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Finding time to ‘go wild’ with kids

Category: General

Date: 15.06.2017

Time: 11:56

As you might expect from a PECT employee, I am fully on-board with the Wildlife Trust’s ‘30 Days Wild' challenge that encourages us to get out into nature every day. I am entirely convinced that my environmental roots were grown and nurtured by a childhood spent largely outdoors, first in the USA and then in the UK- camping, hiking, skiing, sailing, cycling and of course a lot of playing in back gardens and parks. As a parent myself now, I am keen to pass on this love of nature to my own children.

It was somewhat easier to make time for nature when the children were smaller and I was a full-time parent. Although I needed to be well-prepared, and had to learn to adjust my standard ‘efficient’ brisk pace to a much slower toddler’s pace, we whiled away many hours exploring local woods and parks, walking slowly, examining snails and insects, building pretend fires, climbing under and over branches, sitting on logs snacking and stretching our creative muscles in imaginary worlds and making ephemeral art.

These days we work around jobs and school, hobbies and housework and most days it is not possible to take such a relaxed approach to exploring our natural world. These days ‘going wild’ is more likely to be a snatched moment here and there, saving a dehydrated bee found on the school run, planting and watering seeds or checking to see if the tadpoles in our pond have sprouted legs yet.

I find the ‘30 Days Wild’ challenge a good reminder to look out for more of those moments and also to try and find time for some bigger adventures when you can. During the week, this might mean going a slightly longer route home from school so that we can stop at a park or go through the woods.

When we go via the woods we often go foraging. I have been on a few foraging training courses, including one put on by the Nene Park Trust, and I think it’s a fantastic way to engage kids with nature. It appeals to their primal instincts to gather their own little addition to dinner and is a very tangible demonstration of the value of nature. We’ve managed to forage elderflowers, wild garlic and wild rose petals this month, some of which gets eaten raw, and we add anything that makes it home to dinners and baking – wild rose chocolate muffins were a huge hit.

Weekends present opportunities for longer adventures. My current aspiration is to have a micro-adventure and take the kids wild camping, but I haven’t yet been brave enough to try on my own and my husband thinks it’s a terrible idea! Sometimes plans need to be scaled back rather than given up on entirely.

Last weekend we managed a 10-mile bike ride on the Green Wheel over to the Millennium Bridge (commissioned by PECT in 2000). Our 5 year old impressed us by doing the entire route on her own bike and without complaining! I find frequent and longer stops (I took a book to read to them during one stop) and plenty of snacks helpful when attempting longer routes with children.

For the rest of our ‘30 Days Wild’ challenge I will be aiming to learn some traditional woodland skills at the brilliant Heritage Festival in town this weekend, lay on the grass and look at the clouds, make a natural dream-catcher using willow, spend lots of time in my garden, make a mud kitchen and visit Ferry Meadows. The two natural playgrounds are always popular with children, along with the open den-building area behind Badger Park.

Hopefully this has given you some inspiration for your own ‘30 Days Wild’ challenge and there are plenty more ideas here: http://www.mywildlife.org.uk/30dayswild/.

Clare Watters is a Project Support Officer at Business Energy Efficiency Cambridge and Peterborough.



Art and the Environment

Category: General

Date: 14.06.2017

Time: 12:37

I am not an artist or an expert on art. I am, however, an expert on me and I know what I like, what I don’t and what affects me emotionally when I’m presented with a piece of work to view! I like sculpture, I particularly like Constantin Brâncusi and Jacob Epstein, my favourite piece is an Epstein busk of Einstein housed at the Fitzwilliam Museum. For me, this piece of work feels alive, I can see the glint in his eye and it’s the closest I can come to a feeling of knowing the subject.

I’ve been lucky enough in my role at PECT to be able to work with some fantastic artists over the last few years, from those involved in our Faith in the Environment  project, where people from the city’s faith groups made reflective art that was displayed in the community gallery at Peterborough Museum, to the fantastic work produced as part of our Arts Council England funding for the Green Festival.

My experience of working with the Green Festival artists has been very positive. The artists are all a joy to have around and I personally have found it interesting and stimulating to think about environmental issues in a creative way. The artists have broadened my concepts of art. It has been interesting to learn about each of the artists and their practices and to experience how each approached their work differently and applied their passion to the themes of the festival. 

In my role as Communities Team Manager at PECT this experience has lead me to thinking about different, more creative ways of working with my team, and to encourage them to work more creatively with those they engage with across other projects. I have also been able to work with the wider creative community in Peterborough, with organisations such as Metal, Peterborough Presents and Eastern Angles amongst others, which is fostering a cross pollination of the arts and the environment throughout the city.

For me the link between art and the environment is becoming intrinsic in helping us talk about and express how we feel about the issues we face because of the challenges of climate change. It can light the way to an understanding of these issues and to think about the changes we can make to make a difference without scaring ourselves into inaction.

Art and creativity offer a perfect format for engagement with the environment in a non threatening way, which allows us to work out for ourselves the actions we can take as individuals, and how we can encourage our families and communities to live more sustainably.  

For more information about this year's Green Festival initiative Planet B and the artist activities, see www.pect.org.uk/PlanetB.

Karen Igho is the Communities Team Manager at PECT.



'Big' ideas for 'Local' appetites

Category: Public/Communities

Date: 23.05.2017

Time: 16:35

I recently spent a morning that certainly wasn’t my usual morning in the PECT offices! Rather, I had the opportunity to experience the newly opened WestRaven Big Local Community Café, in Peterborough.
As a very much community-led initiative, the aim of the Big Local project is to help enable Westwood and Ravensthorpe become a better place in which to live.

Big Local is a long-term programme that aims to achieve long lasting change. It seeks to empower people who live in the area to build on local talents and aspirations so they can help make their neighbourhood an even better place to live, both now and for years to come.

It’s certainly hard not to miss the café with its colourful branding and logos embellishing the front window, with most people walking past taking an interest and glimpsing through its windows. The café is ideally located amongst a row of shops and amenities in Hampton Court, in Westwood.

Starting off with a tour of the café alongside the Community Development Worker Jen Orrell, I had the opportunity to see first-hand what goes on behind the scenes at the new café.

One of the first things that you can’t help but notice is the warm reception you receive from the friendly volunteers who make this a welcoming place for all to go. It was great to see the enthusiasm and commitment that everyone has from the outset of a day at the Big Local café.

Some of the fantastic areas I was able to explore at the café include a training kitchen, purposely made to be wheelchair accessible, a community area, which provides a space to facilitate training sessions and a youth space for young people to utilise with recording equipment available to use.

Other features of the café include artwork on the walls, which has been created by local artists, the tables and chairs made from recycled pallet wood by people from the local prison and also the healthy and locally-sourced food sold. 

There are lots of upcoming events taking place, including the Community ‘Meet and Eats’, which are £3 per person and are a great opportunity to bring together members of the community to eat and chat in a relaxed environment.

There has been a strong sense of community support, but the café is still looking for more people to volunteer. So if you have experience working in a catering environment and would like to dedicate some time to lend a helping hand, the café would love to hear from you!

If you are interested in getting involved and can spare some time as a volunteer, either running an event for the local community or helping out in the café please do get in touch by calling 01733 330040 or go to www.westraven.co.uk

Michaela Anthony is the Digital Marketing Apprentice at PECT.



The future of housing

Category: General

Date: 08.05.2017

Time: 10:13

I recently met a work colleague who asked me how I was getting on in my new role at PECT, as a plain talking engineer, my friend commented that he thought I would soon be a houmous eating vegetarian driving an electric car.

While I have driven an electric car, and may well yet purchase one in the future, I am not quite set for a vegetarian lifestyle just yet.

As a past development manager for several housing associations, I still have a desire to help and assist with the development of truly affordable housing that will allow people on a small income to be able to afford to buy their own home.

For the past nine years I have been working in my spare time to help develop an ICF (Insulated Concrete Formwork): imagine polystyrene blocks with a break in between, the opening can change from 4 inches up to 12 inches and is filled with concrete.

On the subject of sustainability, you do not have to travel far to find individuals that will argue that Timber frame is best or Passive House through to traditional brick and block, and now modular housing is the popular phrase.

When comparing building types, even the most ecologically friendly building type can be a “non-sustainable” building if built poorly, or the materials sourced cheaply, which in turn compromises the integrity of the structure. Generally speaking, if you have a modern “softwood” timber frame home, the manufacturer's guarantee will be from 10 to 40 years however the building should be durable for approximately 60 years.

Hardwood timber frames such as Oak, as can be seen by the fact that many of the old Tudor homes have been around quite some time, houses made from a traditional brick and block house are generally expected to have a lifespan of approximately 65 years, however the country has a lot of Victorian housing still in use.

Nowadays, when building with ICF, it is possible to use low carbon cement in the manufacturing process, and at this current moment in time research is active on viable “cementless” concrete. Some ICF manufacturers are getting close to being able to offer a minimum lifespan of 120 years on the product. As the concrete sets it forms a solid monolithic wall which allows the wall to maintain what is known as high thermal mass (stays warm in winter, and cool in summer), I see it as the future of high thermal mass housing that can offer a low energy solution.

ICF is quick to build and does not require extensive training, unlike some other building trades. The internal finishing still requires the normal trades, but the basic wall and roof can be completed in a fraction of the time that traditional building process does. Furthermore, the polystyrene forms will not rust or rot, they can be manufactured with an element of recycled polystyrene, making it more resilient against national disasters.

At the extreme, ICF buildings have survived tornadoes and are earthquake resistant due to the reinforcement that is included in the concrete. The polystyrene bricks that contain the concrete do not hold water, if an ICF house gets flooded; you simply chip the plaster and plasterboard off and re-skim. In a traditional or timber frame house, it would require months for the structure to dry out before any form of refurbishment could take place.

The ICF work is still in progress and I will continue to help and push it forward. I am of the belief that it could be one of the solutions to resolve the current housing shortage and think that there are many additional benefits of its use.

Although, as far as becoming a vegetarian goes, I am too fond of a naan donner kebab so don’t plan to change just yet! The electric car may become a reality in the next year or so…



Definition of a tree…

Category: General

Date: 04.05.2017

Time: 11:59

The definition of a tree is as follows:

“A woody plant with usually a single stem growing to a height of at least two metres, or if multi-stemmed, then at least one vertical stem five centimetres in diameter at breast height”.

My reason for the above quote is as follows, the first count of global tree species compiled by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) now reveals how many tree species are in existence!

It must have been very daunting to take on such a large project, but after two years of research via multiple sources, field trips and data records the figure shows there are 60,065 tree species in the world. Until now that figure was unknown. Head to the blog of Emily Beech, conservation assistant at (BGCI), to find out more: http://globaltrees.org/author/emilybeech/

A few interesting facts, for if you don’t want to click the link above to find out more; Brazil has the most tree species at 8,715, followed by Colombia at 5,776, and then Indonesia with 5,142 species as well as the most endemic tree species at 4,333, Madagascar is next up with 2,991, closely followed by Australia with 2,584.

Moving on to the UK, can you guess how many we have? We have a mere 84 different tree species! Well, I say we have the most amazing, beautiful and best in the world and size isn’t everything!

From the team over here at Forest for Peterborough HQ, I would like to say well done to all involved in the global tree search, it’s fantastic to see the results!

So, what have I been up to since my last blog? Well the answer is I’ve been out and about keeping myself busy tree planting (I am sure you had already guessed that). Luckily I’ve had plenty of help along the way from volunteers, members of the public, college groups, other volunteering organisations and multiple businesses from in and around the city of Peterborough.

It has been a busy season, but made so much more fun by all the helpers we have had join us on event days. I would like to give thanks to everyone who took the time to don a hat and gloves, grab a spade and a tree and helped out with the planting during our events. Thank you.

On a personal note, my partner and I are busy planning ahead in preparation for our first child. It all kicks of during the month of July, and we are both super excited, extremely happy, with just a pinch of apprehension – but I know this will be our biggest adventure yet! 

Now my focus turns to you! I need your help, because Forest for Peterborough needs to secure new pockets of land ready for tree planting during the 2017/18 season, which starts in October 2017. If you have or know anybody who has available land with an interest in creating a new woodland, forest, shelterbelt or wildlife copse please help spread the word in the hope of securing further planting sites.

Please contact me directly: Simon Belham, Forest for Peterborough Project Officer, on 01733 882545, or via my mobile 07715 372432 or by email at simon.belham@pect.org.uk.