onlineFOCUS – News and Stuff For Rochford District since 2003

 

Archive for Science

The First Flyers Of Fambridge

Early hot air balloon flight, 1784

The bookstall inside Rayleigh Lanes recently had a couple of copies of “Essex And Its Race For The Skies 1900-1939″ by Graham Smith.

As you’d expect from the title, it deals with flying in Essex before WW2. But it also covers flights in Essex before 1900. A really long time before.

Let’s go back to 1783. The Montgolfier Brothers in France invent a hot-air balloon and Etienne Montgolfier makes the first manned ascent. News of this travels fast.

By the next spring there are already flights taken in place in England. On June 3rd 1784 one arrived at Fambridge! According to the diary of John Crosier, A Maldon miller:

“3rd June, a large balloon descended in a field near Fambridge … with Major Money and another gentlemen, both heavy men. They came down about three o’clock in the afternoon, pack’d it up and convy’d it to Maldon in a cart. The car, in the form of a boat, was superb’

It’s not altogether clear that this was South Fambridge rather than North Fambridge. But even so , it must have been a startling site for anyone who saw it. Men descending out of the sky!

Some Good Places To Visit During The Olympics – 2

Rayleigh Mill

If you are coming to Hadleigh for the Olympics, you might fancy coming to Rayleigh for a meal. There are plenty of cafes and tea-rooms, and a good range of restaurants – whether you want Fish and Chips, Italian, Spanish, Chinese or Indian. Plus lots of pubs….

Battlesbridge

And if you want to go a bit further, and eat by the river, you can have a very good meal at Hullbridge or Battlesbridge.

If you’ve come from abroad, and are interested in science, then you could drive to Paglesham, where the remains of Darwin’s Beagle are somewhere in the river bed. There’s absolutely nothing of H.M.S. Beagle to actually see, but the pubs do good food and it’s a very tranquil place to walk.


And if you are more religious-minded, there are plenty of ancient village churches to see, including one at Paglesham. The view from the churchyard at Ashingdon is particularly fine.

Join In The Big Butterfly Count !

The Guardian explains things pretty well here:


If this summer’s 50 shades of grey are getting you down, imagine how miserable it is to be a winged insect. In what is shaping up to be the worst year on record for butterflies, Sir David Attenborough on Wednesday urged people to find a window of sunshine and join the biggest butterfly count in the world.
.
The wettest April for a century and the dampest June on record has left lepidopterists despairing about the fate of Britain’s 59 species, almost three quarters of which are in decline and one third are in danger of extinction.
.
Launching the third year of Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count, the biggest citizen science project of its kind in the world, Attenborough said it was more important than ever to discover if butterflies are dodging the downpour. The count, in which people are asked to record online all the common species they spot in a 15-minute window in their garden or local park, will alert conservationists to the species most in danger so efforts can be better targeted to prevent their extinction.

You can find out more on the Big Butterfly Count website.

You simply download and print their identification chart and spend 15 minutes when its sunny noting what butterflies you see.

You could do this in a garden, or park or field, or one of our woods. You can then submit your findings, and they go onto an interactive map:

A couple of thoughts :

  • Our district doesn’t have any results yet on the map
  • This is a reminder of how important wildflower meadows are in places like Sweyne Park.
  • “It’s the people who make a town special, though”

    Chris Black has an article on the Guardian website today, on this special morning for Rayleigh. Here is the text, with some added links and photos:



    ” If you want to see the most charming council house in Britain, come and visit the Dutch Cottage in Rayleigh. It’s tiny, octagonal and thatched – and although it has tenants living there, the public can visit on Wednesday afternoons. An Olympic torchbearer will be running past it today.

    I can’t help thinking that if this little cottage was in a more fashionable town – Tunbridge Wells or Lewes, or somewhere like that – it would be more famous. But Rayleigh, situated between Chelmsford and Southend, seldom gets into the headlines.
    Our most spectacular death was the Rayleigh Bathchair Murder of 1943, when a downtrodden teenage son killed his father by concealing an anti-tank mine under his cushion. (I was told that the jury thought the father such a tyrant that they would have let the son off, had he not also put his father’s nurse in danger). Our most celebrated birth was in 1969, when the Hanson quintuplets were born to a Rayleigh family – the first surviving quins in the UK.

    Oddly enough, a quirk of aristocratic history makes Rayleigh a familiar name to physicists. Back in the 1800s, a certain Lady Charlotte Strutt married into an Essex family, was raised to the peerage and – though she didn’t live here – chose our town’s name to acquire the pleasant-sounding title of Baroness Rayleigh. Her grandson, Lord Rayleigh, went on to become one of Britain’s greatest physicists, and thus Rayleigh must lend its name to more scientific terms than any other town or city in the world – a minor planet, a lunar crater and a Martian crater all bear our town’s name. Beat that, Tunbridge Wells.

    Of all these terms, Rayleigh Scattering is my favourite: the scientific explanation of why the sky is blue – which I think makes our skies extra-interesting, even if there’s not been much evidence of the effect in recent weeks. And yet another scientific link to Rayleigh is the suggestion that the remains of Darwin’s legendary ship, HMS Beagle, lie on the river-bed just a few miles away in Paglesham.

    It’s the people who make a town special, though. I remember chatting with one chap at a barbeque, who told me he was in training for his second marathon. How did he happen to do his first? Well, one of his mates in his amateur football team had just lost his wife to breast cancer, and had decided to raise funds by running in the New York marathon. So the widower’s team-mates entered the same race, trained for it, booked themselves on the same flight and into the same hotel – all without telling him. When the team turned up at Heathrow, he was touched, thinking they had come to see him off. Then he saw they all had luggage, and burst into tears.

    It’s people like that who make me proud of this town, and I’m sure we’ll give the torchbearer a rousing welcome today. This is a place of quiet pleasures and excellent, bacon-topped pork pies. If Derbyshire has the Peak District, then perhaps the Olympic torch has now reached the picnic district.”

    A Guest Post On Snakes And Science

    We have a guest post for the third day running…. this is from District Councillor John Mason – about a personal scientific project he has been working on in Cyprus….

    Protecting Snakes And Humans

    Chris Black, the Editor of OnlineFOCUS spotted a personal video clip of mine on the internet which was about my friend Snake George who was testing a snake deterrent that I had designed.

    He invited me to write an article about this diversity in my interests.

    My family’s interest in Cyprus is that we spend many of our holidays there and having been an amateur herpetologist since I was 7 it was no surprise that I went to meet Snake George, real name Hans Jorg Wiedl, at his Reptile Park about 12 years ago now. George is an expert in the Snakes, Lizards and Amphibians of Cyprus. He has written many articles and at least two books.

    Snake George (Hans-Jorg Wiedl) re-discovered the Cyprus Grass Snake after it had been thought extinct for nearly 40 years. Secondly he proved that the most venomous snake on Cyprus, the Blunt Nose Viper lays eggs, other than bearing live young as it had been thought and apparently proven.

    George has been working hard to win the right from the Cyprus Government to establish a conservation and breeding project to save the Cyprus Grass Snake from extinction. I have run a Petition at the EU Parliament to bring this into focus for action before it is too late. There are some articles that I have written about this on http://rochfordessex.com/cyprusreptiles

    Many people in Cyprus are frightened of snakes and, despite education, this will probably remain so for several generations.

    The worst part is that all snakes suffer from indiscriminate killing, even the harmless ones!!

    This is placing all species at risk and especially now in Cyprus the Large Whip Snake (harmless) which is a natural predator, ironically, of the Blunt Nosed Viper which is the only venomous snake in Cyprus that can endanger human life.

    George and I were having coffee at the New Roots Garden Centre near Coral Bay one morning and he lamented that the product that he had been selling on as Snake Buster was ShooSnake (I think) from Australia and he had been banned for importing this by the Cyprus Authorities. He reckoned that a repellent would still help conserve snakes as they would not frequent areas where people do not want them. I agreed to research the substances used in current products under safety for use in the environment and that which could be imported into Cyprus with a chemical license and distribute for use as a pesticide.

    The EU fairly recently banned practically every pesticide previously in use and licensed in the EU, which includes Cyprus.

    The product that I have produced has been tested initially by George. There is scientific data which backs up the recommendation I made on the basis of my research.

    There are a number of commercial snake repellents on sale in Cyprus. Some are electronic. It is not clear whether Cyprus has any natural safe snake repellents available to help people ward off snakes from their homes, business premises and gardens. If the snakes are repelled from the place then everyone is happy, especially the human.

    It is a CONSERVATION PROJECT…………it conserves and protects both snakes and humans!!

    There are harmful materials that people might use but these are also harmful to the human species!! And environmentally dangerous.

    With the knowledge I had gained at QMC, London and the ecology of Cyprus snakes I had learnt since then my independent research has been undertaken on ancient ethnobotanical archives in order to derive such a product with the safest possible attributes.
    It does not involve chemicals only plant extracts which are safe for both humans and the environment but repel snakes. My research has produced a product that achieves these objectives. This is a very important project for Cyprus given the issues that humans have with snakes. I would welcome any input offered on the commercial aspects of this project.

    Looking For Half-Term Ideas?

    Have a look at the District Council activities programme for 13th-18th February.

    You can download the council’s brochure here. (1.62Mb)

    Highlights include:

  • Fencing at Great Wakering Primary School with Olympian James Beevers (£7.50)
  • A “Grease”-themed workshop with the Mushroom Theatre Company at Lubards Farm (£15)
  • Family pottery at Ashingdon Primary Academy (£4)
  • Golf at Lords Country Club for under 125s 15s (£4)
  • A course for children to gain confidence in swimming – only 3 in a class (£25 for sessions over 3 days)
  • All activities have to be pre-booked – unless stated otherwise .

    Meanwhile Hockley Library is looking for science experimenters. as the Council website explains:

    Hockley Library needs Science Investigators to get stuck into Crucial Chemistry projects and Boggling Biology experiments.
    _
    We are having a Science Fayre in the library hosted by Greensward Academy students aimed at those aged 4-11, on Tuesday 14th February 10am-2.30pm there will be loads to do.
    _
    For further details please contact Hockley Library on 01702_203_558.

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