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Rest Less Ride Film

  • Posted by alex
  • 4 May 2012

On the night of the Spring Equinox, Rob Penn and friends took off on an overnight cycle ride across Wales.

The Rest Less Ride took the peloton of 16 riders from the west coast, all the way to the east. They cycled unlit back-roads riddled with pot-holes, gravel and barrier-less hairpin bends. They passed through deep dark valleys, through forests and up mountains, in a race against the sunrise.

The Rest Less Ride celebrates the pleasure of cycling and the friendships it forges.

Riding a bike should be easy

  • Posted by alex
  • 3 May 2012

Isn’t that what we are told? You learn when you are small and, like an elephant, you never forget. What an amazing deal. Once mastered, you have a gift that lasts a lifetime, and even if you part ways for a period of time it waits patiently for you to return. Once bought, it is the gift that keeps giving – health, entertainment, and convenience. So why isn’t everyone riding a bike? Shouldn’t the streets in every village, town and city hum with the sound of rubber passing over tarmac? You only have to observe parts of cities like London, Bristol, and Cambridge at rush hour to see the potential. Hybrids, racers, fixies, bmx, mountain bikes, single speeds, choppers, Dutch bikes, and cruisers all spinning to and fro.

While cycling numbers have increased by around 20% across Britain over the last decade, we lag behind other European countries. The number of cyclists killed or injured sits around 27,000 for that period. This figure is unacceptable and concerns over safety are the main reason many bikes sit unloved in garden sheds up and down the country. This is a terrible shame since cycling represents the elixir to many of our problems. Regular riding can significantly improve fitness levels (goodbye beer belly) and increase life expectancy (hello happy retirement). By swapping an eight mile round trip commute from car to bike, you save 0.5 tonnes of carbon per year – that’s the equivalent of a short haul flight.

It stands to reason that if we want a country that is synonymous with cycling you need to ensure that it is safe. As a result of much hard work by sustainable transport charities and cycling campaign groups we have seen significant progress. Most recently, the Cycle Safe campaign from The Times – coupled with February’s Parliamentary cycling debate - has helped raise the profile of cycle safety. There is much that can be done to improve junctions, slow speeds in neighbourhoods, and provide better road user training. However, this all requires investment – even a small percentage of the road budget could make a huge difference across the country.

Ultimately, the goal is to get people – young, old, male, female – on bikes for their everyday journeys to places like school, work, and the shops. However, currently around 66% of journeys (two miles or less) are completed in a car. While the number of accidents involving cyclists are a concern, the perceived danger can sometimes outweigh the actual risks. It is important to emphasise that cycling is still a fun, exhilarating, and egalitarian means of getting around. You hear of schools not letting kid’s cycle and adults looking on in horror as you ride past on the way to work. It is important to remember that it’s cycling, not war. Going forward, we need more people on bikes and (much) improved cycle infrastructure to ensure that the fun isn’t taken out of cycling.

Words: Ben Addy

Plastic Beach

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 September 2010

Categories:

Plastic Beach

Plastic Beach
It’s easy to think, when you gaze out into the wild Atlantic, that you are confronting a wilderness free from the processes, laws and weirdness of the modern world.

At one level, of course, you are. No human hand or institution can properly tame the watery portion of the planet, which is of course the greatest in volume and area. But at another level, the apparently unruly ebb, flow and shudder of the seas is as much about us stand-up monkeys as the geophysics of the elements.

Ever since the age of exploration when human empires scoured the edges of the known world to claim territory, plunder goods and subjugate peoples, we have imposed definitions, laws – not to mention the product of our own frailties – on the ocean. We have along the way changed the nature of the floating world.

We’ve spent the last couple of centuries imposing the laws of the landlocked highways on the oceans whilst at the same time throwing our crap over the sides of our boats – and all the while arguing over the spoils. Our beaches are strewn with the evidence of our carelessness – like the pristine hedges along the country lane besmirched by jettisoned cans of Red Bull and tubes of Pringles.

Millions of tonnes of waste are thrown over the side of commercial shipping every year. International crews sail on ships under ‘flags of convenience’ under which no human rights, health and safety or environmental regulation are enforced. They are under no legal obligation to do anything other than chuck their rubbish, their waste, and the excess baggage over the side.

But it’s not only irresponsible sailors who are causing the problem of this toxic jetsam. The cruise ship industry has been booming for the last twenty years. These floating cathedrals of consumption, carrying as many as 5000 people at a time, are adept at leaving a toxic trail of untreated sewage in their wakes.

According to Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) who have called on the cruise industry to make the necessary investment to introduce onboard sewage treatment solutions, only a very few ships to date have made a commitment to do so.

Loopholes in current legislation mean that sewage and other waste continues to be discharged to sea, even from ships sailing under the British flag.

Coastal fauna is damaged and marine wildlife destroyed – and the unsuspecting recreational water user (that’s you and me) is put at risk.

The seemingly unstoppable tide of plastic, which it has been estimated can stick around in the ocean for as much as 500 years, is increasing in volume every year. Some scientists have calculated that there can be no beaches left on the entire planet – even in the furthest flung islands of Polynesia, that aren’t strewn with plastic waste.

Join the Surfers Against Sewage campaign to rage against the toxic tides:

www.sas.org.uk

Man make fire. Man stay warm.

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2009

Categories:

Man make fire. Man stay warm.

Man make fire. Man stay warm.
I don’t know what my carbon footprint is. But I do know that I make an effort to keep it small.



Yet, only since we moved from the city and disconnected from mains gas (choosing to heat our house by wood alone) do I know the true metrics of what it takes to “stoke the boilers” in our house for just one year.



It breaks down like this: We burn 4 wheelbarrows of wood a week in the winter to heat our house and do most of the cooking. In the summer we would use just 1 wheelbarrow a week. Winter is 8 months, summer is 4. We have 2 log storage compartments in the woodshed that each take 2 trailer-loads of logs to fill. Each trailer is about 1 tonne of wood. Each compartment lasts about 1 month, so it holds about 16 wheelbarrows.


In terms of volume, one of our storage compartments can hold about two whole 35-year-old ash trees, including the trunk and all the branches that measure up to 20mm in diameter. In a year we use about 5 or 6 trees.


I know that to fell 1 tree, limb it, move it, split it and stack it, is 1 day’s work on my own. This will consume about ¼ of a litre of 2-stroke and half of that in chain oil for the chainsaw. I consume approx. 6 cups of tea and 2 litres of water on the job. The limbing and splitting is done by axe. We need to split and dry all the wood in advance so that we get full energy from the burn and don’t end up drying the wood on the fire.

Indeed, an ash tree takes 1 year to dry enough to burn hot. A sycamore takes 6 months. Hazel and Hawthorne 1 year, oak and beech take upto 2 years or more and rescued driftwood from the river takes 2 months to dry under an airy tarpaulin. Trees take longer to grow than firewood does to season, so deciding what to cut down and planning replanting needs a lot of consideration.


These days, every household has power, heat and water on demand. It wouldn’t be far from the truth to say that most of us probably take it a bit for granted.



Yet by leaving the comfort zone and disconnecting from the mains, the inconvenience, effort, planning and physical preparation I now have to go through has actually reconnected me with exactly what it takes to sustain just me and my little family.


Adrian Gunn

The Golden Hour

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2009

Categories:

The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour
As my cycle journey around the coast of Britain over the Summer has progressed, there is a question that people ask a lot “what’s the best place that you have visited?”. I would say that our coastline is amazing and it’s hard to pick a single place. What is easy though is a favourite time of day.



There is an hour or so in the evening that is magical. The time before sunset, when things calm down, the wind drops, less cars. The skies are amazing and often the low sun will pick out and light a single building on the horizon or throw huge shadows across the fields.


It’s a great time to ride: on Anglesey you are alone on the ancient hills, in Cumbria the hedgerows come alive with birds, the west coast of Scotland has vast dramatic sunsets, and in Norfolk and Suffolk the huge skies light the rich and vast farmlands.


Now the days are shorter and darkness arrives a bit sooner, so there is more of an urgency to find a place to camp or a bed for the night. But if things work out I can drift into a coastal campsite with supper in a pannier with just enough light to grab a quick shower and cook a bit of food. That’s a perfect evening.

Nick Hand
www.slowcoast.co.uk

Sverige år fantastiskt.

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 December 2009

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Sverige år fantastiskt.

Sverige år fantastiskt.

I am 27. Jacob is 27. I ride BMX, so does Jacob. But that is where the similarities end, as I was born in England and Jacob was born in Sweden.

My local spot was a concrete abnormality where I learned the tricks I saw in all the magazines. Jacob’s local spot was a perfect bank, transitioned at the bottom where he learned all the tricks he could think of, the bank was the side of a cliff.

This is probably the reason that he has an ability of looking at everything in a completely different way to myself and all the people I grew up riding with. Nature is just a part of his life and just like every single one of his fellow country folk they just seem to be so in tune with it. 

If Mother Nature herself walked into a bar she’d give us all a hug I’m sure, just before she wandered over to the outside bar and high-fived all the Swedes before buying them a round, which they would definitely buy back.

I’ve been doing my best to integrate walks in the park, runs on the cliffs, cycling through the woods but I feel strangely alien, like I’m trying too hard. 

It’s not natural to my sort, my lungs are too full of West Midlands smog and although I love the outdoors I just know it’s going to take me a lifetime of being Swedish to refine that look in my eyes when I see nature do something amazing. No matter how hard I try it’s just not there. 

Yet Jacob and all the rest of them do it perfectly, just take a look at a sunset and look into the eyes of a Swede as they say “Sverige år fantastiskt” and that is why they get the high-fives. They are right too, Sverige certainly is ‘fantastiskt’.

Matthew J Adams

Cardigan Bay’s truth.

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 September 2009

Categories:

Cardigan Bay’s truth.

Cardigan Bay’s truth.
I have some questions for my strongly held opinion.

Last winter I kept looking out over Cardigan Bay and wondering what the distant lights were. The lights were there for months. It turns out they were fishing boats. Fishing for scallops. My first reaction was to be worried for marine life and the eco system, but then I soon realised I had to find out more. I needed some facts so I could back up what my gut was telling me. I knew very little. Yup, my opinion needed more knowledge. And it needs to go a bit deeper more than 10 minutes on Google.

So here’s a starter for ten:

1. How often do they come?
2. Who are they?
3. How long does it take for the seabed to recover?
4. Does it fully recover?
5. Is the damage to the seabed as bad as it looks?
6. Is there a noticeable effect on other marine life?
7. Is there a better way of doing it?
8. Is it sustainable?
9. Who is policing it?
10. Should we put some of our Earth Tax money into finding out some answers?

To catch a raindrop is something

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 September 2009

Categories:

To catch a raindrop is something

To-Catch-A-Raindrop
This raindrop has fallen on dinosaurs.

On cavemen.

On bloodied battlefields.

On the birth of religions.

And the fall of mighty empires.

And the start of revolutions.

On cities that no longer exist.

And countries before they had people in them.

This raindrop is on a loop that will never end.

This is your time in its life.

Enjoy.

The economics of trees

  • Posted by howies
  • 1 September 2009

Categories:

The economics of trees

The economics of trees
A tree has no economic value until it’s cut down.

Man is pretty good at attaching a value to most things, but a tree is worth nothing unless a chainsaw runs through it. As an economic unit, it is worth more dead than alive.

If you’re a tree, this ain’t good news. Equally, if you live on a planet called Earth and you are human, it’s also a problem.

So what’s the answer?

Well, we need to look at the economics of a tree differently. We need to put a value on them while they are still stood in the ground.

One answer is to make a tree an employee. And it works for a company called Earth Inc. And we are all shareholders in Earth Inc.

As the tree goes to work each day and we pay for what it produces: Oxygen. Rain. Carbon.

Therefore we have to put a price on the oxygen it produces each day. We have to put a price on the rain it produces each day. And we have to put a price on the carbon it produces each day.

Then we can all pay a fair price for a day’s work for the tree. So every country, every person is charged for its output. Earth Inc then pays the owners of the trees, countries, companies, private individuals for their employees output.

The economics are flipped on its head. So when we cut one down, we see it as an economic loss and not a financial gain. So they become more valuable when alive than dead.

It may be a stupid dumb idea.

But then again it can’t be as dumb as cutting down the trees that keep us alive on Planet Earth just for a few more toothpicks.

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