hanson Way when it turns to the left; there are large water-filled quarries on both sides, some with small islands on them. Continue to the T-junction. Take a few steps to the left and look across the road; you may glimpse deer in the Wick Hall Park.

Follow the Route number 5 signs until you reach the entrance to the gravel pits. Here the path becomes Thrupp Lane. Look out for lorries travelling to and from the pits, throwing up clouds of dust. Continue past Goose Acre Farm to a road junction. Radley village is to your right.

Cross the motor road into White's Lane and almost immediately and turn left along the signed footpath. You have a crop field to your right and a chestnut avenue to your left. At the footpath arrow turn left, cross the motor road, pass through a V-shaped entrance gate, then turn along the track to the right, passing a skateboarding area. Arriving at a large parking space, turn left and continue along the track through the sports field.

This area is Barrow - or Bury - Hills, where Bronze Age beaker burials took place. Excavations unearthed the skeleton of a young man with a quiverful of flint arrowheads beside him; it seemed he had been killed by an arrow in his back. Gold earrings were found beside the body of a man in another grave. A separate excavation revealed a Saxon settlement. Combs, spindles and pottery were amongst the finds. Artefacts from these excavations are in the Abingdon and Ashmolean Museums.

Pass through an area of recently planted trees and cross two stiles. You can see Wick Hall, a listed 18C building, to the left. Cross over the track - there are two stiles - and follow the yellow footpath arrow into a field. Once over another stile, walk as far as Audlett Drive, the main road to Abingdon, go straight across it and along a footpath between redbrick walls.

This leads through some bushes and over a small bridge to Abbey Fish Ponds, a BBOWT nature reserve. In front of you are the 14C banks built by the monks to dam the stream. As a result a pond was formed to keep Abingdon Abbey supplied with fish. Turn right along the stream to see the pond. Volunteers clear it regularly to prevent reeds draining it of its water. Emerging on Radley Road, turn left, passing Daisy Bank. This area, once inhabited by Neolithic farmers, is now a 20C housing estate. You can catch a bus the half-mile back to Abingdon from here. Otherwise continue to the roundabout, left into Vineyard, left again into Stert Street.

The River Stert was originally an open stream used as a rubbish dump. It became such a health hazard that in the 18C it was decided to cover it. The river still runs under Stert Street and beneath St Nicholas's Church, the starting and finishing point for this walk.

An extract from:
Waterside Walks from Abingdon, by Marguerite Osborne, Leo Books.
ISBN 0 9533785 8 6. Price ;£ ;3.50
© Marguerite Osborne, 2004


How to Get to Aston Rowant

Say you wake up of a Sunday and it is 10 am - oops, the OCV bus is well on its way to the task site. Pack your lunch and hop on your bike or get in your car. Here are some directions to one of our regular sites:

Aston Rowant Nature Reserve (not village!):

From Oxford get on to the A40 heading south towards London. Keep on this road and join the M40. After Junction 6 exit and join the B4009 heading towards Chinnor. Take the second turning to the right (the first one would have led you back onto the motorway), which starts to go uphill onto the Chilterns.
Keep your eyes peeled for an unsurfaced track off to the right, about 200m along this road. Take the track to the right (there is a little English Nature sign there) and then go immediately left up to the English Nature offices . If you are still on the A40 and you pass Postcombe it means you've driven too far!

More information on Aston Rowant NNR, South Oxfordshire


And another one bytes the dust

Another AGM and again the Committee has reshuffled. Steve has stepped down from Chair and given the baton to Charlotte. She, in turn passed on the OCV minutes to me and I also picked up the Weasel from the hands of John G. The race was uneven as the Tasks required a great deal of coordination, once Kate gave up the lead. Peter however, rose to the challenge with the help of Jerome, Martin and Jane, who remained steady runners of the Money, the Tools and the Socials. Whether we make it to the finishing line depends on the contributions of new members, i.e. the ones who click on the OCV website more than once, as recorded by Paul of Publicity who's good at statistics.

Eventually, over a pint or under the umbrella of a shandy, the summer residency on the coasts of Devon was discussed. On this Kate Ravilious had 8 things to say:

1. You get fed delicious dinners, created by imaginative OCV chefs and chefesses.

2. It is the best value holiday you can ever have.

3. You can have the satisfaction of completing a significant conservation project.

4. You help to maintain and protect endangered habitats and species.

5. You make lots of new friends and meet plenty of interesting people.

6. You are guaranteed to see some of Britain's most beautiful countryside.

7. You may learn new skills such as dry stone walling or hedgelaying.

8. We have a laugh and that helps to reduce blood pressure!


Water Go!

Sunday 7th March was a mixed-up day - sunny one moment, a hail storm the next with drizzle now and then for compromise. Seven of us were pond clearing with Giles Strother of BBOWT, at Western Turville Reservoir, a reserve near Aylesbury that's owned by British Waterways. It was dug out in 1750 to supply water to the canal system but now it is shared by anglers (and carp), walkers, bird-watchers (ducks, swans and herons) and dingy sailors (frogs).

Reed beds are steadily throttling the open water with a floating bog of roots, silt and dead leaves. Jabbing spades, specially sharpened by Giles, we hacked out a pond and channel in front of the bird-hide and stuck branches in the mud as perches. We couldn't link our channel to the open water since it was 20 yards away, but a second task in late summer could make our Panama Canal! At lunch we kept on our waders for a trek through reeds so high we couldn't see over them and then around the whole site. Overhead flew many light planes and powered gliders from a nearby airfield. All life was there.

Thanks to Paul and Charlotte (who both got wet bums by falling over!), to Giles (who had waders up to his armpits) and all who were there for a watery, wonderful day.

John Gorrill
More information on Western Turville Reservoir, World's End, Buckinghamshire