Where You At Q5: When was the last time a fire burned in your area?


The fifth question in the Where You At? bioregional quiz is:

When was the last time a fire burned in your area?

This is one of the quiz questions that reveals its Cascadian/West Coast USA origins. As Carolyn Merchant has noted in Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World (1992) the quiz is ‘culture-bound’. I write that because the whole concept of a fire burning ‘in your area’ seems to reflect the spread of wildfire over large parts of a landscape, something that happens regularly enough to note in California, but is much less familiar in northern Europe.

The widespread deforestation of the Atlantic Archipelago has left the UK without a lot of standing trees to burn and the climate here means that we have rarely experienced the hot, dry conditions that catalyse these types of conflagration. Continue reading “Where You At Q5: When was the last time a fire burned in your area?”

Where You At Q4: What was the total rainfall in your area last year?

Rubber duck in a rainwater butt

The fourth question in the Where You At? bioregional quiz is:

What was the total rainfall in your area last year?

I think that annual average rainfall in Essex is about 600mm, but I don’t know how recent years have compared to that. The nearest Met Office ‘climate stations’ to me are at Writtle (c.29km away) and Shoeburyness (c.10.5 km away) – checking the Met Office site I see that for the period 1980-2010: Continue reading “Where You At Q4: What was the total rainfall in your area last year?”

Where You At Q3: What soil series are you standing on?

Claire and students of the 2015 Design 4 ACTION Permaculture Design Course observing a London soil sample

The third question in the Where You At? bioregional quiz is:

What soil series are you standing on?

A question to which my first response is ‘soil what?’ An alternate version of the bioregional quiz frames this question as ‘Describe the type of soil around your house.’ which is a bit more approachable. Another version asks ‘Describe the basic geology of the place you are living. What type of natural ground is there?”, which is also useful – but starts to move in on the territory of a later question (#16).

So I’m not familiar with the term ‘soil series’ – but I do know something about the soil here. Continue reading “Where You At Q3: What soil series are you standing on?”

Where You At Q2: How many days til the moon is full?


The supermoon of March 19th, 2011


The second question in the Where You At? bioregional quiz is:

How many days til the moon is full?

I’m not sure how good I would be at this calculation generally. I can’t remember seeing the moon lately but then I can’t remember looking at the night sky recently either. Today, Wednesday 11th April 2018, I’m pretty sure the last full moon was Easter Saturday – which was 31st March – which I think means that we are a few days off new moon – so perhaps it’s not surprising I haven’t seen the moon lately. The moon has a 28-day cycle, so the next full moon should be in about 17 days time – 28th April.

Ok, let’s check. Continue reading “Where You At Q2: How many days til the moon is full?”

Get out of Debt!

My ecological footprint across biomes, calculated in 2013

Back in the middle of the first decade of the C21st, Essex County Council briefly ran a website http://www.agreeneressex.net/ with a purpose to ‘take sustainability on’ in Essex. That link is dead, and many of the plans it presented are also lifeless now,  but some of the site remains preserved here at the Internet Archive for review.

Around 2006 the site reported on Essex’s environmental footprint, highlighting that if all the populations of the world consumed natural resources as we do in Essex, we would require 2.9 planets to sustain it. It doesn’t source its calculation, but the number is broadly in line with the UK’s environmental footprint around the same period as reported by the World Wide Fund for Nature in Ecological footprint of British city residents.  Continue reading “Get out of Debt!”

Beating the Bounds 4: Maldon to SWF via Purleigh

The well-worn pilgrim’s path of St Peter’s Way

Whoever escaped/ Kept a weather-eye open and moved away.
Seamus Heaney (trans.) Beowulf

A volte-face of an old favourite: the walk from South Woodham Ferrers to Maldon via Purleigh. The trick with this walk, in either direction, is to leave early enough to reach The Bell in Purleigh before they stop serving food. I got the 8.25 bus (31x) from Burnham clocktower to Maldon, which gave we enough time to check the charity shops (one purchase: Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf – 99p) and visit Maldon Library before departing proper. Continue reading “Beating the Bounds 4: Maldon to SWF via Purleigh”

Greenhouse Britain


A witch conjures a storm and brings terror to the seas, woodcut from ‘Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus’, (1555)

The next report from the  Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is due late in 2019. The lag time between data gathering and data publication, plus the need for an agreed consensus amidst the contributors have conspired in previous editions to present overly optimistic scenarios, it’s now widely recognised that they’ve routinely underestimated the rate of global warming. A recent study suggests that we might see 1.5 metres of sea-level rise before 2100: ‘Revised median RSL [relative sea-level] projections for a high-emissions future would, without protective measures, by 2100 submerge land currently home to more than 153 million people’. If we don’t avoid those high-emissions scenarios we’re also locking in greater future sea-level rises as Antarctica and Greenland give up their land-based ice to the sea.

A look over the Dengie’s sea walls at high tide and imagining another 150cm of water is a sobering matter – factor in the conditions that caused the spate of inundations referred to in a previous post and you can see we have a problem. Continue reading “Greenhouse Britain”

Desk Research: Dengie Woodland 2

A rainy Easter Monday, but Burnham & District Museum reopened Good Friday for its 2018 season so I went there to renew my membership and review their library. The good selection of books there allowed me to do some more work researching the history of woodland cover on the Dengie. The Domesday Book period of 1086 CE and thereabouts gets the most attention as it remains the first substantive account of England. Several people have attempted to turn the records of the Domesday Book‘s purely textual account into a visual cartographic form – and one of the map elements frequently reasoned inductively is woodland cover.

Map from A.C. Edward’s A History of Essex; with Maps and Pictures (1962)

Continue reading “Desk Research: Dengie Woodland 2”