August wrap up

I finally managed to get back to Rushton at the end of the month and so was able to spend an afternoon transcribing memorial inscriptions. Some maintenance work has been carried out in the graveyard and the vegetation that I was crawling through to find graves earlier in the year has now been cleared to expose the graves and in an other area of the graveyard some vegetation has been cleared and an number of graves I was not aware of are now visible if not exactly accessible including another two tombs. While I have not attempted to record these memorial inscriptions at this time at least I know that they are there and so will be able to record them. Unfortunately for some reason that is beyond me there has been a fire on top of two and next to another two headstones which has unfortunately resulted in damage to a number of the head stones.

38 new MIs have been added which include an additional 127 names – 17 of which are on the same tomb. On top of this another 10 years of the parish registers have been added.

Work is still on going on the registers and as some of you may be aware from visiting the website the year 1727 is missing from fiche F1109/1, I have contacted the Staffordshire Record Office and I am currently waiting for a response from them as to whether the relevant year is in the original registers. If it is not then I will have to contact Lichfield Record Office to see if the have the Bishops Transcripts for the relevant year.

If anyone is wondering why there is a picture of a rather fine cat at the start of this post, it is because this feline not only tried to make itself at home in the car, but also accompanied me around the graveyard for four hours before setting off across the fields – I can only assume home.

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Biomass developments at Lask Edge Farm

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a couple of weeks now, it is about a mobile pellet making unit being developed by father and son team Robert & Christopher Scott, at Lask Edge Farm in the Staffordshire Moorlands.

The idea for a mobile pellet making unit arose when they were looking at alternative methods of heating Lask Edge Farm and an interest in biomass as fuel source, and that upgrading biomass into pellets being the most convenient solution. However the pellet market is dominated by large scale expensive (£50,000 upwards) production solutions, therefore Robert and Christopher decide to develop their ideas into small scale mobile and static pellet production units, which eventually became pelheat. While the unit is still a prototype the first production machines should be on sale by the end of the year with an approximate price of £20,000.

The process involved in the production of pellets is fairly simple with material being hand fed into a hammer mill and then into a hopper from where it is augered into a pellet mill that produces either 6mm or 8mm diameter pellets. Water or oil can be added at this stage to help bind the pellets. Almost anything with a moisture content of less than 15% can be pelletised, including wheat and barley straw, oilseed rape cake (what is left after the oil has been extracted), dry woodchips, sawdust, miscanthus, canary or switch grass and cardboard.

There are a number of boilers on the market that can burn the pellets and it would not take long to produce the 10t that would be typically need to heat a farmhouse for six hours a day for four months of the years using a 50Kw burner. The real benefit however would come from selling the pellets to other biomass boiler users.

Jim Paice asks for badger photographs

Shadow environment secretary Jim Paice speaking at the CLA Game Fair called for everyone with TB infected badgers on their land to photograph them.

“I want everyone with TB infected badgers on their land to take photos of them, …

There is nothing more repulsive than seeing a badger with TB. They suffer immensely. …

… If we can bring this to the public’s attention, we can change their minds about a badger cull.”

My only concern is who would actually publish these pictures? It’s obvious that much of the media is in denial preferring to portray the countryside as populated by Bambi Peter Rabbit Bill the Badger and Mrs Tiggywinkle, even if Old Broc likes nothing more than Mrs Tiggywinkle for breakfast, dinner, tea and supper. Anyway why are the Government investing £20m (especially when research is likely to cost 50 times this amount) in a vaccine for badgers when they are not seen as an agent in the spread of bovine TB? Or why if more testing is the perceived solution is TB still increasing, does it not follow that increasing the frequency of testing and pre-movement testing will make things worse?

At the end of the day this is not just a cattle/badger problem, it affects a wide range of species, including humans. To control the spread of TB we currently cull cattle, In people it was isolation hospitals, in wildlife we do nothing as it is considered less cruel to allow the disease to rampage unchecked, which to me makes as much sense as the RSPCA’s comment that a fox that has been shot and wounded (not killed) does not suffer as there is no scientific evidence to show that they do (probably because the scientists are of sufficient intelligence to realise that a wounded animal does suffer and so there is no need to waste time researching the plainly obvious.

It is not possible to control disease without looking at all the angles, and to do half a job is no better than doing nothing!

12 Months On

It is nearly a year now since the website went live and there are now 129 pages, 6745 transcriptions from the parish registers & 200 memorial inscriptions (although I plan to visit Rushton later this month so long as the weather is suitable for some field work).

To mark the first year of the website I thought that I would share some of the comments that I have received over they past twelve months;

“Just quick message to say that your site is fantastic. The look, layout and, especially, depth and breath of information is fantastic. Thank you very much for your work.”
Chris Howard, 21-06-2008

“Cant believe it – you’ve just made my day – ancestors I’ve been trying to find for years have just turned up on your latest updates! … Thanks again – and keep up the good work – it’s really appreciated.”
John Sharp, 21-09-2008

“I found your site by accident through a Google search. Absolutely fantastic website. So clear and intuitive.”
Simon Ford, 17-04-2008

“Martin – you are a bloody star my friend!!
This is awesome information and will take time to digest.
Can’t thank you enough, beers on me when we meet.”
Richard Hammond, 21-03-2008

“Martin, I would just like to thank you for the work you must have put in on the site. … Well done and keep up the good work.”
Paul Carter, 31-01-2008

“Hi there just want to congratulate you on this fantastic site it has helped me trace my Mitchells from Rushton Spencer. I’d given up for the moment but just thought I’d have another go online found the whole family I’m very grateful.”
Sandra Milligan, 13-09-2007

As email is the only form of contact that I have with the users of the website (and the server log files show that I have a small number of regular visitors) it is always good to hear your comments, and if you have any suggestions for material that you would like to see added to the website then please let me know via the contact page or through this blog.

Mr Benn’s “spineless abdication of responsibility”

As reported by the BBC Hilary Benn has in what has been described as a “spineless abdication of responsibility” by Geoffrey Cox, Conservative MP for Torridge and Devon West, decided against a badger cull.

“Having listened to all the views and considered all the evidence, I have come to the decision that while a badger cull might work, it might also not work,” he said. He also added that “It could end up making the disease worse”.

Mr Benn indicated his belief that vaccination – either of badgers or cattle or both – should be an effective strategy as soon as vaccines can be developed. With that in mind, he pledged £20m over the next three years to make developing TB vaccine a “priority”.

But he warned

“It could be some time before a vaccine becomes available, so we must stop the spread of the disease. We have controls in place to tackle it.  It would be possible to tighten these further, but those would come at a high cost and whether these would be worthwhile is a question for the industry rather than government.”

He then announced the formation of a TB partnership group of farmers and industry specialists to discuss these issues, hoping that industry representatives will join.  This group would look at methods of tackling the disease and rolling out the vaccine when it became available. Of this partnership National Farmers Union president Mr Kendall said

 “The NFU can only see value in participating in this group if it is visibly independent and has full jurisdiction over all TB policy matters. Otherwise, we see little value in being part of yet another industry group on TB,”

and called for the establishment of an independent body on animal health, able to take tough decisions on animal disease free of political concerns over public acceptability. Mr Kendall also announced an immediate withdrawal from current DEFRA policy discussions on responsibility and cost sharing, and pledged to fight any attempt by government to transfer existing costs to the industry, or establish a disease levy.

Shadow environment secretary Jim Paice said Mr Benn had “failed to deliver”, while EFRA chairman Michael Jack warned the decision would be met with “fear and anger” by farmers. “Without a cull there can be no effective biosecurity measures,” he said.

Meanwhile Roger Williams. MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, said Mr Benn had favoured “populist appeal over sound science”. “How many farmers will join the partnership group when they feel so demoralised?”

Country Land & Business Association President Henry Aubrey-Fletcher said on Friday when the BBC leaked a report stating that Mr. Benn would decide against a badger cull

“Mr Benn’s decision would fly in the face of recommendations made by the Efra Select Committee and the Government’s former chief scientific adviser Sir David King. It represents a major blow to farmers and landowners with cattle.”

“The CLA would like to know what the Government believes is a viable alternative to a cull of badgers. The current strategy of relying on cattle control is clearly not working.”

“We believe the Government should be backing the farming industry’s commitment to eradication of the disease with a multi-faceted strategy including at least a trial cull of badgers to make a pragmatic attempt at solving this terrible problem.”

NFU President Peter Kendall on the same day stated that

“Last year saw 28,000 cattle culled with TB, and already in the first quarter of 2008 another 13,500 cattle have been lost. This sort of needless waste of productive animals is unacceptable and calls into question the Government’s attitude not only to food security but also to animal welfare.”

“A negative decision on badger culling would condemn not only tens of thousands more cattle to death, but also thousands of badgers in areas currently free of TB. It would be nothing short of a disaster.”

“To admit that a cull might work, and then push the already crippling burden of TB controls further onto the farming industry is just plain wrong. It is ridiculous to expect farmers to continue fighting TB with one hand tied behind their back.”

“At a time when we have the Prime Minister telling the public not to waste food, it is astonishing the government is prepared to continue to preside over the needless waste of tens of thousands of productive cattle,”

National Beef Association south-west regional coordinator Bill Harper who visited EU officials last week, said that the EU directive on TB stated that countries must carry out a TB eradication programme. “But this country continues to stand alone and defies the spirit of that directive. We base our failing policy on a control strategy and not that crucial word eradication.”