Face carved into dead tree

Face carved into dead tree at Timbercliffe
Artist unknown

(Photo: Iain S Gerrard)

  National News         Battling Regional Assemblies

The Civic Trust movement has been concerned for some time about the impact of regional government in the form of Regional Assemblies on planning at a local level. Writing about these Assemblies in the Newsletter a couple of years ago, LCT member Betty Taylor described them as "unelected, unrepresentative and undemocratic" and "set up solely to enforce government policy".

The national Civic Trust has not been idle in this matter, as described in a recent article by Peter Colley, chair of the North West Association of Civic Trusts (NWActs) in which he says:

The Regional Associations which were established by the Civic Trust in response to the creation of Regional Assemblies do have an opportunity to influence decisions at this level of Government. In the North West this has been achieved both by direct responses to consultations and by membership of North West Environmental Link. This is a body that includes all the environmental organisations with a regional structure including the CPRE, FOE, National Trust, RSPB and Wildlife Trusts. Although often portrayed by the media as quangos, Regional Assemblies are actually made up of 70% elected councillors from County, District and Unitary Authorities and 30% of representatives from a wide range of non-governmental organisations including business, trade unions, faith groups, academia and the environment.

Because of my professional planning background, I was appointed by North West Environmental Link to the Regional Planning Group of the Assembly, so the Civic Trust has had a voice in the debate on planning policies which will affect the region for the next 15 years.

Initially, the document being considered was the Regional Planning Guidance, but this was superseded by the requirement to produce a Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS). During its development, various drafts were prepared and changes made as a result of input from members of NWEL. The version which was prepared for submission to the Examination– in–Public did not, in our view, contain adequate measures to safeguard the natural environment or built heritage, so it was necessary to make representations before the panel of inspectors holding the Examination. The Panel's Report has been accepted and almost all of the proposed changes have been incorporated into strategy. These have now accepted by the Regional Assembly and the formal adoption is scheduled for later this summer.

We now have a document that has been significantly improved upon as a result of input from NWEL. However, even before it is formally adopted, work has started on a partial review and, in due course, it will be merged with the Regional Economic Strategy and responsibility for the new Integrated Strategy will pass to the Regional Development Agency which IS a quango! One immediate concern is that the Government has now stated that the housing figures in the strategy are not to be regarded as a maximum for each authority. This is intended to allow for the addition of growth points and eco– towns but there are, however, none in the North West. Removing these limits will make it extremely difficult to produce properly–balanced plans for sustainable development at local level.

It is now up to local Civic Societies to ensure that they are involved in the preparation of Local Development Frameworks and use the policies in the RSS to help them achieve the best possible plans for their own area.


  Wind Power Is Not The Answer to Britain's Future Energy Needs

Evidence to House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee inquiry into 'The Economics of Renewable Energy' by Dr. P. A. W. Bratby, a physicist and energy consultant, is highly sceptical of the value of wind power as a major contributor to the country's energy needs, and many of his statements echo the concerns previously expressed in this Newsletter. Below is a fuller report than the necessarily reduced one, which was printed in the hard–copy version of this issue.

  1. My name is Phillip Bratby. I have a first class honours degree in physics from the Imperial College of Science and Technology (London University) and a doctorate in physics from Sheffield University. I am a semi-retired energy consultant, being the sole director of my own consultancy company.
  2. This is my personal evidence to the inquiry by the House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee into the economics of renewable energy.
  3. In calling for evidence, the Chairman stated "Renewable energy is expected to play an important role in reducing carbon emissions but we know comparatively little about the possible costs and benefits."
  4. I am not surprised by the statement concerning the lack of knowledge as it has been apparent for a long time that the renewable energy policy is target–driven and is not based upon any engineering or economic analysis of the effect of renewable energy on the UK electricity supply industry.
  5. The Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR, formerly the DTI) does not appear to have the expertise to formulate a sensible or sustainable energy policy. It has been badly informed by Non–governmental Organisations (NGOs) such as the UK Energy Research Council and the Sustainable Development Commission (SCD), which has produced a series of seriously flawed documents. These documents contain little evidence and much opinion and dogma. This is not surprising given the background of the Commissioners of the SCD.
  6. The premise for renewable energy is largely based on the perceived necessity to mitigate climate change. Climate change is currently assumed by politicians and the media to imply global warming. However, the concept of anthropogenic global warming is politically–driven by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). All the forecasts by the IPCC for global warming are based on computer models of the earth's climate. The behaviour of the climate is non–linear and chaotic and the mechanisms which influence climate are not fully understood. Having worked for several years with computer models of complex flow and heat transfer systems, which were validated against experimental data, I suggest that there is no validity for the results of any computer models of the climate. With so little understanding of how the climate works (the effect of the sun, ocean currents, the atmospheric layers and constituent gases etc), it is evident to any scientist that, with so many degrees of freedom and unknown parameters, the computer models can produce any outcome desired. If we cannot reliably calculate the weather more than a few days in advance, how is it that the IPCC can make forecasts for the climate 100 years ahead? I submit that there is no validity for global warming forecasts. Evidence shows that the earth has been cooling since 1998 despite increased CO² emissions and increasing CO² concentrations in the atmosphere. None of the climate models have predicted this cooling whilst CO² concentrations have been increasing. Instead, the IPCC has perversely claimed that the cooling is masking the long-term warming and that more funding is needed to improve the climate models.
  7. Sir John Houghton (Scientific Assessment for Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Chairman and Co– Chairman 1988–2002.) said "Unless we announce disasters no one will listen" and "The impacts of global warming are such that I have no hesitation in describing it as a 'weapon of mass destruction'". Incorrectly predicting future disasters (mainly for political reasons) is nothing new. I give some examples from individuals and government organisations: In 1969, environmentalist Nigel Calder warned, "The threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind". C.C. Wallen of the World Meteorological Organisation said, "The cooling since 1940 has been large enough and consistent enough that it will not soon be reversed". In 1968, Professor Paul Ehrlich predicted there would be a major food shortage in the U.S. and "in the 1970s ... hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death". Ehrlich forecast that 65 million Americans would die of starvation between 1980 and 1989, and by 1999 the U.S. population would have declined to 22.6 million. Ehrlich's predictions about England were gloomier: "If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000". In 1972, a report was written for the Club of Rome warning the world would run out of gold by 1981, mercury and silver by 1985, tin by 1987 and petroleum, copper, lead and natural gas by 1992. Gordon Taylor, in his 1970 book "The Doomsday Book," said Americans were using 50 percent of the world's resources and "by 2000 they [Americans] will, if permitted, be using all of them". In 1975, the Environmental Fund took out full– page ads warning, "The World as we know it will likely be ruined by the year 2000" . Harvard University biologist George Wald in 1970 warned, "civilisation will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind". In the same year Senator Gaylord Nelson warned, in Look Magazine, that by 1995 "somewhere between 75 and 85 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct". In 1885, the U.S. Geological Survey announced there was "little or no chance" of oil being discovered in California, and a few years later they said the same about Kansas and Texas. In 1939, the U.S. Department of the Interior said American oil supplies would last only another 13 years. In 1949, the Secretary of the Interior said the end of U.S. oil supplies was in sight. Having learned nothing from its earlier erroneous claims, in 1974 the U.S. Geological Survey advised that the U.S. had only a 10 –year supply of natural gas. There is no evidence to suggest that the current global warming predictions have any more validity than any of the above dire warnings.
  8. It would be precipitate to bet the house on global warming when, based on historical evidence and not computer models, global cooling may be more likely. The evidence is in the form of the Milankovitch cycles (the earth's eccentric orbit around the sun, the tilt of the earth's axis and the precession of the earth's axis), the sun-spot cycles and the behaviour of ocean currents such as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (El Nino and La Nina) and the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation). The natural climate change consisting of cooling lead to ice–ages and warming (inter–glacial periods) is well known. Scientists independent of governments for funding have long been sceptical about global warming claims made by government funded and government controlled scientists. Global warming would in fact be more beneficial to mankind than would global cooling which could lead to the next ice–age.
  9. Thus, although it would be prudent to minimise man–made CO² emissions, the need for drastic action which could have a serious effect on the future well–being and prosperity of the citizens of the UK and the need for renewable energy, are seriously called into question.
  10. My evidence is mainly concerned with wind power stations for generating electricity. This is because these form the major component of all major country's future renewable energy policies. Hydro–electric power has much greater benefit as a source of renewable electricity than does wind power, but the hydro–electric potential in the UK is very limited due to the shortage of suitable rivers and geography.
  11. The most important consideration for the future electricity supply has to be security of that supply. The effect of the supply of electricity not meeting the demand at some time in the future would be potentially disastrous, possibly resulting in deaths, food shortages, transport problems and collapse of the country's infra-structure. Economic ruin could follow if international financial business relocated from the UK due to uncertainty about the security of electricity supply.
  12. Security of supply implies firm generation capacity with a margin above the peak (winter) demand. The firm generation is supplied by baseload power stations (such as nuclear) and despatchable (controlled by the grid) power (such as coal, gas and certain renewables such as hydro-electric — including pumped–storage schemes such as Dinorwig). Neither on–shore nor off–shore wind power stations contribute significantly to the security of supply because the electricity is intermittent, unpredictable and is embedded on the grid (not despatchable). Invariably peak winter demand occurs during extreme cold weather when a high pressure system settles across northern Europe and drags in cold continental air with little wind. Even with wind turbines distributed widely across the UK, under these low wind conditions, little electricity would be generated by wind turbines. Wave power is intermittent and unpredictable and tidal power is intermittent but predictable.
  13. Many nuclear and coal–fired power stations are coming to the end of their lives and need to be replaced to ensure continued security of supply. Thus non–despatchable renewable sources of electricity must not distort the electricity market and divert resources from the necessary construction of new baseload and despatchable power stations.
  14. In answer to your first issue, non–despatchable renewables should only be considered after security of supply has been guaranteed. The current UK policy of subsidising wind power at the expense of secure electricity generation is typical of most countries such as the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Spain and Denmark. It contrasts with the policy of France and Sweden which have placed security of supply at the heart of their policy.
  15. In answer to your second issue, the barriers to greater deployment of wind power stations are suitable on–shore sites, supply of wind turbine components and shortage of equipment needed for off–shore construction. In addition, serious planning issues confront on–shore wind power stations. These include the visual (landscape) and other environmental impacts, military objections (radar interference) and more recently the effect from the current large wind turbines (heights in excess of 100m) of noise and its consequential health impact. The Local Government Ombudsman has recently stated that the planning condition for noise "put in place to protect local residents" and based on the industry standard ETSU-R-97, is "vague, open to interpretation, immeasurable and thus unenforceable". Thus it is likely that planning applications for wind power stations near to residents will receive stronger opposition and planners will not be able to justify their siting on the basis of noise and consequential health issues. Wind turbines will have to be sited in more remote locations further away from human habitation. This will severely limit suitable locations for siting wind power stations. The issue of noise and health from modern wind turbines will need properly addressing before siting close to residences can be justified.
  16. In answer to your third issue, the technology of wind turbines is mature and it is unlikely that there are any technological advances that could make it cheaper.
  17. I now turn in greater detail to the technological concerns with wind turbines. As a physicist, it offends my learning, experience and intelligence to attempt to produce electricity on a large scale from wind power. This is for four reasons. Firstly because of the very low energy density of wind (the energy per volume of moving air). For comparison and in round terms, the energy density of moving water is about 1,000 times as great, that of fossil fuels (coal, oil, liquefied gas) is about 1 billion times as great and that of nuclear is about 1 million billion times as great. Thus wind turbines have to be enormous to capture a useful amount of energy. Secondly, because the power of the wind is a function of the cube of the wind speed, the electrical output is very sensitive to the wind speed. Thirdly, because of the variability of the wind, wind turbines only produce electricity at about 25% to 30% of their rated output (capacity or load factor). Fourthly, because of the intermittency and unpredictability of wind the electricity production bears no relation to the demand for electricity. In summary, wind turbines are enormous, produce a pathetically small amount of electricity, intermittently, unpredictably and not when it is most required.
  18. The CO² emissions saved by wind turbines have been calculated based on the CO² emissions from displaced plant (coal and gas-fired power stations). A consensus figure of 430 kg/MWh is currently used. However, this figure is only part of the equation needed to calculate the CO² emissions saved. Also to be included in the equation are the CO² emissions resulting from the manufacture and construction of the turbine (estimated by various people at the equivalent of between several months to many years of operation — the payback period); the electricity losses down the low voltage distribution line to the consumers (estimated at between 5% and 15% of the electricity generated, due to the long distance as the result of the remoteness of many turbines); and the CO² emissions produced by conventional power stations operating very inefficiently on standby (and burning fuel) ready as backup to meet the electricity demand when the wind drops. Evidence form Denmark and Germany suggests that CO² emissions savings from the use of wind turbines are at best small and at worst, they may actually lead to an increase in CO² emissions.
  19. Although the wind is a renewable source of energy, wind turbines can only operate on the grid in conjunction with backup generation to ensure demand is met when the wind fails. For this reason, it has been claimed that wind –generated electricity cannot be classed as renewable.
  20. Because of the intermittency and unpredictability of the wind and thus of the electricity generated by wind turbines, wind turbines cannot replace a significant number of conventional power stations. Thus wind turbines are being constructed as a secondary source of electricity. In essence, the consumer is paying for two sets of electricity generation; the conventional despatchable power stations, necessary to meet demand at all times and wind turbines which operate only when the wind blows and which then displace despatchable power stations.
  21. Wind turbines are usually connected to the low voltage distribution grid, rather than the high voltage transmission grid to which conventional power stations are connected. Wind–generated is embedded on the grid as it is not despatchable and cannot be controlled. The national Grid was designed so that electricity flows from the power stations on the efficient high voltage transmission lines and is transformed (stepped) down progressively on the distribution grid to consumers. Thus electricity flows one way and by the most efficient route. However, embedded electricity can flow the wrong way if there is not sufficient downstream demand. This can cause grid problems.
  22. Electricity cannot be stored on the grid and grid voltage and frequency are maintained in tight margins to protect sensitive equipment. This is not normally a problem, the grid having operated successfully for over 60 years. This is because demand is accurately predictable and despatchable power sources of various response times are available to match the grid. However, with increasing amounts of intermittent and unpredictable embedded generation on the grid, control becomes increasingly more difficult. This can lead to grid failure and collapse as has happened recently across a large part of Europe and in Texas.
  23. In answer to your sixth issue, because of the low energy density of wind and the large separation distance required between individual turbines, the area of land affected by wind power stations is proportionally greater than that of traditional power stations. For example 100m tall wind turbines of 2MW rated power need to be spaced several hundred metres apart and not close to dwellings and roads. Thus except in remote areas, about four wind turbines can be accommodated per square kilometre of land. This is not dissimilar to the figure for nuclear power stations or gas–fired power stations. For comparison purposes, and taking into account capacity (or load factors), the land area covered by a wind power station of the same energy output as a nuclear power station would be about 2000 times as great (or an area of land 20km by 25km would be covered by wind turbines to produce the same electrical output as one nuclear power station occupying an area of land 500m square). Furthermore, the wind turbines are of greater height and rotate so that their visual impact is amplified. A considerable infrastructure in terms of possibly improved roads and access tracks is required for wind turbines. In addition, the wind turbines provide few if any jobs in the district, and possibly destroy employment due to the loss of tourism-related business. Conventional power stations provide considerable local economic benefits in terms of a range of permanent types of employment.
  24. These external costs in terms of environmental and other impacts should be compared in terms of benefits and disbenefits for each technology on a like-for-like basis (noting that comparing a nuclear power station producing baseload electricity with a wind power station producing intermittent, unpredictable and uncontrollable electricity is like comparing chalk and cheese). The like-for-like basis must be in terms of energy output (i.e. MWh, GWh or TWh of electricity generated per year) rather than installed capacity (MW). Thus, for example the benefits and disbenefits of a nuclear power station of 1600MW rating with a capacity factor of 90% producing 12.6TWh of electricity per year should be compared with a wind power station consisting of 2880 2MW turbines with a capacity factor of 25% also producing 12.6TWh of electricity per year.
  25. The planning system for renewables, as embodied in PPS22, is first and foremost about meeting Government targets for renewable energy, both nationally and regionally. The key principles of PPS22 are written such that planning authorities "promote and encourage, rather than restrict" renewable energy projects so that targets can be met. The planning system is thus biased in favour of development of wind power stations regardless of other considerations such as the environmental damage, the effect on competitiveness and the effect on fuel poverty.
  26. I am not submitting evidence on any of the other issues.

Dr P A W Bratby
15th May 2008
This evidence is submitted on an individual basis.

Are wind turbines safe? Click here and see for yourself


  Local News          Unauthorised Demolition at Hospital Site

As many of you will be aware, a developer (Persimmon Homes) has acquired part of the Birch Hill Hospital site and is proposing to build houses on it.

Reflecting local interest in the old hospital buildings, judged by many, including the Littleborough Civic Trust and Wardle and Smallbridge History Group, to be of high quality and of historical/architectural significance, RMBC has been seeking to establish a conservation area within the site to protect the buildings. Some time ago, in discussions, the developers agreed not to demolish any of the buildings while consultations took place on setting up the conservation area. Unfortunately they did not keep this promise, and demolished a number of buildings without authorisation.

On discovering this, Rochdale M. B. C. created an emergency conservation area around what was left of the main axis of the hospital buildings (Pennines Township turned down a previous application for a Conservation Area on the other hospital axis). What has been saved is the chapel, the main block with the tower, with the workshops and original chapel behind, the boiler house (rear east side), the reception house (front west side) and the two gateway buildings (originally housing gas and water supplies). This is welcome news, in that important buildings are safe for the moment, but the whole sorry saga is yet another reminder of the extent to which our heritage is under threat from unscrupulous developers and how vigilant we still need to be.


Secretary's Report

  Daft Remarks

The national Civic Trust recently brought the attention of all its societies to a comment made by a member of the government.

During May, the Planning Minister told the Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee that local authority councillors should not be forced to receive planning training as 'they bring a lay perspective'. As a registered society we were asked for our views on this comment and for our experience of the impact of councillors on planning committees who have, or have not, some familiarity with the planning system. Only if the Civic Trust knew our views and experiences could they feel confident in taking up the matter with the Minister.

Frankly we found the comment bizarre and yet another indication of how our political 'masters' were so out of touch with the way things are, even within matters ostensibly under their control.

We replied as follows:"The idea suggested by the Government Minister, that bringing a 'lay perspective' to planning matters can only be realised if the members of the Planning Committee are ignorant of the laws of planning, could hardly be more wrong.

"In our opinion the planning laws are too complex and require an urgent reassessment from the bottom up, but that is another and a much larger matter. Under the present arrangements we have had serious concerns locally with the way the Members are often openly harassed by the Planning Officers who will clearly know more than they on planning laws even when, as is the case here in Rochdale, the members have been given a 'course' on the relevant matters.

"We have discussed this issue with Councillors who have been involved with the planning committee for some years and they are convinced that the course they originally attended was useful. This course apparently consisted of three sessions of an hour or more each and was run by senior officials from the planning department. This appears barely adequate to us and, when pushed, they admitted that, in their opinion, some councillors really didn't understand much of what they had been told; they further felt that some form of test ought to be sat which would exclude those councillors who failed it from sitting on planning committees.

"Without some knowledge of planning laws, even if in broad terms only, councillors are often not able to do more than rubber stamp the planning officers' recommendations. The planning laws are often rigid and inappropriate for some local issues and concerns, but many do offer the possibility for interpretation, which can allow some local concerns to have influence on the final decision.

"Having said that we are of the view that there should be considerably more autonomy given to Councillors to come to decisions which, whilst going against Government 'recommendations' and planning law, are what are wanted locally and which are not then automatically overturned by Government inspectors on appeal.

"Over the years the ability of local councillors to properly consider applications in the light of the opinions and concerns of the local electorate has been eroded by more and more interference from 'on high'. Government should only have the right to overturn local decisions were this can truly be said to be 'in the national interest'.

"We realise that some of this goes beyond the question you asked but we think it is all relevant."

We await the outcome of any meeting with the Minister with interest but would also be curious to hear any comments from our own members or for that matter, members of the public who might read this.



The government are seriously considering creating up to ten new towns in areas which are presently countryside. They claim that we desperately need umpteen new houses to meet the demands of the present, let alone the future.

It could be argued that we need more urban areas like we need an extra hole in the head. There is never any expression of concern from the government over the long-term effect of a continually growing population and the demands this trend makes on the country as a whole. Many scoff at such comments saying that there is still a huge amount left of our green and pleasant land and we can afford to lose some of it to urbanisation for the good of all.

But can we?

There really is a finite amount of land within our borders and we are continually using it for more and more purposes, not just for housing either: take for instance the large amount of land being proposed for use by wind turbines! (OK, I won't go further on that issue here).

Housing however is an eternal problem and can not be resolved by eating away at our landscape.

The landscape is not just something to be appreciated like a picture on the wall. It is a living, breathing entity in itself and we degrade at our peril. We in the Trust have long argued that our local moorland is needed in its relatively uncluttered state to act as the 'green lungs' for the nearby urban areas; a place where people can to ' get away from it all' without having to travel expensively around the world to achieve that end. It is also a place, which because of lack of pollution, visual, audible and olfactory, gives a real breathing space for us all.

To take huge chunks of the land for urban usage goes against all of this. (I hasten to add that I'm not aware of any intention to build a new town on the moors around us just yet!).

In addition we are of the view that creating new towns from nothing is not a good way to provide new housing even if it is accepted that new housing is needed in such quantities. New towns of the 20th Century were of mixed success for at least two generations of time. Milton Keynes was designed around the motorcar and is having a radical redesign to make it more human. Welwyn Garden City was created rather for the commuter than for families, being composed of large numbers of apartment blocks. Cumbernauld was designed somewhat along the lines of Le Corbusier's machine cities and has had to have its heart ripped out and rebuilt. I struggle to think what they thought they were doing with Livingston.

Of course all of these areas will probably eventually come round to being real communities but it has taken two or three generations to realise this status, if indeed it has yet been achieved. You can build as cleverly as you like but you can not create communities overnight.

A probably unpalatable fact to many is that all sorts of people simply do not like living cheek by jowl with those of different earning ability, job types and above all social class. It is never more so than now that discussions on such matters can not be addressed as politically they are not acceptable. This is another example of many such where the elephant in the room is ignored.

Place yourself in the position of someone who has paid a lot of money (or taken out a heart–stopping mortgage) for their home, are well–educated, want to share the same school, street, sports facilities, pubs etc. with people who share their values, and find they have someone living close by in an identical house but who have got it for considerably less and have quite different values. This situation is not entirely impossible but it has to occur in its own time.

Communities grow. They can not be created overnight and are easily destroyed by indifferent and ignorant government manipulation. Existing communities are to be treasured wherever they are and no matter what level they exist at.

Experience from the last century of new towns which had the above problems, existing communities destroyed to make way for new buildings but which could not be reconstituted in the new–built housing has apparently counted for nothing.

The whole idea of eco–towns is a political ploy to enable the urban development of green belt and other green areas. If we need to build new, so–called carbon–neutral houses then this should and can be applied to all new housing. It isn't necessary to postulate new towns to achieve this end.

Iain S Gerrard


  Flower Meadow

The first blooms in the flower meadow

The first blooms in the Flower Meadow

The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers has now completed their work on the meadow having ploughed and seeded three separate areas in the spring.

The photograph above shows one of the seeded areas, with daisies, poppies and cornflowers in bloom. Do go and have a look for yourselves — but please don't be tempted to pick them so that they will be able to seed themselves!

The various types of flower seeds sown are as follows with a few brief notes about them:

Highest point of field: Summer Meadow Seed Mix.

Yarrow (apparently was a love charm of high repute and in Greek mythology Achilles used the plant to heal the wounds of his soldiers and to stop bleeding).

Lady's Bedstraw (In the past the dried plants were used to stuff mattresses, the coumarin scent of the plants acting as a flea killer. The flowers were also used to coagulate milk in cheese manufacture and, in Gloucestershire, to colour the cheese Double Gloucester. The plant is also used for dye giving a red madder–like colour and the stems and leaves give a wonderful yellow).

Betony (Another plant used as a medicine for centuries on just about every continent in the world, and for just about every ailment known to man: the flower colour can vary from white to pink, purple, red or pale yellow).

Ox-eye Daisy (A typical meadow flower, it is also known as the marguerite and is one of a number of plants to be c alled by the common name daisy. It is also sometimes called moon daisy or dog daisy).

Field Scabious (A perennial having bluish–lilac flowers).

Selfheal (Of the purnella genus and so–called because of its use in herbal medicine. The common name "self-heal" or "all-heal" derives from the use of some species to treat a range of minor disorders. It is reported to have an antiseptic and antibacterial effect and to be particularly good in cases of food poisoning).

Lesser Knapweed (A weedy perennial with tough wiry stems and purple flowers).

Ribwort Plantain (A low herb with broad spreading leaves, and slender spikes of minute flowers. It is a native of Europe, but now found near the abode of civilized man in nearly all parts of the world).

Wild Carrot (Also known as bishop's lace or Queen Anne's lace, it has flowers which are bright white and rounded when fully opened with stems up to a yard in height Similar in appearance to the cultivated carrot, which is believed to have been derived from this plant).

Meadow Buttercup (If you don't know this one you're clearly not a flower person; also known as the 'Tall Buttercup', or 'Tall Field Buttercup').

Lowest point of field: Damp Meadow Seed Mix.

Cowslip (Also known as English Primrose having fragrant yellow flowers or Marsh marigold).

Ragged Robin (Native to Europe, where it is found along roadsides and in wet meadows and pastures. In Britain it has declined in numbers because of modern farming techniques and draining of wetlands and is now no longer common).

Meadow Buttercup,

Devil's Bit Scabious (A perennial of damp grassland, marshes and woodlands. It has rounded, pincushion– like and violet–blue flower heads that appear from July to October).

Meadowsweet (Too woody to be used as an edible plant, it has a long history of medicinal use by Native Americans as a herbal tea).

Teasel (Commonly called Sweet Scabious, Mourning Bride, or pincushion flower (for its head of small, lacy flowers; Fuller's teasel is a noxious biennial weed whose small flowers bear sharp prongs and has been used in the textile industry for teasing or raising the nap on wool).

Red Campion (As per the name the flowers are dark pink to red and besides the aesthetic value the crushed seeds have also been used to cure snakebites. The nectar of the flowers is utilised by bumblebees and butterflies, and several species of moth feed on the foliage).

Either side of path by Brown Street entrance: Butterfly border mix.

Foxglove (Also known as the purple foxglove or lady's glove, although the flowers of some plants are white).

Red Campion, Field Scabious, Ox-eye Daisy, Selfheal, Lesser Knapweed,

Evening Primrose (Most are yellow, evening–flowering annuals or biennials. The common evening primrose is common in Europe, where the roots are sometimes used for food).

Cornflower (It is called bluebottle or bluet in England and bluebonnet in Scotland. The long-stemmed blue heads of the flowers yield a juice which, mixed with alum, has been used as a dye. In the past it often grew as a weed in crop fields. It is now endangered in its native habitat by agricultural intensification, particularly over-use of herbicides, destroying its habitat).

Corncockle. ( In the 19th century it was reported as a very common weed of wheat fields and its seeds were inadvertently included in harvested wheat seed and then re–sown the following season. It is very likely that until the 20th century, most wheat contained some Corncockle seed. In parts of Europe such as the United Kingdom inten sive mechanised farming has put the plant at risk and it is now uncommon or local.)



  The Rochdale Canal: My Playground

Pikehouse Cottages, situated north of Littleborough, was, when I was growing up there in the 1950s, a row of six houses adjacent to the eastern side of the Rochdale Canal. The Cut, as it was known "for short" was my playground, and an Aladdin's cave of, what, to an eight year–old boy, was treasure trove. Almost anything that floated, or submerged would be 'fished out'. I became an expert at using a long piece of string — with a stone tied on one end — as a means of retrieving all sorts of 'valuable' things. If the object was on the level part, I would just throw the stone over it and drag it to where I could retrieve it; but if it was down in the Lock, I would throw my stone as close to it as I could, and by a flick of the string, try and loop it around the object enough times to be able to pull it to the top of the Lock.

The most prized find of all was always a stave from the paling fencing that was used by the local mills around their gardens. Whenever I found one of these, I would play for hours, and it would be my spear, javelin, Robin Hood staff, or some other magical object that my fertile imagination would conjure up.

Another of my passions was my model yacht, a beautiful thing, mostly handmade, I think. The vessel itself stood about 3 –foot high with a large sail at the front and a smaller one behind the tall, slender, varnished mast. The small sail was linked to the rudder by a tensioned string, a tiny block of wood, with two, even smaller holes drilled through, were used as tension stays.

When it was stood on its stand (a small board with four long nails through, that the keel would stand in) the yacht looked resplendent with its black lead keel, blue hull and varnished deck. A brass flange held the mast.

With its two white sails it looked like it was racing through the ocean when it was just standing there. But when I took it on the canal, she became alive. I would tie my long string on the front and, depending on the wind, adjust the rudder tension, and launch. Off she would go up the canal, a narrow band of blue wood showing above the water, and a triangle of white sails filled with wind, sometimes the sails almost touching the water, banking this way and that into the wind, and sometimes capsizing, when I would have to bring her in and dry her down, and back to being an ornament again.

I never knew where the yacht came from, or who made it with such loving care and put so much detail into it. But as I got older, and no longer lived near the canal, the much needed restoration never got done, and one day, in need of some cash, I broke off the lead keel and weighed it for scrap.

My sister Christine in the 1950s

My sister Christine in the 1950s

Once, a visiting Uncle, one warm day, decided to swim in the canal; it was popular with swimmers at our part. The narrow bit, near to the lock seemed almost as deep as the lock itself, and the gates provided an excellent diving board: my uncle Ted had borrowed a pair of my mother's knickers, and after swimming for a while, persuaded me to go in with him, and he would teach me to swim. To get in by the lock gates was easy, the stone at either side was clean and provided good grip for the hands, so, after much cajoling, I lowered myself into the water held by uncle's strong hands, it was shallow enough at the edges for me to stand up, the mud always formed a 'V' all the way along the canal, or maybe it was cut like that originally. Anyway, there I was being lowered down into the water, I could feel the grey–black mud oozing through my toes, and I just stood there, clinging to the stone wall, partly in fear and partly in revulsion. After I steadfastly refused to move, they finally lifted me out again. I often fell into the canal by accident, but I never did learn to swim until I left school.

So the cut was one big adventure playground being almost on our doorstep, and seemingly going ad–infinitum in either direction, to a young growing boy in those far–off austere post war years.

The picture on the left, taken sometime in the 1950s, shows my sister Christine at the side of the canal wall. In the background are Greenvale Cottages (now gone) and the chimney of Greenvale Mill.

Russell Johnson


  A Tragedy Remembered

Wooden cross above Watergrove Reservoir

Wooden cross above Watergrove Reservoir

This simple wooden cross on Crook moor high above Watergrove marks the place where the body of a six-year-old boy was found in November 1929. In all there have been three crosses on this site. The first was made by the boy's grandfather. When it decayed two canes were tied together to create a cruciform configuration.

The existing cross was made by Joseph Irlam of Shaw, a retired joiner and a keen walker, who on his first visit to the site was so moved by the tragedy he decided to make a more substantial memorial. He had been told how a group of lads had been chased out of a henpen at Shore, and how the six-year-old ran onto the moor which was shrouded in mist causing him to become totally disorientated. It took five days to find him despite the fact that scores of people were on the moor every day searching, including people from Walsden, by which time he had died of exposure.

Unfortunately Mr Irlam had been told the boy was called Mark Jenkinson hence the initials MJ carved on the cross. It wasn't until after he had installed the cross he learned the boy's real name was Alec Jenkinson. Mr Irlam completed the task by stamping his own name on both ends of the arm of the cross.

After the tragedy the Jenkinsons left Shore and moved to Crossfield Road, Wardle, where they had another child: it too was a boy.

The cross can just be seen with the naked eye from the top of the Long Causeway, but will that be the case if the dreaded Wind Turbine scheme goes ahead?

Allen Holt


Letter to the Editor

  Littleborough Smokers and their Litter

It has now been one year since the smoking ban in public places came into force and on the one hand I must say that I have some sympathy with the smokers who are now treated worse than lepers in our society. However, I now look at the Central Conservation Area in Littleborough and it has been turned into a tip.

Outside every bar, public house and club the streets are littered with cigarette ends, spent matches etc., and the stale tobacco smell is awful. I know that this is not unique to Littleborough and is in fact countrywide but it is time that something was done about it.

I know that many of our councillors read this Newsletter and I urge them to stand up and be counted, to ensure that locally the owners/managers of premises that allow smoking outside their walls are held responsible for ensuring that these areas are kept clean, on a daily basis, or they should be prosecuted.

Mr. A Smith
Littleborough Civic Trust Member


Editor: Brian Walker