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The changing of the seasons

Category: General

Date: 03.10.2016

Time: 11:20

Trees have been given a new palette of colour, from vibrant reds to vivid oranges and flashes of brilliant yellows. With a sea of woolly hats, scarfs and gloves… but “hold on, hold on” I’m still in a t-shirt with the windows wide open! Ok, so it’s not autumn just yet but the changing seasons are fast approaching and before you realise it autumn has passed and winter is with us.

It’s not too long before we change the clocks. The nights are now longer than the days and remarkably trees are able to sense this loss of light due to chemical light receptors within their leaves. Trees can detect day-length changes by as little as half an hour and when the receptors are triggered the tree’s leaves begin to undergo chemical and physical changes that will produce all the vivid colours seen during the autumn season. 

So what is happening? (In a condensed version):

Chlorophyll is a green pigment that allows plants to absorb sunlight and turn it into food that can be stored for winter. While trees are in leaf they will create chlorophyll as fast as they use it up, allowing the leaves to stay green. But as the days shorten this process begins to slow down and the production of chlorophyll is reduced until, finally, it stops altogether. This is due to the fading light and decreasing temperatures, which trigger the tree’s eventual dormancy period.

As the chlorophyll draws back, other pigments begin to appear like carotenoids that will produce yellows and oranges. This pigment is present throughout the growing season, however it is masked by the stronger green pigment within the chlorophyll. Once chlorophyll has reduced the carotenoids then come into their own and give leaves a new burst of colour.

However, this is not the only pigment involved in this process. We have another called anthocyanins that produce reds and browns, not only adding colour but also helping to lower the leaf’s freezing point. This gives some vital protection from the cold, allowing the leaves to remain in place for longer, thus giving more time to absorb vital nutrients to send into storage for the winter months ahead.

The precise timing of the colour shift is genetically controlled while weather and soil moisture can affect the quality of the autumn colours. A summer drought can delay the changes in the leaves by a few weeks while a warmer spell will tone down the autumn colours.

As all of the above takes hold, head outside, take in as much colour as you can, collect those remaining apples from the trees and enjoy my favourite season: autumn.

Simon Belham is the Forest for Peterborough Project Officer.




Category: Public/Communities

Date: 30.09.2016

Time: 10:43

For the last couple of months I’ve been working on a Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT) engagement project. The idea behind this piece of work is to ask people their opinions about our city: including what’s good, what’s not so good and what they think we should focus our energy on here at PECT.

Any campaign like this needs a hashtag these days and ours is #Proud2BPeterborough. Why? Well we think there’s a lot to be proud of in our city – sure, it’s not perfect, but where is? And we hope that by asking the question ‘What makes you proud?’ it will compel people to think of what it  is about this place we call home that makes us want to live here, in this small city on the edge of the fens.

Peterborough seems to me to be a place that doesn’t always take pride in itself. Anecdotally I hear people complaining about the place, the lack of nightlife, litter on the streets, homeless people and beggars and so on. These are also some of the issues that are coming up on the survey we’ve been asking people to take and on our social media.

Sure Peterborough faces some big challenges, and its important that these are recognised and addressed but unfortunately none of us has a magic wand where we can magically just wipe away all the problems we face and most, if not all, of the city’s issues are the same type of challenges that any growing urban space faces.

That said, we feel it’s really important to find out people’s opinions so that we can make sure that people are heard and that our future agenda responds to their concerns. We must try to actively seek solutions where possible by working together with other organisations in the city and most importantly with the people who live here. This piece of work isn’t the answer, instead it’s the first question, the first step towards understanding what we should be doing to help Peterborough become an even better place to live, work and play.

I did an interview with BBC Radio Cambridgeshire about our campaign and it prompted me to think about what makes me proud. I started writing a list, and it just kept growing and growing! First I thought about the wonderful natural spaces we have; including Ferry Meadows, the Embankment and the river, the nature reserves, the woodlands, and our great community growing spaces like The Green Backyard, the Olive Branch and WestRaven community garden.

There’s also our beautiful buildings, like the Cathedral and the Guild Hall to name just two, visitor attractions like Sacrewell Farm and Flag Fen. Did I mention the pubs? There are some great new independent micro breweries that have recently opened up: Stoneworks and the Bumble Inn, and there’s Charters of course. In the area where I live the Coalheaver’s Arms and the Palmerstone Arms are both great traditional pubs where you always receive a warm welcome and a great pint!

I could go on and on about the great places in the city but thinking about what makes me really proud, what really rocks my boat about this town is not the growing number of great venues or all the summer festivals – it’s the people.

I’ve been so lucky over the last few years working at PECT to meet and work with people from all over the city who are doing a fantastic job of making this a better place to be. I’ll give you just a few examples (the list is so long I couldn’t possibly mention everyone): the Rivercare group who regularly go out and clean up the banks of our river, the Nene Coppicing and Crafts group at Bretton who have been bringing the woodlands at Bretton back into use, the WestRaven Big Local residents who are working tirelessly to open a community café and garden, and all of  the people who give up their weekends and evenings to attend meetings, put on events, work in charity shops and soup kitchens.

These people and the hundreds like them across the city have something in common - they see what needs to be done and get on and do it. If there’s litter to be picked up they pick it up, and if there’s a way to bring their community together they’ll find it.

As Communities Team Manager at PECT it’s been my privilege and great pleasure to work with the people of our city over the past few years, and I’m truly grateful that they have given me cause to be proud of my city. I make no apologies for sounding sentimental and a bit gushing about this because it’s true, and I’d like to thank all the people working so hard to make this place a better place and ask others too to think about what can be  done to encourage involvement, build community, and become #Proud2BPeterborough.       

Karen Igho is Communities Team Manager at Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT). Please do get involved and let us know your thoughts by filling in the survey here.



The accidental gardener week two - The Big Web

Category: Education

Date: 26.09.2016

Time: 11:05

Life is all about relationships.  So is gardening.  Plants, humans, animals, the earth and the elements are all interconnected in a complex web, each component playing its own crucial role in its success. This is the principle of permaculture.  It's common sense really, but somehow over the years, we seem to have lost sight of what this is, eschewing the natural way of gardening for an easier option which is overly reliant on chemicals.

You may already know that plants need nitrogen to grow, but did you know that pea and bean plants draw nitrogen into the earth? The technical term for this is nitrogen fixing, but in essence, it means that if you plant peas and beans near other vegetables, they will act as a natural plant food, preventing the need for sprays and other artificial products. Something I will definitely keep in mind when planting next year’s vegetables.

I learnt last week that digging destroys the life in soil that worms have so kindly helped create. Apparently, when planting, we should dig a hole disrupting the bare minimum, followed by watering and mulching.  I’d heard of mulching, but never really understood just how important is it to gardening.  It is essentially a protective covering, usually of leaves or peat, preventing the evaporation of moisture, the freezing of roots, and the growth of weeds. This year, my xmas gift to my plants will be a warm, comfy layer of mulch!!

I’m very quickly learning that permaculture is not just a sustainable way of gardening, but it is a regenerative way of gardening, creating conditions to enable long-term growth and fertility. According to our course leader Simon, a soaking of water followed by some mulching, is a bowl of chicken soup for the earth. So, next time you're in the garden, give your plants some love and a warming bowl of chicken soup for the soul!

Kari-ann Whitbread is the Fundraising Manager at Peterborough Environment City Trust.



Rawlinsons has achieved its 75 charitable acts

Category: Business

Date: 23.09.2016

Time: 09:49

Recently I was excited to hear about the remarkable achievements of the Peterborough-based accountancy firm Rawlinsons in their commitment to complete 75 charitable acts in 75 days.

Rawlinsons has recently embarked upon 75 charitable acts to mark the milestone of its 75th anniversary. This involved employees from across the business joining in and bringing together their fundraising talents to raise money for the chosen charities over the course of 75 days throughout summer 2016.

The charities benefitting from this fundraising extravaganza included NSPCC Peterborough Business Support Group; Shine; Sue Ryder Thorpe Hall Hospice; Macmillan Cancer Support and the Peterborough Cathedral 900 Appeal.

Whether it was a 75-mile static bike marathon to a human hound race at the city’s greyhound stadium; a cathedral abseil; 75km walk and taking to the water for the annual dragon boat festival, the employees at Rawlinsons fully embraced the challenge. One member of staff with a particularly sweet tooth even took on the task of giving up biscuits and cakes for the whole 75 days – now that’s true commitment!

So what must have seemed like an impossible challenge, when the staff at Rawlinsons first set off on 1st June to raise their initial target figure of £7,500, was soon accomplished. In fact, the team managed to exceed this target by raising a remarkable total of £8,434.15, to include Gift Aid donations. 

As members of PECT’s iiE green business accreditation scheme, Rawlinsons has already achieved its Green Accreditation status, proving its ongoing commitment towards maintaining its environmental credentials. In addition to this, Rawlinsons was awarded overall Outstanding Achiever in the Small Business category at the iiE Green Awards earlier this year.

The 75 Charitable Acts truly goes above and beyond the normal fundraising efforts of many small firms and is a great model for other business to aspire towards. It is a fantastic example for other businesses to be inspired by; in particular those who are looking to improve their corporate social responsibility and give something back to their local community.

Michaela Anthony is the Digital Marketing Apprentice at Peterborough Environment City Trust (PECT).



The accidental gardener

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 19.09.2016

Time: 14:20

I never really understood people who raved about the joys of gardening. I just didn’t get it. What on earth could be fun about digging holes and pulling up weeds? The thought of reading a gardening magazine or watching Gardeners’ World was just unthinkable to me! That was until two years ago when I finally got a house of my own, complete with garden.

These past two years I have grown to love and really appreciate my garden. Slowly, I am getting to know its intricacies, and the habits of the creatures that visit it. The more I learn about it, the more respect I have for it.

Flowers that I have planted rather randomly have done their best to survive for me, even when I have not necessarily planted them in what would be their chosen locations.  My big learning this year was when I bought myself a vegtrug and tried my hand at planting vegetables for the first time.  I rather enthusiastically planted beetroot, carrots, cauliflower and spinach and completely overcrowded them… it was not a successful harvest. 

Recognising my limited knowledge of gardening, when I got the opportunity to volunteer for Headway Cambridgeshire and take part in a new gardening course at Thorpe Hall Hospice I jumped at the chance. Not only would I get the chance to learn various aspects of gardening from an experienced gardener and horticultural therapist but I would also learn how to support people with a disability to garden.

I will be learning alongside Headway clients who have experienced a brain injury, helping them to build their confidence and horticulture skills and already I can sense that this six month course is going to teach me way more than just how to sow a seed, or propagate a plant.

I have so much to learn and I feel sure my fellow volunteers will have plenty to teach me. I love gardening, but gardening with other like -minded people – who I feel pretty sure will all become friends by the end of the course – makes it all the more fun!

Kari-ann Whitbread is the Fundraising Manager at Peterborough Environment City Trust.

Kari-ann's garden