Green travel to green places

In search of climate and wildlife stories…by bike

Taxpayers pay £100 per bike ride! — November 1, 2012

Taxpayers pay £100 per bike ride!

Bike2Go bikes at Dumfries station

When I got off the train in Dumfries back in August I was surprised to see Dumfries and Galloway’s (D&G) version of the Boris Bike. A few Bike2Go bikes were sitting at the station. I wondered then how often they were used – the answer is not much. An article in the Scotsman showed that the cost to the taxpayer of every journey was a whopping £101.37 as fewer than 20 bikes were rented each week The Council says the scheme is to remain for the long-term so it’s good they aren’t scrapping it and selling off the bikes. In the article Deputy Council Leader Brian Collins (also chairman of regional transport agency Swestrans) said ‘We’re seeking a change of mindset’, but changing mind-sets is about more than a few bikes. 

Planning a trip around D&G by bus is a serious headache as services are few and far between, especially away from the towns. The area is a popular holiday destination but going without a car is practically impossible. The roads are good though – a joy to ride. I really noticed this on my ride from Newton Stewart to Girvan, the potholes started as soon as I crossed into South Ayrshire.

When I stayed in Newton Stewart I was told that the Council has stopped kerbside recycling because of the recession. Shame that a reduced budget hits recycling first. So I can’t help thinking that D&G Council has cut back on recycling and prefers to keep car drivers happy. Getting people to think differently and travel in a greener way will take more than a few rental bikes. It means spending a greater proportion of budgets on the environment (including better bus services and recycling) and greater leadership on environmental issues. Perhaps, it’s Councillor Collins and his colleagues who need to change their mind-sets.

Otterly hopeful in the Cree Valley — September 3, 2012

Otterly hopeful in the Cree Valley

Otter (not at Wood of Cree)
Credit: Chris Gomersall (

Will I ever get to see an otter? It’s near the top of my list of wildlife I want to see and I keep hoping. Problem is being in the right place at the right time – I’m only ever in the right place at the wrong time. I saw otter footprints on Tiree and last week I was at the otter viewing platform at the RSPB’s Wood of Cree reserve in Galloway – as the signs say, it’s a good place to see them. The information sign also said that otter populations are on the rise thanks to new laws and efforts which are cleaning up our rivers and seas. Good news. That is the first step in helping wildlife adapt to the impacts of climate change – reduce the pressure on them from things not linked to the climate, e.g. pollution or habitat loss. If we do that, populations can increase, but they also need quality habitat in the right place.

Even though I didn’t see an otter, the Wood of Cree is a wonderful place to visit and part of the bigger Cree Valley Community Woodland Project. It’s easy to see why otters thrive there. I cycled down through the mix of river, wetland, woodland and farmland habitats on the Sustrans National Cycle Route 7 – a beautiful journey through what is classed as Western Atlantic Oak Woodland. The RSPB bought land to extend the Wood of Cree in 2005 and plant more trees but you might think that otters don’t live up trees so where is the link?

Conservation at the scale of whole river valleys or whole mountain ranges is also important for helping wildlife to adapt to the impacts of climate change in the future. This landscape-scale conservation isn’t about increasing the size of just one habitat, it’s about; making space for natural processes, improving increasing the size of all habitats over a wider area and joining up isolated habitats. This landscape-scale approach is an important tool in preparing wildlife for a changing climate. It can increase wildlife populations and make them robust and resilient, and it provides space for them to spread out as temperatures shift.

By working together, like we are in the Cree Valley, we can create bigger and better habitats which are fit for the future and able to prepare individual species, like otters, for life in a changing climate.

Wood of Cree in the spring
Photo credit: Andy Hay (
MAMILs on the road — September 1, 2012

MAMILs on the road

I’m waiting for a new all singing all dancing modem to arrive and get us back into 21st century braodband speeds. So this is only a short post.

Do you know the difference between a MAMIL and a mammal? One is a usually hairy warm blooded creature which produces milk for its young. The other is short for Middle Aged Man in Lycra. You’ve seen them, sometimes in packs, often on a Sunday morning, brightly coloured and in a hunched position straining at the pedals. It’s the thing to do to get over the mid-life crisis; buy a flashy Chris Boardman bike (other brands are available), a cycle computer, a skin-tight lycra outfit and off you go to get fit and out of the house. It’s better than buying a sports car and looking for younger women – I guess.

I’ve cycled more than 100 miles this week on my visits to RSPB’s Mersehead, Wood of Cree, and Crook of Baldoon reserves in Dumfries and Galloway. I enjoyed the cycling and being in the countryside, and feel a whole lot fitter than when I started this cycling sabbatical lark in June. I think I’m going to keep going with the cycling to keep the fitness and to get about. I should resolve to go for a weekly ride, but don’t expect me to become a fully fledged MAMIL just yet.

More blogs to come about Wood of Cree, Crook of Baldoon and climate impacts.