Puddles and biodiversity

Puddles and biodiversity

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Ash leaves in an Autumn puddle

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Autumn puddles on a path – a perfect line for a child to run through

On today’s walk I decided it would be a slow journey exploring the delights of Autumn –leaves, berries and puddles. For some reason as I wandered along pausing to take photographs my thoughts began to wonder what could live in these puddles. After watching The Blue Planet and those of us of a certain age, Jaques Cousteau, we know what lives in oceans. For what lays lurking in lakes we have Jeremy Wade to thank. Any young child that has been pond dipping has fair idea what lives there. What about puddles? Has anyone studied what lives in a puddle? We all know that a puddle is a small pool of water formed usually by rainwater captured in a small depression. Young children know what to do with a puddle. Run and splash through them and have great fun in doing so. But what lives in a puddle?

Perhaps as I write David Attenborough is currently secretly filming a brand new series “Life in a Puddle” to fully complete his “Life on Earth” franchise. 

My reasoning for “What lives in a puddle?” is likely based on what I was reading a few weeks ago. This was Edward O. Wilson’s “The Diversity of Life” [1] and I was particularly fascinated in the “Biodiversity Reaches the Peak” chapter. Here the author informs us that we also need to look at small worlds in what he terms as “microwilderness”. In one of his examples of a microwilderness he wants us to picture a large beetle, a weevil is featured in the accompanying drawing, 50mm long living on the side of a tree. Then imagining as it walks around this trunk, which has a circumference of 5m, browsing on lichens and fungi. As it goes about doing the most important thing to exist, eating, it is scarcely aware of a much smaller world at its feet. This micro world has many dips and hollows in the bark of the tree which the weevil, due to its comparatively large size, negotiates without issue. However, in this undulating terrain there are beetles small enough to make it their home. They exist in a different scale of space. To these smaller beetles irregularities in this terrain are not trivial. As they crawl down the sides and climb back out of them, the circumference of the tree trunk is about ten times what it is for the weevil, which knows nothing of these tiny crevices. In this microwilderness the giant is the weevil and the surface of the trunk is 100 times greater for the smaller beetles than what it is for the weevil. This disparity translates into more niches as different crevices will have their own regimes of humidity and temperature. With this diversity a variety of combinations of algae and fungi have evolved on which these smaller insects can feed. Wilson then takes the reader even further and descends into the microscopic realm where he starts at the feet of these smaller beetles. Here he informs us that there are still smaller crevices and patches of algae and fungi too narrow for them to enter. Here the smallest insects together with amoured oribatid mites [2], measuring under a millimetre in length compete for this food source. Finally, these minute arthropods [3] stand on gains of sand lodged in algae films and rhiziods of mosses, and on a single gain of sand may grow colonies of ten or more species of bacteria. Scanning the geometry at this level reveals that this diminutive fauna live as if the surface of the tree trunk were a hundred times or more greater than the surface embraced by beetles the next size up, and a thousands times greater than the titan weevil occupying the apex of this particular environment.   

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An Autumn puddle – an ephemeral microwilderness

If this biodiversity has evolved to live on a small section of a tree trunk in a tropical forest what could live in a puddle in a temperate landscape? Whatever lives there will also need a survival strategy when the puddle dries up as in temperate environments puddles are an ephemeral microwilderness providing a transient dimension to support life.

Now what microwilderness lays below the surface of a puddle?

Note:

Walk took place on 21st October 2017

References:

[1] Edward O. Wilson; 1992; The Diversity of Life; Cambridge, Massachusetts; The Belknap Press of the Harvard University Press

Biodiversity Reaches the Peak” chapter pages relating to microwilderness as discussed in this article are on pages 207 – 209.

For details of the latest edition published in November 2010 with a New Preface: http://www.hup.harvard.edu/catalog.php?isbn=9780674058170 Accessed 22/10/17

[2] Oribatid mites: http://www.hutton.ac.uk/research/groups/ecological%20sciences/our%20science/orbatid-mites Accessed 22/10/17

[3] Arthropods http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Arthropod Accessed 22/10/17 Although front page shows last updated in October 2014 it provides links to a wealth of BBC film clips from their natural history programmes. How about a caterpillar that feeds on flies! There is one such species, it lives on Hawaii and a clip shows a caterpillar catching then devouring a fly.

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Slower Journeys

Slower Journeys

Logan Trail start Gotham

On our AIM Awards Access to HE Diploma in Health Professions course one of the key themes in the Health Promotion unit was to engage in physical activity. To this end several teams elected to plan, organise and deliver a health walk as a health promotion event. Here the method of delivery was a demonstration and an actual walk which took in The Forest Recreation Ground, venue for Nottingham’s famous Goose Fair, and the Arboretum was planned as the activity. The course measured 1.93 miles and not only did students state that it was a great physical activity they said that going though green spaces also gave them a sense of wellbeing.

The Tree in late Spring

The Ash tree in the centre of a field on Bunny Moor

Moving on from this walk I decided to organise a 10 mile countryside walk which provided a stretch and challenge activity to take place towards the end of the course. This walk would be over varied terrain using footpaths, bridleways, tracks and trails. To maximise student participation I decided to organise two opportunities for the walk. Also the walks would be used to help raise funds for the Nottingham Universities Hospitals ‘The Big Appeal.’

The walk starts and finishes in East Leake and the first section gradually ascends to Bunny New Wood then descends to Gotham Lane. The next leg follows Fairham Brook over Bunny Moor then heads west going through a former Great Central Railway bridge. After crossing a few fields the route goes along The Logan Trail which was originally a railway line built by the Great Central Railway serving the gypsum industry in the Nottinghamshire village of Gotham.  This leg ends on Leake Road and the next section crosses this road and continues along the western section of The Logan Trail.

Cuckoo Bush

Circling the Neolithic burial mound and site of the Cuckoo Bush near Gotham

A short distance the trail ends and crossing the road the path follows a bridleway which gradually steepens to gain the top of the hill and our lunch stop. After lunch we take the opportunity to visit the tumulus which is a Neolithic burial mound over three thousand years old. This is also rumoured to be the site of the famous Cuckoo Bush where the Wise Men of Gotham built a fence around a tree to prevent the Cuckoo from flying off so that spring will last forever. Unfortunately, this didn’t work as the fence wasn’t built high enough and the Cuckoo simply flew away. After crossing a field the route goes through the West Leake Hills wood and then follows tracks and rights of way to the village of West Leake where this leg ends at the church. A quick break for a drink and for the next section the route follows the Midshires Way ascending Fox Hill. Just before the top of the hill the final leg descends following the footpath to the footbridge and turning to follow Kingston Brook to eventually go through a railway tunnel. Exiting the tunnel  the route goes through Meadow Park to the car park and the end of the walk.

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The Tuesday team selfie at the end of the walk – I am second from the right

The main aim for the walk was for a slower journey to enable connections within the group and enable them to connect with nature and history during the activity. I planned the walk to take around five hours and the first walk was completed in 4 hours 19 minutes and the second one in 4 hours 57 minutes. The ambient weather for the duration of both walks was just perfect. Feedback from students was extremely positive and they all would like to continue with walking in countryside environments to promote physical activity and wellbeing. Both areas being beneficial to a life work balance especially in the careers they are pursuing in nursing and other health professions.

The day after the final walk I received the Summer 2017 issue of the Institute for Outdoor Learning’s ‘Horizons’ magazine. I was pleasantly surprised to read an article by Geoff Cooper under the title: #walking as a humble & subversive #activity which ended with the need to encourage ‘slower journeys’ that allowed for spontaneity, contact with people, enjoyment of nature and give them the chance to express their feelings and discuss issues of the day. I certainly feel that the two walks provided opportunities for all of these themes and this is further supported by the students positive accounts of these ventures.

Find out more about the Nottingham Universities Hospitals Trust’s: The Big Appeal

http://nottinghamhospitalscharity.org.uk/appeals/the-big-appeal/

Here is a link to my Just Giving page if you would like to make a donation:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Chris-Sweetman3

For information about the Institute of Outdoor Learning:

https://www.outdoor-learning.org/

My Scoop It site for health walks and the health benefits of walking:

http://www.scoop.it/t/health-walks

#walk1000miles the first 600 miles

#walk1000miles the first 600 miles

After seeing the Country Walking magazine’s #walk1000miles in 2017 challenge on Twitter I decided it would be worth giving it a go. However, it took  until the 3rd of January to make the start. Knowing that one needed to do 2.74 miles every day for 365 days to hit the target why didn’t I start on the 1st January? I devised a plan to keep me on target for each month based on the number of days in each month times 2.74 miles (see below).

So to commence the challenge on the 2nd January I planned what was to become my #WorkWalk. This was a 1.93 mile route that started and finished where I worked and went through two green spaces in Nottingham, namely the Forest Recreation Ground, famous for the site of the Goose Fair in October, and the Arboretum. I completed fourteen #WorkWalk ‘s in January to which I added a walk I have done many times in the past few years (7.25 miles) and one I devised especially for #walk1000miles in 2017 (10 miles). The latter were countryside walks over footpaths, bridleways, tracks and trails close to where I live.

Meindl Cambridge GTX muddy

Typical conditions with the countryside walks early in the year so my Meindl Cambridge GTX shoes came into their own and they kept my feet perfectly dry

In February I only missed three days where I didn’t walk and was pleasantly surprised just how many miles one can achieve with a #WorkWalk every weekday. Weekend walks were in the local countryside but as a respite from the mud I did three laps of the National Water Sports Centre’s (NWSC) Regatta Lake. March saw four days missed walks but more countryside walks enabled more miles walked this month compared to February. April was a great month and a turning point despite missing four days of walking. This was due to gaining blisters after a Long Distance Walkers Association 29 miles Erewash Valley Trail walk with the Anytime Anywhere group. Also I devised a new walk which took in three historical sites around East Leake and measured 16 miles, and I completed this every weekend in April.

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Fields of Oil-seed rape near Rempstone Nottinghamshire May 2017

May saw me go through the 500 miles target with a total of 501 miles recorded on the 7th of that month. Then there was a lull with four days in a row missed and a total of ten days when a walk wasn’t recorded. However, with determination I set a target of completing 600 miles before the end of the month and this was achieved on 30th when five laps of the NWSC Regatta Lake were completed which meant 0.7 miles were needed to get to that target. Getting back home I didn’t want to leave it until the next day so literately it took a 2.5 mile walk in the park to go through the 600 mile target. Finally, on the last day of May I added another 11.34 miles with a countryside walk in beautiful weather.

Now onward with seven months left to do 386.84 miles. I am enjoying this personal challenge and thanks to Country Walking for devising it and providing the motivation.

#walk1000miles plan for 2017

January 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles

January total 36.6 miles (58.91 km)

February 28 days X 2.74 miles / day = 76.72 miles 161.66 miles

February total 91.22 miles (146.8 km) cumulative total = 127.82 miles

March 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 246.6 miles 

March total 120.98 miles (194.7 km) cumulative total = 248.8 miles

April 30 days X 2.74 miles / day = 82.2 miles 328.80 miles

April total 210.7 miles (339.1 km) cumulative total = 459.5 miles

May 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 413.74 miles

May total 153.6 miles (247.2 km) cumulative total = 613.16 miles

June 30 days X 2.74 miles / day = 82.2 miles 495.94 miles achieved 501 7th May

July 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 580.88 miles

August 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 665.82 miles

September 30 days X 2.74 miles / day = 82.2 miles 748.02miles

October 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 832.96 miles

November 30 days X 2.74 miles / day = 82.2 miles 915.16 miles

December 31 days X 2.74 miles / day = 84.94 miles 1000.1 miles

Used Ordnance Survey Digital Mapping for route planning and Suunto Movescount to record walks.

#teacher5aday #pledge #2017

#teacher5aday #pledge #2017

In 2017 there are for me two important landmarks. The first is that I am a third of the way into my 27th year in teaching and the second sees me celebrating 40 years as a member of the Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA). Both of these events will feature strongly in the #teaher5aday 2017 pledge.

#connect

Keep being involved with Twitter #PLN (personal learning network) and do more walks with groups – I value face to face connections too. It would also be nice to meet some #teacher5aday tweeters during 2017.

#notice

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The trig pillar, at left, on Crich Stand, Derbyshire

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What remains of the trig pillar at East Leake

Whilst on a walk take an image of something of interest. During 2016 I enjoyed taking part in the Ordnance Survey’s (OS) celebration of the 80th anniversary of the trig pillar. This assisted me organising local walks to gain access to trig pillars that were close by that I wouldn’t necessarily visit. During one excursion I noticed that a trig pillar was no longer there even though its location was clearly marked on the map. I notified the OS and they sent one of their representatives to check this out and they replied that the map in question will be updated to reflect the missing trig pillar. OS also utilised Twitter to share peoples images of trig pillars and connected these with #trigpillar80. During 2017 the focus  will be me noticing elements in the natural world and recording these in blogs.

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Red Admiral butterfly – a surprise sight on 9th October and I saw six other individuals on the same day

#learn

I have always wanted to write an article for publication in a journal. I could base this article on flipped learning relating to coaching concepts in land navigation which led to the 4 D’s of Land Navigation Model. This has been the theme for my presentations at various conferences in 2016 and with an article I had written that was published by the Institute for Outdoor Learning (IOL) in their Horizons magazine in the Spring 2016 issue. The first conference I delivered to was for the Nottingham Trent University’s Trent Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT) at Nottingham in July, then at the IOL Conference, Staffordshire in October and finally at the inaugural researchED FE conference, London in December. May be I could add New York and Paris as venues in 2017! In preparing this article I will be engaged in learning and if published will be part of scholarly activity in that the results will be shared.

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#volunteer

This should be relatively easy as I have a wealth of experience leading walks for various organisations in the past and could do this again in 2017. For example, lead a ramble for a local Ramblers’ Group or organise a walk for the LDWA. Perhaps I could plan and lead a walk for #teacher5aday as I did for #UKFEchat community in 2015.

#exercise

Try to do basic flexibility exercises everyday and complete a long walk every weekend. In 2016 I celebrated my 60th birthday with a walk to work. This was almost 13 miles in distance and I planned the route to ensure the minimum of walking by a road. It was a neat challenge and one I had in mind since I moved there twenty years ago. My previous home was 23 miles from work! I managed to complete this walk in 4 hours and 36 minutes just two minutes outside the OS Maps guideline time. Other walking events of note completing the 26.2 miles Dovedale Dipper challenge walk in the Peak District during August – such fabulous weather and my sixth completion of the 16 miles Seagrave Wolds Challenge walk in November – not so good weather!

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Stunning scenery on the 26.2 miles Dovedale Dipper Challenge Walk 7th August 2016

The highlight though was that I took part in the LDWA Three Forests Way 54 miles challenge event but I only completed 49 miles! However, that 49 miles was the furtherest I have walked in almost 30 years! I would love to have another go and finish the walk this time. To enable this to happen requires building up not just physical endurance but mental fitness as well. This preparation will certainly provide enough for #teacher5aday throughout 2017.

I wish everyone a Happy New Year, don’t be to obsessed with work, and ensure you build time for you every day.

In completing this blog I would like to acknowledge Dawn Jones @stowdawn

Poppy’s Birthday

Poppy’s Birthday

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Poppy waiting for her ball to be thrown (ball is at the bottom left hand corner) We were heading west and the tree in the foreground can be used as a direction indicator as most of the growth is on the left (southern) side.

Yesterday Poppy celebrated her eighth birthday. The sun was out and out we went for a walk. Poppy is a chocolate brown labrador cross and has a wonderful personality. Poppy is a neighbour’s dog and my wife takes her out almost every day but today I came along too. No, me being there wasn’t a birthday treat for Poppy but on this day she would go out on two different walks. When my wife takes Poppy out each walk they go on the route can vary subject to the weather conditions and state of the terrain. Which direction and route selection is very much in my wife’s hands and can change at a moments notice taking into account my wife‘s observations based mainly on the condition of the ground ahead. I wanted to see if Poppy has these routes imprinted. So out we went and every time Poppy reached a point where the route could go a different way she stopped. Poppy only moving on when instructed which way we were going and keeping on track until the next cross point. So does this mean that Poppy uses observation with points of recognition? With the evidence provided today it is highly likely that she does.

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This Grey Poplar is located in an arboreum area and is a specimen tree grown in a nursery and was installed here a few years ago. This specific tree provides evidence that knowledge is as important as observation in direction finding.

Earlier in the week I received a copy of Harold Gatty’s book: “Nature is Your Guide – How to Find Your Way on Land and Sea by Observing Nature” which was published in 1958. This book has been on my really would like list for a few years and after unwrapping the packet I eagerly scanned though each section. Now having read a few chapters the underpinning elements to successful natural navigation are observation along with knowledge. Gatty was fascinated in how the early Polynesians navigated across the Pacific Ocean. He put his research based on their observations and knowledge into practice with two major events. One, in 1931, when he was the navigator on a record breaking eight-day flight around the world in an aircraft piloted by Wiley Post. The second was in 1943 when his first published work on navigation  “The Raft Book” became standard equipment on life rafts with the United States Army Air Force Pacific operation in WWII. “Nature is Your Guide” covers elements from both events together with general navigation observations on gaining direction which includes the effects of wind and sun on tree growth.

In summary then observation is a much needed element for navigation whether you are going on a local walk with the dog or crossing the Pacific Ocean. Also it is an important element in how a dog navigates and one cannot get more natural than that.

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Poppy’s birthday was the first time I saw ground frost this autumn

Harold Gatty; 1958; “Nature is Your Guide – How to Find Your Way on Land and Sea by Observing Nature”; New York; E.P. Dutton & Company, Inc.

The Iron Giant

The Iron Giant

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Bennerley Viaduct from the Nottingham Canal

When will she awake? She has been asleep for almost 50 years. No one knows how to stir her from her slumber. Her near relative the Eiffel Tower draws over 19,000 visitors from all corners of the globe each day but this Iron Giant is lucky to get a few. Reaching for the sky is the stuff of dreams. Spanning a river is a physical necessity. Yes, this is the difference between these two Iron Giants – one was built in celebration of a dream and the other a need to a cross a river.

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Bennerley Viaduct with reflection

How are they related? Before designing the Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel designed bridges for railways and the Bennerley Viaduct, The Iron Giant of this post, was based on Eiffel’s bridge designs. Eiffel pioneered using wrought iron latticed-work trestles for bridge supports to save weight and costs in bridge building. The usual material used for bridges in Britain was brick but due to the coal mining subsidence under the foundations of the Bennerley Viaduct wrought iron was selected due to being lighter in weight so not to cause any further disturbances. The main reason to build the Bennerley Viaduct was to allow the Great Northern Railway to transport coal from the rich seams of the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire coalfields in the Erewash Valley to the rest of their railway system. The viaduct remained in use until 1968 when it closed to freight traffic.

bennerley-viaduct-close-up

Girder section with wrought iron lattice work support

Since November 1974 Bennerley Viaduct has been a Grade II* listed structure. Bennerley Viaduct is now managed by Sustrans who hope to re-open the viaduct and reuse it for a cycling and walking link between Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

Ordnance Survey six-figure grid references SK 471437 to 474439

The Iron Giants compared:

Bennerley Viaduct (also known as the Awsworth Viaduct)

bennerley-viaduct-base-of-trestle

Trestle base

Length: 442.6m

Height :   18.5m

Started: May 1876

Opened: January 1878

Designer: Samuel Abbott with some involvement by Richard Johnson (Chief Engineer for the Great Northern Railway)

Reason built: spanning the Erewash Valley and linking Awsworth Junction railway station with Derby railway station

 

Eiffel Tower

Height : 324m

Length: 125m

Started: January 1887

Opened: March 1889

Designer: Gustave Eiffel

Reason built: 1889 Exposition Universelle to celebrate the 100th year anniversary of the French Revolution.

Further reading:

http://www.railwaypaths.org.uk/our-achievements/bennerley-viaduct/

http://bennerleyviaduct.org.uk/about

http://www.toureiffel.paris/en/everything-about-the-tower/the-eiffel-tower-at-a-glance.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bennerley_Viaduct

https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1140437

http://pedals.org.uk/sustrans-bennerley-viaduct-restoration-exciting-plans/

My Teaching “Top 5”

My Teaching “Top 5”

 

top-5

Following on from Gillian Judson’s post on her ideas about a top five essentials for effective teaching I have devised mine. These are based on a leadership top five I learnt about whilst studying for my MSc at Loughborough University which all began with a letter “E”. I couldn’t find that particular model but there was a similar version on the internet. Even though these stem from a leadership theme I feel there is a transferability factor for a teaching perspective.

Envision

Teaching starts with having a vision, then developing a plan to achieve it whether these are a Scheme of Work or a Topic Sequence Diagram. It is based on a variety of factors which starts with knowledge of the subject and then that of the unit/module specifications one is teaching. To this mix is added data assessment and intuition with hope and anxiety thrown in to give it a bit of spice. It can be a significant challenge. A vision of what is required is the key to getting started.

land-navigation-topic-sequence-diagramEnable

The Envisioning step forces decisions on choices made to deliver the programme.  Teachers must decide what methods they will utilise to enable the objectives to be met, apply these and alongside devise the most appropriate assessment strategies to encourage the right kind of action.

Empower

With a clear vision, a set of objectives and an assessment tool kit, the third step of the teaching process is empowering students to achieve the goals. There is a ”deal” between the teacher and their students. The students and the teacher have a contract, for success, reward and sanction, on both sides. Hopefully, we are both given mutual freedom from the organisation but the teacher is ultimately held accountable for student performance.

Energy

The goal is clear, the plan is in place, and the students are both motivated and ready. Still, there is an essential ingredient missing. The teaching role demands the skills of energising the students to act. A critical activity for the teacher is to provide feedback on students progress, and to make adjustments to the plan as needed. There could be many mid-course changes to reach the goals whilst taking account of new information which includes differentiation based on the student cohort, and stretch and challenge activities for the more able. The vision remains constant and if a student or a group of students doesn’t get it the first time then you need to come up with different methods to ensure they do. To do this it takes energy to maintain focus.

Empathy

A teacher needs Empathy as this is the foundation for building bridges between students, understanding their complex emotions, gaining a diverse perspective, and maintaining relationships for collaboration and progress.

References

http://www.educationthatinspires.ca/2016/10/14/my-teaching-top-5/

https://www.leader-values.com/four_ees.php?feid=1

http://www.teachhub.com/teaching-strategies-importance-empathy