Counting on … day 1.126

30th May 2023

This is a noisy time of year – the young starlings can now fly but have not yet learnt to feed themselves. They fly off with their parents and perch in easy reach of food and then squawk loudly to ensure that their parents keep on putting food into their ever open beaks! The juniors are a delicate shade of grey compared with the shiny sparkly back that they will sport when they reach adulthood.

It is good to see – and hear – them as their number have declined by 66% since the mid-1970s, placing them on the red list. According to the RSPB only 15% survive the first year to make it to adulthood. I hope that keeping our feeders full of fatty insect based nibbles will give them a helping hand.

Counting on… day 1.121

25th May 2023

I thought I saw the following headline – “Sowing the Seeds of Biodiversity Conversation’ – but when I looked a second time, I saw it read “Sowing the Seeds of Biodiversity Conservation”. And yet perhaps I did read it aright as I am now having a conversation about biodiversity. My reading had been about the idea that to assist biodiversity it helps to sow and grow local seeds and plants – ie ones that are most likely to grow where you are and to be a significant part of the localities food chain – nettles for comma butterflies for example. One way of doing this would be to collect seeds from such plants and share them with your neighbours.

How to collect and store seeds –

And for a list of seed swop events –

Counting on … day 1.118

12th May 2023

Interesting comments from RSPB –  “One of the latest experiments is planting wildflower strips and alleys of trees within fields. Research has already shown that planting wildflower strips helps bring beneficial insects into the fields, which is good for pollination and pest control. But this ten-year trial hopes to show the strips with trees can help in other ways too, such as:  

  • A wildlife boom – from earthworms underground to the birds in the treetops to everything in between, we hope the strips will increase beneficial wildlife including beneficial pollinators and natural pest controllers. The trial will also look to see if the trees have a negative impact on any species.  
  • Carbon catching trees – we know trees store carbon – but we want to find out accurate figures for how much carbon our trees can capture to help inform future work.
  • Make some money –  apple and cobnut trees within the alleys can provide another source of income. We’ll be keeping a close eye on whether these trees bring home the bucks as well as the bugs.”

Green Tau: issue 68

Green and pleasant land

6th May 2023

I have recently spent a few days away in Settle in North Yorkshire. Settle is a small and active town, located on the Settle to Carlisle railway so easily accessible by train. Whilst here we have enjoyed exploring the local area follow some of the numerous footpaths. The Yorkshire Dales are traditionally appreciated as vast expanses of open moorland, green fields crisscrossed with dry stone walls, and sheep! And that is certainly what you find here. Being spring, the fields are full of lambs – gambling about in pairs but still keeping in close proximity to mum.

But it hasn’t always been so. In the past farming was more diverse and included beef and dairy cattle,  poultry, and arable crops, as well as the cultivation of trees such as willows for basket making. Diversity in farming lends itself to diversity in the environment. One writer commenting on current biodiversity in the Yorkshire Dales, noted that more diversity is to be found along the roadsides and  verges than in the fields. From my observation that is true – on a roadside I might count as many as a dozen plants (I am no expert) in few meters, whereas in the fields I was seeing just the occasional dandelion and celandine amidst the short cropped grass. Sheep do eat everything! Even more rewarding where the sections of footpath, river and railway banks where all grazing animals had been excluded. Here there were bluebells, primroses, cowslips, violets, lady’s smock, buttercups, daisies, and wood anemones – and in large number!

Sheep farming has become a monoculture form of agriculture and it is to the detriment of biodiversity. In some areas, tree planting is happening which benefits biodiversity. Over the couple of  days we were walking we saw only one pair of buzzards and they were circling above a copse (which may have been coincidental). Elsewhere we came across a notice telling us that trees had been planted on the banks of the Ribble to shade the water to mitigate the effects of rising temperatures. If water temperatures rise above 22C for a week or more fish die! The Ribble is currently still home trout and salmon.

Without sheep the landscape would return to a mix of grass and woodland – and would therefore also be a greater storer of carbon. Such a landscape would be as attractive for walkers. Walkers and tourism is an important part of the local economy, but can it bring in enough money to support a rich and diverse local economy? One of the things that sadden me as we walked, were the disused barns and farm houses. The smaller farms may have ceased to be economic some while ago, and equally with a shift from mixed farming to sheep farming with bought-in animal feed, many of these buildings are surplus to requirement and inconveniently placed vis a vis roads and services. Could they become homes for people who prefer to work remotely? This is apparently one way in which remote islands are gaining an influx of younger people. Or should we accept their decline as part of the natural cycle and see them as potential new habitats in the same way that dead trees support an ongoing stream of life as they decay into their locality?

Should we, as tax payers, pay farmers to become nature wardens? They could enable the rewilding of greater parts of the landscape, repair the dry stone walls – which are as a valid part of our heritage as ancient castles – maintain pathways and mark them at regular intervals to encourage people to use not just the well-known routes  but the lesser used ones too. In essence such people would be employed to maintain the health of our environment and be as important as those in the NHS who maintain people’s health. 

My husband is a railway enthusiast so we took the train to see the Ribblehead viaduct. Now embedded into its moorland environment, where the grasses and mosses have covered over any remaining marks of the building site that enabled its construction, it is a thing of beauty. It is an industrial artefact that has come to lend grandeur to an otherwise commonplace wild landscape. It is probably as much photographed as the nearby Three Peaks. I wonder if this windswept area could also absorb into its identity silvery white turbine blades. Wind farms could generate energy to support the local economy – and maybe too, an electrified railway line. 

For further reading:-

Counting on … day 1.096

10th April 2023

Homes for all? Here is a simple petition asking that all new-build homes be fitted with a swift box. Places where swifts can nest, have diminished over recent decades and the lack of safe nesting places is contributing to the demise of these beautifully acrobatic birds.

Eco Tips

Addressing  Food Insecurity 

28th March 2023

1. Ensuring people have a sufficient income. 

1b.. Growing our own food and enabling others to do likewise.

2. Taking action to limit keep rising global temperatures below 1.5C. 

3.  Paying  a fair price for the food we eat. You might buy direct from a farm or a group of  farms, or via a local vegetable box scheme. You might support a local farmers’ market. You might buy from a local independent green grocer. Similarly you might buy milk etc from a milk round where the price reflects the cost to the farmer. For cheeses, look to buy from small scale producers via a local cheese shop. And again buying fair trade options for imported foods can help ensure a fair price for the producer. Alternatively look out for products – coffee beans and chocolate in particularly – that have been  sourced directly from the grower. These  are often available through local independent shops and cafés.

Another option would be to subscribe to the OddBox fruit and veg scheme which buys food stuffs that would otherwise go to waste because they are misshapen, because the supermarket doesn’t want the crop, or because the crop has been too large or too small for the supermarket buyer – 

4. Buying from local producers and local retailers helps to improve local supply chains. 

5. Again the best approach to improving global food security and ensuring there is enough food for everyone is to reduce – or cost out completely – animal products.

6. To support and encourage the maintenance of healthy solid, you might choose to buy organic produce ( ), or to supplier items produced using  regenerative farming practices (

7. To improve the  security of our food supplies  through diversity, expand the range of foods you eat. Try different sorts and fruit and vegetables, different types of grain – emmer, einkorn, spelt, black barley  – and different sorts of nuts, spices etc. This can also improve your health – it is recommended that our diets should include 30 or more different types of fruit, vegetables, nuts, grains etc per week. See for example and

Improving biodiversity as a whole is also a good preventative against diseases that could ravaged farm production . You might therefore choose to grow more wild/ native plants in your garden, or choose plants that support and encourage biodiversity in terms of birds, insects, butterflies, and bats etc. many web sites have suggestions about improving the biodiversity of your garden including those of the RSPB and the Natural History Museum. You might want to support charities and organisations that encourage biodiversity and even extend that to the re-wilding of land, both in the UK – eg – and overseas – , ,

Counting on … day 1.069

12th March 2023 

Last September “Operation Noah today released a report that makes recommendations on ways to reduce and store carbon emissions to one of the country’s largest landowners, the Church of England, which owns approximately 0.5% of the UK’s land. The report … concludes that land owned by the Church of England is currently contributing to the climate and biodiversity emergencies ‘in terms of greenhouse gas emissions and limiting biodiversity within monoculture tree plantations and non-regenerative agriculture.’ While the Church of England has adopted a 2030 Net Zero target, its landholdings are outside the scope of the target. Yet this report finds that agricultural land owned by the CofE is likely to create more greenhouse gas emissions than all CofE church buildings combined; however, it adds, ‘there is also scope for considerable improvement if rapid and radical action is taken.’

The report specifically recommends a programme of tree growing, peat restoration, and providing better support and strategies to those who farm Church-owned land in order to reduce agricultural emissions and store more carbon.”

There is so much scope for change that will create a better world.

Counting on … day 1.066

9th March 2023

In Scotland a local community has bought land from the Buccleuch estate in order to rewild the land restoring its habitat to support enhanced biodiversity. 


Who: Langholm Initiative: Margaret Pool (former Chair); Jenny Barlow (Estate Manager)
Where & when: Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, from 2019
What: Community buyout of former grouse moor to be managed as a nature reserve
How: Clearing conifer plantations; creating new woodlands; conserving precious habitats and fostering nature recovery, planning new sustainable economic activities
Future potential income: Tourism, educational and research activities, regenerative farming, possible renewable power
Ecosystem benefits: Nature recovery on over-grazed hillsides; conservation of rare valley woodland; peat restoration; wetland conservation; soil recovery; flood prevention.

A different world is possible!