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Monday, 30 May 2016

Colchester Borough Council, Glyphosates and Monsanto

I keep hearing that Colchester Borough Council are still spraying Monsanto produced glyphosates all over our pavements and also in Castle Park where children play. It is time that they came clean on this and issued an official statement as to whether they are or are not doing this and if so explaining the extent of the usage.
Glyphosates are herbicides and part of a wider family of chemicals called organophosphates, which were developed as a result of nerve gas experiments carried out in the Second World War. The group is very toxic to fish, earthworms and bees. Glyphosates are used as a weed killer and were brought to the market in 1974 by Monsanto under the trade name Roundup .  Roundup, the commercial name of Glyphosate based herbicides, contains many other chemicals which, when mixed together are 1,000 times more toxic than Glyphosate on its own.
The World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), concluded ‘Glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans’. The newly recognised dangers of Glyphosate come against a background of increased use in the UK. Glyphosate is used in public parks and other urban areas to kill weeds, and in the last year for which government figures are available, nearly a third of UK cereals, wheat and barley, were sprayed with Glyphosate – a total of just over one million hectares.

The Soil Association is calling for a UK ban on the use of Glyphosates sprayed on UK wheat as a pre-harvest weedkiller and its use to kill the crop to ripen it faster. New figures analysed by the Soil Association from government data were released at a scientific briefing in London on 15 July 2015. This revealed Glyphosate use in UK farming has increased by 400% in the last 20 years and it’s one of the three pesticides regularly found in routine testing of British bread - appearing in up to 30% of samples tested by the Defra committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF).
Professor Christopher Portier, one of the co-authors of the Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer’s (IARC) recent report which determined Glyphosate’s status as World Health a probable carcinogen, reiterated the IARC’s conclusions, and said: “Glyphosate is definitely genotoxic. There is no doubt in my mind.”

In the light of this, I think we all have a right to know whether or not and if so why Colchester Borough Council is using these deadly poisons in our public places.

Nature Notes 3: Wildflowers For Your Garden

"Weeds are flowers too once you get to know them".
A. A Milne

Making a wildflower garden is very easy; just dig and rake over some soil or put some compost in pots and leave it to see what appears. However you may wish to manage things a bit more carefully if you want to avoid just the most common of plants. You can obtain a surprising number of wildflower seeds on ebay, however here are two easy to grow plants that I have tried growing:


Ragged Robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi) is a perennial with ragged, deeply-lobed pink petals in the family Caryophyllaceae. It is a widespread though locally declining plant of marshes, damp meadows and wet woodland clearings. Carried on tall stems above clumps of dark green, strapped-shaped leaves, the lacy flowers appear to hang in the air like a mist.
Unfortunately Ragged Robin is in decline in Britain due to modern agricultural practices. Wet meadows, rush-pastures and fens have been drained for agriculture so that marsh plants have become much less frequent than before World War Two. Ragged Robins bloom from May to August, occasionally later, and  attract both butterflies and bees which feed on the nectar.
Ragged Robin is easy to grow, however it doesn't like to fight too hard with other plants for space. I grow it in pots and it needs to be kept damp so I grow mine in pots with no holes in the bottom. Clumps can be lifted and divided in autumn or sow fresh seed in late summer and leave outside to germinate the following spring. The seeds are very easy to collect as they sit in a cup-shaped flower head which can just be tipped over a jar.


Red Campion ( Silene dioica ) is a biennial or short-lived perennial which, like Ragged Robin, is in the family Caryophyllaceae. It grows in woodland, shady lanes, hedgerows and on mountain ledges and coastal cliffs. The bright rose-pink flowers of Red Campion brighten up roadsides throughout the summer. Just as the Bluebells finish flowering in our woodlands, Red Campion starts to come into bloom. If they grow side-by-side for a few weeks, they can turn a woodland floor into an amazing sea of pink and blue.
Red Campion prefers to grow in shady parts of the garden and does not tolerate marshy soil as well as Ragged Robin, so it needs pots with holes in the bottom. It is prone to blackfly. The seeds are easy to collect, just shake the seed heads over a jar.


"The Encyclopedia of British Wild Flowers" John Akeroyd

"Weeds" Richard Mabey

Sunday, 8 May 2016

So Close, But We Live To Fight Another Day

I finally made it home from the local election count on Friday morning at 5.30 am and managed about an hour and a half of sleep before getting up for work. I'm getting too old for this, yet I'm surprised how much I still managed to function on Friday, especially given that this was the most tense, frustrating and intensely disappointing election count that I've been to so far since I returned to being politically active in 2012.  Yet Colchester Green Party did achieve its best ever local election result. Overall we achieved over 9% across Colchester, however in Castle Ward I came within 21 votes of gaining a seat on Colchester Borough Council. As you can see below, with 21 more votes I would have beaten both Bill Frame and Daniel Ellis and taken the third place seat, it was that close at the top.

CASTLE - Conservative/Liberal Democrat

NICK Barlow (Lib Dem) 881
DARIUS Laws (Con) 854
DANIEL Ellis (Con) 801
BILL Frame (Lib Dem) 792
BARRY Gilheany (Lab) 452
MARK Goacher (Green) 781
CHARLES Ham (Green) 451
JO Hayes (Lib Dem) 769
AMANDA Kirke (Green) 511
KATE Martin (Con) 759
ISOBEL Merry (Lab) 484
JORDAN Newell (Lab) 427

I wish to thank everyone who voted for me and for all the Green Party candidates on Thursday. Especially I want to thank all those people out there who voted primarily for other parties, but gave us their third vote because they wanted to see a fresh voice on the council. I'm very sorry that you didn't get that fresh voice however we came close and will keep campaigning on the issues which we highlighted in the campaign. Colchester will now need a Green voice more than ever in the years ahead. We will keep pressing for more investment in our town centre, for better air quality, for more infrastructure investment and for the protection of our countryside and green spaces.

What the election result highlights more than anything is the futility of tactical voting. I was told on the doorstep by a number of people that they were reluctant to vote for me even though they preferred the Green Party message because I was less likely to win than the Lib Dems. Well I beat one of the Lib Dem candidates, came within 12 votes of beating another and I also beat one of the Conservatives and came within 21 votes of beating another. Therefore if I'd just had 21 of those tactical votes I would have won the seat. Greens can win in Castle Ward, its as simple as that.

I was surprised and disappointed on election night that the defeated Lib Dem candidates chose to make a series of rude comments to one of my fellow candidates, accusing us of causing their defeat. I understand that Bill Frame went on BBC Essex on Friday morning to spout the same line. I found this highly ungracious and it just reveals them to be bad losers. It is a flawed analysis, given that I won a significant number of third votes from Conservative voters, not just Lib Dem and Labour voters. Furthermore the Lib Dem candidates lost due to their own failings, because they failed to inspire, because they supported the wrong policies, such as the ridiculous "garden settlements" debacle and above all because they let us all down so badly in 2010. We don't have to take the accusation that we "let in Tories" from a party that enthusiastically joined a Conservative government for five years and backed every policy. They should take a good hard look at themselves before blaming others.

The Green Party will continue to campaign hard for a better Colchester  and for cleaner and greener policies.