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Thursday, 31 March 2016

Bude Marine Conservation Group

Abby with 60 attendees - adults and children
I had known for a few months that Abby Crosby our local wildlife celebrity of Radio and TV fame was to hold a Strandline Discovery event at Sandymouth. When she asked me to join her afterwards to talk about community engagement, I jumped at the chance of a free cuppa.

She had an extremely good crowd of about 30 adults and 30 children who she sent of with buckets to see what they could find and identify.

After an hour's scrabbling along the strandline and in rock pools she called everyone together. She held her audience spellbound while she held a show and tell with all their finds.

Egg Wrack - 4 years old
She coaxed the children in to correctly identifying a mass of “snail” eggs which she explained were actually Whelk eggs and that sailors used the mass as a makeshift washing sponge. She explained the gory story of how the first hatchings gorged themselves on their siblings to cries of mock horror – survival of the fittest.

Next was a shore crab – prompted and eventually identified as a female, followed by a Limpet with stories of nightly foraging after which it followed its chemical slime trail to the exact spot it left earlier in the night. Then Egg Wrack which, by counting the “eggs” proved to be four years old. Finally the difference between shrimps and prawns – shrimps are almost totally transparent whereas prawns have stripy pyjama bottoms (legs).

With each item she took the opportunity to stress conservation and care of living creatures after which each was replaced in their original (or as near as possible) location.

The tide was too high for Honeycomb Worm, but one was found in a gully quite near to Dog Whelk eggs. The adults hatch into the predators of the seemingly impregnable limpet.

Dog Whelk eggs
A single Honeycomb worm
Over our tea, Abby introduced her colleague Natalie who had just started a contract to expand the current Voluntary Marine Conservation areas (currently Fowey, Helford, Looe, Polzeth and St Agnes) to include Bude.

Plans are in hand to engage with local groups of all kinds and individuals to establish a similar group in our area.

We await developments with eager anticipation.

Friday, 11 March 2016

Like the Clappers!

Morwenstow Parish Church

When I am not out and about looking at wildlife, I spend some of my time ringing church bells.
Thursday is bellringing practice night at Morwenstow Parish Church.  Last night, we were five plus one new ringer.  We rang five bells up and had a peal then brought them back down again for practice for our competition next week.  Pete, our new learner then had a guided session learning how to handle the rope.

The second time round, we began ringing the bells up again when we heard a loud thud from above in the bell chamber.  I said, “That’s the sound down dropped down.”  “No,” replied the Tower Captain, “it’s still up.”  Then there was a second lesser thud.  I said, 
“I think we had better set the bells and go up and have a look.”
Morwenstow Bell Ringers

As we were still only halfway to ringing the bells up, my rope jumped out of my hands, taking my fingertips with it, and the rope and bell swung wildly out of control.

We all thought I had broken the stay, but as the bell was still on its way up and nowhere near the stay, it just did not seem right.  Everyone else set their bells; the Tower Captain took the opportunity to show our learner the bell chamber and they both climbed the steps to the tower.  Meanwhile, the remainder of us set about untangling the rope from the guides around which it had wrapped itself.
The Clapper and bolt
The pair descended after some little time with the clapper of my bell and its fixing bolt in their hands.  The bolt had sheared inside the bell allowing the clapper to fall – the first thud, followed by the long bolt and nuts – the second thud.

As this happened, the rope had jumped off the wheel, hence the sudden whipping away of the rope rather than as a result of a broken stay, allowing the bell to swing uncontrollably.

The pieces have gone to a local metalworker to fashion a new bolt so that the clapper can be re-attached.

It could have been worse.  The bolt could have lasted until Tuesday when three other teams of bellringers join us for the final leg of our Winter Competition.  But, if the bell is not repairable before then, we may have to relocate to another tower.

[The bolt goes through the Gudgeon into the bell and attaches to the swinging arm from which the clapper hanges in the centre of the bell]
Anatomy of a Bell