Placeholder Picture

The Voice - June 2022


Comment by Geoff

Limehouse Triangle development

We must all be aware of what is done in our name.

The Limehouse Triangle development contravened environmental laws when eighteen mature trees were felled. But the rush to succeed in building new accommodation can be achieved by working with the urban green space.

The image shows what happens to a nature area that should have been offered protection. I’m sure that the London Borough of Tower Hamlets is not alone in doing this, so we all need to be more vigilant when new development is first proposed that is going to produce a negative effect to our environment.

If you value having someone campaign on your behalf to protect the environment and having access to useful articles about gardening and local environmental matters, please make a donation to help us with the cost of maintaining The East London Garden Society.


Ropemakers Fields

Ropemakers Fields

Ropemakers Fields is a tiny park on the Thames between Limehouse Basin and Limekiln Creek but despite its size, it is frequented by a large number of visitors.

The park was built in 1994 over the waste formed by the creation of the Limehouse Link tunnel. Its attractive grassed mounds are the remains of Risby House, a tower block that had to be demolished as the tunnel would make its foundations unstable. As a consequence the soil quality in the park is literally rubbish.

The park is a natural green link between the Limehouse Cut in the north, the Thames to the south, Limekiln Creek in the east and Limehouse Basin in the west.

The Friends of Ropemakers Fields was originally very active in securing essential funding for the park including quality metal seating in a traditional style giving the park a Victorian flavour. It even has a bandstand which is used by the resident personal trainer and his clients.

The park became very well used during lockdown and is very popular at weekends. There is a modern children’s playground with a fun pirate ship as well as swings and other activities.

Limehouse is very densely populated and many residents suffer from poor quality housing and lack of access to open space. Air quality here is very poor as it is situated on the entrance to two major traffic tunnels, the Rotherhithe and the Limehouse Link, and the A13 into London.

Almost half of the local children are overweight by the time they get to secondary school. Children of Black and Asian ethnicity, those with disabilities and additional needs, and children from deprived backgrounds are even more likely to be overweight.

So, this little park is very important for children’s health, and The Friends of Ropemakers Fields fully support the Tower Hamlets Healthy Places interventions 3, 4, 5 and 6. They also support Tower Hamlets Biodiversity Plan 2019-24.

The park has bats and house martins, both of which are priority species, and they want to create even more biodiversity in the park. They are also looking to create a wildflower garden and an easy access woodland path. Finally, they are working with the Council towards Green Flag status.

The East London Garden Society is pleased that this group has been established and you can leave your comments on their Facebook page.


The Splat Test

Splat test

Flying insects in the UK have declined by 60% in twenty years a new study has revealed. The UK's insect population has fallen sharply as the invertebrates are affected by rising temperatures and fragmented habitats. While the declines are dramatic, small changes to our homes and gardens can play a significant part in bringing them under control.

Conservation charities Buglife and the Kent Wildlife Trust asked members of the public to count the number of insects splatted against their vehicle numberplates, and compared this to a similar study from 2004. They found that counts were down the most in England, where 65% fewer insects were recorded, and the least in Scotland, which recorded a 28% fall.

Paul Hadaway, the director of conservation at Kent Wildlife Trust, says:

“The results from the Bugs Matter study should shock and concern us all. We are seeing declines in insects, which reflect the enormous threats and loss of wildlife more broadly across the country.

These declines are happening at an alarming rate and without concerted action to address them we face a stark future. Insects and pollinators are fundamental to the health of our environment and rural economies.

We need action for all our wildlife now by creating more and bigger areas of habitats, providing corridors through the landscape for wildlife and allowing nature space to recover.”

The study provides further evidence that insects are in peril around the world, with a 2019 study suggesting that the invertebrates are declining by at least 2.5% every year.

Dr Gavin Broad, the Principal Curator in Charge of insects at the Museum, says:

“The results of this study are not surprising. Evidence of insect decline has been available for some time, particularly in certain regions of the world. If we knew why insects were declining, it could help protect other animals.

For instance, declines in woodland birds may relate to the loss of insects in these habitats as they could be losing prey. Alternatively, they could be responding to the same habitat and climatic changes in similar ways. But until we understand both groups, it's hard to tell.”


The Soil Under Our Feet

Soil under feet

Beneath our feet is an ecosystem so astonishing that it tests the limits of our imagination. It’s as diverse as a rainforest or a coral reef. We depend on it for 99% of our food, yet we scarcely know it. 

Under one square metre of undisturbed ground in the UK there might live several hundred thousand small animals and one gram of this soil contains around a kilometre of fungal filaments.

Soil is full of bacteria. Its earthy scent is the smell of the compounds they produce. In most corners they wait in suspended animation for the messages that will wake them. These messages are the chemicals the plant releases. 

They are so complex because the plant seeks not to alert bacteria in general, but the particular bacteria that promote its growth. Plants use a sophisticated chemical language that only the microbes to whom they wish to speak can understand.

We face what could be the greatest predicament humankind has ever encountered: feeding the world without devouring the planet. Already, farming is the world’s greatest cause of habitat destruction, the greatest cause of the global loss of wildlife and the greatest cause of the global extinction crisis.

It’s responsible for about 80% of the deforestation that’s happened this century. Of 28,000 species known to be at imminent risk of extinction, 24,000 are threatened by farming. Only 29% of the weight of birds on Earth consists of wild species: the rest is poultry. Just 4% of the world’s mammals, by weight, are wild; humans account for 36%, and livestock for the remaining 60%.

Unless something changes, all this is likely to get much worse. In principle, there is plenty of food, even for a rising population. But roughly half the calories farmers grow are now fed to livestock, and the demand for animal products is rising fast. Without a radical change in the way we eat, by 2050 the world will need to grow around 50% more grain.

Over the past 100 years, our use of water has increased six-fold. Irrigating crops consumes 70% of the water we withdraw from rivers, lakes and aquifers. Already, 4 billion people suffer from water scarcity for at least one month a year and 33 major cities, including São Paulo, Cape Town, Los Angeles and Chennai, are threatened by extreme water stress. 

As groundwater is depleted, farmers have begun to rely more heavily on meltwater from glaciers and snowpacks. But these, too, are shrinking.

Climate breakdown, which will cause more intense droughts and storms, exacerbates the threat. The loss of a soil’s resilience can happen incrementally and subtly. We might scarcely detect it until a shock pushes the complex underground system past its tipping point. 

When severe drought strikes, the erosion rate of degraded soil can rise 6,000-fold. In other words, the soil collapses and fertile land turns to a dust bowl.


Nutmeg

Nutmeg

Nutmeg spice comes from the seed/pit of the fruit which grows on the nutmeg tree, Myristica fragrans, an evergreen tree originally native to Indonesia. Myristica fragrans is native only to the tiny Banda Islands of Indonesia, which are sometimes called the Spice Islands.

The nutmeg seed is egg shaped and the outer layer is used in making mace while the inner portion is ground into powdered form to become nutmeg. The word nutmeg comes from the Latin word nux, which means nut, and muscat, meaning musky.

Nutmeg is considered to be one of the most tragic spices in history. Bloody wars have been waged over the control of this spice and many have died in an attempt to gain control of its production.

It was considered a very rare and precious ingredient for a long period of time. Emperor Henry VI spread nutmeg all over the streets of Rome before his coronation to create a sweet smelling environment. 

Nutmeg was fashionable among the wealthy because it was believed to induce hallucinations. Wealthy gentlemen would use nutmeg grinders to grind this spice into alcoholic drinks. It was also baked into the pastries, pies, and cakes.

Only a small group of traders knew where the spice was from and sold it for very large sums. Many wanted to find the mysterious Spice Islands where nutmeg was grown. In 1512, the Spanish finally discovered the location in the Banda Islands where all the world’s nutmeg grew.

During the 17th century, the Dutch waged a bloody war in order to gain control of the nutmeg production. They took large amounts of this spice to Holland and stored it in a giant warehouse to keep control of distribution. The Dutch actually traded the island of Manhattan, as part of the Treaty of Breda, with the British in order to keep control of the spice trade of nutmeg.

During their occupation of the East Indies, the British took nutmeg seedlings from the Bandas and planted them in areas under British colonial control. As these nutmeg plantations began to flourish, the price of this spice began to drop.

As time passed, the middle class could now enjoy this spice, in addition to the wealthy. Today, Indonesia and Grenada are the primary producers and exporters of this spice.

Nutmeg is a common ingredient in dessert dishes, and warm drinks. It also works well in savoury recipes. Nutmeg is hallucinogenic. Grinding and eating one nut will generally make you sick and nauseated. 

It is considered poisonous in large amounts so should only be used in small quantities. Nutmeg has no proven medicinal value although there is some anecdotal evidence that it helps with indigestion, bad breath, depression and may act as a sleeping aid.


Cooking in a Different Way ‐ Baked Potato Gnocchi With Pesto

Making your own gnocchi is great fun and is a favourite with children. It can be served with pesto or simple tomato sauce and some grated cheese. Make sure the sauce is ready before you cook the gnocchi as it needs to be served straight away.

Ingredients

For the pesto:

For the gnocchi:

Optional variations:

Baked potato gnocchi with pesto
Method

For the pesto:

For the gnocchi:

Serve immediately with a green salad.


Finally ...

Cartoon
Previous issues of The VoiceBack to Top