Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blackthorn Blossom

Another of my favourite early Spring flowers in the hedgerows is Blackthorn blossom, with its fragile white flowers on stark, angular branches. In the Autumn these blossoms metamorphose into the exotic blue Sloe berries with their incredible bloom.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Network Rail: The Killing Fields

While I have been revelling in the Spring flowers around Bath, destruction has been taking place on the railway embankments here. My walks have been accompanied by the constant whine of power-saws cutting down every single tree on the embankments and every shrub- beautiful, healthy Ashes, Sycamores and many more varieties, cut down for no good reason. Apparently, this is a "blanket policy" of Network Rail, who own the land.

Being concerned for the disturbed wildlife, I spoke to an RSPB representative who confirmed that bird's nesting habits would be severely effected. He said that unfortunately Network Rail according to present laws are not doing anything illegal. If one actually found proof of nests being destroyed, that would be an offence. Apart from the environmental issues- including possible erosion of the embankments- he also pointed out how the tracks, without the protection of trees and undergrowth, would be much more accessible and dangerous to children, animals and vandals.

Yet again I find it hard to understand how- when everyone is so aware of our environmental crisis- people can still ignore the value of trees and cut them down regardless. And one knows full-well that money is their only reason for this short-sighted action- possibly because Network Rail think it is more cost-effective to cut down the trees rather than trim them when necessary?

Spring in Bath: Black Poplar Catkins

One of my latest obsessions are the wonderful red male catkins of the Black Poplar trees. The sunny weather we had last week made them unfurl from their buds like amazing carmine Caterpillars and I can't stop taking photos of them. The female catkins are dull in comparison- lime green and not nearly so powerful as you will see from the final image:

Spring in Bath: Pussy Willows

Pussy Willows- the furry catkins of the Willow trees- have universal appeal. Like fluffy fledgelings and baby animals they melt our sentimental hearts. Down by the River Avon they grow in abundance and are certainly one of the early signs of Spring.

Spring in Bath: Woodland Flowers

Sad as I was to come away from Santa Monica just as one felt Spring was starting there, I am now blissfully happy to be seeing the first signs of Spring here in Bath. Every walk is exciting as one sees new buds and flowers beginning to blossom. Lining the woodland paths are White Violets, Coltsfoot, Primroses and Lesser Celandines. I was interested to read that the word Celandine comes from the Latin Chelidonia, meaning Swallow. apparently it was said that the Celandines bloomed when the Swallows returned and faded when they left- but I have not spotted any Swallows here yet...

Here are some of the flowers:

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Tree-saving Success: Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena

Again, just before I left Santa Monica, Treesavers were alerted by Pasadena that their beautiful, mature Ficus trees on Colorado Blvd were about to be cut down for design reasons. We were all very shocked as Pasadena, like Santa Monica, has a "green" reputation and is renowned for it's tree-lined streets. Our Treesavers immediately gave their support.

Sadly, despite appealing to the City Council , 35 trees- mainly Ficus- were rapidly cut down.

However, I have now received good news: Pasadena City Councilmembers actually listened to their people. They have admitted mistakes were made and taken action to prevent this happening again. Having both a Tree Protection Ordinance and an Urban Forestry Advisory Committee (UFAC) they moved to give the UFAC more power.

Another factor: many activists have been saying that Santa Monica City Council should be divided into districts, to give more accountability to the Councilmembers to their constituents. It emerges that Pasadena has this system- it is divided into 7 separate districts with 7 Councilmembers, one representing each, who all work together for the best interests of Pasadena.

There is hope for the future if Santa Monica learns from Pasadena.

Tree-saving Success: Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica

I have had to return to the UK for a period, temporarily leaving lovely Santa Monica. A short time before I left, several Treesavers were concerned about a number of healthy New Zealand Christmas trees on Colorado Avenue that were about to be cut down, six of them being red-tagged. This was yet again "design" motivated, in this case for a Big Blue Bus project. Treesavers questioned the City Council and and publicised the case. For once we were listened to and I have now heard that the trees for the moment are safe and the red-tags removed. (However, there is still the possibility that they will be endangered by the proposed Light Railway if we succeed in getting it routed down Colorado Avenue as opposed to Olympic Blvd, thus saving 44 Coral trees....) Below is a photo taken by me for fellow Treesaver Cosmo Bua- who did an enormous amount to protect them- and published in the Santa Monica Mirror heading an article by Lynne Bronstein.