Monday 29 December 2014


Added the Staffordshire Fungus Group to the sidebar links list. If you have some particularly bizzare mushrooms or toadstools on your patch, they might be the people to email with a picture.

Monday 15 December 2014

Penkhull Wassail 2015

Penkhull is reviving its New Year Wassail tradition, with a Domesday Morris Penkhull 2015 Wassail on 3rd January. Until now, the Wassail procession tradition had only survived at Barlaston, in the south of the city.

Picture: the Barlaston Wassail, from the Sentinel.

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Charles Tomlinson reads "The Allotment"

I found an audio-recording of Charles Tomlinson reading the full version of his poem about allotments and his father. His father and he lived on Hartshill, and so the poem's setting may have been my old allotment on the hillside above Stoke town. The rest of his Stoke Poems can be heard here (scroll down to get to the Stoke section).

Picture doesn't show Stoke, and probably somewhere in northern England. But it certainly has a similar feel.

Friday 14 November 2014

Lights on the Hill

Lights on the Hill... "If you live on Hartshill Road, Stoke and would like to host a shadow, paper-cut or lantern in your window or front garden this winter please contact B arts: 01782 848835 or

Friday 24 October 2014

Re-wilding: can the "fence and forget" strategy be subtly improved on?

I've been wondering if Stoke-on-Trent needs a slightly more structured 're-wilding' programme for its seemingly unwanted brownfield sites? It has such a strategy by default, of course, thankfully run with extreme efficiency and zero cost by dear ol' Mother Nature (look at the likes of the bank behind the Burslem School of Art, the area hidden behind the main train station, the space next to AirSpace gallery in Hanley) rather than run by the Council.

But there is said to be 170 hectares of brownfield land in Stoke, with only 90 of that being judged to be future 'employment land' which (before the recession) was being used only at about 20 hectares per year (figures from the Local Development Framework, 2006). So let's say the city has a solid 80 hectares (nearly 200 acres) left of non-employment brownfield. Let's then, rather ambitiously, hope that by 2020 a generous 10 hectares (24 acres) of that will get taken for new housing.

So that leaves 70 hectares (172 acres) of non-employment and non-housing land.

Let's then very cautiously say that only half that 70 hectares is currently open and being naturally re-seeded and re-colonized by nature. So: potential space for 86 acres of new regenerated woodland in the city, even without actually having to dig out concrete surfaces or demolish and clear ruins to allow nature the freedom to grow.

The Woodland Trust Space for People report suggested that 157 hectares (387 acres) of new planting would be needed in Stoke-on-Trent, for every citizen to have urban woodland within 500 yards of their home. That's obviously an extreme eco-worrier position to take. But even if the political will were there, there obviously isn't that amount of space available.

Perhaps the current de facto "fence and forget" strategy is actually the best one for re-wilding the city. But... I wonder if a set of small additional nudges might help nature along in those spaces. Such as the installation of 'wildlife entrances', big enough for a mammal but nothing else, allowing wildlife access into fenced sites. The out-of-sight siting of small ponds in the centre of sites, and alongside each pond a few new oak saplings. Perhaps also some semi-turfed mounds of old tyres, to provide winter shelter. It wouldn't cost that much, could usefully absorb the labours of some unemployed youth and ex-squaddies, and could hasten the greening of the city over the next 20 years.

Above: unplanted new woodland growing up on the hillside behind the Burslem School of Art. There's also an artist's proposal for this space.

Friday 20 June 2014

Tuesday 11 March 2014

The Greening of the Potteries

At the Film Theatre, Stoke-on-Trent, Wed 9th April 2014 (7.45pm)...

"Staffordshire Film Archive screening, 'THE GREENING OF THE POTTERIES: a reclamation special'. With newly digitised colour films taken by Percy Dyer (Head of Parks) in the 1960s and 1970s - charting the before, action and after on the City's main reclamation sites, turning Smoky Old Stoke into the greenest city in the UK."

Location on Google Maps

Friday 28 February 2014

And that was that...

Springtime is about to spring and, sad to report, I won't be tromping around on the allotment readying it for the new growing year. Due to a sore hip (which I hope is temporary), I felt obliged to hand in my notice on the plot about a month ago.

I do have to say that I won't miss the bill for the annual rent, nor the cost of the manure/fertiliser, the seed potatoes, the other seeds and plants, etc. All of which I reckon added up to more than the value of the crops I took off the plot, over the 15 months that I worked it.

But overall it was a good and useful experience. There are some grand fellows on the site who I was glad to make the acquaintance of, especially Gareth. If I ever take another plot or garden, as I may in some distant future years, then I'll be a lot more prepared and informed.

I may continue to post here on this blog, from time to time, about wildlife / allotment / footpath / litter / environment matters in Stoke.

Saturday 11 January 2014

In the Ground

New documentary photography exhibition coming soon, at Gallery 116 in Stoke town, Stoke-on-Trent, on the old Victoria Ground (former home of Stoke City F.C.) in the town.