Join Healthwatch Eden Meeting Tuesday 18th November 2014 at The Parish Rooms, St Andrews Churchyard, Penrith

the invitation poster for our next Healthwatch Eden District meeting, to be held on Tuesday 18th November 2014.   The venue is The Parish Rooms, St Andrews Churchyard, Penrith

Come along to find out more and have your say!

Here’s the invitation poster for the next Healthwatch Eden District meeting, to be held on Tuesday 18th November 2014 at The Parish Rooms, St Andrews Churchyard, Penrith with tea/coffee available from 9.45am, and the meeting will be from 10am to 12 noon.

Healthwatch exists to champion the views of patients and people who use health and social care in Cumbria with a view to improving services and health and well-being  where possible.


Do please share this invitation with others, when the opportunity arises, as we are especially keen to have more members of the public to come along to share their experiences and to learn about the work of the organisations that will be in attendance.

Eden District Council’s Chairman’s Carol Service at St. Andrew’s Church

St. Andrew's Church, Penrith

St. Andrew’s Church, Penrith

The Eden District Council’s Chairman’s Carol Service this evening at St. Andrew’s Church Penrith was led by Reverend David Sargent and held in Aid of Councillor John Thompson’s chosen charity, Eden Carers, a valuable support organisation for the many people, of various ages and circumstances, young through to elderly who are caring for someone.

The beautiful Church was filled with people from the Eden Valley and beyond and the service celebrated the first Christmas as the coming of light in the context of its difficult and dangerous times and celebrated the fortitude and nobility of people who are caring. We thought the Vicar’s prayers were very good.

There were fine readings by Councillors John Thompson and Gordon Nicholson and The High Sheriff of Cumbria, Mrs. Dianna Matthews, an amusing light reading from Julie Barrett, and the address was by The Bishop of Penrith, Rt Reverend Robert Freeman.

The music was excellent throughout with superb performances from Penrith’s Band, songs by the Lazonby and Beaconside School Choirs and Ullswater Community College Choir and  solo performances by Joan Gordon, Helen Southernwood and Emily Richardson.

It was a very uplifting service. The congregation and participants were served  refreshments afterwards in St. Andrew’s cafe.

In Praise of Eden Rivers Trust and Partners for Crayfish Conservation, Cherish Eden, Riparian Fisheries Planning, Flood Alleviation and More!

Native White-Clawed Crayfish Ede

Eden Rivers Trust Winter Newsletter edition 26 from

Eden Rivers Trust Winter Newsletter edition 26 from

The Winter edition of The Eden Rivers Trust Newsletter is out now and it relates how Eden Rivers Trust staff and local volunteers are engaging with important projects that protect riparian habitat, its wildlife and community interests in the Eden Valley’s river catchment area,  clicking the image on the left will download their latest newsletter. Since its establishment in 1996, ERT has completed 200 projects to improve the condition of the river for its wildlife and for people’s enjoyment.

The ERT’s Winter Newsletter announces the great news that a £473,618 Defra grant will empower them to further improve the condition of rivers in the Eden River catchment and so improve the prospects for our native white-clawed crayfish, sadly threatened and declining across the UK and Western Europe. ERT is working effectively with a range of volunteers and key partner organisations on the front lines of river conservation to protect the river system in our internationally recognised Special Area of Conservation.

The new grant follows the ERT’s successful completion of a SITA Trust conservation project in the Appleby area.

According to an ERT press release issued today (17th Dec), Eden Rivers Trust staff in partnership with The SITA Trust and volunteers of varied ages and walks of life, have just completed a three year, £138,000 conservation project, working in two Cumbrian rivers, the Hoff and Helm Becks near Appleby, for the benefit of native crayfish and other wildlife and all who appreciate them.

Achievements in this project include:

  • 8329 m of riverside fencing established to protect the banks from farm animals;
  • 5350 trees have been planted along rivers to stabilise river banks and provide food and hiding places for wildlife;
  • 214 sites were surveyed for native crayfish, with the help of 77 volunteers;
  • 5 crayfish survey training days held, attended by 61 volunteers;
  • 3871 people have been told about the plight of native crayfish in Cumbria by the Trust attending 40 events and giving 56 talks to local groups;
  • 2 Cumbria University undergraduates completed their conservation projects on crayfish and received a First Class mark for them.

Volunteering for rivers and their wildlife

The Trust expressed their profound gratitude to all the volunteers for their time and effort, and to all the land owners for allowing surveys to take place. Volunteers engaged in the project have have ranged from retired people interested in the river, to local anglers and staff from businesses such as Ullswater Steamer Company, Barclays Bank and the Outward Bound Trust  to pupils from QEGS Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Penrith and students from Cumbria University and other universities.

Joanne Backshall, Conservation Officer with Eden Rivers Trust, said, “This amazing creature is threatened with extinction.  Improving the rivers in the county for crayfish will benefit not only this endangered species but all the wildlife associated with rivers.  Healthy, attractive rivers are also of benefit to people in providing clean water supplies and creating beautiful landscapes for locals and visitors to enjoy.  We are grateful to SITA Trust for their financial support for this very valuable conservation project.”

The Hoff and Helm Becks project has been funded by SITA Trust, an organisation which supports worthy environmental and social projects improving vital public recreation facilities such as village halls, community centres, sport, green spaces and play areas, through the Landfill Communities Fund. The LCF has donated over £1 billion to date and powerfully helped the nation.  The LCF distributes funds donated by the recycling and resource management company SITA UK, as of writing the SITA Trust have donated over £92 million, helping 3000 projects through the fund!

Jools Granville of SITA Trust said, “This has been an amazing project with some serious benefits and we are so proud to be a partner in it. We have been humbled by the hard work and dedication of Eden Rivers Trust and the many volunteers, landowners and members of the public who have come together to work towards a more sustainable future for this fantastic and seriously endangered species. Cumbria is such an important location for these crayfish and it’s vital that the good work already undertaken is built upon in the future. ”

The ERT Winter Newsletter tells us that this is precisely what will happen and more besides! Here’s a glimpse of the content:

  • Water Friendly Farming  The Trust is working with farmers to benefit farms and the environment, acting as a buffer between farmers and legislation in partnerships for water quality (To date the ERT has worked with about 200 farms)
  • Miles of progress in battle against invasive species The Trust is battling against powerful invasive species such as Himalayan Balsam, Japanese Knotweed and the poisonous Giant Hogweed to protect our local species and prevent degradation of habitat. The useful work around Ullswater features in this edition.
  • Adapting Land use for Flood Alleviation Increasingly important work in collaboration with Newton Rigg College to slow water run-off into the rivers helping to reduce flooding by introducing a variety of techniques. (To date the ERT has planted 200 farms)
  • Cherish Eden Initial support of over £100,000 in Heritage Lottery Funding has been won in the first phase, spearheading  a potentially larger project.
  • Eden charity bike ride A fundraising team including local residents rode the entire length of the Eden to raise money for Eden House Children’s Hospice!

and …

White-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes), native to the UK, held by Conservation Officer Joanne Backshall.

Precious and vulnerable, the White-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes), native to the UK, carefully held by Conservation Officer Joanne Backshall. Linda Pitkin Photo

Endangered Native Crayfish Conservation

Eden Rivers Trust tell us that the native, white-clawed crayfish is endangered and rapidly declining across Western Europe.  It is being wiped out by non-native species of crayfish, particularly the North American signal crayfish, and the disease they carry, crayfish plague, which is caused by a fungus.  Native crayfish are also disappearing because many of the rivers in which they occur do not have the right conditions for them to feed, breed and thrive.

Cumbria contains the UK’s only extensive populations of White-Clawed Crayfish with neither a plague infestation, nor the presence of non-native signal crayfish.  The most important of these are in the Rivers Eden and Kent.  Cumbria is vital in a European context because it remains the UK stronghold for the native species according to ERT.

You can learn more about this endangered species on the Eden River Trust’s dedicated white-clawed crayfish page. The site also provides guidance on how to avoid spreading Crayfish Plague from one river to another. We have to be wary of this because the Signal Crayfish have invaded The River Derwent.

These very fine pictures and others taken by Linda Pitkin, including some lovely split views showing river scenes above and below the water line, can be viewed on her Eden Rivers web page

Native Crayfish by Linda Pitkin

Note the underside of the claws are white. Native White-Clawed Crayfish in river bed habitat by Linda Pitkin

Readers interested in The Eden Rivers Trust and its work, and potential volunteers and donors are invited to contact the Eden Rivers Trust, Dunmail Building, Newton Rigg College, Penrith, Cumbria CA11 0AH
Tel: 01768 866788 | e-mail:  |
Registered Charity Number 1123588 Company limited by guarantee number 06460807

Registered in England and Wales

“We Need Smarter, More Connected Local Government” CALC AGM 2012

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“We need smarter, more connected local government.” That was a key message in Eddie Martin’s Vision for Local Government in Cumbria key-note address to local Councillors at CALC’s 38th AGM 2012, held at Carlisle Racecourse, on Saturday 10th November. In a lively and stirring speech that was well applauded, the Chair of Cumbria County Council candidly clarified the need for further ‘profound changes’ in local government and that our first priority will be Cumbrians’ “health, well-being and quality of life”  while addressing the “iniquitous waste of resources”.  Eddie described Cumbria as big, mostly rural and sparsely populated and reasoned that government here is perforce very different from that of Manchester or Birmingham and that Westminster needs to recognise this.  CCC employs 8,500 staff and provides no less than 822 distinctly different functions. There are 239 Parish Councils and 269 villages and 310 schools in the county.

Budget Squeeze Will Drive Rationalisation – Parish Councils Will Be Important Organs Of Change

In the four years 2011-2014, CCC will be cutting about £115 million from its budget, this is necessary to reduce current debt levels of about £350 million, and he reminded us that local Councillors should be active in seeking avenues for improvement for our communities and to exercise new powers from the Localism Bill to benefit our communities. That’s what the powers are there for. He warned us that over 300 people died of hypothermia in the county last year and that Cumbria saw the highest number of children in care  here this year, 620.  There are people in fuel poverty and suffering food scarcity, there’s a dearth of private sector employment.

He said that Community-Parish Council relations are improving and reminded us that Local Councils have more power to affect some changes in our communities than our MPs do, and should employ creative and unorthodox approaches to help their communities where appropriate. Indifference and lack of imagination must not prevent us from being part of the revolution.

Making Connections

He praised the Hub coordinators as exemplars of community leadership in “making a terrific contribution” helping drive progress in developing fast broadband communications infrastructure and he advocated unitised services as a means of cost control, citing joint waste disposal as an example that could save about £8 million.

A lot of money has already been saved by better fiscal management and by bringing services  in house and off-contract, in some cases this has allowed extension of services that would otherwise have incurred additional costs.

The introduction of Snow Champions (Click link to download PDF) is one example of how Community/Civic volunteering can help improve quality of life and well-being in communities.

Interesting Opportunities to Volunteer On Sept 27 Fell Care Day

If you’re interested in some useful and fun volunteering in beautiful surroundings next week, this could be just the thing for you!

Opportunities for Volunteers for Flora of the Fells Ullswater ‘Fell Care Day’

Thursday 27th September 2012

Fire at Appleby Castle Estate

10.45 Appleby-in-westmorland.

Fire Engine approaching Appleby's Castle

Fire Engine approaching Appleby’s Castle. Multiple fire engines brought the blaze under control.

On my way to do some work on Logic Plumbing and heating firm’s website, I saw large plumes of smoke drifting from the town to the south. This morning a fire broke out in the Appleby Castle estate issuing a large cloud of grey and brown smoke. Cumbria Fire Service sent 5 engines and fire officers to fight the blaze in one of the houses on the estate and quickly brought it under control. Apparently the castle is undamaged.

Appleby Castle Fire

Smoke visible around Lady Anne Clifford’s Norman tower, Appleby Castle

Over in Bongate, a panicking Cormorant was seen flapping about in a dazed fashion in the road, several attempts were made to catch the bird by public spirited residents before one gentleman successfully rescued it and took it off swiftly to Appleby vets for treatment.

Good folk rescuing a dazed Cormorant in Bongate Appleby

Good folk rescuing a dazed Cormorant in Bongate Appleby, note smoke from the Castle fire visible in the background.

Stalwart work! Well done to them and well done the Cumbrian Fire Service Officers.

How is your fire alarm? Appleby’s LOGIC Group have electricians that can install fire alarm systems for you. They can also do safety checks on your wiring and install safe modern heating systems, oil, gas, LPG and renewables like biomass and heat pumps. They’ll service your boiler too to keep it running safely and efficiently. Recently they installed a state-of-the-art bespoke fire safety control panel at Whinfell forest Center Parcs. Keep warm, keep safe with Logic Group Appleby throughout Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway!

A Little Book of Pleasures nominated for The People’s Book Prize

Front cover of A Little Book of Pleasures By William Wood ISBN 978-1-907984-07-5 Paperback • 200 pages • Sunpenny Ltd £7.99 • December 2011

A Little Book of Pleasures By William Wood ISBN 978-1-907984-07-5 Paperback • 200 pages • Sunpenny Ltd £7.99 • December 2011

A Good Book Makes Life in Cumbria Better.

A Little Book of Pleasures by William Wood (Sunpenny Ltd publishers) has just been listed in The People’s Book Prize Autumn Collection. This is a very gentle but emotive anthology of short essays, each account devoted to small pleasures in life and combining as a whole to remind us of the value of little things that make life special and truly worth living.
An ambitious endeavour, you might think, for someone to suppose that anything so personal as pleasures could be shared and revealed as experiences in common. Start reading the book and I doubt you will question the worthiness of the endeavour or doubt William Wood’s skill in bridging gaps that you might presuppose exist between one human and another in the matter of appreciating small things.

It’s a surprising read for several reasons:

    1. here is a compilation of short essays by a single author. How often do you see those for sale these days? Hardly ever, partly because there are few writers of sufficient calibre to produce enough good stories on a theme to make up a whole book, and partly I suspect, because big fat novels by celebrity authors are a safer venture from the publishing point of view.
    2. the focus upon the small pleasures that make the author’s life worth living might cause you to expect it to be painfully self-indulgent, at least in places, but Wood always avoids falling into that trap. I was surprised to discover that I found so many of the same things pleasurable, either from my own experiences where they coincided with his or vicariously when they didn’t.
    3. finally, the simple act of focusing your time and thoughts on things pleasant is surprisingly refreshing. At first it feels almost sacrilegious somehow to be presented with the pleasant, the wholesome and the good in an intelligent literary work. We are so used to the relentless stream of in-your-face misery, grim facts, depressing news, sobering statistics and focus on survival in the rat-race etc. that thoughts of the small pleasures in life can be eclipsed, marginalised or subjugated.

This is a bold book then, yes, and the author’s openly assertive in sharing his values, but can we afford to devote time to hedonism? One of the book’s charms is the brevity of each story, it can be read at bed-time, read on the commute, read on the loo perhaps if you’re severely time-strapped.

From the outset the author engages you as a reader directly in the discourse and makes these experiences your own. I found the degree of commonality in appreciation remarkable and the interest maintained throughout the anthology.  This is a very sensual book, richly descriptive, it conjours vivid visions, sounds, scents and flavours of life, exercising the senses of the imagination and vividly reawakening the reader’s sense of adventure in experience. Whether discoursing upon communications, fruit, vegetable gardening, push mowers, fountain pens, tortoises, Norwegian cabin holiday experience, swimming off a mangrove fringed island or in the municipal pool, William centres you satisfactorily in every scenario.

A Little Book of Pleasures is unashamedly a “feel-good” book, but there’s nothing sugar-coated or laboured about it and I’d recommend it to those who might be feeling jaded, overly worn or distanciated; it is well-written, penetrating in its observations, not heavy-handed in the delivery, clever, gentle light reading.

Does such a focus better belong in a brighter, easier past than this so often bitter present? Not really, because if you can’t appreciate the eclectic mixture of experiences in this book today, I’d venture to suggest that you are sorely in need of just such refugia. This isn’t escapism so much as self-administered care for yourself. I have a pervasive sense of the author being a very well grounded person and his often mildly quirky perspectives strike chord after chord and when, upon occasion you are presented with something that you don’t appreciate as much as the author, or with an opinion that doesn’t match your own, what does your imagination do? Your own substitute pleasure rises quickly to mind and you transport yourself.

Yes, this is definitely a book to read for pleasure or to give to someone you know who needs some.

This book is now short-listed for The People’s Book Prize and voting for A Little Book Of Pleasures is a two step process.

  1. First, it takes a couple of seconds to register with The People’s Book Prize website (click here for page) and they’ll instantly send you an email with your password in it. If you can’t see it in your inbox, click your receive mail button, if you still don’t see it then check your junk/spam folder for it.
  2. Then please click this link to take you to the page with my book listed, click on “A Little Book of Pleasures” by William Wood and log-in with your email and the password that they just sent you and check the Add vote for this book box. You can add a comment at the time, or later too if you wish. You can only vote once for any single book, but you can make multiple comments if you feel so inclined.

If you haven’t bought a copy yet and would like to do so, you can buy the book from the same website.

Carlisle Conference Heralds Paradigm Shift Toward Localism!

By Charles Paxton (Broadband Champion for Lyvennet Valley Community)

Better communications are increasingly being seen as essential for appropriate societal response to some important challenges of our times. Inclusive information exchange is critically important for:

More effective local government, Rural business development, Community health care outreach, Neighbourhood, Farm and business security, Regional renewable energy target obligations.

On Saturday, January 17th, 2011,  interested members of the public participated in a conference at Carlisle Racecourse, hosted by Carlisle Parish Councils Association and sponsored by British Telecom plc. that as Ronnie Auld Chair of CPCA pointed out effectively heralds a paradigm shift away from traditional top-down, Big Government – Small Society,  toward bottom-up, Big Society local empowerment. Better communications are being seen as an essential element in the transition toward greater inclusion and participation. Make no mistake, we’re not just talking about modernising technology here, a crucial element of localism is the Big Society ideal of greater public engagement in our society in multiple ways, including frank and open public dialogue and debate about the way we would like things to be. The effective exchange of ideas, perspectives and factual information is naturally expected to communicate, refine and improve ideas that can then inform practice to help steer progressive development.

As resources aren’t infinite, an important motivational factor for us is efficiency, making the most of our available resources! This is true in all matters, but especially relevant when it comes to our communications infrastructure.

BT will be making the single largest private investment of all time into upgrading British Communications infrastructure in the UK! Two and a half billion pounds.

However, unless we act in a cleverly coordinated fashion to gain maximum leverage from our existing resources, then our remote rural areas, often referred to as “the final third”, are likely to be the last areas to be connected to future proof Next Generation Access speed broadband. That’s generally considered to be symmetrical broadband at over 50 Mbps download and upload (fast enough for telemedicine applications).  Ironically, it is just these remote areas that most need connectivity to overcome the challenges represented by geophysical rural isolation, according to recent reports:

There is open debate on about how best to go about achieving an Eden-wide network and I recommend that you join the site, read up about it and have your say. It’s particularly important that you read The Eden Declaration (a credo statement for a desired level of service throughout Eden), and sign it too, if you agree with its contents.

The scale of the task is epic, the complexities are “eye-wateringly complex” (quoting Rory Stewart, our  MP for Penrith and The Border) but the impact is likely to resonate far into the future, promising a broad range of benefits.

The Localism Bill, likely soon to become an Act, promises to give the most local of our authorities, our Parish Councils, far greater say in many of the matters that concern us most – our local ones. This is both a momentous development and a very necessary one to help our communities cope appropriately with the current and future challenges of modern life, and just as crucially, to make the most of the opportunities.

Click here to view a digest of new powers that will help increase the influence of local authorities Localism digest

Ronnie Auld, Chair of Carlisle Parish Councils Association opened the conference with an introductory speech explaining the format of the conference, the first half examining the current problems associated with broadband in Carlisle District and its surroundings and the second half examining the likely impacts of the Decentralising and Localism bill currently before parliament. He pointed out that both the broadband problems and the localism agenda warranted an issues-based approach on the part of Parish Councils. He said Parish councils will be playing a very important role in the improvement of broadband in keeping with the Localism agenda. He drew attention to a Carlisle area survey document in our conference pack and said that alongside quantitive data about the speeds that people reported getting, there were comments that reflected that their broadband services left a lot to be desired, and compared very badly in some cases to conditions in other countries. He cited several examples of disastisfaction, one experienced problematic disconnections and just 0.39 Mbps of speed. He talked of the importance of including broadband in Community Planning.

See his speech below (kindly made available by John Popham)

He introduced the next speaker, Rt. Hon. Rory Stewart MP for Penrith and The Border, as our Broadband Champions’ Champion!

Rory Stewart, Broadband Champions' Champion emphasises that people inlocal communities know more, care more and can do more than remote officials.

Rory sits on the Localism Bill Committee and is one of the prime forces in the movement to bring more powers to the most local levels of government. He explained in no uncertain terms that community involvement would be essential in the effective roll-out of broadband throughout Eden and that unless there is seen to be a very good reason to stop them, the assumption should be to let each Parish or group of Parishes drive their project forward. He urged us to move away from the old state of affairs where Parish Councils  could only suggest things or be consulted to one where it is assumed that they know what they are doing.

He says “Let’s create a situation where people want to sit on Parish Councils because they know that they’ll have the power, the responsibility and sometimes the financial authority to bring about change.”

The necessity for popular local participation is partly due to financial considerations. In order to connect the 27,000 homes in Eden by conventional methods (@about £5000 per household) we’d be looking at a total of around £135 million.

He then explained that  funds have been allocated for a pilot study to help kick start the process, but that these funds were going to be spread thinly – “a proportion of £10 million” will come to Eden. This is where community support comes into it’s own. If we are prepared to gather, to define the demand and to aggregate it, to say that 70-80% of the community are prepared to use fast broadband then the economics become favourable for provision, if land owners are prepared to fore-go wayleaves, if communities are prepared to engage imaginatively and to use local assets, then the cost per premises could be reduced dramatically! Perhaps reduced to about £1000!

( Re asset sharing, please see this encouraging document ( that was drawn to my attention on shortly  after the conference!)

Barry Forde has since proposed a hypothetical plan that would employ great leverage, please click here to view

This is fascinating, we are now starting to get an idea of the potential tangible value in pounds of effective local democracy at Parish and Neighbourhood level and the potential value of intelligent mutualism within a competitive business framework! This is aside from, but would be compounded by the massive benefits to be derived from the better communications technology itself!

Localism clearly has major implications for our economic and social development.

Rory Stewart explaining how local community support can make fast internet accessible to Eden residents

Rory Stewart explaining how local community support can make fast internet accessible to Eden residents

Rory then said that if the Government were prepared to make patient finance available (perhaps via Parish Councils) that could be paid back at say £60 per year, then fast broadband service would seem far more attainable.

He then talked of the need to overcome a series of obstacles in technology, existing technical infrastructure and regulation. In order to make sure that the taxpayers £10 is used as well as possible then there’ll need to be an enormous amount of work done by government and civil servants. We’ll probably have a mixed solution. He cited the enormous amount of enthusiasm that was emerging in Parishes such as Crosby Ravensworth for super fast fibre to the home and said that while this unparalleled speed suited some people, he realises that other people may find a slower service acceptable.

He then introduced Bill Murphy of BT as the second guest speaker. His speech will be the subject of my next article.