Tuesday 24 December 2019

How to go green this Christmas

Christmas is a joyful time of gathering with loved ones and giving gifts. But it’s also a time of excess: mountains of food, gallons of eggnog and piles of presents swathed in inordinate amounts of wrapping paper. With a growing awareness around the dangers of single-use plastic and climate change, are there ways to make your Christmas more sustainable? How can you put the green into gifting?

Here are some top suggestions for small changes that could make a big difference to the planet this yuletide. We’re dreaming of a green Christmas – are you?

1. Use recyclable wrapping paper

Each Christmas we’re getting through around 8,000 tonnes of wrapping paper. That equates to approximately 50,000 trees. But that’s ok, paper is recyclable, right? Wrong. A lot of festive wrapping paper is laminated or covered in metallic coloured shapes, glitter and plastics which can’t be recycled. Luckily, there’s a simple test to determine whether your paper is a goer. Simply scrunch a small square of it in the palm of your hand. If it scrunches up it can be recycled; if it doesn't and springs straight back then its destined for the rubbish tip. To play it safe, opt for brown paper or old newspaper, glammed up with a bit of reusable ribbon.
There’s a simple test to determine whether your wrapping paper can be recycled. Simply scrunch a small square of it in the palm of your hand. If it scrunches up it can be recycled; if it doesn't and springs straight back then its destined for the rubbish tip.

2. Ditch the sticky tape

Try using biodegradable string or raffia to secure your wrapping paper, rather than plastic tape. And if you get given gifts wrapped using sticky tape, make sure you remove it from all the wrapping paper as it can make the paper hard to recycle.

3. Cut back on presents

Present giving is an integral part of Christmas, so we’re not suggesting you give it a miss this year. But what about giving less? Talk to your family about taking a Secret Santa approach, so you all give and receive one quality gift that is really wanted. (And try to buy locally when you can to support small businesses and reduce your carbon footprint.)

4. Give charity gifts or experiences

Another great way to reduce waste is to buy experiences rather than physical items. What about a wine tasting? Cinema vouchers or a night in a shepherd’s hut? And charity gifts are lovely too: sponsor a water vole for an animal lover or give a goat to a Rwandan farmer.

5. Trawl the charity shops

As well as sticking to local businesses for your present shopping, you should check out the local charity shops. You can often bag a bargain in the form of designer clothes or the latest bestseller. Not only are you cutting down on waste, your money is going to a good cause too.

6. Send e-cards

We all love receiving cards through the post, but the sad truth is that most Christmas cards end up in the bin in January. Have you thought about sending e-cards instead? Many companies let you design your own and no trees need to be harmed. Alternatively, cut up last year's cards and reuse them this year. Give those robins a second outing! If getting creative’s not your thing, be sure to buy recycled and then recycle any you receive.

Which washing machine cycle is worst for the environment

How choosing the right washing machine setting could make a difference.

7. Recycle your tree

Although they might seem less wasteful, fake trees are not the answer. They last longer, sure, but that’s because they’re mostly made from plastic, which isn’t recyclable. It’s a much greener option to opt for a real tree (as long as it’s from a sustainable source), as it will actually help to remove carbon from the atmosphere while it’s alive, and then recycle it after the big day. If your local authority doesn’t recycle then find a garden centre that does.

8. Put waste food in the compost

Each year we throw away fridgefuls of food that we just can’t squeeze in. Try to cut down on the shopping this year (do you really need brandy butter AND brandy cream?) and put any uneaten food scraps in the compost, not the bin.

Could you buy all your clothes second-hand?

People are buying more of their clothes second-hand because of worries about waste.

9. Go crackers for reusable crackers

It’s hard to imagine Christmas without the annual battle for cracker victory and, of course, the colourful paper hats. But crackers are pretty wasteful: many are coated in plastic which makes them impossible to recycle and the plastic toys inside invariably end up in the bin (who needs another miniature yo-yo?). Thankfully, there are lots of sustainable options on the market now: ones with cardboard casings and plastic-free toys, crackers that bang when you pull them but don’t tear open so you can refill them and use them year after year, and natural linen crackers that will look beautiful on the table and will last a lifetime.

10. Ban batteries

Many gifts and toys exchanged at Christmas require batteries, and that’s bad news for the planet. Batteries contain toxic chemicals (an environmental hazard), they don’t biodegrade and are difficult to recycle. Try to avoid buying battery-powered toys (after all, there’s nothing better than a good book), and where it’s unavoidable source some rechargeable batteries.

Are fake plants bad for the environment?

Peter Gibbs investigates the trend for fake turf and artificial plants.

11. Choose solar-powered lights

For some streets, Christmas lights have become seriously competitive. It’s all about having the brightest display and the biggest inflatable Santa hanging from a drainpipe. But all these bulbs – as fun as they might seem – are burning through electricity and having an impact on our environment. Instead, think small, subtle and solar-powered.

Sunday 29 September 2019

Gardening That helps The Environment Radio 4 Programme © BBC

How you can save the environment through gardening

We’re used to taking an uptight, corseted approach to gardening: keeping hedgerows, borders, lawns and pots neat and tidy and weed-free. But as “rewilding” projects have proven, letting nature reclaim the land means a huge boost for wildlife. And with insects (nature’s “glue”) in decline across the planet, and air pollution rife, it’s never been more necessary.

But what if your outdoor area is tiny? Or you don’t have a garden at all? Fear not, we have tips for turning even the most miniscule of urban spaces into a haven for nature to save the environment.

1. Plant a window box

You may not have any outside space of your own, but you’ll likely have a window or two. So, rig up a window box and scatter some wild flower seeds. Bees are fond of colourful, tubular flowers like foxgloves and love lavender, borage, catmint and buttercups. (What could be nicer than the scent of lavender wafting into the room?) Our buzzing, stripy pals are also partial to the pink blooms of chives. Add this to your window box and you’ll always have the herb on hand for cooking with too.

2. Don't bother mowing

If you're lucky enough to have some lawn, you might feel a bit embarrassed to sit on your hands and watch it go to seed, sprouting dark patches and thick tussocks. But leave it a few months and soon the space will be a biodiverse patchwork of wild flowers and different grasses – attracting a plethora of butterflies and other six-legged friends. Meadow grass, buttercup and dandelion all provide favourite seeds for a whole range of birds too.

How gardening can be hard on the environment

Tools and utensils used in gardening aren't very eco-friendly.

3. Install some house plants

As well as creating a haven for wildlife, plants have the added benefit of reducing carbon dioxide levels (through photosynthesis). They also help to diminish airborne dust and levels of certain pollutants like benzene and nitrogen dioxide. Fill your home with plants and know that you’re doing your bit for the environment!
Fill your home with plants and know that you’re doing your bit for the environment.

4. Build a bee and bug B&B

In the UK there are over 250 species of bees, the vast majority of which are solitary. Some of them nest in holes in walls, pieces of wood and old vegetation. So, you can give a boost to their habitat by constructing your own bee hotel from wood and hollow plant stems, affixing it to a wall or fence or popping it on your balcony.
Construct your own insect hotel from wood and hollow plant stems and affix it to any external wall or fence.

5. Cut the pesticides

It’s time to go organic. The first step to encouraging insects and birds into your garden is to ditch all pesticides, weed-killers, fertilisers and slug pellets. To stop slugs ravaging your veggies simply crush up egg shells and sprinkle them around the base of your plants instead.

6. Make a hedgehog run

We don’t mean chase a hedgehog, but rather speak to your neighbours about creating a pathway between gardens and properties so that hedgehogs and other creatures can happily pass from green space to green space. We know that joining up bits of land is crucial for the safe passage and proliferation of wildlife – so get the neighbours on side and cut some hedgehog-sized holes in the bottom of your fences, or even take out the odd fence panel. This way you get to keep your privacy but welcome wildlife.
Your houseplants reduce carbon dioxide levels and improve the quality of the air we breathe.

7. Make your own mini pond

All life needs water, so the best thing you can do with a small or urban space is to create a pond. It doesn’t have to be large – even a washing-up bowl will do. Add plant life and, before you know it, you’ll have frogspawn, pond snails and dragonfly larvae aplenty.

8. Pull up paving

Think about hauling out those paving stones and putting down some turf. If your plot is simply too small then another option is to opt for gravel, and scatter some insect-friendly plants like lavender amongst the stones. And there’s always the option of planting some wildflower pots if you can’t bring yourself to say farewell to the flagstones.
"Which way to the next garden?"
Plant herbs and edible greens in your window boxes so that you can also get nutritious food whilst being kind to the environment.

9. Think vertically

A clever way to introduce plant life when you have limited space is to encourage some climbers. Ivy, honeysuckle, passion flower, jasmine and wisteria are all wonderful plants for wildlife, and many don’t even need a trellis. Unlike a bare fence, a climbing plant provides space for birds to nest, butterflies to hibernate and bees to shelter from the rain.

10. Attach a bird box

A nest box is an excellent substitute for a tree hole, and much needed in areas which are lacking in the latter. Why wait? Get one rigged up! For tits, sparrows and starlings the box needs to be between two and four metres high up on a tree, wall or fence. It’s also important to make sure it’s facing between north and east to avoid strong sunlight and wet winds.

Why gardening on social media is not all it seems

There is a wide gulf between real gardens and those portrayed on social media.
To stop slugs ravaging your veggies simply crush up egg shells and sprinkle them around the base of your plants.

11. Borrow a pig

Animal disturbance can help to turn over the soil in a garden and uncover all the dormant, natural seeds. So, if you have the space, what about putting a pig in there for a week or two? An animal also means poo, which is a natural fertiliser and will help attract dung beetles. If a pig’s out of the question (and let’s face it, for most of us it will be), try rooting around in the soil with a garden fork instead and contact a stables - they usually have free dung they're trying to dispose of.
Link to website

Wednesday 17 July 2019

The Little People

Sunday 2 June 2019

Why We Should Listen to Trees

Why we should listen to trees

When life gets too much, most of us try to get away from it all. Some might head to the pub, play football or knit a jumper. But if you really want to take a break and restore, a dose of nature might be the best tonic – spending time in natural environments has been shown to boost physical and mental health.
Even just listening to the sounds of nature could help us to relax, an idea being explored in a new experiment launched by Radio 4 as a study accompanying a new nine-part futuristic eco-drama called Forest 404.
Alex Smalley, a PhD researcher working on the Forest 404 experiment, gives his top tips on how to make the most of the stress-busting benefits of nature, no matter how much time you do – or think you don’t – have…

Spending time just taking in the forest atmosphere can lower the stress hormone cortisol, decrease blood pressure and calm pulse rates.

1. Dive in

If you’re lucky enough to live near the countryside or coast, there’s nothing like getting out for a walk, cycle, run or swim. These kinds of natural environments can promote physical activity; so-called “green exercise” has been shown to improve people’s self-esteem and mood.

Data suggests that people in the UK tend to be happiest when they are by the coast.
But contact with nature can happen in many other ways too, and spending time in your garden or local park can be just as good. These natural spaces can reduce stress and anxiety, help us sleep better, and boost pro-social behaviours. Evidence is mounting and practitioners are taking note; doctors in Shetland can now prescribe “a dose of nature” to their patients, with similar trials recently taking place in Cornwall.

2. Go green

In Japan, the practice of shinrin yoku – literally, “forest bathing” – makes a good case for taking a walk through your local woodland. Researchers there have found that spending time just taking in the forest atmosphere can lower the stress hormone cortisol, decrease blood pressure and calm pulse rates. In the UK, studies have shown that urban parks and gardens can provide long-lasting impacts on mental health; and that larger areas of green space could act as a buffer against stressful events.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about how these mechanisms work, but nature’s ability to provide a feeling of calm fascination, as well as a sense of being away from day-to-day activities, seems to be the key.

3. Is blue best?

Medics were prescribing convalescence by the sea as far back as the 18th century, but it’s only been in the last decade that evidence for a “blue health” effect has emerged, with studies showing that people who live close to the coast tend to have better health and higher life satisfaction than those who reside inland. Data suggests that people in the UK tend to be happiest when they are by the coast, and research has directly pitted green spaces (like the countryside) against rivers, lakes and the ocean. Blue spaces repeatedly come out on top but there might also be a sweet spot; one study suggested that a scene consisting of one-third green and two-thirds blue was most preferred. People make over 500m visits to England’s blue spaces each year, so you’ll be in good company if you venture out.

4. Bring the outside in

Many of us don’t have access to a natural environment, or might have difficulty getting outside for other reasons. Fortunately, quite a bit of evidence suggests that simply having a view of nature, whether real or digital, can deliver similar benefits. One seminal study from the 1980s found that patients could recover from surgery more quickly if their window provided views of nature, and researchers have used pictures and videos of natural settings to demonstrate a range of other positive effects, from improved mood to an enhanced ability to complete complex tasks.
Getting out to your local aquarium has also been shown to boost wellbeing, and watching nature programmes such as Planet Earth can elicit feelings of joy while reducing negative feelings like tiredness. So if you can’t get out, bring the outside in!

5. Listen up!

Much of the research into the effects of the natural environment on health and wellbeing has focused on vision. Yet interactions with nature are multi-sensory, with sound, smell and touch playing a vital role in our experience, particularly for people with visual impairments. Listening to birds singing, rivers flowing, or waves lapping can help people relax and restore, and the myriad videos of these soundscapes on YouTube demonstrate their potential power.
Feeling part of something greater than ourselves might just make us more altruistic and willing to help others.
But there’s still a lot we don’t know about what sounds people prefer, how they might impact wellbeing, and how best to harness their restorative potential. That’s where our Forest 404 experiment comes in – we want to understand how people across the UK respond to the sounds of nature and you can help us! Find out more and take part here.

6. Awesome experiences

A new area of research has started to suggest that awe-inspiring experiences can improve mood and, excitingly, make us less selfish. Nature is great at producing awe; watching a pod of orcas breaching; standing beneath a canopy of giant trees; or observing the view from a mountain top can all create a sense of wonder and amazement. By making us feel small and part of something greater than ourselves, these awesome experiences might just make us more altruistic and willing to help others.
While awe isn’t an easy feeling to elicit, new advances in virtual reality mean we might be able to put people in the grand canyon, on the summit of Everest, or at the bottom of the ocean with just the flick of a switch. The future could be bright – it could be awesome!

7. The new cigarette break?

Cigarette smoking used to be a common reason for regular breaks away from work or social situations, with people often heading outside. As smoking continues its decline (currently down to 15% of adults in the UK), these breaks could be replaced with short doses of nature. Making time for regular pauses by taking a walk outside, watching a quick nature video, or listening to a two-minute soundscape, could help us to manage the strains of a busy work life. Meditation is also becoming a popular technique for dealing with stress, and newly-released research suggests that combining mindfulness with nature encounters could deliver even greater benefits.
There’s still a lot we don’t know about how nature could benefit health and wellbeing, and we need to remember that spending time in natural environments can also present risks. Nonetheless, the next time you’re frustrated, stressed or anxious, try taking a dose of nature – it might just help you feel better.
Find out more about Radio 4’s Forest 404 experiment, and take part.

Thursday 2 May 2019

Backsbottom Farm Butterfly Postcard

Friday 12 April 2019

Backsbottom Farm Butterflies

We've put butterfly identification postcards in the cottage for our guests to buy. Here are some   photos taken by Rod last year and here is the link to Butterfly Conservation

Meadow brown

Painted lady


Silver y moth

Small copper

Sunday 17 February 2019

Backsbottom Farm in Discover Bowland Guide

The latest issue page 31-33 has an article by Mark Sutcliff who interviewed Rod at Backsbottom.                                                     
                                                 © Forest of Bowland AOB © Mark Sutcliff

Thursday 10 January 2019

Richard Shilling's Nature Art

Included in this film is the River Roeburn running through Backsbottom Farm near to Roeburnscar
 Richard's new film exploring his ever expanding nature art attempting to research all mediums and materials found in nature and featuring his recent collaborations with
See more at https://RichardShilling.co.uk,
Namaste - Audionautix (https://Audionautix.com) Reverie - Purple-Planet Music ((https://Purple-Planet.com) The Logs Burn Slower Here - Geotic (https://Geotic.bandcamp.com) Lusciousness - Asher Fuller Blue Boi - Lake Inspired (https://soundcloud.com/lakeyinspired)