** Please note that this is an archive of the CANTAB publication and contains out-of-date information **
Wind Turbines Wind turbines are in the news, both the land-based and off-shore types. The Ramblers’ Association policy is to consider each case on its merits, putting the burden on local groups for making the decision. Cambridge RA Group supported Linton and Great Chesterford Parish Councils in their successful campaign to prevent the erection of turbines on the ridge of high ground on the parish (and county) border. Important factors in the decision appear not to have been so much any impact on the landscape, but the effect of such structures on aircraft navigation at Stansted, and on rare bats in nearby Hildersham Wood. When a scheme for a group of turbines was put forward on land above Balsham, there was no local campaign, so the Ramblers’ Association made no comment. These tall structures are now being erected, and are very clearly visible from the Fleam Dyke, and the historic Fox Road track.
I have looked into the views of other countryside organisations, and attempt to present the tone of their views below.
Council for the Preservation of Rural England, CPRE
In its magazine, “Countryside Voice”, Spring 2012, CPRE publishes a debate between opinions on both sides. One objector (Adrian Snook of Northants) felt that the Government was putting undue emphasis on wind power to solve the UK’s energy problems. He was very upset that 5 wind turbines, 410ft tall were allowed in a rural site, in spite of concerted local opposition. He writes: “Rural communities have grown to perceive the whirling blades as a symbol of oppression”.
On the other hand, Rachel Coxcoon, (Head of Local & Community Empowerment, Centre for Sustainable Energy), cites a CSE report, “Common Concerns about Windpower”. She contends that landscape impact is a subjective challenge that rightly remains at the heart of the debate. She compares objections to that raised by Victorian railway expansion. Ms Coxcoon concludes that community ownership and control are a key to unlocking the acceptance of large-scale renewable energy.
South Downs Society The South Downs Society supports “clean green” energy from wind, but wants to protect the South Downs National Park. Its concerns relate not only to possible wind farms on land, but also those off the South Coast.
Energy giant EON is proposing a new offshore windfarm (the Rampion) in the English Channel within sight of the coast and the South Downs. The 100-200 turbines up to 210m high will be 13 – 23 km out to sea. Electricity will be brought to shore through underground cables between Worthing and Lancing, then carried underground to connect with the national grid near Bolney, Mid-Sussex. It will mean digging a huge trench across the South Downs for the cables. The South Downs Society is pressing EON to bury some existing overhead wires in the trench, and to start the tidying up of the old Shoreham cement works, alongside the trench.
This scheme is still at the consultation stage, but on a recent visit to Wells-next-the-sea, Norfolk, we were able to see the on-going development of another off-shore wind turbine project, which gives insight into the numerous factors involved.
Sheringham Shoal – SCIRA Offshore Energy
When we visited Wells in March, we called at the local office of the company, and obtained publicity material, from which these notes are derived.
By the early Spring, it seems some twenty offshore turbines were already in position, (although they were not visible from the coast at Wells). Offshore wind farms are notable by the tall turbines above the waves, but of equal importance are the subsea components – foundations, cables and associated equipment, and the land-based facilities. Initial preparation works had started on the site of the Sheringham Shoal operations and maintenance facility on the Walsingham estate in Egmere, 3 miles south of Wells. In Wells, we saw the new Outer Harbour in the sand near the lifeboat station, serving the offshore operations, with a fleet of 3 or 4 vessels.
An underwater trencher specially re-engineered for Sheringham seabed conditions was about to begin burying cable between the windfarm and the coast at Weybourne, using a technique tested to have “least impact” on the marine environment.
An offshore community of ca 180 people is living and working in the Greater Wash, on a floating hotel,”Wind Ambition”, a former Mediterranean ferry of 153m, adapted for accommodation. This has minimised boat and road traffic to & from the Wells Outer Harbour, as workers mostly now join/leave the vessel on its monthly visit to Harwich.
I noted, from the handouts, that Sheringham Shoal Community Fund has awarded funds to Bacton on sea Village Hall towards the installation of a 5kw wind turbine to help reduce the hall’s carbon emissions. The 1st Mundsley Air Scout Group was awarded funds towards installation of 20 photovoltaic panels on the roof of the new scout hut. The Sheringham and District Preservation Soc was granted funds to replace the current lighting in the Heritage Centre and Shell Gallery. There was no mention of any objectors…
Suffolk Offshore Wind Farms The Suffolk Wildlife Trust magazine of May 2012 gives a resumé of ongoing proposals for wind farms off the coast of Suffolk, which I venture to summarise.
A “Greater Gabbard” project is already under construction, and I have no further details. A new proposal called the “Galloper” project forms an extension of Greater Gabbard, and consists of a further 140 turbines, so clearly this is a major offshore initiative. The planning application for this development is currently being considered by the Infrastructure Planning Committee, and the decision expected later this year.
A second new proposal, The East Anglian Offshore Windfarm (EAOW) is even larger, and is to be brought forward as six projects. The first of these, East Anglia one, comprising 333 turbines, is expected to be submitted before the end of 2012.
Suffolk Wildlife Trust notes that offshore wind farms have the potential to disturb marine environments, such as birds and mammals, and the sea bed, and also necessarily affect terrestrial environments, as trenches are dug, and cables laid to connect with the national grid.
So it is clear that the environmental lobby of coastal counties has plenty of work on its hands to engage with the planning process to try for the best possible outcomes for the countryside and wildlife.
Breckland Nature Reserves and CountryParks -Explorer 229 Instead of a “Parish of the Month” we explore the Breckland area spanning the Norfolk – Suffolk border. This is the land of the rare stone curlew, whose love of “blasted heath” makes it seriously short of habitat now most of Breckland is under conifers. Here are some ideas for visits, even if many of the sites are more trees than open spaces.
At the beginning of the year, Suffolk Wildlife Trust put out an urgent appeal to buy Knettishall Heath. Thanks to the generosity of its members, and other East Anglian friends, this large reserve (formerly 360acres, now enlarged) was purchased from Suffolk County Council.
Walkers will know the site as the termination of the Icknield Way long distance path, and the start of The Peddars Way. An information site, waymarked circuits, car park, and toilet block were part of the purchase, and RA Cambridge Group sent £50 towards maintenance.
Knettishall has a mix of habitats including areas of heath and chalk grassland. It is one of the best examples in the Brecks of so-called “patterned ground” in the form of vegetation stripes. These were created by repeated freezing/thawing at the end of the last ice age. Interesting plants include: meadow saxifrage; spring sedge; maiden pink; and unusual liverworts. Exmoor ponies are used to keep down young trees and bracken overcoming open habitats. Visit soon!
Lackford Lakes Suffolk Wildlife Trust also owns Lackford Lakes reserve, with a very splendid information centre, car park (small charge), and walks through the reserve to a scattering of about a dozen bird hides overlooking the old quarry lakes. This is also a good site for studying Breckland flowers on the bare sandy areas, varying in size from the tiny Breckland speedwell to the striking pink & blue Vipers Bugloss, often 2 feet high. A permissive footpath runs from Lackford Church to the reserve, so it is possible to walk from Lackford Lakes to West Stow Country Park, without using the dangerous stretch of main road from the approach drive to Lackford Car Park.
Other areas in the Brecks include nature reserves, other than those in the hands of the Suffolk Trust. These include:
Brandon County Park. This attractive area, adjacent to Brandon Park Hotel and rest home, about 2 miles out of Brandon, is surrounded by Forest Enterprise woodland, with access. It is run by Forest Heath District Council, with Suffolk County Council. There is a café and information centre, toilets and parking (small charge). A number of short waymarked walks are available within the park, visiting a walled garden, lake, mausoleum, tree trail etc, and incorporating a nature reserve. Much longer walks are possible, taking in the wider area of forestry on both sides of London Road, and linking with walks around High Lodge.
Thetford Forest Park High Lodge Forest Centre, over the border in Norfolk, is run by Forest Enterprise, from the Forest District Office in Santon Downham. Children’s playgrounds, tree walks, a maze, cycle hire, forest drives, information centre and café make Forest Lodge a “something for everyone” place. But there is plenty of good walking on waymarked tracks. Beware of the kami-kazi cyclists!
Around Santon Downham The Forest District office in Santon Downham is a source of leaflets and information in working hours, and an information board is available in the free car park outside the public toilets. Various waymarked walks are promoted, including nature notes. St Helens Car Park on the other side of the river, gives access to a further range of waymarked forest rides. Grimes Graves (English Heritage) to the north, is mostly about prehistoric flint mining, but with notes on natural history.
Fen Drayton At the end of May, I enjoyed an excellent walk around the Fen Drayton lakes, and along the busway-bridlepath, particularly admiring the huge variety of flowering plants along the busway verges. At the station for the RSPB, one can pick up a plan of the paths around the lakes. In the reserve, I visited the new “Coucher” hide, looking out over Moore Lake (and indicated by a red square on their plan). Here was advertised The Three Tuns pub in Fen Drayton, now open from 10.30 am daily, and serving tea, coffee, cakes etc. (Tel 01954 230 242).
As I was intending to walk into St Ives, and patronise the excellent “Nuts Bistro” café, I did not try the pub, but walk leaders may wish to note it.
Guided Busway Art Those of you who have walked along parts of the guided busway between Cambridge and St Ives will have noted that, in general, it is not provided with seats, other than rather inadequate “shelves” in the ‘bus shelters. Along the route there are, however, occasional short sections of curious brick wall with lettering, at a convenient height for sitting, or resting a rucksack, while consulting the map. On visiting the waiting room at Longstanton, I discovered from a leaflet that these are in fact works of art.
Handmade bricks from Cambridgeshire Tile and Brick Co., Burwell, on a base of Staffordshire Blue bricks, were fashioned by artist Jo Roberts into thought-provoking sculptures. There are 13 little walls along the route, each with a unique lettering. Each wall has specially pressed bricks with a selection of words chosen from suggestions by pupils at local schools, residents, and parish councils. The wet clay was moulded into a brick, and while the clay was drying the words were impressed with wooden Letterpress letters.
Next time I pass, I will not only put on my reading glasses to study progress on the map, I will “read” the walls!
Eversden Nev Fraser is looking for evidence that the old railway line going west from the Comberton road at TL383 544, west of the Lords Bridge Radio Telescope, has been used as a footpath, since the line was closed in 1965. Anyone with information is invited to contact Nev direct on firstname.lastname@example.org
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Price20 pence where sold Cantab 68 © Janet Moreton, 2012