Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Sudden Oak Death identified on Cannock Chase

A potential outbreak of Phytophthora ramorum has been identified by Staffordshire County Council in Brocton Coppice, Cannock Chase *. The exact extent of the infection is not yet known. Otherwise known as Sudden Oak Death *, this relation to potato blight is a virulent and deadly fungal type infection that is spread by spores. These can be spread on clothes, animal fur, and in soil on boots, tyres etc.

Phytophthora ramorum attacks a range of species including oak, ash, beech, sycamore, yew, bilberry and heather. There are therefore potentially very grave consequences for the ancient oaks at Brocton Coppice and for the internationally important Cannock Chase heathland. Phytophthora ramorum is a notifiable plant pathogen and the Environment & Countryside Unit * at Staffordshire County Council is liaising with DEFRA's Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate * regarding control and eradication measures.

The Council is not, at this point, closing the Chase to visitors, but is asking people to stay on footpaths and tracks and to keep dogs on leads in the woodland. If you visit this area please refrain, however tempting, from leaving footpaths. Apart from the risks to this special site, there is the chance of spreading the infection to gardens and other places visited. Among the many ornamental plants susceptible are rhododendron, magnolia, lilac and camellia.

Global Warming! Surely they mean Global Freezing!

I have always had my doubts of the hype about Global Warming. Now, everyone seems to be changing their minds - and at minus 9.5 Celsius last night I am not surprised. I well remember 1962/3 winter which was the coldest in England and Wales since 1740. Forecasters are already predicting that this January chill could rival that. I haven't been able to contact my ancestors who were around at that time but I do remember the 1946/7 winter when the snow drifts were over the front door! We didn't have central heating in those days but depended on heat from the open coal fire in the front room (where I used to sit for ages toasting bread on the end of an extendable toasting fork) and the Aga cooker in the kitchen.

Last night (on the day when the Russians cut the gas to the EU via the Ukraine), and temperatures plummeted to minus 10 Celsius in the UK, our state of the art Gas Central Heating decided to break down. Panic stations when we woke this morning to find no hot water or heating. By mid afternoon (after driving to Stafford to collect the plumber whose van was out of action), it was got going again. Relief!

Have you noticed how your dog behaves when snow covers the ground and it freezes? No smells and they can't nuzzle through it. Our poor Bess seems to have grazed her nose on the ice - or is it frostbite? No shortage of birds in the garden searching for food. Squabbling over the peanuts, the mixed seed, the bits of pork pie, the crusts of bread, the turkey remains, etc. Gulls and Jackdaws chasing each other after collecting stale bread thrown on to the garage roof. Today we had visits from Mistle Thrush, Long-tailed Tits and Pied Wagtail.


Thursday, 1 January 2009


A Happy New Year to all visitors to this BLOG and the PENKRIDGE COMMUNITY WEBSITE.

Penkridge Town Crier & Webmaster