Thursday, 31 December 2020

Cumulative map of all Stoke-on-Trent virus deaths

Map of all Stoke virus deaths since the virus began. Latest from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) interactive map, which shows the total of all "Deaths involving COVID-19":
And, for comparison, the map as it stood at 15th August 2020:

Saturday, 17 October 2020

Open and shut - a new series of Stoke-on-Trent alley gatings

It appears that Stoke-on-Trent City Council is quietly using the lockdown to lock up a wide range of alleys and footpaths, with new residents-only 'gated path' arragements. Regrettably their set of final draft orders all lack maps.

'Location 53' is Palmers Green. They don't appear to have closed the Palmers Green gated footpath known as "Palmers Way", which is absolutely vital to a key public walking-route between Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke. But the 'back-alley' path leading around the back of the houses up to reach this vital footpath does appear to have been closed to the public. Access to Palmers Way still seems to be possible by walking up the quiet green cul-de-sac of Palmers Green, which would anyway have been the preferrable walking route. But obviously walkers need to keep a close eye on the continued accessibility of "Palmers Way".

The other regrettable loss is at the very end of the document. The very long alley that runs behind the Leek Road, and that enabled relatively pleasant and quiet walking from Hanley Park / Cauldon Canal down to the Royal Mail sorting office. While usefully avoiding student grot and huge pavement-hogging bins on one side, and the fumes and noise of the main road traffic on the other.

Most of these "residents only" alley gatings appear to being put in place to deter druggies and flytippers. Yet another example of how we all suffer because of measures needed to deal with a tiny minority.

Friday, 16 October 2020

Off Hanley, duck

In the Sentinel today, Three-day police crackdown on loutish behaviour turning Hanley into 'land of the living dead'.

Well, I had the misfortune to go into Hanley today and all I can say, is that this report is bollocks in terms of both a "crackdown" and also "loutish". It's far worse than "loutish", and I saw no evidence of a "crackdown" in terms of effective action when needed.

The so-called "mobile unit" mentioned in the report just sat in their warm car and watched from a distance while a madman screamed abuse at passers-by for 15 minutes, many of them elderly and coming from the bus-station. A more cast-iron case of "a breach of the peace" and "distress and alarm" you'd struggle to find. Possibly it had been going on far longer than I was there for. I went into Wilkos on the corner, and by the time I got out the nutter had just that moment got bored of his perch on one of the big stone 'seats' and had started to wander off, still shouting at people. Unfortunately he was going in my direction. I lingered in the Wilko entrance and then kept a safe distance as he raved away down Stafford Street, then he dodged in a shop, smirking with a knowing "got away with it" smirk and he had gone a bit quiet... probably planning to cause more trouble inside.

And that's just one example. Plenty of people could give you many more examples, years and years of them. And not just in Hanley either, but in Forest Park, Hanley Park, Hanley Cemetery, the list goes on. It's nothing to do with the lockdowns, it's been going on for years now and seemingly tolerated. Do you wonder why half the shops in that part of Hanley have closed down? People used to rather idly say Hanley looked like a bomb had hit it. But they were always exaggerating a bit, in that jokey Stokie way. But now it really does look like a bomb has hit it, and it also has the zombies to go with it.

Tuesday, 13 October 2020

"All aboard, for the Cobridge Traffic Lights...!"

"Multi-million pound plans unveiled for tram network in Stoke-on-Trent". With the proposed line going from Tunstall - Burslem - Waterloo Road / Cobridge Traffic Lights - Hanley - then splitting into a Stoke Station spur and a Longton line. I assume it would be an on-road system, rather than using the city's Greenways which are now dedicated to walkers and cyclists.

Great idea, and now's the right time to start getting the government to offer the cash to fund all the planning and feasibility studies. But, judging by my experience of the unpleasant West Bromwich tram line, I'd suggest some baseline requirements. When I was last on it the West Brom line had uncomfortable seats, and rattling and juddering and generally noisy trams. I'd suggest that Stoke's line should aim to be:

* fitted with comfy seats, not rock-hard bum-chillers and hip-grinders. Yes, I know you have to deter seat-hogging drunks, who would stay on and yob and sleep all day if you let them. But there must be other ways to deter such things.

* have bus-style forward-facing seats, not side-facing, for less travel-sickness when moving.

* be as whisper-quiet and vibration-free as possible, both inside and out.

I presume the technology has moved on since the 1980s/90s style trams, and such requirements should now be within reach of a high-quality high-tech approach for the 2030s. Perhaps the city's push to be an 'advanced materials' hub could feed into this new tram project, by developing the vibration-absorbing and noise-damping materials needed to deliver a far more pleasant tram-travel experience?

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Behind closed doors

Why are Council tenders not public, in Newcastle-under-Lyme? They are in Stoke and elsewhere. I thought it was national policy to ask for openness and transparency from local Councils?

Thursday, 3 September 2020

On your bike

Good to hear, this week, as the ground becomes softer and more liable to damage:

"Operation Transom is being launched in the City of Stoke-on-Trent to tackle the issue of nuisance motorbikes".

Presumably it's also easier to nab them, as it'll now be mostly concentrated in the drier evenings and on weekends. Rather than strung out all over the city at different times, as it presumably is during the school holidays.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

Map of all Stoke virus deaths to 15th August 2020

Office for National Statistics - All "Deaths involving COVID-19" from the start of the pandemic through to 15th August 2020, for the Stoke-on-Trent city area.

Saturday, 8 August 2020

It's the city's clean-up weekend!

This weekend is the launch of the city's clean-up, championed by our champion litter picker Debi Allbutt of Norton. It's just as well to do it now — early on Sunday morning or Monday — because it'll be wet once this fine spell is over. Monday tea-time will see the start of several days of rain and thunder. On the clean-up The Sentinel reports today that: "Community champion encourages Stoke-on-Trent residents to get involved in big clean up".

"It's literally so easy to take part in 'View From Your Door'. We're just asking everyone to head out to their street, pick up litter, pick up weeds, and make things look more presentable. It only needs to take 10 minutes."

Debi is encouraging people to share their before and after pictures on social media in their local community Facebook groups.

Great stuff. If you can take part, according to my research the best place to buy a good litter-picking stick in Stoke is Ableworld in the Leek Road near Hanley. There you want their "Classic Long" picker, which when last seen were re-branded Helping Hand sticks. You can also get a Helping Hand stick from Amazon, though it's long and you won't get it to fit in a pick-up locker. The other thing that's useful are flexible gloves and a firm stick about 12 inches long. Any bit of old tree will do, as long it's not going to snap. Roll the stick into the top of the bin-bag, to give you a "handle" to hold that keeps the bag open for popping the litter in with your stick.

Obviously the city could not have the usual Spring cleanup this year, so there's likely to be a lot to do. A week ago I did a long stretch near me, which needed to be done. But perhaps the city has more than can be done in a few hours on a Sunday morning or Monday lunchtime. The next best time of year for a mass litter-pick would then be just after Bonfire Night. In that still-crisp early November weather when the wind is usually very low, and the ground and its litter is not too moist and soggy yet.

Friday, 31 July 2020

Where will they put the West Midlands National Park?

In the news today: "Plans for West Midlands National Park move forward".

So where exactly would they put it, if it was to be something real and big. Not just a patchwork PR exercise that aimed to provoke no NIMBY-ism from voters? If it's indeed to be big and green, then I guess it would have to be near Birmingham, for political reasons. And be positioned so it at least has a chance of an eventual genuine connection with the National Forest, in perhaps 50 years.

Looking at the map, I'd then guess that a starting point would be adding 'wild-belt' hedged strips that try to link up the natural areas between Sutton Park and Cannock Chase. Such that after 20 years a squirrel could (just about) leap from tree-to-tree from Sutton Coldfield up to Stafford.

Such wide thick-hedged wildife strips would be very-low cost, if they were for nature only, and were not hijacked by local councils to be public paths used by cyclists, dog-walkers, etc. All one would need would be to buy the strips of relatively low-value land, then add some stakes and wire and hedge it either side of the strip. The strip would be wide enough to be easily mown for wild-flower meadow. After a decade, get in some lads with hedge-laying tools. Maybe also make some ponds at the connector-points, and at a distance around those plant clumps of what will eventually become large mature trees. All just for nature, no public access to the connector strips, only to what they're connecting.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Causing a buzz

"Stoke-on-Trent 'idyllic oasis' left looking this after being 'neglected' during lockdown".

First off, it's a complete journalistic spaff to call it an 'idyllic oasis'. It's a mini-park place in Hanley you avoid totally, or hurry through as quickly as possible, to avoid the drunks, druggies, and those waiting to go into the adjacent law courts to be sentenced for some heinous crime.

Secondly, as I understand it The Sentinel's offices are right next door to this. Did they not peep put of their windows before now, and spot that the grass was getting a bit long? Why have they saved up the 'story' until now?

Thirdly, who cares? The city now has a policy of letting verges grow quite long, for wildlife. It's great that the bees and crane-flies have been able to buzz among it for six weeks, and now we can cut it down when a critical mass of shoppers and revellers are back in the city centre again. Which, given the terrible weather forecast for this end-of-lockdown weekend, looks like being a week or so yet.

The more interesting response from the Sentinel might have been to call in a local ecologist and see what they can find in there with a camera-microscope.