Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Cycle Path Closure Condemned

(Updated 8/1/09): The cycle path between Sylvester Street and Carr House Lane in Lancaster is to be closed for two months from 10th January to allow works to take place on the land between the path and railway. There are no plans by the contractor for a diversionary route to be put in place, which has provoked outraged from local cyclists.

"I think it is completely unacceptable get just three days’ notice of the closure of a very significant cycling and walking route," commented Dave Horton of Dynamo, the Lancaster and District Cycle Campaign. "This is a major route for local schoolchildren, and anyone wanting to move between west and south Lancaster without having to negotiate the city centre and we are told the contractor has no plans for a diversionary route.

"We are a cycling demonstration town (CDT). The contractor should be told they must put in a diversionary route – the City Council surely has some ability to influence this process."

Responding to complaints, it seems the the first thing the City Council knew about the closure was yesterday when staff spotted the ad in the Lancaster Guardian. It is staff at the County Council who have authorised this closure and allowed it to go ahead without a diversion.

"This closure has not been authorised by the City Council but by Lancashire Countryside Services," The Council's Celebrating Cycling Team said in a statement released 8 January. "We realise the inconvenience this may cause and have asked them why this closure has been allowed without a diversion being put in place.

"We will update our website if we hear anything further."

Any enquiries or complaints should be sent to countrysideservices@lancashire.gov.uk.
(Web Link: www.lancashire.gov.uk/environment/countryside/contact.asp

You might also want to contact your local councilors, and push them to take action on your behalf.

Lancastrians Continue Pressure over Gaza

Gaza Vigil in LancasterAfter 40 people gathered on Saturday to hold a silent vigil in solidarity with the people of Gaza (see news story), protestors are keeping up the pressure on MPs and government to take action over the conflict.

100s of leaflets were given out at the vigil urging people to contact our MP, Ben Wallace, to demand an immediate ceasefire and to join the boycott of Israel.

“The situation in Gaza is unbelievable, with many people suffering," said former Lancaster resident, Atef, who recently returned to his family in Gaza and who has survived the bombings. "It's an unbelievable crime against humanity and the bombing should stop immediately”

Bryony Rogers of Lancaster Palestine Solidarity Campaign said “It is imperative that we raise our voices and speak out against this situation, which is a completely disproportionate and horrific display of gross military power against a chronically suffering people.”

Saif, a Palestinian living in Lancaster said "We are standing here to raise our voice for stopping the mass killing of civilians in Gaza. The free voice of peace should be heard and the world has to move to stop all military actions in Gaza.”

• A further vigil will be held on Saturday 10th January, 11.30am in Market Square. To get involved with Lancaster Palestine Solidarity Campaign call 07807 680591

Wassailing Tradition Returns to Lancaster

The Fairfield Association will be hosting a traditional Wassailing event later this month, in the Fairfield Community Orchard at the end of Sunnyside Lane in Lancaster.

Taking place on Saturday 17th January between 3pm and 5pm, this will be the second time in living memory that Lancaster has hosted a Wassailing – the first was last year and was a rip-roaring success with over 100 people in attendance. It follows a year of successful events hosted by the Fairfield Association.

The word wassail derives from the Old English words wæs (þu) hæl which means variously ‘be healthy' or ‘be whole' - both of which meanings survive in the modern English phrase ‘hale and hearty'. Thus this is a traditional ceremony which seeks to start off the first stirrings of life in the land and to help it emerge from winter and to ensure that the next season's crop of fruit, especially apples and pears, will be bountiful.

“Wassailings are traditionally held in the cider making counties of southern England," explains Andrew Brennand, the event’s organizer, "but since Lancaster boasts its own public orchard we thought the time was right to bring the tradition to the North West.

"We were bowled over by how many people attended last year and hope that everyone who came will attend again and tell their friends. With a bit of luck this will become a popular new tradition in Lancaster – it is certainly something to fill those dreary days after Christmas!”

While some wassailing ceremonies take place earlier in the New Year, on the eve of Twelfth Night or Old Christmas Eve (5th January), in some cases the ceremony takes places a little later, on 17th January, Old Twelfth Night, depending on whether the celebrants prefer to follow the old or new calendar. (Old Christmas Eve is just at the end of the midwinter period when legend has it that the Wild Hunt rides and chaos traditionally rules as the otherworldly horde broke through into human realms. I think we've got enough chaos to worry about without encouraging Wild Hunts...).

The Associatiuon has chosen to have their ceremony on Old Twelfth Night, which falls on a Saturday, which means for the first time the event will be held simultaneously with Wassailing events all over the country. There will be a range of activities suitable for both children and adults, starting with a noisy procession at 3.00pm sharp. People are encouraged to bring pots, pans and drums as the procession is intended to scare away any evil spirits who might blight the crop in the year to come. While not many people believe in evil spirits these days, there is some evidence that making a big noise at this time of year actually disrupts the natural cycle of parasites that damage the trees, so you could argue that the content of the centuries old Wassailing ceremony is actually backed by modern science...

Following this there will be a traditional Mummers Play performed by the Stone the Crows Morris side from Leyland. These plays are also traditional and have a heritage going back at least five hundred years. “Some people believe that these plays go all the way back to the time of the Crusades," says Andrww. "Although the texts of all Mummers Plays are quite similar, the version being performed will be an adaptation of the original Lancaster Pace Egging play that originates in this very city.”

Included in the afternoon’s proceedings will be the choosing of an Oak King and Apple Queen to rule for a year, so people are requested to attend in Fancy Dress if they want to be considered for these prestigious roles. The Oak King and Apple Queen will make the traditional offerings of cider to the trees and begin the passing round of a Wassail Bowl.

The event will finish with the performance of traditional four part harmony Wassailing songs around a bonfire. All funds raised will go towards the upkeep of the orchard. There is a suggested donation of £1 per attendee.

Read more about wassailing on the White Dragon web site.
Wassailing Song on Carols.org.uk
• Read about Celtic myth and druids on www.druidry.org

Monday, 5 January 2009

Be carbon monoxide aware and win a free alarm

Lancaster City Council is raising awareness of the dangers of carbon monoxide with a simple-to-enter competition and a chance to win a free carbon monoxide alarm for your home.

Carbon monoxide is known as the silent killer. It is invisible, tasteless and odourless and can strike people in their own homes often producing flu-like symptoms such as headaches and drowsiness.

At least 50 people die each year in this country as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning, but this number may be much higher due to inaccurate diagnosis.

Carbon monoxide is a product of combustion so any appliance where combustible fuel is burnt, if not installed, operated or maintained correctly, may cause death. The risk is even greater if there is insufficient ventilation provided to a room to enable effective combustion.

Although it is strongly recommended that gas appliances are serviced regularly, chimneys swept and flues checked, it is a legal requirement for owners of rented accommodation to have annual gas and flue inspections. Tenants have a right to see the inspection report.

The council recommends that all homes with gas/coal/wood burning appliances have a carbon monoxide alarm. Although most homes now have a smoke detector, only 25% have a carbon monoxide alarm.

• If you want to be in with a chance to win one of five free alarms, simply answer the following questions and send them to Environmental Health – Carbon Monoxide Competition, Town Hall, Morecambe, LA4 5AF or by email to plord@lancaster.gov.uk by 31st January. Don’t forget to include your name, address and telephone number.

1. Carbon monoxide prevents which important chemical from reaching the blood?
a) oxygen
b) carbon dioxide
c) nitrogen

2. True or false – children may be at greater risk from carbon monoxide poisoning than adults because their bodies are smaller.

3. During which month does most carbon monoxide related incidents occur?
a) November
b) January
c) March

Need help answering the questions? Visit www.co-gassafety.co.uk.

New Bill Worry for Lancaster City Council?

One of the firms contracted to collect local kerbside recycling, Lancaster-based Envirofirst, is considering billing local authorities to store 3,000-4,000 tons of waste. The charges would include local councils who use the company's services.

The Daily Mail reports that bale after bale of waste paper sits unwanted at a depot in the south of England, a sight being repeated all over the country because the market for all the paper and card so carefully put aside by households has collapsed. The country’s mountain of such waste, growing at a rate of 8,300 tons a week, is costing taxpayers millions of pounds because the private firms contracted by councils to collect and dispose of it are now charging them to store it.

Envirofirst, which is based on the Lune Industrial Estate, say it is committed to reducing landfill and offering a first class service to local businesses wanting to recycle. Their service is available to all local businesses and they work closely with local councils and local and national waste management companies operating in the Lancaster and South Lakes area.

Under EU legislation the UK has to ensure that less than one third of its waste is sent for landfill by 2020. But by that time these sites will have been full for seven years. At present we bury a massive 80-90% of our waste of which at least two thirds of this is recycleable.

Lancaster Light Notes: 5 January 2009

• An investigation is underway after five people were forced to flee a Lancashire house fire. The blaze broke out at the property on Keswick Road in Lancaster just after 12.05am on Sunday. The Lancashire Eveing Post reports five adults inside the house managed to escape but were left suffering smoke inhalation. Full Story here

• The Lancashire Evening Post reports former Bishop of Lancaster Ian Harland has died aged 76. He was Anglican bishop in Lancaster from 1985 to 1989 before becoming Bishop of Carlisle, where he remained until his retirement. He died over Christmas in a hospice near Bradford.

• Four local heroes were rewarded for their hard work in the community in the New Year Honours List, including Garstang Fairtrade pioneer Bruce Crowther who was awarded an MBE for services to Oxfam and to Fairtrade. Find out who else was honoured on the Lancaster Guardian web site.

• Staff at Lancaster's Woolworths store which has now closed, had their spirits lifted by some Good Samaritans. The Lancaster Guardian reports NUT members at Morecambe High School wanted to show their solidarity with the 35 staff who've been made redundant so their representative, Sam Ud-din, took in a letter and a donation.

• Music, poetry and drama will be blended together by a couple known the world over for their music in a bid to bring the diverse communities of Lancaster and Morecambe closer. Lakeland Today reports Morecambe library will throw open its doors on Tuesday 13th January for a performance of selected scenes from Rainbow Beach – the musical brainchild of Nanette Welmans and Russ Courtenay. Tickets for the library event, which takes place at 2pm, are £2.50 and are available from Morecambe Library. For more information about the project, music and the people involved log onto www.rainbow-beach.co.uk.

Lancaster Protest over Gaza Terror


Lancastrians gathered in Market Square on Saturday (3rd January) in an impromptu protest opposing Israeli action in Gaza. IndyMedia reports the protest was attended by local people of many different backgrounds, and united local Jews, Muslims, Christians, Socialists, anarchists, Greens, Trades Unionists, Gays, working people, students and Saturday shoppers! A similar protest also took place in Preston on Sunday.

There will be another vigil in solidarity with the people of Gaza on Saturday 10th January in Market Square, starting at 11.30am. Supporters are asked to "bring banners, candles, photos, 'blood splattered' clothes" to join a "die-in" protest.

The Times
reports that at least 524 Palestinians have been reported killed and nearly 2,000 wounded since December 27, when Israel began air raids on Gaza in retaliation for Hamas's failure to stop militants launching rocket attacks on southern Israel, which have also resulted in deaths and injury. The civilian death toll is rising by the hour and diplomatic efforts to halt the fighting appear to be making little headway.

The US has insisted that a ceasefire must be accompanied by assurances that Hamas will stop rocket attacks on Israel.

Links:
BBC News - Gaza Conflist - Who Is A Civillian?
The bloodied children are clearly civilians; men killed as they launch rockets are undisputedly not. But what about the 40 or so young Hamas police recruits on parade who died in the first wave of Israel's bombing campaign in Gaza?

The Times: Israel Splits Gaza in Three
This report includes an outline of the aims of both Israel and Hamas

Credit Crunch Hits Local Pets

As owners count the cost of the day-to-day upkeep and see insurance premiums and vet's bills rise, thousands of families are saying goodbye to their four-legged family members.

Sky News reports that The Dog's Trust, the largest dog welfare charity in the UK, have twice as many pets on their waiting list to be rehomed than this time last year. Staff at national animal welfare charity the Blue Cross are seeing a three fold increase in the numbers of abandoned pets this year, with many owners citing economic problems, job losses and house moves.

"The dogs unfortunately are the first to suffer when financially people can't afford to pay the bills, or feed themselves," one Dogs Trust rehoming centre manager told Sky. "It's very sad that a family member, like a dog is the first victim of the credit crunch, but this is clearly what we're seeing."

Locally, charities such as Cats Protection and Animal Care, which is based on Blea Tarn Road, Lancaster, are always looking for homes for animals. (Joey, pictured right, is just one dog in urgent need of a home). In addition, local vets are seeing more strays brought into them: Longleys and Burch currently has three cats looking for good homes.

• To find out more about Longleys' strays - homes are urgently being sought - call 01524 720002

• If you have FOUND or LOST a dog the phone numbers to report this to are:
Lost and Found 9 am - 5 pm: 01524 582935
Found after 5 pm" 01524 67099
Lost after 5pm: 07931 220094

• If you have FOUND or LOST a cat call Cats Protection on 01524 850112
Please leave a clear message indicating your requirements and a contact telephone number. If you leave a mobile number then please ensure that it remains switched on. A volunteer will call back when available to do so and as soon as is possible.

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Travels With A Camera back at The Platform

A new series of Travels with a Camera slide shows by photographer Peter Logan will start at the Platform on Monday, 12 January. All the shows are on Mondays and start at 7.00pm.

As usual, Peter has chosen a varied range of destinations, and he'll soon be travelling again -- this time to Antarctica.

The full programme is as follows:

12 January: To Iran for the Solar Eclipse
19 January: Behind the Bamboo Curtain - Mysterious North Korea
16 February: Central America from Guatemala to the Panama Canal
23 February: Across Namibia on the Desert Express
2 March: Greenland - A Viking Odyssey

Tickets cost £2.50 including tea or coffee and biscuits and can be bought from the Box Office on 01524 582803 and from Lancaster or Morecambe Tourist Information Centres.