Friday, 14 December 2012

Hustings & Middlesbrough By-election 2012

The lively proceedings at the Friends of the Earth 2012 Middlesbrough Hustings went well, with members of the audience asking over 20 questions on topics ranging from education and services to employment and the environment. Six of the eight MP candidates were invited (left to right);  Imadad Hussain - The Peace Party, Mark Heslehurst - Independent, John Malcolm - Trade Union and Socialist Coalition, (Simon Bowens chairperson), Ben Houchen - Conservative, Andy McDonald - Labour and George Selmer - Liberal Democrats. 


Despite the terrible weather over 100 people made their way to the Hustings; the Environmental agency asked people not to make non essential journeys and I know that a number of "floating" voters, especially the elderly, decided they could not venture out. Our Friends of the Earth team came by bike, train, bus and car share (might be a film title in there somewhere!) We all encountered flooding. 

There were some excellent speakers and a chance to compare candidates side by side.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Hustings for Middlesbrough By-election 2012

photo from Redcar 2010 hustings

Friends of the Earth are to hold a public hustings at Saint Barnabas church,  Monday 26th Nov 7-8.30pm. Co-ordinator Rob Tucker said "This is democracy at work, voters should be able to speak, meet and question the candidates. We learnt a lot from hosting them in 2010 and were amazed at the turn-out.  Saint Barnabas church can seat over 300 people and we hope to fill the hall".

Friends of the Earth successfully held Hustings for the 2010 elections in Middlesbrough, Redcar and Darlington and gave voters their only chance to see the candidates side by side and put their own questions to the panel. At the Middlesbrough hustings over 130 people attended and in Redcar the room overflowed with people standing in doorways and isles.

Tree Planting

We have over 400 small trees to plant this November from the Woodland trust and are looking to plant them at local schools and other areas.  They are particularly suitable for wildlife.  This photo is  from our planting at Ormesby Hall.  If you want to get involved get in contact.

Bee Friendly - WIldflower meadows project

Our Bee Friendly campaign has resulted in a partnership with Coast & Country housing and it looks promising that we might have a £3-4000 project with a number of large and small wildflower meadow areas in the Spencerbeck region of Middlesbrough to improve forage for bees, butterflies, birds and wildlife.  We hope to include the local primary school.

Energising Britian - offshore renewable event

Held at Teesside university on October 19th this prestigious event hosted by Friends of the Earth, drew together about 30 people from business, politics and the environmental sectors to look at the job, contract and export benefits of the Dogger bank and Hornsea large offshore windfarms. Four grid connections will be coming onshore into Teesside April 2017 and £170 Bn will be invested nationally by 2020. 

Left to right. Simon Bowens (FoE), Stephen Pugh (TV unlimited), Gareth Lewis (Forewind), Jane Thomas (FoE), Ian Wright (MP), Kevin Rowan (TUC)

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Cycling through the wind farm

After reading so many negative letters in the press about wind farms I thought I would double check things. I decided to cycle through the new Seamer/Hilton wind farm on cycle route 65, just a few miles away from Hemlington.
I was a beautiful, crisp day and I used the Teesvalley Cycle path map, got a little lost, but enjoyed going round Hemlington lake with the fishermen and dog walkers, past the schools and through the Stainton Way underpass – into another world. Thornton is a tiny village, with quaint cottages and ancient churches, the smell of cow muck and honeysuckle your in the countryside! Turning right I cycled on into Maltby with its village hall, pub and expensive houses. Then back into hedged country lanes. I caught sight of them first over the hedgerows, quite small and had to zoom my camera in to photograph them. When I got onto the Seamer–Hilton road, which is also route 65, I cycled right through the turbines and the line of pylons that were already there.  

At the time of writing Oct 2012 the turbines are built but not operational yet. Although one can be seen from Hilton village High street I did not find it intrusive.

Bankfields windfarm exhibition

Banks Developments held an exhibition in Guisborough for the Bankfields wind farm a proposed six wind turbine scheme, on the hill ridge to the north of Guisborough with the road carriageway between them. A terrace row of about 15 houses “Mount pleasant” is over a kilometre from one of the turbines looking out uphill over back yards, which also includes an existing line of pylons. This is not major.
5 farms would be situated down hill close to individual turbines in the 600-800m range, although  it is likely that turbines locations will be changed. Not every farm has a dwelling and It looks like on cursory examination that these are not generally facing up hill and large farm buildings could also be in the way.  I am confirming this with Banks

Darlington Council Wildflower meadows visit

Darlington council, ecology officer visit
Rob visited several wildflower meadow sites and took Catherine Boyle from MEC and Michelle Johnston from Coast & Country housing along as well. Darlo council has over 3 years experience in planting meadows, and we saw several examples of different sites.

1 where there had been a survey in the 70’s with lots of wildflower varieties. This site was allowed to grow naturally without being cut every couple of weeks as normal. 50% of local varieties came up!
2. This site was sprayed off and then re-seeded with a grass/wildflower mix. The meadow was only cut once. Brown unsightly docks that came through were sprayed again. Sheep can be used to keep grass down. Farmers often used as contractors as grass has to be collected.
3. Beck area with houses close by. A large amenity area for playing football etc and a windy wildflower area, with a desire line by the beck. Got a lot of initial criticism but now neighbours very happy.
4. Area near nature reserve that extended the wildlife corridor. Areas for football, dog walking, had desire line paths and amenity stripes near roads so it looks cared for.

We really enjoyed the visit and learnt a lot!

Community Environmental Forum Redcar & Cleveland

Rob went along to give a small presentation on how councils can put in wildflower meadows that are Bee & wildlife friendly. Redcar & Clevelands area has so many large green areas that are really a bit boring and formless and the council could make a big difference by putting meadows in and it would not cost any more money!  

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Mr Blooms Nursery CBeebies TV programme

The Mr Bloom's Nursery children programme: Get Set, Grow Tour sees Mr Bloom and the Veggies take to the road with an exclusive live show. There will also be a host of fun and inspiring activities for families with children aged six and under.  Friends of the Earth are running a Bee friendly stall there Sunday 22 July, Ward Jackson Park (Hartlepool) - You can get tickets here

The activities are designed to help children learn about their living environment, how our food is grown, and the wonders of nature, by getting hands on with everything from worms to building bug hotels. There's also the chance to compete in the Veggie Games.

The Mr Bloom's Nursery The Get Set, Grow Tour will be at the locations below in July and August. Events will start at 10am and finish at 5pm. Entrance is free and everyone is welcome to take part in the activities, but to see Mr Bloom and the Veggies' live show, When Julian lost his Wiggle you will need to apply for free tickets.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Groups doing well

Friends of the Earth in Middlesbrough & Redcar are doing well, in fact we are looking to start a new Stockton group.  We are all meeting to get it off to a great start at;
Yarm Road Methodist Church, Yarm Road, Stockton  7pm Thursday 28th June
There are lifts available over to Stockton and this would be a great time to get involved as there will be a number of new people.  This year we have been campaigning to have more research done for bees, planted 420 trees, planted a Bee garden and are looking to liaise with councils to have more set aside wildlife/wildflower areas.

Monday, 14 May 2012

May meetings

We have a stall at Stewarts Parks Open day 1-5pm Sat 26th May. South Tees Friends of the Earth meeting 6.30pm Tuesday 29th May, Guisborough Library. Mbro & Redcar Friends of the Earth meeting 7pm Thurday 31st May, quaker meeting house, 131 Cambridge Rd, Linthorpe, Mbro TS5 5HL

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Bee-friendly campaign

40 people from as far away as Sheffield met at Darlington for a Friends of the Earth event “Bee prepared” planning a wonderful campaign about re-connecting with nature, bees and bio-diversity.

Bees are having a bad time at the moment with disease, pesticides and pollution causing colony collapse; there is lots of evidence to suggest that increasing forage (wild flowers, clover, hedging etc) and different sources makes bees more resistant to this. Over 97% of wild flower UK meadows have been lost.

Bees make £50m a year for the UK but if there were no bees to pollinate orchards, tomatoes, strawberries etc it would cost 1.8 BILLION a year to hand pollinate them as they have to do in some parts of China. "The way humanity manages or mismanages its nature-based assets, including pollinators, will in part define our collective future in the 21st century," said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director in an article for the Independent. "The fact is that of the 100 crop species that provide 90 per cent of the world's food, over 70 are pollinated by bees. Human beings have fabricated the illusion that in the 21st century they have the technological prowess to be independent of nature. Bees underline the reality that we are more, not less, dependent on nature's services in a world of close to seven billion people.”

We hope to make a major feature of the RHS “Britain in Bloom” contest which this years theme is “Wild about Wildflowers” and to try and push its Environmental responsibility core area. Locally Stockton-on-tees has won BiB twice and so it is likely that we can make a real difference. Also Mbro, Redcar and Stockton FoE have good links with all three councils, so things like mowing later in season, planting bee friendly flowers and some set aside areas could be achievable. Nationally we hope for some legislation.

One of the more fun things we plan to do is have an educational aspect to the campaign in schools and so our youngsters showed us how to make some costumes. So it is quite likely that you may see Friends of the Earth stall at a garden centre or park.

After the conference we went along to Darlingtons Grow zone, at Lingfield point, where Darlington Friends of the Earth have built a glorious allotment.

If you can help us in any way please step forward, there are active groups in Mbro, Darlington and we hope to start ones in other area meeting places!

Rob Tucker 01642-294580

Friday, 2 March 2012

Housing estate in Mbro gets Eco-makeover!

The Spencerbeck estate in Middlesbrough is getting an eco-makeover with new external cladding being installed from Ellerbeck way to Ainsworth Way. The insulation should save tenants £400-800 a year in lower fuel bills and for private homeowners add value to their house . “The house is 2-3 degrees warmer and there are no cold spots” a householder said, “the houses look brighter and cleaner as well”. The scheme is part of a deal with Coast & Country and an energy supplier which also includes topping up loft insulation and new gas boilers if needed.

Andy Cameron, project manager said “There are 52 people working on both the Spencerbeck and Bankfield sites mostly Middlesbrough & Redcar locals although some live further afield. We have had some delays due to cold weather affecting the adhesive, but we are cracking on. We hope to finish August/Sept this year”.

The 4 inch thick polystyrene like cladding is stuck to the wall and then secured by plastic screws encase of high winds. Several coats of render are then applied to a mesh and then finally a coloured waterproofing coat.

This re-investment in the area will mean new signage for the buildings and also improvements like the small parking walls tidied. Each home makeover is worth about £5-8000. “This will significantly reduce peoples fuel bills year on year and families carbon footprints BUT they need to turn down their thermostats and wear jumpers to adjust rather than opening windows and letting the heat out!” Rob Tucker of Friends of the Earth said.

There are no plans yet for the Overfields and Netherfields areas, which also have the same house type, but C&C and Erimus must be considering things.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Ormesby Hall tree planting, big success

Middlesbrough and Redcar Friends of the Earth and National trust volunteers planted free trees from the Woodland Trust this Wednesday, leap day, to improve native woodland cover for wildlife at Ormesby Halls cherry walk.

Adam Cracknell, Gardener & Warden for the National Trust said “we get a great deal of wildlife here from squirrels and field mice, to tawny owls and foxes. A real variety of different birds as well”.

Friends of the Earth co-ordinator, Rob Tucker said "Tree planting is a fantastic and fun way for us to do something lasting in our local area. We hope our trees will help attract even more wildlife and make a real difference to everyone who will see them. It's incredible to think that in just 5 years, our trees will be as tall as us!"

Hundreds of communities across the UK will celebrate with a public tree planting event, more are encouraged to follow this example by registering for a free tree pack for spring or autumn 2012 for their local area, as part of the Trust's Jubilee Woods Project.

Victoria Hodson from the Woodland Trust added: "We are delighted Friends of the Earth are using our free tree scheme to plant more trees at Ormesby Hall. Communities are growing their own fruits and food, creating shade and shelter, and providing new homes for wildlife as part of our Jubilee Woods Project to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, and we would love more communities to get involved."

Communities can take part by applying for a free pack at .