Saturday, 6 November 2010

New Gates

November is well under way, yet it looks like September to me.

I've been off with the 'flu, but returned to work on Friday to find that the biscuits I left on the desk are now really stale! This shows how little time the Rangers have spent in the office; normally biscuits are devoured in seconds. However it might just illustrate that I am the most prolific biscuit-dunker in the office, not the two Matts.

I was keen to get back, for a number of reasons:

  1. I missed the gossip from staff, visitors and volunteers

  2. I have been stuck indoors and missed the fantastic autumn colours

  3. I was really upset that Ian Langdon saw the waxwings and not me

  4. I wanted to see how the new landscaping was getting on

  5. Friday's staff meeting was about redundancies and budgets; so, un-missable.

  6. Friday was our seasonal ranger, Michelle's last day.

  7. Other stuff! (see below)

I'll try to fill you in as much as I can, without anyone taking legal action. We are all a bit dizzy from the pace of change at present.

As for gossip; I did hear that the village church is in with a chance of getting its bells fixed. Check out the "People's Millions" (or something like that) on TV and vote for them, frequently. I also hear that the bells did not get stolen along with the lead and copper off the roof. If the French ever do invade, you might be glad of those bells.

    The recent high winds cleared away a lot of leaves but the colours are still amazing. This is your last chance to get out your camera and capture the most colourful autumn for years. If you go further out and about, I have never seen so many field mushrooms in the fields as there are right now.

Talking of trees, we have David Oliver, our contract tree surgeon, working on various diseased and dangerous trees along the Heron Trail and the moorings. The high winds fortunately didn't cause us any problem there. However, we try to keep as much dead wood up on the trees as we can, except along the paths.

There have been no more waxwing sightings this week, but they are turning up in small groups across the county. The best places to look are the plantings around supermarkets, factories and offices and along railway lines. They love berries and a drink of water, but they are very mobile. In the USA they are called Bohemian waxwings because of the way they randomly turn up, or not. Look out too for rough-legged buzzards. Our local common buzzards and crows tend to give them a hard time by drawing attention to them.

The photographs show how the paths and banks are progressing around the new environmental education centre (or, as I prefer, 'Nature Lab'). We were determined to avoid straight lines because children just run along straight paths to the far end. Curves make for more surprises and slow them down. Aesthetically, to me there is no argument that curves just look better than straight lines. Sigmund Freud probably had a lot to say on the reasons for this. However, curves are a lot more difficult to make out of planks of wood and square sheets of fabric. The new gate complex looks great to me. It's much more logical and safe, and it looks like the entrance to somewhere interesting (which it is). One regular visitor said that it looks like a garden centre, which is a bit of a compliment really. Before the changes, it looked like the entrance to a quarry.

If you have read the local papers, you will be aware of the profound cuts to be made in the District's provision of services for the public. We in Countryside Services are expected to make cuts of 40 to 50% over the next three years. We have already agreed to cut some publications such as leaflets and brochures, charge for others and cut down on loss-making events. We have also found ways to increase income, but the council has set a target of 33 redundancies in our division, which includes 14 posts in the CCTV office. Our section won't be immune from redundancies so this will mean that those who remain will have more to do.

You may have met Michelle on patrol or around the centre. Her job was created as part of a (previous) government "back to work" scheme for people who have been unemployed for over a year. She has been replaced for the next six months by Andrew who is a marine biologist. Sadly, the scheme is not expected to continue after that. It has given me great pleasure to see these young people regain their confidence and learn job-skills. Both Michelle and Andrew are capable and competent people who deserve a proper job.

As for the "other stuff"; don't miss next week's thrilling episode in the Ranger's Blog.