Sunday at Bill's Mother's: 14th Jan 2024
The Outdoor City's new link to a volcanic island in the West Pacific. Why there's a lot more to ancient woodlands than meets the eye. Plus brief news & condensed listings.
Morning. Today is a breaking news edition, so do share this post with your mates so they too can join our thousands of regular readers who hear it all here first.
A subtropical island in the West Pacific will launch a multi million pound link to the Outdoor City this week. Scientists from Asia and Attercliffe will soon be working together looking at how getting out and walking, running and cycling in wonderful countryside is good for you, and our tourism industry. Remember when Sheffield felt it best to be associated with cities of heavy industry? Not any more.
Also, our condensed What’s On Out There service, details on how to follow Sheffield ultra runner Jennie Stevens after she starts her 268 mile Winter Spine Race this morning, and since there’s much more in (and under) our forests than meets the eye, we hear how heavy handed management might mean the replacement of ‘ancient’ with ‘industrial’ in the designation of many old woodlands.
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Attercliffe to Asia
You may remember when the obvious twin cities for Sheffield were old industrial powerhouses like Pittsburgh in the USA, Bochum in Germany’s Ruhr valley, and China’s steel metropolis, Anshan.
From this week, however, Sheffield will be linked to Jeju, a 45 mile long volcanic island in the West Pacific, where sub-tropical tourism is one of the biggest industries. (Along with tangerine growing).
Leaders from Jeju National University will arrive on Monday to sign an agreement with Sheffield Hallam University and its Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre leading to at least four years of joint research into how outdoor activity can improve health and prosperity.
“The idea of having this project is to help the economy of the region, develop the health of the region, and develop the sporting offer of the region,” Professor Steve Haake told me.
Steve is the AWRC’s director of engagement, and has been working with colleagues on the link with the South Korean island for over four years.
“I remember it was February 2020, and at 5 o'clock on the Friday night before we were about to fly out to Jeju, the university pulled our trip because there was this weird disease going on around the world, particularly in South Korea.”
Covid brought progress to a halt, but in 2023 all the pieces came back together, not least a set of surprising similarities between Sheffield and a rocky South Korean island, says Steve.
Both areas have major public health problems related to inactivity, he says, and both also have wonderful countryside on their doorstep, along with a growing recognition that health professionals can use one to help the other.
At almost 700,000 the island’s population is about the same as Sheffield plus Rotherham, and with an area of 700 square miles, Jeju Island is a little larger than the Peak District and the Outdoor City, and attracts a similar number of annual tourists.
“We’ve got the Peak District on our doorstep, while they have a big volcano, a 437 km coastal path and lots of walking routes,” says Steve. “And we both see this idea of physical activity as being part of health and wellbeing.”
Yes, it’s a bit warmer in Jeju (average winter temperatures of 8 degrees) but at least we have the blasting moorland gales loved by extreme sportspeople.
The two regions also have similar ambitions, Steve adds. The South Yorkshire Combined Authority are supporting the link up with Jeju National University and its local innovation platform, not least, says Steve, because Mayor Oliver Coppard’s ambitious aim to make South Yorkshire the healthiest region in the UK is shared by the ambition for Jeju to be one of the healthiest regions in Asia.
Jeju wants to set up its own version of the AWRC, Steve adds, and the link with our own wellbeing research centre in Attercliffe should launch joint research projects this year, bringing in a multi-million pound investment, says Steve, with the long term aim of AWRC staff helping to guide a new sister institution into place in the West Pacific.
Attercliffe used to be the home of metalworking industries that saw us twinned with Bochum and Pittsburgh, and now it sees us linked in health industry research with the tourism centre of South Korea.
Jeju’s health and wellbeing academics will be learning from the tourist hot spot of Sheffield how to tackle heart disease, type two diabetes, depression and cancer by getting out into the landscapes on our doorstep. And Jeju should just be the first, says Steve Haake. “We’re not limited to this one. Let’s see where this takes us in a few years.”
Sheffield, we can see it now, twinned with San Francisco, Innsbruck and Kathmandu.
Seven Days of Dot Watching
Sheffield ultrarunner Jennie Stevens starts the Winter Spine Race at 8am today, Sunday 14th. She’s aiming to run and walk, mostly in darkness, from Edale to Kirk Yetholm, partly because of her defiant and adventurous character, partly to raise money for scholarships for three disadvantaged female students wanting to study at Sheffield University. Read her story from last Sunday’s post, and feel free to share so everyone can encourage her towards her targets.
You can follow the progress of racer 251 on the Spine Race dot watching service.
Ancient and Modern
A special conference in April will ask the question: are we managing our old woods in a way that uses modern machinery to turn over the ancient in our woodlands and leave them as industrial sites?
Many, if not all, of our local ancient woodlands were working woodlands in the past, says ecologist Professor Ian Rotherham, who’ll be hosting the conference with his archaeologist colleague Ken Smith.
And then when modern land managers go on to improve paths, or remove trees and timber, they now often use 4 x4s or tracked vehicles to do their work. “You’re told that these were working woods, so ‘we're just working them,’” says Ian.
“Well, in the past you had centuries of people working those woods with a few ponies and blokes with axes and the rest of it. And what you've got now is one person with a huge tracked vehicle going through your woodland. It’s not the same.”
He talks about the ‘archaeology of the wood’, and the ‘archaeology in the wood’. The former might be obvious features, like standing stones and old metal working sites, whereas archaeology within the wood might be centuries-old coppice trees, mysterious ground formations, and even the soil itself, which hosts nutrients and seeds that might be damaged and altered by driving over it with large trucks.
“So you've got the obliteration of the archaeology and the heritage, some of which may go back to medieval or even prehistoric times.” The ecology has often been damaged too, as disturbed soil will release nutrients favoured by colonising rather than ancient woodland plants.
The conference will invite debate from all angles, and Ian hopes it will lead to positive outcomes, like a simple guidebook so modern managers can avoid damage to ancient once-worked woodlands.
But if they say they still have to use large machines, maybe the woods in question should lose their ‘ancient’ status, and have a new designation, such as ‘former ancient woodland, now industrially managed’, he says, which would be hugely controversial.
A lot of harm has been done by people who think they’re doing good, he adds. “So we want to raise awareness of the irreparable damage that can be done to these irreplaceable landscapes.”
Before the conference, Ian invites comment, in agreement or counter argument, at his ‘Trouble in the Woods’ conference pages on his blog.
Selected What’s On Out There (from Sun 14th Jan)
If you’re in a group who put on outdoor events and want me to include them, please stick them in the comments below as follows: Date, What it is, Online link.
Sun 14th - Millstone Edges South Yorkshire Orienteers weekend (Approx £6-£13)
Mon 15th - Finding Lost Norton Park at Graves Park - Gardening for Wildlife talk by Prof Ian Rotherham at Lees Hall Golf Club
Tues 16th Sheffield Ramblers Walk - Urban Parks walk (6m - meet bus station or Norton)
Thurs 18th - Book Launch: Mountain Biking, Culture and Society at Sheff Hallam University
Fri 19th - SRWT Volunteer Work Day - Woodhouse Washlands
Sat 20th - Big Bike Revival group ride - Millhouses Park from Russell’s Bicycle Shed, Neepsend
Sat 20th - Parkwood Springs Conservation Session
Sun 21st - Sheffield Mass Cycle Ride, from Tudor Square
Next Round at Bill’s Mother’s for full subscribers coming this week:
The early January edition included the success of Sheffield & Rotherham Wildlife Trust’s Ughill Farm appeal, the South Yorkshire parkrun challenge, and why the Friends of Bolehill Wood are no longer fundraising to buy the wood from developers.
The next post for full subscribers will include more recent news, including local Common Starling murmurations, and news from Jennie Stevens in the Spine Race - and anything else that comes my way. I also hope to have a feature for full subscribers soon on the hows, whys and why nots of tree planting, along with our regular (albeit late) What To Look For In January wildlife update.
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