Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Honest waster or silent saint?

Last night I went to a MusicTank event on sustainability. It had a heavyweight panel including the former CEO of EMI Music, a former MD of Virgin Music, Stevie Wonder's tour manager, a bona-fide climate scientist and the sustainability manager of Live Nation, the UK's largest concert promoter.

I have also been talking lately to Arcola Energy who are leading the Mayor of London's Green Theatre initiative and I have talked to many people working in the arts while looking for best practise in introducing sustainability into arts organisations.

I have been gazing at the crystal ball with this information so for what it's worth, here is my analysis:

At Kyoto the UK agreed to reduce GHC emissions by 50% by 2050. Back then science believed two degrees of climate warming was a threshold we could live with. Unfortunately the latest science says the effects of two degrees will be far worse than predicted and we've reached that point far sooner than we thought.

It appears that Kyoto was not enough. This is why the Copenhagen conference in December 2009 will be so important.

Tackling climate change requires cooperation but commerce is driven by competition, not cooperation. Here lies the dilemma for everyone. Which is why the aims of anti-capitalism and climate change can find an alliance.

There is no technical fix to climate change. It falls to behaviour modification to reduce consumption and taking a huge leap of faith into the dark to act now. Either that or be driven into climate wars by famine or asphyxiation. Behind the religion and ideology, wars have always been about securing natural resources.

Tackling climate change NOW, not later, is the only strategy that can work given the magnitude of the risk. Innovations or actions that are tried and fail now are a better strategy than "wait and see what works". The essential action is everyone must do something immediately and then share what they learn. Tackling climate change has to be open-source.

The music industry has identified that packaging contributes one third of its carbon footprint. If it switched from plastic CD jewel cases to cardboard, it could reduce that by 90%, getting a very swift 30% reduction on its emissions. Getting everyone to agree to do this is like herding cats, even though the big conglomerates agree they should.

If the music industry doesn't get their act together regarding climate change, there is likely to be a widening of the net of present legislation. Even though most music or arts organisations don't yet have to complete a PAS 2050 disclosure (totalling their carbon emissions), I predict the Govt. will progressively lower the bar so that all organisations will have to soon enough. Measuring your carbon footprint will be as stringent a requirement as filing VAT returns and the process will be similar with carbon allowances, budgets and trading of a rapidly reducing pot of carbon permits.

I have been hearing a lot of concordance with sustainability and agreement from arts managers that their current practises are wasteful but hearing too often “we haven’t got the time or money to change it”. In the publicly funded arts, the budgets and so staffing levels are always too small. Although rife with politics, (like everything) deciding who gets public money in the arts is mostly a Darwinian process and even sacred cows will be not exempt from slaughter if times get harder and I can tell you with my fundraising hat on they are very hard right now.

Music organisations (and practically everyone else) must learn how to produce a carbon balance sheet. Many industries have to do this already. Although it is difficult for a SME to justify doing that on the basis of cost now and (as there is no legal requirement) but the cost if they leave it to later will be even higher. Dow Chemical learned with pollution control some time ago that it makes more sense to be ahead of their competitors and the legislation than following them.

If everyone in the music business started keeping carbon balance sheets, it would then become easier for everyone. It is going to take cooperation between everyone in the supply chain (which for music is just about everyone).

We can start with the easy stuff; the energy used in buildings and transportation and keep adding items like the paint and wood used in the sets until we can account accurately for the carbon value of everything consumed and produced, month by month.

Measuring energy use is quite straightforward but we must also tackle the issue of audience transport. After packaging, this is the second largest factor in music's carbon footprint. Although indirect (promoters don't choose how the audience gets there), the only way the Govt. is going to influence that is by making the promoters do it.

The carrot and sticks the Govt. will use will be subtle due to the political difficulty of introducing such legislation. For example the 'pop code' or purple book that states how many toilets per thousand people etc. a festival must have are only recommendations, not laws, but it is virtually impossible to get a license for public entertainment without adherence to the code as 99% of councils make them a condition of licensing. The industry people I have spoken to suspect privately that many other measures will have to be enforced by the back door this way.

Govt. policy is encouraging the arts and media to lead on climate change because of the media's power to get the climate message to the audiences and because of the carrot and stick it has over funding (through ACE etc.) It is privately thought certain that a carbon footprint will become another metric (or tickbox) for securing public funding.

Disclosure of a carbon balance sheet should not be feared, especially by any early adopters. Until everyone is doing it, no fair comparisons can really be made. If an organisation can produce a carbon balance sheet, it will better equipped to manage its carbon footprint than one that can't and so will be first in line when carbon becomes tied to funding. An honest waster would be given preference or have the advantage over a silent saint.

There is money for tackling climate change. There are plenty of grants for organisations that want to employ a sustainability manager or conduct research into sustainability change management in cooperation with a higher learning institution like Knowledge Connect.

With imagination, organisations can find ways to pay for the processes needed to manage their carbon balance sheets beyond that it actually saves money to begin with. Some could even turn it into a profit centre by acting as a consultancy if they get started before their competition does.

Friday, 27 March 2009

BBC cries wolf

This morning (Friday 27 Mar) at about 7.40 AM I was appalled at a one sided report by the BBC of the perceived threat to bankers during the G20 summit on the Today programme.

The report by Jack Izzard reporting that bankers have been told by their security advisers there is a threat of violence is akin to hearing secondhand that ripples have been seen on the shore of a pond and then telling all the ducks a fox is waiting for them on the other bank.

In an interview a banker passed on secondhand information about the measures that businesses have been taking after advice from the police and the London Chamber of Commerce without questioning the validity of that advice. The BBC fell for a classic propaganda trick. Their reporting that "people are scared" is being used to validate and inflate a threat that probably doesn't exist.

Where was their examination of the evidence of the threat by their security correspondent? I have been hearing from my City friends for several weeks that their firms are being told by the police that the climate protesters intend to "hang a banker" during G20. Something I think even they take with a grain of salt.

Much reporting has been done of the police and self interested groups like the London Chamber of Commerce warning City businesses to take security precautions and some of those firms in turn have advised pregnant staff to stay at home but reporting of this has been without analysis of the actual threats made.
The LCC says "it is believed that the majority of the protesters intend to conduct a peaceful demonstration..." so why the scaremongering?

Tiny anti-capitalist groups and even smaller anarchist groups are being linked by the police and media to tar the peaceful climate activists with the same brush although it is very difficult to pin this smear campaign on the state. The official communications won't say this, these warnings come from confidential briefings from which a process of 'Chinese Whispers' amplifies and distorts the message, creating misinformation while absolving the originator from culpability.

On any given day there are thousands of people on websites promising harm to the United Kingdom but the BBC don't give them any credence or spread panic because of them.

I've looked at the Climate Camp website and I don't see any incitements to violence or damage property there. Participation in a protest march is no more dangerous than a pop festival or football match, until the police start hemming people in and prevent them from dispersing or confiscating children's crayons and pensioners' walking sticks as articles useful to terrorism.

The Washington Times says "authorities cite intelligence information that an alliance of anarchists, anti-globalization groups and environmentalists intend to bring London to a standstill through stunts ranging from building giant sand pits in the streets to scaling skyscrapers in the city's financial district." Not exactly life-threatening or property destroying actions are they?

One university lecturer
has been accused (accused but not convicted mind) of threatening violence to bankers and this is being used by the 'water cooler' effect enabled by uncritical reporting from our media to spread concern and demonise the vast majority of people who feel lawful protest to save our planet is the only option.

Thankfully some reporting on other channels has been more considered about what the aims and motives of the protests are:

Five minutes later on the Today programme today a presenter stated the Internet is "awash with invitations to demonstrations". This paired a totally neutral fact with the spurious threat of violence and linked climate change to terrorism.

The BBC might be able defend their coverage saying it is balanced by reports elsewhere but people brushing their teeth at 7.40 AM to the Today programme don't get to hear the other side of the story when it is broadcast at 11 PM or a few days later. The Today programme to its credit did question a few days ago how police tactics
inflame violence and intimidate people not to exercise their right in a democracy.

I wouldn't go as far as say there's a conspiracy between the Govt. and BBC, in fact my Meeja friends tell me those in charge of the BBC are very unhappy with our present administration but we know the BBC can only go so far before the boot of the state comes down on them too. We now know Andrew Gilligan was right but the times have moved on to much more pressing matters, as 'they' well knew they would.

According to the Guardian War on Want spokesman Dave Tucker believes the police are behind "systematic misinformation" about the demonstrators. "They're trying to put people off a peaceful demonstration by saying we're going to be hijacked by anarchists and there will be molotov cocktails in the air. We're the voice of normal people in this country demanding more fundamental change than is being offered by politicians."

The police and LCC warnings to the City are patently basic psyops to discourage the vast number of reasonable people who believe in peaceful protest from taking part. Those people, as I would, if present, could deter and turn in those who perpetrate violence. There is ironically safety in numbers.

I have no doubt this deterrent measure will enable elements who like a good ruck to take part, or give free reign for agent provocateurs, so becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. This will justify everything done to harass and intimidate the protesters as well as the electronic eavesdropping on ordinary people who have no agenda other than saving our planet for our children.

Once upon a time bishops and bankers and bright young things could protest peacefully against the atomic bomb and the Vietnam war without feeling this could adversely affect their futures but Grosvenor Square changed all that.

Maybe the climate change groups should mobilise 'respectable' people to act as peace monitors, to ensure the planned "theatrical protests" don't shatter the banker's plate glass windows. I would suspect though, given
the way the police treat the media today, that the state would then claim activists posing as peace monitors intend to upset the show.

Today, with tactics such as ‘kettling’ used by the police, the photography by Forward Intelligence Teams and DNA swabbing of anyone detained and other erosion of civil liberties under so called terror laws, peaceable protest now carries considerable personal risks which leaves only the most committed and most desperate and dangerous elements of society prepared to do it.

I leave it to you to consider what effect that will have on our democracy.


On 'Broadcasting House' the BBC's weekly review of the news today (Sun, 29 Mar at about 9.50 AM) journalist Anne Diamond questioned the police information and wondered if it would not be better to encourage MORE middle class people to attend the demonstrations than discourage them.

Veteran journalist Duncan Campbell wrote in the Guardian on April 2nd after the police once again kettled the G20 demonstrators; "the police's application of their "kettle" formula is that people thinking about embarking on demonstrations in the future may have to decide whether they want to be effectively locked up for eight hours without food or water and, when leaving, to be photographed and identified."

Saturday, 21 March 2009

Suffolk Coastal District Council Data Loss

Oh dear, a SCDC contractor has had a laptop stolen which contained the details of everyone that has applied for a license to the council, in my case a lottery license to hold a raffle four years ago. SCDC have written to everyone on the database to inform them and everyone's record will now get entered onto CIFAS which will be checked by credit reporting agencies as there is a slightly increased risk of indentity theft. As a friend said, reworking an old gag; "identity theft? take mine please."

It does strike me as slightly ironic that because someone lost a copy of my name and address and date of birth (I think that's about all the information I gave) on a local database, I now have a record on a bigger national database....

Friday, 20 March 2009

Understanding Enterprise in Waveney

I got this today. I don't know who is behind it or why, there's so many quangos these days, but I hope there's a sandwich or something on offer. All I can find out is that the facilitator is a research company employed by a charity who work with local government who employed someone who hasn't a clue about capitalisation (of the grammatical sort).

Not to be cynical, but what's in it for me to attend this apart from a chance to give my opinion (which is always welcome to the usual suspects)? So that's the what but to whom, for what end and why? Not a good 'sell' is it? As it is, the trains arriving at Lowestoft rail station (a few yards from the yacht club) don't arrive from the south until 16.30 (too early) or 18.33 (too late) and from Norwich at 17:41 and 18:44

I wonder how many will turn up late because they were stuck in traffic because of the bridge? That'll be good research.

We know it's short notice, but if you run a business in Waveney or are thinking about setting one up we would love you to come along to our event.

24 March 2009

Understanding Enterprise in Waveney

Sun Lounge, Royal Norfolk Yacht Club, Royal Plain Lowestoft NR33 0AQ

6.30pm - 8.30pm

It's a research session, run and facilitated by professional researchers, designed to surface the barriers and challenges relating running a business in the area.

Do you feel you are getting the support that you need? Are you listened to?

Please come along and share your views. We have also invited a number of leaders from across Suffolk who are hoping to listen and learn from your experience.

Hopefully see you there.

Becky Rowe
Research Director

Thursday, 19 March 2009

Death and disinformation

A childhood friend has just died prematurely. I'm not going to name them here but they were pretty famous. And famously pretty.

Being a global public figure their death was widely reported in news websites on which the public are invited to comment. And comment they have, in the thousands, expressing their admiration for the deceased, sharing their sense of loss, offering their consolation to the families. Why do they do this for someone they never met and didn't know?

Vicarious grief is a not a new phenomenon. When Rudolph Valentino died, several young women committed suicide. What has changed is the enabling power of the Internet. Sometimes a little power is a dangerous thing. Every time a celebrity dies, every website with an obituary that permits it is inundated with thousands of postings of virtual keening for the departed.

Now I hadn't seen my friend for over thirty years, we parted ways socially when I went to boarding school but I would often run into their mother who was stratospherically famous herself who always remembered me. Once even knocking on my door because they'd locked themselves out of their house and because of their security system and their political activism, they could not break into their own house without setting off a major police alert.

I digress but this qualification is necessary to say that I knew this deceased person and their family and I have read a lot of tripe in the tributes by well qualified people in their profession and by their fans on these websites.

I feel an urge to correct them but I suspect somewhere my motivation is my own ego and vicarious grief as well, that I so despise, so I shall let this pass but what confounds me with all the pointless posting of "great shame", "my sympathy to the family" etc. is that it drowns out any possibility of comment or correction of the facts.

Their death reopens a long running debate about wearing of safety helmets and personal responsibility and is a salutary lesson in first aid protocols which has been drowned in this sea of vicarious grief.

They had their faults and their secrets and we mustn't speak ill of the dead but when I am witnessing the embalming of myth, I feel it is necessary to put right certain errors when I see them before they are forever set in amber.

Perhaps news websites should filter condolences and comments on their obituaries to condolence books so those still in search of the truth can find it.

I shall grieve that a person I shared a part of my childhood with, who always showed me and my family kindness and so is remembered with affection, has gone. A witness to my own history has died and that is my only loss. And, as a witness to theirs, I'd like to honour them by ensuring that the truth is known.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Music Industry Gets Green Mark

The music industry think tank Julies Bicycle has launched a green action plan that offers a certification for organisations to get a green standard mark. Along with the London Green Theatre initiative and the forthcoming 'Green Screen' plan, the UK's creative industries are leading the way in adapting their practises to become sustainable.

The Industry Green Standards© Framework Standards are based on international standards and determined by overarching guidance provided by PAS 2050 and the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol. They fit into a framework which includes existing standards relating (such as BS8901, ISO140001).

It makes a lot of sense to make greening the creative industries a priority, even if they aren't the most egregious users of energy or polluters. Anna Beech, sustainability manager of the Arcola Theatre told me "the creative industries can be one of the most innovative players in climate change issues as we have the media power to communicate climate change to our audiences..."

The new guide, jointly published with the Mayor of London, is an important new practical aide for the music industry to take action on climate change and reduce carbon emissions from the music industry.

Details of the standard mark


Saturday, 14 March 2009

Darsham to Saxmundham

Darsham to Saxmundham 11 km

Note: This cycle route is also travelled by the 521 service operated by Anglian Buses.

0.0 km From Haw Wood Farm campsite head northwest towards A12 main road.

0.7 km turn left (heading south) at the A12/Little Chef towards Ipswich.

1.0 km pass the right turn for the Bramfield/A144 road to reach Halesworth.

1.5 km the first left turning of Lymballs Lane offers a quicker route to the pretty village of Westleton and the ancient city of Dunwich, now almost entirely lost to the sea, and its beaches and coastal rides.

2.3 km ‘The Street’ on your left is signed for The Fox Inn 01728 668436 which is a popular pub and weekend lunch spot offering roasts and all the trimmings etc. The 521 bus serving Leiston and Beccles stops outside The Fox Inn.

Opposite the turning for The Street on the A12 is the White House, a Georgian farmhouse also offering B&B. From here the A12 starts to descend towards a level crossing 1 km ahead.

The Street leads into Darsham proper. 200 m east past The Fox Inn is Priory Lane and 300 m north of that on Priory Lane is Byways Bicycles 01728 668764 offering a full range of services for the cyclist including hire.

700 m from The Fox Inn east along The Street is All Saints Church, Darsham, a pretty mediaeval church with Romanesque details sited beside some traditional cottages.

The name of the village of Darsham derives from Deores Ham; home of the deer. This name is borne out by early reference to local roadways as chaseways. There was hunting in this area as late as the 18th century.

At 3.0 km Lily's Pantry/Jet Petrol/Londis/Smith & Wesby 01728 668228 are all under the same management providing a petrol station, locally sourced groceries and general supplies and hot food to eat-in and take away. The petrol pumps are not 24 hours and the air line requires coins.

The fields opposite the petrol station were the site in WW2 of RAF High Street, an early radar station part of Chain Home which originated at Bawdsey Manor, in Suffolk.

The radar station had four 240ft receiving towers made from wood and five 360ft transmitting towers made of steel. The wood towers stood in a close formation and the remains were blown up in the 1960’s.

3.10 km Darsham train station is on the East Suffolk line and enables a return to Halesworth in under ten minutes. The old station house is now The Country Centre, run by The Woodcraft Folk and is available for hire to accommodate groups of up to 22 people. Also on the station forecourt is the Halfway Café, reportedly a motorcyle friendly transport caff, so called because it is halfway between Ipswich and Lowestoft.

From here the road climbs out of dip for the level crossing. When you reach the crest of the hill, there is another lane on your left that could take you to Westleton & Dunwich as well.

From the top it is possible to coast into Yoxford although take care with your speed as the road begins a series of bends and at 4.3 km there is dangerous right hand bend at the junction of the B1122 Middleton Road where traffic from your left has a habit of pulling out in front of cyclists and the road narrows on the bend.

It is worth being assertive with your road occupation (i.e. get into the middle of the lane) as a vehicle overtaking you here could then force you into the kerb if they encountered something coming the other way from around the blind corner. For my own safety, I usually hop onto the pavement here.

Although you are probably to busy with traffic to notice; on your right at this corner are two attractive houses; Satis House, a hotel and restaurant, and Cockfield Hall.

Cockfield Hall is a grade 1 listed private house standing in 40 acres of historic parkland, dating from the 16th century.

It is no ordinary Tudor and Jacobean manor, but, according to the Times Newspaper, and Wikipedia, what the historian Sir John Summerson called a prodigy house — a mansion designed to entertain the monarch.

Sir Arthur Hopton who built a large Tudor house here was knighted for valour at the Battle of the Spurs in 1513. He was present at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520, attended the coronation of Anne Boleyn in 1533 and the christening of Prince Edward in 1537. As heir also to vast estates in Yorkshire, he was called to play a major role in quelling the Catholic rebellion in 1536. Two years later the Henry VIII granted him the dissolved Priory of Blythburgh in Suffolk and he entertained the king at Cockfield at least once.

His son Sir Owen, as Lieutenant of the Tower of London, had a rather different “royal” visitor, Lady Katherine Grey, sister of Lady Jane Grey; the latter was briefly proclaimed queen in 1553 but was executed by Mary Tudor. Katherine was imprisoned first in the Tower of London and finally at Cockfield, where she died within a year and is buried in Yoxford church.

Sir Owen sold Cockfield and in 1597 it was bought by Robert Brooke, an alderman of London whose son, succeeding in 1600, had even loftier ideas and remodelled the house in grandest Jacobean style to receive James I. From the Brookes, Cockfield passed to the Blois family (pronounced Bloyss) in the 1690s, owners of extensive estates in both Norfolk and Suffolk.

Cockfield would never have survived as a private house after 1945 had the Luftwaffe not secured a direct hit on the south wing, destroying 42 rooms and making the house a more manageable size.

Rock star Gene Simmons (lead singer of Kiss) stayed at Cockfield Hall for several months in 2005 while filming the TV series Rock School at Kirkley High School in Lowestoft. An omelet named after him is on the menu at the nearby King's Head. Simmons taught the pub’s cook how to make the chicken, bell pepper and egg white omelet with no butter.

Satis House and Cockfield Hall are reputed to be connected. The hall was the home of the Blois dynasty for over 400 years. Sir Charles Blois (died 1850) is said to have installed one of his mistresses in Satis House across the park. Tradition says that he excavated a tunnel between the two houses so he could make his nightly visits in comfort and security. When the army took over both buildings during World War Two, they're said to have found the entrance to the passage at Satis House but sealed it up again. Unfortunately for this idea, the Hall stands right next to the Minsmere River and the land is so low-lying that the original 16th century Hall was actually built on wooden piles. There’s actually no chance even of a cellar here.

At 4.5 km by the Kings Head, Suffolk’s first “smoke free pub”, the A12 meets the A1120 which is signed as a tourist route westwards to Stowmarket.

350 m along the A1120 which is Yoxford’s main street is Horners 01728 668336, a late opening shop with fresh bread, fruit & veg, groceries, off-licence and a DVD library. Historic Yoxford is worth browsing as it has many attractive buildings, some interesting shops and galleries and quality dining. Main’s Restaurant is a ‘relaxed’ eatery providing affordable meals from locally sourced ingredients.

Behind Yoxford’s St Peters Church (dating from around 1400) is a small industrial building prominently signed ‘Freedom Works’. This libertarian declaration houses a school for flautists and is a venue for the annual Yoxford Arts Festival each August. Next to it, motor mechanic David Parsons 01728 668210 specialises in restoring classic English cars. The village hall hosts a flea market 9 AM - 1 PM on Saturdays with an eclectic mix of vendors, some arty and crafty stalls along with the knick-knacks and WI offerings.

Leaving Yoxford’s charms behind, the A12 is wide and flat and traffic remains slowed to 30 MPH for another 300 m where it then increases inexplicably to 50 MPH (up to March 2009 it was 40 MPH) for the next 1.8 km until you reach the national speed limit sign at the turning for North Green.

At 5.7 km there is a picturesque stand of oak trees (at least I think so) against the wide open Suffolk skies which I’ve been meaning to capture at sunset for some time. From here it’s a boring but thankfully brief 2.5 km slog as the road climbs gently and crests with a level stretch at the sign for Kelsale.

Near here a sign points right to Laurel Farm Herbs just off the A12. Established in 1985 by Chris Seagon, Laurel Farm is one of the leading herb nurseries in East Anglia selling to the retail trade via mail order or personal callers. Chris grows all his plants cold in peat free compost without artificial heating or chemicals.

At 7.5 km a cycle path begins on the southbound side of the A12 for 250m up to the left turning for Saxmundham, signed B1121/Carlton Park. Take this left and about 200m further, after a short climb, the second turning on your right - Rosemary Lane - will be signposted for Tower Plants 01728 603142 with opening hours an on/off schedule of Monday/Wednesday/Friday 10.00am - 4.00pm, Sat/Sun 2.00pm - 5.00pm.

The tower itself is an old windmill built in 1856 by John Whitmore and was worked by wind until about 1905 when a steam driven roller plant was installed. The mill was originally worked as a group of three with a nearby large post mill and a steam mill housed in the building adjoining the tower.

Carlton-cum-Kelsale has plenty of interesting buildings and a church worth exploring and the Poachers Pocket, 01728 602174 is a traditional real-ale family pub providing a garden and lunches and evening meals.

Continue south for another 3 km on the B1121 past housing developments and the Carlton Park Industrial Estate on your right where the road levels off and soon you will see the town signs for Saxmundham proclaiming it was the winner of Anglia in Bloom in 2005. Here the road narrows a bit just before the rail bridge because of parked cars.

At 10.4 km you have reached the end of the journey and arrived at Saxmundham opposite the old telephone exchange and the marketplace (market day is Wednesday). Station Approach on your right (due west) leads, naturally, to Saxmundham railway station 250m further along. Saxmundham has many interesting shops and services and a Somerfield supermarket that is soon to become a Waitrose.


Friday, 13 March 2009

Don't let the wheels fall off sustainable transport initatives.

For almost a year now I have been cycling 15 miles to work along the A12. On one of my first forays to find the optimum route I tried using this cycle path signed alongside the A12 at the B1121 turning to Saxmundham. Alas, I got cut to bits by brambles overhanging the path and progress was so slow avoiding the root eruptions and vegetation in the tarmac, I have avoided it ever since.

I hoped that someone would notice this and at some time the highways department or whoever is responsible would do something. I was being naive, wasn't I?

After a year of passing it every day and seeing nothing done, I decided to take some action. I posted a report on Fix My Street, which was duly sent to the relevant bodies but it has had no response. I have since forwarded it to Sustrans who have alerted their area manager. A few days ago the sign marking the cycle path fell over as the base has rusted through. Perhaps if someone cycles into it and breaks their neck there will be an investigation.

I wondered though, why on earth is this cycle path here anyway? It is evidently not of any useful length and so qualifies as one of the ironically called 'facilities of the month'. It's quite apparently not really a cycle path at all but just a footpath hurriedly designated as a cycle path.

Was creating a 300 metre cycle path some sort of boondoggle, so the SCC can then proudly claim to have instigated cycle paths for their 'green' credentials, which are so important for securing further central govt. funding now?

I am all for local govt. providing such facilities for cyclists but it strikes me as absurd that after spending the money to install this cycle path, nothing is spent or done to maintain it afterwards so that it becomes useless. This is a colossal waste of money. Cycle routes and sustainable transport cannot really be created in a piecemeal fashion nor are they 'set and forget'.

It appears that transport planners are now hoping to use parking charges to fund further sustainable transport initatives. I hope they think carefully about the long term management of whatever they come up with before wasting that funding all over again. The local bus companies might want to take up my suggestion (alongside one for a Blyth Valley cycle path) of putting cycle racks on buses so that buses as well as trains can become part of a chain of sustainable transport modes. According to the CTC (despite the USA's litigation climate) 25% of the United States' bus fleet carries bikes on racks on the front. There is now a service in Wales aimed at the recreational user which has put racks on the back of the buses.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

A cycle ride between the art, history and local services of Halesworth and Darsham.

This was written for the benefit of the High Tide Theatre Company

From: The Cut, New Cut, Halesworth, IP19 8BY
To: Haw Wood Farm, Darsham IP17 3QT

Distance: 5.4 miles, 9.18 km

Although the majority of this route is along a main road which HGVs travel between Ipswich and Norwich, the upside is that the road is smooth and wide with gentle climbs and descents. It should take a moderately fit person less than half an hour to travel by bicycle between the site of the High Tide festival at The Cut, Halesworth and the festival's campsite at Darsham.

On leaving the entrance to The Cut, head north (uphill) on New Cut and turn left at the A144/Norwich Rd, going downhill towards the roundabout.

But if your tyres need some air, turn right to Hammonds petrol station instead as this is the only local petrol station with a free air line.

Go straight ahead (second exit) over the roundabout onto Saxons Way. (The third exit Bridge Street leads to The Thoroughfare, a pedestrian shopping area.) A shopfront on Bridge Street belongs to the World Land Trust, an international conservation organisation that takes direct action to save rainforest and other wildlife habitats by buying it. The public library is almost opposite it.

On the roundabout on your left is Hooker House, once the home of the botanist Sir
Joseph Dalton Hooker which is now a dental surgery. Behind it the park on your left was given to the town by Lady Rugby, the grandmother of disgraced MP Jonathan Aitken who spent his childhood in Halesworth. This is the site of the annual ‘Gig in the Park’ every August.

The river running through the park was once navigable until embankments built downstream caused it to silt up and there was a busy quayside where grain from the many maltings in Halesworth (of which The Cut was one) was taken by boat to Southwold and from there by ship to London. At one time all of Halesworth's malt went exclusively to the Truman brewery in London's Brick Lane.

The car park on the right has a rank of bottle banks and beside them is Huggy's, a cycle shop and motor mechanic.

At the next roundabout continue on ahead. (The right turn is signed Angel Link and leads to The Thoroughfare and the town Marketplace.)

The road now sweeps in a curve to the right. Lansbury Road on the left is named after the founder of the Labour Party George Lansbury (see Mells). Archaeological evidence suggests the derelict land on the right was occupied in medieval times with lead-working, spinning, weaving and brewing carried out in several tenements. It is now the
contested site of a development for a Tesco supermarket.

At the next roundabout take the first left A144/London Rd. On the right is a Co-operative supermarket and a petrol station with a coin-operated pressure washer. Facing the roundabout is the Rifle Hall, originally built in 1792 as a theatre and was used from 1812 - 1844 by the theatre manager David Fisher. He owned an itinerant theatre group which travelled a circuit of theatres in East Anglia (including the Fisher Theatre in Bungay). It would take the company two years to complete the circuit travelling with their costumes, props and sets and publicising their plays as they went. They were highly successful with strong links with the London stage and the acting circle and the Rifle Hall once provided Halesworth what The Cut does today. The Rifle Hall has regretfully been neglected by Waveney District Council ever since they took it over in 1974 and its future looks uncertain.

Continue up the incline, mindful of the T-junction with the B1123 Chediston St causing traffic to stop or pull out in front of cyclists, passing Kerridges car dealership, and after that, turn left (heading south) at the A144/Bramfield Rd (at Highfield Residential Home). The road then sweeps downhill passing Blyth industrial estate. A cottage that once stood at the crossroads for Mells and Walpole was the birthplace of the founder of the Labour Party
George Lansbury. His grand-daughter is the actress Angela. The Mells road continues onto Wenhaston and this is a good route if you want a quiet back road to see the Wenhaston Doom. In the distance to the east along the valley you can also see the Holton Windmill.

At the 2 km mark, the road climbs again as you pass the
Halesworth Golf Club, crossing over the East Suffolk Railway, until it reaches a plateau. The trees at the right bend in the road have seen two fatal car accidents here in the last two years. A memorable road safety poster said "you see a lot of flowers in the country" and the remnants of wreaths were still there at the time of writing. To give a sense of distance if contemplating a side trip; to the east on the far horizon can be seen the Hinton Lodge water tower and next to it is Blythburgh Church, one of the finest churches in East Anglia.

The road then begins to descend towards the village of
Bramfield and with enough initial speed it is possible to coast to the centre of the village.

After the village sign, a short way up the first left turning is K W Clarkes, a quality butchers who produce local ham smoked on the premises as well as stocking locally sourced groceries.

After that turning, the North Manor Equestrian Centre stock the surrounding fields with horses and beyond that, The Bell, a 17th century pub, sells firewood and serves real ale but not food. It is one of the last places in the world where the traditional pub game ‘Ringing the Bull’ can be played.

Further on the
Bramfield Garage services and sells secondhand cars and motorcycles. Opposite the garage is the Queens Head, a long established award winning gastro-pub. Even though it is now only 5 kms since you left The Cut, you may want to slake your thirst from passing the half-way mark with a pint of locally brewed Adnams there. Nearby an overgrown dovecote made from a barrel raised on a post is a charming oddity.

At the village crossroads a choice of diversions awaits: The Walpole road to the right passes a crinkle-crankle wall and leads to the fine
St Andrews Church.

In the opposite direction; a short way down the Thorington road, a path following the ancient Dunwich road leads to circle of felled elm trees at TM 403 736 which often holds outdoor performances. The landowner is the managing director of a display pyrotechnics company who has evidently done extensive and sensitive natural landscaping.

The Thorington road also leads to Wenhaston and a ride to there and back to Holton and Halesworth via the Mells road is a pleasant circular route.

Continuing out of the village, an ancient defensive earthworks, the ‘Bramfield Castle’, becomes apparent on the left side. The road now divides two separate estates. On the right; the Georgian façade of Bramfield Hall can be glimpsed. This Tudor pile is the weekend home of the chairman of the Royal Opera House.

The road begins to climb again and here the surface has deteriorated in some places. A cast iron milestone is at TM 401 727 and near here a large colony of rooks makes an audible landmark that car drivers would miss.

Then on the right,
Brights Farm raises organic meat and is a special area of conservation. From the farm you can access twelve miles of grass walks passing a variety of different habitats including old meadows, ancient woods and ponds. Polocrosse is sometimes played in the fields too.

On reaching a flat plateau again, passing two WWII pillboxes marks the last kilometre. The vista is marred or enlivened depending on your mood by the sight of the A12 road and the whiff of a poultry farm.

At the junction with the A12, to reach Haw Wood Farm turn left towards the Little Chef restaurant and then turn right (signed for Hinton) and continue on, passing the turning for High Lodge golf course and shooting school, to reach Haw Wood Farm.

Otherwise, to continue onto Saxmundham, turn right at the A12 and continue on the cycle path towards the train station and petrol station which will become visible 2 km further south.

Darsham has all the basic essentials for a bicycle visitor including a
cycling centre and The Fox Inn is popular for Sunday lunches. A bicycle will ensure all its amenities are convenient as they are scattered over some distance.

Clustered around the train station 2 km further along the A12 from the A144 junction are two cafés, a Jet petrol station with a market, Monkey Drum; a shop selling multicultural musical instruments and fair-trade gifts, a paint and tile shop and a automotive tyre centre.

If you want to return to Halesworth by public transport, your choices are the train from Darsham which takes under ten minutes but only runs every two hours or the hourly 521 Anglian Bus which stops outside the station and The Fox Inn on which so far folding bikes have been tolerated.

Local Bike Shops


Coopers (an ironmongers selling tools but no bike spares)
53-54 The Thoroughfare
01986 872 110

Huggy's Bike Shop

Unit 5
18 The Thoroughfare
Tel: 01986 873932


Byways Bicycle
Priory Farm
Tel: 01728 668764

Mountain Bike Hire for Snape and Rendlesham forests (delivery and collection to your door with 24 hours notice).

Avocet Sports

07706 479965


Another map link: http://www.mapmyrun.com/route/gb/halesworth/959027424273

Services in Halesworth

Besides The Cut, services in Halesworth cluster around the Thoroughfare and The Marketplace, both a short walk from the New Cut. Halesworth has a wide range of shops including specialist butchers, a fishmonger, a delicatessen, a organic shop, several greengrocers, a toyshop, several giftshops, an ironmongers, several cafes, a picture framer, a teddy bear emporium, several banks and building societies, a travel agent, a sports shop, a Spar, two newsagents, three hairdressers, a gun shop, a wine merchant, a copy shop, a stationers, chemists and several takeaways. There is also a Co-operative supermarket and several petrol stations and car dealerships locally.

For bike related items there is Huggy's and Anglia Sports has some clothing and Coopers is hardware shop with good tool department but it doesn’t stock bike bits.

Barclays and Lloyds cashpoints are in the marketplace (beyond the Thoroughfare, opposite the Angel Hotel) and HSBC has one at the north end of The Thoroughfare opposite Focus Organics.


Monday, 9 March 2009

A12 road blackmail

Suffolk Coastal MP John Gummer has stated he'd only back another nuclear power station at Sizewell if the A12 road was upgraded.

Those with long memories will recall that the first round of A12 improvements came with the same trade-off. The A12 was improved between Ipswich and Yoxford as it was expected the workers needed to build Sizewell A and B who did not live in temporary housing at Leiston would come from Ipswich or Woodbridge.

In practise, workers found they could rent for much cheaper in Lowestoft than Ipswich or Woodbridge so all the commuter traffic to the site came along the unimproved roads.

If we turn the argument around, what Gummer is saying is Suffolk will get the A12 improvements everybody wants, if we agree to have yet another power station at Sizewell.
In that case, they can stuff the empty promises which report after report has already recommended with urgent haste and were promised long before SCC de-trunked the road from the Highways Agency with yet more promises it would ensure improvements.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Mad Man Marr

Is it just me or does anyone else notice that when political journalist Andrew Marr speaks, sometimes weird expressions flash across his countenance, as if his face was about to transform into some hideous beast but then his expression recomposes itself into one of earnest attention?
Is he actually an alien like in Men In Black and every now and then the force field manipulating the photons emanating from him into the illusion of a humaniod has a power surge? It's something our PM Gordon Brown does as well, along with that annoying jaw drop-then-gulp tic he has. It's a shame, once you see it you can't stop noticing it.
Perhaps it is Andew's inner psyche telling us through his body language "I hate listening to these liars". Although I noticed this lately when he was talking to Roger Daltrey about his fundraising for a cancer charity on the BBC website so perhaps it was a response to Daltrey's ever increasing dullness as an interviewee over the years. Suddenly Andrew turns aside and makes a hideous leering grin to the camera, then turns back and carries on. It's subliminaly quick and difficult to capture but watch this clip a few times at 3 minutes 40 seconds and tell me what you think.

Monday, 2 March 2009

Electric bike shop up for green award.

One of my clients, the Leiston based Light Electric Vehicles, has been short listed in the Creating the Greenest County awards under the category Business transport.

The Creating the Greenest County Awards Ceremony is being held on Wednesday 18 March at the West Wing in Ickworth House, Bury St Edmunds.

FWIW I'd like to sound my endorsement to LEV getting an award. The owner James Fitzgerald is a former racing car engineer who has become a passionate advocate for electric bikes and has a vision we should be listening to.

Although I don't own an electric bike yet, I figure when my legs get too old to push me along on my
Dahon folder, I'll be getting one too.

I have seen a lot of misunderstanding about electric bikes bandied about in the press and on blogs lately. These machines can massively increase your range without being huge and heavy (I very much doubt James' Sparta pictured is any heavier than an old Pashley) because they provide 'power assist' where electronics deliver juice from a Li-ion battery to a motor to take the edge off the hills and enable you to speed along on the level with very little effort. If they were fully powered, they would be electric motorbikes and would need road tax, helmets etc. I've tried these bikes and they work. A trip of 30 miles seems like trip to the store and back. In Suffolk you can now
hire one of their bikes and use a network of charging stations for free.

Suffolk County Council are thoughtfully putting on some coaches for people to travel to the awards ceremony (it would be a bit foolish if they didn't consider the carbon footprint of all those trips to Ickworth for a beanfeast) but I know James will be making the trip on his bike. He makes the following calculation for travelling from Leiston to Ickworth:

James will thus save £1.75 in fares, 31kg of CO2, and have a couple of hours to work (read: snooze) on the train.

James says It’s always interesting to see how this would pan out on a national scale (LEV’s long term aim): If the entire population were to make this sort of journey by trainebike once, it’d save 1.519Mt of CO2, or 44% of the NHS’s entire transport related emissions.

With the governments’ commitment towards reduction of green house gas emissions, electric bikes are becoming very popular in Europe, where 124,000 were sold last year alone. Estimates put this years figure at 750,000 units!. Electric bikes stand out among many sustainable transport products because they allow individuals to travel when they want and where they want. Most rail companies allow them to travel free. Ebikes could be the biggest contributor to reducing the UK’s green house gasses: *assuming current UK nuclear, coal and gas energy mix, and excluding renewables, ebikes emit only 0.0036Kg per kilometer. Government figures (SQW, Nov 2007) put the monetary value for each additional cyclist travelling 8km 160 days a year at £560 (combined benefits of improved health and reduced pollution and congestion).