Delivering Domestic Heating in Energy Efficient Homes Needs Major Policy Improvements in the UK

The current situation and NetZero challenge

For several years the UK government has aimed to deliver a strategy that sees England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland reach Net Zero by 2050. The Energy Saving Trust defines this as “achieving a balance between the carbon emitted into the atmosphere, and the carbon removed from it.”

The Energy Saving Trust declares optimistically that the country will ‘unlock’ £90 billion in investment to achieve this important aim. Emissions from homes, transport, agriculture and industry will need to be substantially cut. (1)

Why to we need to aim for NetZero in the UK domestic heating sector and what can be done?

Carbon dioxide is emitted when fossil fuels are burned to meet our demand for energy. There are also other greenhouse gases but carbon dioxide is the most significant problem causing global warming and other severe weather-related problems globally.

Carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) “refers to a suite of technologies that enable the mitigation of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from large point sources like power plants, refineries and other industrial facilities, or the removal of existing CO2 from the atmosphere.” (2)

“Approximately 14% of carbon emissions in the UK are contributed by the usage of fossil fuels for home heating.” according to Greenmatch. (3)

As part of central government policy in 2021 eligible households in the UK could apply for government grants to the value of up to £5000 to upgrade their property and invest in low carbon technologies such as heat pumps for their home heating. However, applications for the Renewable Heat Incentive closed at the end of March 2022. (4)

“Making our buildings more energy efficient and moving away from fossil fuel boilers will help make people’s homes warm and comfortable, whilst keeping bills low.” Stated the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy in 2020 as part of previous Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Ten Point Plan. (5)

Currently the main heating solutions currently in use are: gas boilers, low-efficiency electric heating, high carbon oil and liquified petroleum gas (LPG) boilers (usually in off-grid homes) and solid fuel systems such as wood or coal. (6)

Citizens in the UK in 2024 are facing higher than ever costs of owning or renting a home. The heating bill is usually the largest monthly payment that most households make after their rent or mortgage is deducted (often around 50% of home bills).

Average salaries are around £30,000 and the average house costs around £300,000 which means homeowning is a privilege not possible for the majority of adults in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In 2022 less than 20 percent of adults under 64 years of age owned their own homes outright in England and this only increases to 35 percent of over 65 years olds in England. This is relevant as it is only the homeowners who will initially pay for upgrading the housing stock in the UK due to the large sums of money and long-term commitment involved in making the major system changes required. (8)

A British Gas guide says heating bills in an average UK home is between £2000 and £3000 per year and this month the standing charge has been raised significantly. The price cap which governs the prices suppliers can charge has also been raised again and this will affect all households, especially the poorest, during the ongoing cost- of-living-crisis in the UK. (9) (10)

Martin Lewis at MoneySavingExpert calls this standing charge system a moral hazard as it disenfranchises customers who want to control their bills by turning the heating right down or off. (11)

The UK government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy

The UK government’s Heat and Buildings Strategy does not offer any ‘quick fix’ solutions to upgrading the aging and inefficient housing stock in the UK. The UK governments Heat and Buildings Strategy survey has highlighted that there is a shortage of heat pump installation engineers. This is important as heat pump installation must comply with Part L and Part P of the Building Regulations. Therefore, existing engineers need to be upskilled in order to install new style heating systems. (12)

The current UK buildings strategy report updated in March 2023 advises that “The Green Homes Grant voucher scheme for England offered vouchers to fund up to two thirds of the value of energy performance and low-carbon heat measures up to the value of £5,000 for homeowners and residential landlords. (or 100% up to the value of £10,000 for low-income owner-occupiers). (12)

More than 133,700 applications were received, and more than 79,200 vouchers have been issued.” However, the Green Homes grant was severely criticised as a “slam dunk fail” as only around 47,500 homes actually benefitted from the scheme, which cost the tax payer over £50 million in administration fees. (13)

The report also points out that local authorities have been given funding to additionally support low-income households in England. This is often delivered through council tax reductions. (12)

The Home Upgrade Grant (HUG) was introduced in 2022 and intended to support upgrades to the worst-performing off-gas grid homes in England. £150 million funding was granted for the first phase of HUG, and a further £950 million funding has been and is available over 2022/23 to 2024/25. (12)

The Social Housing Decarbonisation Fund (SHDF) aims to upgrade social housing stock which does not meet EPC band C criteria and £800 million was earmarked to be allocated to these improvements. (12)

Hydrogen is an ‘indirect greenhouse gas’ and ways in which to utilise hydrogen which can be produced using low-carbon methods and used for energy solutions in the UK in the future, are currently being investigated by government, industry and regularity bodies.

It is hoped that hydrogen might be able to be piped into houses replacing the need for gas boilers which are currently installed in most homes around the British Isles. Investing in a hydrogen ready gas boiler may be a good option for millions of semi-detached and mid-terrace homes connected to the grid. This could happen gradually as homeowners need to replace their existing gas boilers at the end of their lifespan. (12)

What home heating choices do UK citizens have that help towards reaching NetZero

Citizens in the UK can choose to reduce their household emissions in order to help meet the government’s 2050 Net Zero objectives, if they have savings or expendable income to contribute to the project. One main area is replacing a gas or oil boilers with a more environmentally friendly alternative. The three main options are currently: heat pumps, solar water heating and biomass heating systems. (6)

Hydronic Heat pumps

These can be ground source or air source and occasionally a water source heat pump.

“They work by absorbing heat from a source (in the environment) and transferring it to a fluid, which is compressed to increase the temperature further. The heat is typically transferred from the fluid into water, which is then used to provide heating and hot water to your home.” (6) Air source heat pumps (ASHPs) absorb heat from the air. Ground source heat pumps (GSHPs) absorb heat from the ground.

“As the cold snap bites, it’s time to mention networked ground source heat pumps as a solution to our heating needs, especially for complex-to-decarbonise homes such as high-rise social housing blocks or terrace streets. Due to their discreetness, how they work and the steady ambient temperature of the ground, networked ground source heat pumps provide efficient, cost-effective heating (and cooling) whatever the weather.” Says Tamsin Lishman CEO of The Kensa Group. (4)

However, “domestic-scale heat pumps only provide low temperature heat.” (12)  Heat pump systems used in larger properties such as commercial buildings or communal residential flats are more suited to obtaining higher temperatures.

Heat pumps can be used ‘in reverse’ as cool air pumps which can be useful as global temperatures rise. Hybrid heat pumps can offer benefits including reducing the reliance on natural gas boilers, whilst still offering a good level of thermal comfort. These heat pumps do not help the UK reach Net Zero due to the gas still being burned and the use of refrigerants that contain hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) in some products. (12)

Solar Water Heating

Solar panels also called ‘collectors’ use solar energy from the sun to heat up water that is then stored in a hot water cylinder. (6) The water can be made hotter using a conventional boiler or an immersion heater, which is also useful for when solar energy is not available during darker cloudier days.

Biomass Heating

Wood pellets, chips or logs “heat a single room, or to power central heating and hot water boilers.” The energy saving trust explains how although this method is essential burning fossil fuels, sourcing the wood locally is better for the environment. Biomass can be a more sustainable option when the materials are sourced in a way where there are new plants and trees that continue to grow in place of wood used for fuel.  (6)

The above technologies can be used in combination to obtain optimum flexible heating results for both keeping a warm home and enjoying hot water when required.

“In 2018, domestic burning through wood burning stoves and coal fires was the single largest contributor to national emissions of particulate matter. These particles can cause respiratory illnesses and heart disease. Burning of wood and coal also releases nitrogen oxides, which lead to ozone layer depletion, formation of acid rain, as well as causing respiratory diseases.” (14)

Therefore, great care and consideration needs to be taken when choosing bioenergy to ensure this choice of fuel burning is helping UK residents to move towards NetZero.

Bioenergy can help achieve the environmental targets committed to by the government. This is by reusing materials and fuel of ‘biogenic origin’ such as when manure storage and waste disposal is treated with anaerobic digestion to produce biogas (e.g. biomethane) and bioliquids (e.g. bioLPG), or solids such as wood pellets or chippings. (12)

These treated biofuels can then be used to heat buildings of all types including homes and can be suitable in rural or ‘off-grid’ locations as the best solution for meeting energy efficient needs of a household. However, these solutions are still in need of infrastructure development before they become a widely used heating choice for UK homes.

Summary of the 3 main energy efficient heating systems currently available

All of these three heating solution options above cost upwards of £5,000 thousand pounds and could total more than £20,000 depending on the chosen system. Property location, size of indoor and outdoor space and the age and type of home, as well as the needs of the household, will dictate which options is (or options are) most suitable for each specific home upgrade project.

Councils do not currently have a range of alternative energy home heating schemes to offer to average working and tax paying home owners (or renters) this spring 2024 (see our next article for more information of help with energy bills for those on benefits). The poster image with this article reaches a council web page which requests ‘registrations of future interest’ which is no real help for those eager to upgrade their homes in order to reach our Net Zero targets. (15)

For those with the wherewithal to continue their home upgrade projects regardless, there are suppliers out there in England. Contacting the local council for a list of registered companies who are certified to safely install or deliver these alternative heating systems and getting multiple cost quotes is a sensible idea from the Energy Saving Trust. (7) See our next article for more details of why we urgently need a better energy efficient home heating government policy strategy to reach NetZero by 2050 in the UK.

 

 

(1) ‘What is net zero and how can we get there?’ Energy Saving Trust, 18 January 2024 ‘What is net zero and how can we get there?’ Energy Saving Trust

(2) ‘What is carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) and what role can it play in tackling climate change?’ London School of Economics and Political Science and Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment, 13 March 2023 ‘What is carbon capture, usage and storage (CCUS) and what role can it play in tackling climate change?’ London School of Economics and Political Science and Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change

(3) ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy – UK Announces Grants to Promote Green Heat’ 18 January 2024 ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy – UK Announces Grants to Promote Green Heat’

(4) ‘We need to urgently replace inefficient heating in UK homes’ Kensa CEO, BDC News Team, Building Design and Construction Online Newspaper, 17 January 2024 ‘We need to urgently replace inefficient heating in UK homes’ Kensa CEO, BDC News Team, Building Design and Construction

(5) ‘The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ Policy Paper, UK Government, 18 November 2020 ‘The Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’ Policy Paper, UK Government

(6) CCC (2018), ‘Biomass in a low-carbon economy’, p. 66 CCC (2018), ‘Biomass in a low-carbon economy’, p. 66

(7) ‘A quick guide to low carbon heating’ Energy Saving Trust, 9 February 2021 ‘A quick guide to low carbon heating’ Energy Saving Trust

(8) ‘Share of homeowners in England in 2022 by age’ Statistica website, 16 October 2023 ‘Share of homeowners in England in 2022 by age’ Statistica website

(9) ‘What is the average energy bill in Great Britain?’ British Gas, 19 January 2024 ‘What is the average energy bill in Great Britain?’ British Gas

(10) ‘Energy Price Cap’ Ofgem, UK Government, 19 January 2024 ‘Energy Price Cap’ Ofgem, UK Government

(11) ‘Martin Lewis: Why are energy standing charges so high and what can be done?’ Martin Lewis at MoneySavingExpert.com, 2 Jan 2024 ‘Martin Lewis: Why are energy standing charges so high and what can be done?’ Martin Lewis at MoneySavingExpert.com

(12) ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy’ HM Government UK, published 19 October 2021, updated 1 March 2023 ‘Heat and Buildings Strategy’ HM Government UK

(13) ‘Green Homes Grant Was a ‘Slam Dunk Fail’, Report Says’ Homebuilding and Renovating, 2 December 2021 ‘Green Homes Grant Was a ‘Slam Dunk Fail’, Report Says’ Homebuilding and Renovating

(14) ‘Government takes action to cut pollution from household burning’ Press Office UK Government website, 21 February 2020 ‘Government takes action to cut pollution from household burning’ Press Office UK Government website

(15) Solar Together’ Chichester District Council, West Sussex (‘no active scheme’ in 2024 page) ‘Solar Together’ Chichester District Council, West Sussex (discontinued)

Traditional Christmas Celebrated but More Modest Festive Parties Rounded Off 2023

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A Traditional Family Christmas was Celebrated Across England

With a few exceptions the main theme across England this December was preparing for a relatively modest and traditional Christmas with (for those who are lucky enough) the nearest and dearest ones in our lives.

A cost-of-living crisis and political unrest internationally mean that there was an atmosphere of low-key thanksgiving for the blessings that this year has brought. These grateful sentiments have been embraced by millions of us adults who are fortunate enough to enjoy a relatively normal Christmas with our families and friends.

There have been Christmas parties, especially for the younger people in our communities. The shops have been optimistically full of sequined garments although it is unclear yet whether anything much more than a flock of fleecy onesies was eagerly purchased, in any great quantity, ready to dazzle with ‘strictly come dancing style’ during this winter’s social season.

In December The Guardian wrote that food and drinks “sales in London were up 3% in October versus last year, but fell 2.5% outside the capital.” (1) Radio 4’s news program interviewed hospitality sector leaders who have observed that Christmas parties involving meeting for drinks after work, instead of the traditional sit-down meal type of festive dining, have become the new normal as employers look to stick to their cautiously sized entertainment budgets.

Traditional Christmas room decoration, John Lewis, Chichester, West Sussex. Photo by A.Howse
Traditional Christmas room decoration, John Lewis, Chichester, West Sussex. Photo by A.Howse

It’s all about the Christmas trees

Festive trees symbolising the bringing of light and hope for future friendships and neighborhood harmony have been especially popular all over the United Kingdom and beyond. Natural materials are favored wherever possible as everyone looks to consider the environment. Trees have often been large and given center stage in public places and just dressed with white or gold lights. Simple baubles in classic colours of red or silver and gold have been ideal for making trees glow with festive spirit.

In England real Christmas trees reflected the simplicity of a traditional Winterfest and were pride of place in millions of houses that could afford to choose this fragrant treat. However, there is a debate to be considered about the carbon footprint of real trees especially when you consider transportation and recycling costs.

Old, handblown glass and artisan made special Christmas tree decorations are particularly treasured by many in Great Britain. Unique decorations are perfect as a small token gift to mark the holiday and thank loved ones for their support during the year.

English country houses and visitor attractions like Petworth House in Sussex magically transform into Christmas palaces to the enthrallment of local and international visitors alike. Twenty-four different traditionally decorated grand festive firs transformed rooms covered in antique furnishings and some of the country’s finest artworks into royally picturesque interiors of breathtaking beauty. (2)

Lights and trees reach across all the cultures and religions in the UK and make inclusive displays that positively improve rural and city environments for everyone, during the long dark nights and grey days in England.

Petworth House, National Trust, kitchen ready for Christmas, West Sussex. Photo by A. Howse
Petworth House, National Trust, kitchen ready for Christmas, West Sussex. Photo by A. Howse

Traditional seasonal activities and pastimes

A focus on providing a magical traditional Christmas for children during these difficult times for many has inspired creativity and seen a reemergence of handmade crafts, vintage games and activities such as ice-skating.  Booking online to visit Father Christmas was easy in most neighborhoods and Santa’s grotto popped up in visitor attractions, shopping malls and garden centers all across the United Kingdom.

‘Make Your Own’ activities are popular this year as people look for activities to do at home that amuse children and adults alike without spending very much money. Paper decorations and origami figures easily add joy to any inside space. Wreath making classes were available in the runup to the big day, all over the British Ilses, for friends to enjoy making memories and something special together.

Shopping online is as busy and thriving for all types of retailers as ever. However, this year hundreds of Christmas markets around the country tempted locals and visitors alike to shop local and support businesses and makers in their counties economic area whilst simultaneously gaining a wonderful festive experience.

There was a lovely atmosphere at many of the Christmas markets with folk using the opportunity to spend quality time with friends and enjoy some mulled wine or hot chocolate while listening to live buskers sing and play festive tunes. Carol services and community singing events are still really popular across the UK and the school nativity is an important fixture on any primary school parent’s schedule. (3)

Christmas pop and rock music classics from the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and 90’s are essential listening for everyone in England and the shops and radio stations mean that it is almost impossible to get halfway through December without hearing George Micheal’s iconic ‘Last Christmas’ playing out soulfully somewhere.

Reading of all varieties has been the chosen way to spend nights by the fire or inside a cozy home for English residents of all ages. and we are happy to report that bookshops such as Waterstones are featuring as prominently as ever on our high streets, despite the emergence of competitive online retail giants like Amazon.

Watching classic family entertainment on TV is still a well-loved ritual in most houses over the winter holidays. In millions of houses the Christmas Day afternoon tradition of watching the 3 o ’clock Queen’s speech now stars King Charles III but still resonates with those who support a traditional way of life in Britain and are fans of the monarchy.

Christmas specials are still essential for any series with lots of fans that is worth its salt. Jamie Oliver and Mary Berry and many other famous chefs show the country how to ace their festive spreads and impress the guests. Streaming platforms such as Amazon Prime, Netflix and channels such as Disney as well as original broadcasters like the BBC have shown an amazing selection of movies of all varieties to keep even the hardiest binge watchers of TV series, enthusiastically enthralled. (3)

Gyles Brandeth jumpers at Petersfield Museum, Hampshire. Photo by A.Howse
Gyles Brandeth jumpers at Petersfield Museum, Hampshire. Photo by A.Howse

Clothing gifts and gifts for the home

A key trend is hand knitting and crochet items and handmade gifts such as painted ceramics were also popular. Indoor and winter flowering plants in simple pots are everywhere as uplifting yuletide gifts as well.

Gyles Brandeth is known as a writer, artist, broadcaster and sometimes member of British parliament. His collection of bright eccentric handmade jumpers captured the imagination of the general public during the 1980’s when they were worn on television and celebrities also ordered copies of these original pieces. (4)

This season the Petersfield Museum in Hampshire exhibited a jolly selection of these wooly treasures to the delight of the cultural attraction’s visitors. The event finished on the 23rd of December but many jumpers can be viewed and purchased at the brands website Gyles and George. (5)

Knitted and crocheted dresses and sweaters are set to be trendy throughout 2024 so there is still time to pick up those needles and get ready for next Christmas too.

Hillier Garden Centre Christmas display, West Sussex. Photo by A.Howse
Hillier Garden Centre Christmas display, West Sussex. Photo by A.Howse

Food and drink gifts

Special bottles of alcoholic drinks (or spicy non-alcoholic alternatives) and even pretty hampers of Christmas goodies have been in widely creatively curated, or ordered and whisked off the supermarket shelves. These simple gifts for close family also make more luxurious gifts for friends and business partners and are always eagerly accepted as donations towards a jolly holiday week or two.

Gingerbread houses and baking festive decorations (that are sometimes edible) are both good examples of this idea. (6)

Home cooking and handmade food gifts were the focus of many families annual get togethers as people use their time creatively to make the most of the simple pleasures of sharing special meals and entertaining times with their nearest and dearest. Cookbooks are still really in fashion as there are always more recipes to try in the new energy efficient air fryers recently purchased around the country. Even vintage cook books are reappearing in many homes as rediscovered treasures.

The Ideal Home Show at Christmas was held at Kensington Olympia in November to make the most of the trend for meeting friends and buying treats earlier in the winter season. Hundreds of small businesses showcased their fun, practical and often delicious product selections. There was a real buzz as ‘experts’ on stage advised how to prepare an English home for guests complete with professional hosting tips. Hundreds of visiting folks enjoyed sampling all the flavoursome treats available in the Ideal Home Show at Christmas food hall. (7)

Toy Soldiers at Christmas Ideal Home Exhibition 2023 Olympia, London. Photo by A.Howse
Toy Soldiers at Christmas Ideal Home Exhibition 2023 Olympia, London. Photo by A.Howse

Pets and animal themed characters keep Christmas fun

A stunning white scene of many furry white reindeer complete with snowflake caked antlers and ‘snowy’ Christmas trees greeted lucky show visitors to London’s Christmas Ideal Home Exhibition. A perfectly traditional Father Christmas happily chatted with exhibition attendees from the luxury of his big red sleigh. (7)

Animals and pets are really special to almost everyone in this rather unreliable and often overwhelming world we live in at the moment. Therefore, products and services that are animal themed or aimed at pet owners are in all the events, high streets and markets in England at the moment.

Most animals are good for our mental and physical health and we can’t get enough of them and their crazy antics cheering us up over the colder winter months. Thousands of Christmas cards and gifts feature animals of all sorts this year. Peace doves are understandably having a moment and cute cats and dogs are here to stay and are as celebrated as the reindeer and farmyard animals of any classic Christmas nativity.

Gluten free crumble top mince pies. Photo by A.Howse
Gluten free crumble top mince pies. Photo by A.Howse

Futuristic interpretations of more traditional Christmases to follow

2023 saw the sad passing of Queen Elizabeth II and the somber funeral where the world paid their respects to an outstanding leader who was popular and respected across the Commonwealth and internationally. Shortly afterwards an elaborate coronation of King Charles III in London and the United Kingdom was also televised and watched all over the world by many millions of people.

During recent years developments in technology have expanded the possibilities of communicating large scale events to a global audience and this year welcomed wonderful enchanting exterior light shows into current vogue.

Beefeaters at Tower of London, Crown and Coronation. Phto by A.Howse
Beefeaters at Tower of London, Crown and Coronation. Phto by A.Howse

The Coronation and the Crown show at The Tower of London celebrated the history of the English monarchy and the coronation, telling the story through classical music and stunning ever changing projected colour visuals which used the famous monumental and ancient architecture as its striking backdrop. We will eagerly look out for more musical 3D lightshows next winter. (8)

Even if a traditional Christmas is here to stay the way we engage with businesses and each other has changed for most English residents. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok are very much a major part of inspiring and communicating all the latest tips and tricks for experiencing maximum enjoyment over the holidays.

Companies of all sizes, often working in partnership with influencers who demonstrate their wares, can now bring their festive products and seasonal services directly to their customers. Fans of individual brands can relax and scroll through their feeds on their hand-held devices. Making purchases and home delivery orders is now as easy as a click of a button.

Photos and videos posted online share get-togethers and celebrations with neighbours and family located everywhere, in an instant. Online groups for everything you could ever think of provide companionship and support for those having a quieter festive week or two, for whatever reason. Influencers and experts give advice, recipes and tips for everything from cooking turkey safely to perfect outfit and present ideas when attending formal Christmas dinner parties at the in-laws.

Digital gifts are a growth area and provide a way of sending an experience that can be chosen by the receiver and scheduled at a later date that suits the individual. Digital greeting cards, Zoom and WhatsApp parties and homemade phone family videos are bound to continue to be shared between millions of people all over the world during the holidays next year too.

Artificial intelligence may not be able to write a Christmas number one anytime soon but virtual reality games are bound to introduce exciting nostalgic Christmas experiences in faraway Nordic lands without the need for even leaving the house. Fake Christmas is a term used to describe throwing a full Christmas event on days that do not conventionally follow the usual dates of a late December Christmas.

Families are increasingly diverse, divided and non-conventional than ever. As people are traveling more again and working life gets more demanding and businesses are increasingly expected to provide services around the clock every day of the year, we may find more fake Christmas or extra Christmas days become the norm. So, get used to feeling festive over the whole winter season as people look for creative ways to enjoy a traditional Christmas together, in whatever flexible ways work for them and their loved ones.

(1) ‘It’s pretty brutal out there’: Struggling UK pubs and restaurants pray spirit of Christmas past will reappear, Rob Davies, The Guardian, 4 December 2023 (1) ‘It’s pretty brutal out there’: Struggling UK pubs and restaurants pray spirit of Christmas past will reappear, Rob Davies, The Guardian

(2) Petworth, National Trust, 4 January 2024 Petworth, National Trust, 4 January 2024

(3) Christmas Markets, BBC News, 4 January 2024 Christmas Markets, BBC News

(4) Christmas on the BBC, 4 January 2024 Christmas on the BBC

(5) Petersfield Museum and Art Gallery, 4 January 2024 Petersfield Museum and Art Gallery,

(6) Gyles and George website for Gyles Brandeth’s jumper collection and online shop, 4 January 2024 Gyles and George website for Gyles Brandeth’s jumper collection and online shop

(7) Hillier traditional Christmas decorating, 4 January 2024 Hillier traditional Christmas decorating, 4 January 2024

(8) Ideal Home Show – Inspiration for your ideal Christmas, 4 January 2024 https://www.idealhomeshowchristmas.co.uk/

(9) ‘Crown and Coronation Tour’ Tower of London, 4 January 2024 ‘Crown and Coronation Tour’ Tower of London

Are We Adicted to our Premium Coffee Houses in a Cost-of-Living Crisis?

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The coffee industry in the UK looks forward to 2024

Over the last decade premium coffee sales have been a growth market in the UK with a nation of tea drinkers adopting the taste for freshly brewed coffee beans prepared by expert baristas. The coffee shop industry is said to be worth £4.9 billion in December 2023 and there are currently more than 8000 coffee chains operating in the United Kingdom and more than 25 thousand individual coffee shops.   (1) (2)

The largest chain in the UK is international brand Costa coffee. which opened a new store as part of Tesco’s supermarket development in Chichester, West Sussex this season, taking over from Harris and Hoole who already have a busy high street premises in the medieval city on the English south coast. It only takes a few weeks to construct and develop a new store ready to open, especially if all the equipment and supplies are prepared ready at a centralized head office who are used to delivering new outlets smoothly.

In many areas across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland there are now a wide selection of coffee houses with a mix of well-known high street brands. Independent café businesses offering a unique hand crafted coffee drinking experience have increased in popularity. (2)

Coffee shops in most towns were relatively resilient throughout and after the pandemic lockdowns as they were usually able to offer takeaway services instead. However city areas that did not get the usual flow of thirsty commuters were temporarily affected.

Construction of new Costa coffee shop in Tescos Chichester, West Sussex. Photo by A.Howse
Construction of new Costa coffee shop in Tescos Chichester, West Sussex. Photo by A.Howse

Over the last two years many people have been economising due to rising inflation (including rising energy prices) and the cost of living crisis. A coffee that costs more than £4.50 may be out of many folks spending budgets nowadays. However, thousands of cafes may have benefitted from taken custom away from restaurants and bars as friends, colleagues and family members still want to meet up somewhere warm and socially vibrant, that is still relatively inexpensive as an outing.

Premium drinks are still popular and items such as Costa’s new luxury Frappe’s can become a filling snack instead of a more expensive lunch out. So ‘scaling back’ dining out behavior by consumers may continue to support coffee shop sales. A continuing trend could be seen in 2024 that some UK residents are staying a home or packing a picnic instead of visiting a coffee shop as part of a regular routine. This change in consumer habits could well be simultaneously offset by other customers enjoying a cheaper alternative to more traditional dining options by visiting a coffee and cakes style cafe.

Costa coffee shop Chichester, West Sussex, ready to open. Photo by A.Howse
Costa coffee shop Chichester, West Sussex, ready to open. Photo by A.Howse

Inflation has affected the price of goods and services in the UK and Europe. In the UK minimum wage rises, which are important to reduce poverty for those on low incomes, combined with high rates and taxes (that businesses have to pay regardless of how much they sell) all make running a coffee shop enterprise a tall order, to run successfully.

Café culture and possible threats to the rising demand for coffee

Many medical experts have extolled the virtues of enjoying one properly brewed fresh coffee every day. There are claims that the elements in this delicious brewed drink are beneficial to brain and gut health as well as contributing to a fine cardio vascular system.

Some influencers and health professionals have advised cutting down or cutting out caffeine to maintain an optimally healthy diet and optimising mental health more recently. Coffee shops do offer different decaffeinated beverages as alternative options, so this may not be a game changer. Developing and communicating the processes of de-caffeination to consumers is important to keep them wanting to invest in a specially prepared and priced brew.

The environmental impact of importing beans from far flung places and ensuring that coffee is ‘fair trade’ and kind to the communities where it is produced, is increasingly important to consumers highly conscious about their spending choices. Similarly packaging quantity and material choice is of interest to coffee buyers.

All segments in the coffee industry in the UK declined in sales in 2022 as households and companies look for ways to cut back financial spending.

Homeowning or renting and paying for utilities is unexpectedly expensive especially in large cities this year. Working long hours and balancing family caring responsibilities is hard for many. There is an uncertain economic outlook set against a backdrop of awful wars and deeply concerning events internationally. Consequently there are reports that stress and sleep problems are more widespread than ever, as the post pandemic cost of living crisis affects nearly everyone. A recent Nuffield health survey of 8000 people revealed that only 36% of adults are getting a good nights sleep in the UK. (3)

A silver lining is that this situation can be positive for coffee sellers. Millions of people reach for their favourite cup of ‘pick-me-up’ as adults with responsibilities look to balance and get their most out of their work, studies, leisure time and family life.

Full display ready to open at Costa coffee shop, Chichester, West Sussex. Photo by A.Howse
Full display ready to open at Costa coffee shop, Chichester, West Sussex. Photo by A.Howse

The outlook is warm for the coffee industry

Over the next five years consumer experts Mintel predict that coffee sales will start to rise again as inflation and interest rate rises ease, helping the economy to have positive growth again once more. Millions of shoppers who have been looking for easy ways to reduce their monthly outgoings have made simple swaps to lower price coffee brands. Retailers competitively priced ‘own brands’ coffees have been seeing really strong sales compared to previous years.

Some cities have dozens of coffee themed cafes and there may be an oversupply in one area in 2024. It is possible in some towns that there simply may not be space to survive for any ‘mediocre’ businesses that neglect the needs of their discerning coffee fans under the current economic conditions.

Opportunities to be the cream of the coffee shop crop in 2024

However there are opportunities to embrace contemporary café culture as people of all ages look for ways to enhance their lives by taking a refreshment break during their busy days, working on their devices in a peaceful and warm place with good wi-fi or meeting friends in a sociable environment that gets them out of the house.

The last few years have taught us all the value of slowing down and taking time to enjoy a drink or snack is good for our mental health, digestion and avoids the need for unnecessary take-away packaging. Most UK coffee houses will happily fill any reusable insulated bottles with their visitors chosen blended drinks.

In Denmark and other European countries Mc Donald’s coffee is served in large glass soda glasses or china mugs which are then put in a dishwasher which dramatically reduces the amount of single use plastics.

Coffee houses of the future may increase turnover by selling ‘loose’ coffee and tea to customers with their own recyclable containers as well as other products and provisions providing a local venue for ‘packaging free’ purchasing.

Cleanliness is key and anti-bacterial surfaces and hygienic facilities are deliberately sought out by all ages avoiding the spread of germs and viruses. All ages love to visit fashionable places and younger customers often particularly seek the best ‘Instagram’ worthy interiors to record their meetups as online updates that reflect their physical world lives.

Smart café owners may look to develop new menus and beverages that perfectly chime with the sophisticated desires of an increasingly educated, globally ethically conscious and environmentally savvy clientele.

 

(1) Cafes and coffee shops in the United Kingdom (UK), Statista, 19th December 2023 Coffee Shops in the UK, Report by Statastita

(2) UK Coffee Report 2022, Mintel Consumer Market Research, 2nd January 2023 (2) UK Coffee Report 2022, Mintel Consumer Market Research

(3) ‘Nuffield Health 2023 Healthier Nation Index: Only 36% employees get a good nights sleep’ September 2023 ‘Nuffield Health 2023 Healthier Nation Index: Only 36% employees get a good nights sleep’

 

Peter Walker’s Peace Doves Soar in English Cathedrals

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This autumn an immersive art installation by UK sculptor Peter Walker has flown into to medieval Chichester cathedral to inspire West Sussex residents and international visitors alike. It is perfect timing for raising our eyes to the heavens and reflecting on how to encourage world harmony in these difficult times.

The wonderfully visually striking work comprises “fifteen thousand handmade paper doves suspended above the cathedrals historic Nave.”

Schools, local community groups and members of the public have written individual messages of ‘peace, love and hope’ that are all contained within each of the paper bird’s wings.

Peace Doves Installation in Chichester Cathedral by Peter Walker - view from main aisle. Photo by A.Howse
Peace Doves Installation in Chichester Cathedral by Peter Walker – view from main aisle. Photo by A.Howse

From the 30th September and until mid-November 2023 Peter Walker’s immersive sculptural artwork has been on display to the public.

Visitors to Chichester Cathedral can see the temporary avian themed exhibition every day and whenever the church is open. During services visiting local and tourists will be invited to join the worship or stand at the back and admire the original piece featuring throngs of handcrafted hanging birds. Spending time within the 948-year-old cathedral is free and donations to the building and its maintenance are very welcome.

There were a selection of special events and talks throughout the season that required booking in advance on the website. (1)

Peace Doves by Peter Walker Art Installation at Chichester Cathedral, view from main aisle centre. Photo by A.Howse
Peace Doves by Peter Walker Art Installation at Chichester Cathedral, view from main aisle centre. Photo by A.Howse

Peter walker works in a variety of mediums including, paper, fabric, stone, bronze and light. Walker also works in collaboration with a company called Luxmuralis to create light installations using digital media and the type of commercial lighting that you might find in a large-scale entertainment music venue.

Images are projected onto historic buildings exteriors and ecclesiastical interiors creating interesting colourful effects that can be a permanent artistic statement. Alternatively, the ephemeral design can be changed frequently, set to music and turned off and on to meet the needs of the intended audience or the service attendees.

In a recent interview with Church Times Peter Walker explains his decision to develop his work as a light and space artist “It’s not painting by numbers. I’m not trying to make the original arches and architecture disappear: it’s creating a conduit for people, opening up an emotional pathway.”

There is a lot of division and discord amongst leaders across the globe and we head into 2024. We need artists like Peter Walker more than ever to remind us that peace, hope and love are important. The message that peace, hope and love remain key values for us all to strive for and develop, as we look for what unites us in our communities both locally and globally, whatever our religion or beliefs.

Peace Doves by Peter Walker at Chichester Cathedral, view towards entrance doors. Photo by A.Howse
Peace Doves by Peter Walker at Chichester Cathedral, view towards entrance doors. Photo by A.Howse

(1) Peace Doves, Chichester Cathedral website, 23rd November 2023 Peace Doves, Chichester Cathedral

(2) Peter Walker sculptor on Facebook 23rd November 2023 Peter Walker sculptor on Facebook

(3) Luxmuralis, projection art gallery website, 23rd November 2023 Luxmuralis, projection art gallery website

(4) ‘Peter Walker, the artist who makes light work’ Church Times, 14 April 2023 (4) ‘Peter Walker, the artist who makes light work’ Church Times

Coastal Communities Bounce Back After Storm Ciaran Batters UK

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Ciaran is biggest gale since The Great Storm of ‘87

The storm ‘clean up’ and recovery work continues on the south coast of the United Kingdom, as well as several other areas across England and France, who were all hit with record wind speeds and high tides at the beginning of this month.

Storm Ciaran was the most intense storm to hit the British Isles since the ‘Great Storm’ of autumn 1987 according to the Met Office (United Kingdom Meteorological Office). A shipping forecast severe gale warning was issued on Wednesday 1st November (in Plymouth in Devon) which read:

“Southerly gale force 8 veering westerly and increasing violent storm force 11 or hurricane force 12 later” The sea state was declared likely to be: “Very rough becoming high or very high later”

On Thursday 2nd November the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Local Resilience Forum announced a ‘major incident’. A ‘major incident’ was also declared on the island of Jersey. The Hampshire fire service warned that there was a “potential risk to life” and damage to buildings, falling trees and flooding were reported. (1)

The highest wind speeds in England were recorded on the west coast on the night of 1st November reaching 63 knots or 72 miles per hour in Dorset and Cornwall. Two French weather stations in Brittany reached gusts of over 100 knots or 115 miles per hour. Tragically the Met Office described how “Across western Europe more widely, heavy rain and flooding linked to storm Ciarán reportedly led to at least 13 deaths.” (2)

Ciaran hit areas on the south of the UK, the Channel Islands and the west coast of France the hardest. Many other regions and counties are also attributing ongoing electrical and flooding related problems to Ciaran’s intense wind and rainfall. (3)

A tornado was reported on the eastern side of Jersey in the Channel Islands. 150,000 homes mostly across the west of England and Wales were left without electrical power and millions of residents in southern England experienced power cuts. (2)

Fishbourne railway line floods, West Sussex, storm Ciaran. Photo by A.Howse
Fishbourne railway line floods, West Sussex, storm Ciaran. Photo by A.Howse

Buses waded through flooded roads bravely in Sussex and Hampshire while rail and flight services were widely cancelled. Ports such as Dover were closed until calmer conditions returned.

Ciaran clear up continues

As many residents finally enjoyed some dryer weather over last weekend the Met Office announced further caution because of another storm named Debbie, which crossed the country from the south on Monday bringing further blustery gales and heavily wet weather.

In Guildford and surrounding districts in Surrey three water treatment plants were without power after the massive gale caused serious problems resulting in thousands of homes without a supply of fresh water. There was some chaos as Surrey’s residents were advised only to drive on the roads if leaving home to pick up bottled water from one of the hastily set up water ‘pick up’ stations around the centre of the busy commuter city of Guildford.

Stream water gushes in Fernhurst Surrey. Photo by A.Howse
Stream water gushes in Fernhurst Surrey. Photo by A.Howse

The Royal Surrey Hospital also declared a major incident because of the lack of water supply and local care homes were also put under pressure as they strived to provide provisions for their vulnerable residents. (3)

After Surrey residents spent the first few days of November rushing about looking for supplies of bottled water, a week later on the 9th November Surrey Live news reported that:

“Thames Water said they have fixed the issue at Shalford treatment works which left thousands of homes in Surrey without a water supply this week – now a new issue has arisen at a different water treatment centre. 504 postcodes are now affected by a fault at Ladymead Water Treatment Works” (3)

Thames Water apologized to customers and advised that a £30 compensation would automatically be applied to their account for water shortage affected households. However local residents who had lost water and dealt with low pressure for a week complained to The Guildford Dragon news. Many Surrey locals are annoyed about the lack of communication with Thames water, blaming decades of underinvestment since the utility companies’ privatisation, for the inability to deal with the relatively unextraordinary amounts of rainwater at the beginning of the winter season. (4)

Night view as roads flood in Chichester harbour West Sussex, storm Ciaran, photo by A.Howse
Night view as roads flood in Chichester harbour West Sussex, storm Ciaran, photo by A.Howse

Not everyone was upset by flooded roads, electrical outages and transport problems. There was some cheer in a pub near Chichester in West Sussex which unexpectedly benefitted from the unpassable overflowing roads down to the picturesque harbour. The small friendly team at The Berkeley Arms finally relaxed last Sunday night after a whole coach load of tourists decided to order lunch at once, at this handsome traditional pub.

After being unable to travel on further to their original Solent seaside destination the day trip visitors were happy to find a warm welcome at the inn. “It was a bit hectic but we managed to serve everyone with a good hot meal.” The Berkeley Arms bar lady admitted with a smile. (5)

Boat floods, rainbow on horizon, Chichester harbour, Photo by A.Howse
Boat floods, rainbow on horizon, Chichester harbour, Photo by A.Howse

(1) ‘Storm Ciaran: Major incident declared on south coast of Hampshire amid high winds and heavy rain’ Steve Deeks, The News (Portsmouth) 16th November 2023 ‘Storm Ciaran: Major incident declared on south coast of Hampshire amid high winds and heavy rain’ Steve Deeks, The News

(2) ‘Storm Ciaran, 1 to 2 November 2023, Met Office, UK ‘Storm Ciaran, 1 to 2 November 2023, Met Office UK

(3) ‘504 more Guildford postcodes without water due to new Thames water issue.’ Lucy Williamson, Surrey Live, 9 November 2023 ‘504 more Guildford postcodes without water due to new Thames water issue.’ Lucy Williamson, Surrey Live

(4) ‘Anger with Thames Water Remains Over Its Handling of Water Supply Interruptions’ Martin Giles, The Guildford Dragon, 8 November 2023 Anger with Thames Water Remains Over Its Handling of Water Supply Interruptions’ Martin Giles, The Guildford Dragon

(5) ‘The Berkeley Arms’ Pub in Old Bosham, Sussex, 16 November 2023 ‘The Berkeley Arms’ Pub in Old Bosham, Sussex website

Is Unexploded Ordnance Still Relevant to Life in the UK?

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What is Unexploded Ordnance?

The United Kingdom’s parliamentary government website describes unexploded ordnance as “explosive weapons that did not detonate when they were employed and still pose a risk of detonation.” (1)

It is estimated that there are 100,000 tonnes of unexploded material lying in the sea (marine environment) and on land around the British Isles from World War I and World War II. There are two ways of dealing with items that are discovered, still containing a powerful charge. High Order detonation which is exploding the found object with extra detonation. Low Order detonation involves firing a small charge at the explosive causing it to burn out without detonating. (1)

Although many teams of specially army personnel were dedicated to clearing any unused mines or other dangerous items left during the international conflicts of the early in the 20th century, it was not possible to uncover every potentially life-threatening device. Unexploded ordnance or UXO is still to the present day often found in Great Britain, primarily in areas that were significant during World War I and World War II.

As well as the risk of explosion, chemical leakage and environmental pollution can occur from items originally prepared for armed combat. Specialist private commercial services can also be contacted to make any area safe. An example of this type of security company is Brimstone and also 1st Line Defence based in Hertfordshire who provide free factsheets on their site. (3)

“Some of the most densely bombed cities included Birmingham, Bristol, Coventry, Exeter, Glasgow, Liverpool, London, Plymouth, Southampton and Portsmouth, with the areas most at risk from being bombed being docks, airfields, major cities, manufacturing sites and industrial centres.” advises Brimstone specialist UXO handlers, on their website. (4)

Specialist agencies agree that UXO’s can still be found today and could appear in a variety of sizes and designs. These may include: WW2 high explosive bombs, WW2 incendiary bombs, parachute mines, rockets, projectiles, grenades, landmines and mortars according to Brimstone.

What should you do if you suspect you have found a UXO?

Members of the public are reminded that if any suspicious package is found, even if it is small, it is best to keep well away from the object and call the police for assistance, following any instructions given by police (like evacuating the area).

The UK government’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation provides guidance regarding procedures to ensure the health and safety of workers and members of the public who may be using ex-Ministry of Defence land for new purposes and constructing new developments. This includes directions of how to contact an Explosive Ordnance Clearance team if an UXO is discovered unexpectedly. (2)

Police Force’s around the country provide information and education about this aspect of keeping the public safe, in order to inform local citizens about the dangers and what they should do. In September Hampshire and Dorset emergency services held a special family style event in Portsmouth harbour to demonstrate and celebrate the unique role that the police force, fire and medical emergency departments play in our communities in the UK. Experts from the emergency services were on hand to talk to the public about health and safety and the excellent work that all the emergency services do every day and night.

In January an unexploded World War Two device was found in the Isleham Marina area of Mildenhall in Suffolk. The police dispersed the area and ensured bomb disposal experts diffused the object so residents could return to their homes safely. (5)

Do UXO pose a threat in the UK?

Although the UK has experienced nearly a century of peace on its countryside, shores and waters UXO still remains an ongoing but relatively rare threat to people working on construction projects or men, women and children simply exploring the great outdoors.

A report by Matt MacDonald construction experts advising on the development of Bank station in London in 2011 warns that: “In recent decades there have been several incidents in Europe where Allied UXBs have been detonated with at least three incidents causing fatalities. Although no fatal incidents related to UXB (unexploded bombs) have occurred in the UK in recent years, data from the Explosive Ordnance Disposal industry show that from 2006 to 2009 approximately 15,000 items of ordnance ranging from aerial delivered bombs to Land Service Ammunition (such as mortar rounds and grenades) have been removed from construction sites.” (6)

The Matt MacDonald report for London Underground continues to state how “It is estimated (between 2006 and 2009) that about 5% were live and still fully functioning. The number of items of Small Arms Ammunition recovered during this period possibly runs into tens of thousands.”

Key points to remember about UXO in the UK

If you or anyone else that you know is working on a construction site or private property redevelopment along the south and east coast of England (or any of the areas mentioned above that are known to contain UXO’s) it is wise to enquire about if the area has been health and safety assessed for the presence of UXO before digging or using any electrical tools or mechanical equipment. If unsure consult an expert to assess the area in advance of commencing works.

Ordtek provide UXO risk management and are based in Norfolk and have an interactive map of affected areas in and around the United Kingdom, the Channel and neighbouring countries, on their website. (7)

In the unlikely event that you are out exploring the coastal waters, seaside or countryside and you come across an item of any size that looks like it could be a possible UXO, quickly move away and stand well back and if there is no immediate danger then call the non-urgent enquiries UK police telephone hotline by dialling 101.

 

(1) ‘Low Order deflagration for UXO disposal for the commercial sphere Unexploded Ordnance’ Parliament UK website, 2 November 2023 Unexploded Ordnance’ Parliament UK website

(2) Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) Policy Instruction, Guidance for Unexploded Ordnance in Infrastructure Activities, 2 November 2023 Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO) Policy Instruction, Guidance for Unexploded Ordnance in Infrastructure

(3) 1st line Defence risk management, Mitigate the risk of UXO on your project, 2 November 2023 1st line Defence risk management, Mitigate the risk of UXO

(4) ‘What is Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)?’ Brimstone, 4 September 2023 ‘What is Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)?’ Brimstone

(5) ‘Unexploded WW2 device found in Mildenhall basement’, BBC News, 24 January 2023 ‘Unexploded WW2 device found in Mildenhall basement’, BBC News

(6) ‘MACC UXO Threat Assessment, Report For London Underground’, 2 November 2011 (6) ‘MACC UXO Threat Assessment, Report For London Underground’

(7) ‘Ordtek Mine Map, Offshore UXO contamination’, 2 November 2023 ‘Ordtek Mine Map, Offshore UXO contamination’

It’s the Final Run For The Clipper Round the World Boat Race South Atlantic Challenge

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Tenacious yacht, clipper boat race, Portsmouth Harbour, The Solent, Hampshire, photo by A.Howse
Tenacious yacht, clipper boat race, Portsmouth Harbour, The Solent, Hampshire, photo by A.Howse

On the 3rd of September thousands of spectators lined the coastline at Gunwharf Quays marina at Old Portsmouth and Southsea beach to marvel at the colourful spectacle of nearly a dozen gleaming racing yachts gliding along from Gosport marina in Hampshire to set sail on an unforgettable transatlantic voyage.

There was a slight delay of around an hour to the official race time to allow the organisers to make their last-minute preparations to the Clipper Round the World yacht sailing race at four o’clock. Nobody in the vicinity minded as it was such a glorious afternoon to be out on the Solent.

This September the Clipper Round the World boat race commenced in high style from the glistening calm waters of the Solent to the booming sound of an Old Portsmouth traditional firing salute.

Portsmouth in Hampshire, England is the home of the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy and dozens of enthusiastic sailors in all sizes of nautical craft lined up on the Solent to take a glimpse and cheer on the brave crew of the first leg of the transatlantic Clipper racing rally.

An official pilot boat motored around the entrance to Portsmouth Harbour guiding the boating onlookers, who gathered in droves, gently drifting about in the gentle breeze of a perfect summer day.

Adventurous yacht, Clipper race, Portsmouth Harbour, photo by A.Howse
Adventurous yacht, Clipper race, Portsmouth Harbour, photo by A.Howse

There are eleven Clipper boats each measuring seventy foot in length that make up the Clipper Race in 2023. The route is divided into eight legs which include six ocean crossings.

This week heavy rain, strong winds and lightening have faced the competing sporting teams in a weather phenomenon that is termed a ‘Sudeststada’

Today, on Race 2 day 26 The Clipper Race organisers reported that

“as the fleet makes its final run towards Punta Del Este …over the last 24 hours the coast of South America has served up some challenges with a frontal system passing overhead bringing squally, unpredictable and light conditions.”

Another squally ‘Pampero’ of rather too exciting weather is forecast over the next few days which may involve some Captain testing strategic leadership to ensure a smooth wind maximised ‘reach’ sail into Punta Del Este and winning glory.

The slogan ‘Achieve Something Remarkable’ is the theme to this year’s race. The first person to sail solo non-stop around the world was Sir Robin Knox-Johnston and he launched the famous annual globe competition in 1996 stating “you will never conquer or master the ocean but you can endure it.”

Participating in the race is a possibility for men and women of all ages and qualifications, although specific training courses are a key element of preparing for the prestigious and challenging yachting competition.

Prizes are given to the first three boats across the finishing line for each race and the overall winning team is presented with a Clipper Race Trophy.

Clipper race fleet, The Solent, Hampshire, photo by A.Howse
Clipper race fleet, The Solent, Hampshire, photo by A.Howse

“If Mother Nature throws down the gauntlet you must be ready to face it.” warns the website which invites would-be sailing competitors to not underestimate the power of the natural forces of time and tide. However, if a uniquely ambitious life-changing experience is your calling then Clipper Round the World Race a recruiting for the next international off-shore tournament, so you may be tempted to “seize the moment and unleash the adventure” and join up. (2)

Currently the leading vessel is the Yacht Club Punta del Este which is also the location of the finish line the fleet is heading for keenly, completing the second leg of the global ‘Race of Your Life’ in Uruguay, South America. The second competitor is team Perseverance who are only just over twenty nautical miles behind, which is amazing considering the vast distances involved.

After a 40,000 nautical mile epic journey the crews are expected to complete the eighth leg of the international circuit and cross the final finish line at North Pier marina in Oban in Scotland between the 12th to the 16th July 2024.

 

(1) Clipper Round The World ‘Achieve Something Remarkable’ official website, 11th October 2023 Clipper Round The World ‘Achieve Something Remarkable’

(2) ‘A Race Without Equal’ Clipper Round The World, official website, 11th October 2023 ‘A Race Without Equal’ Clipper Round The World Race

(3) Royal Navy, Clipper 2023-24 Round The World Yacht Race Departure and Start, 3 September 2023 Royal Navy, Clipper 2023-24 Round The World Yacht Race Departure and Start

Light Railway Attractions Rely on Volunteers to Help Keep UK Tourism Rolling

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England is enhanced by a variety of light railways which offer families and individuals of all ages an opportunity to enjoy the experience of riding through a naturally beautiful environment on a fabulous traditional diesel or steam train.

It is a perfect way to learn about Great Britain’s industrialisation and the history of the railways. A round trip on a light railway is a good way to develop understanding about basic engineering as well being a fun day out for toddlers, children and adults alike. Usually, the nostalgic trips take under an hour and offer visitors the opportunity to stop at different stations which usually offer a variety of amenities and interesting things to see and do.

Volunteer’s help keep costs down for an organisation. These enthusiastic team members make these affordable days out accessible to all and ensure the old fashioned railways are reasonably priced, during these years of the cost-of-living squeeze.

Volunteers keep the additional facilities open (including cafes, shops and toilets) and help to create amazing seasonal events that are truly memorable for hundreds of visitors. Below is a selection of vintage railways to try out and there are many splendid locations to discover all over England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Straw 'busker' at Hayling Light Railway, part of Scarecrow Festival, Hayling Island Hampshire, image by A. Howse
Straw ‘busker’ at Hayling Light Railway, part of Scarecrow Festival, Hayling Island Hampshire, image by A. Howse

South of England Light Railways

Hayling Light Railway Trust is situated on the south coast of Hayling Island which is reached via a single carriageway car bridge spanning across Langstone harbour, in the southern county of Hampshire, England. The Hayling Light Railway line consists of three stations; Beachlands, Mengham and Eastoke. (1)

The line runs ‘east to west’ along the seafront. See our previous article for more details of this interesting story of rail on a beautiful island on the Solent coast. Volunteers are key to the success of this nostalgic seaside venture and the community spirit is shown in our feature image with the Scarecrow festival ‘passenger’ busking while they are waiting for their train to depart. (2) (3)

One of the first preservation rail networks The Bluebell Railway commenced in 1960. The vintage route runs between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead in Sussex. This is a reopening of part of the line that used to run to Lewes in east Sussex. The four stations along the line have been restored to reflect different architectural periods in rail history.

The Bluebell railway website describes how they have one of the finest collections for steam locomotives. “Horsted Keynes, been seen regularly on television and in films, including Downton Abbey, Muppets Most Wanted movie and Churchill’s Secret. Our station at East Grinstead is adjacent to the Southern Railway station, and therefore accessible via National Rail transport.” (4)

Paddington Bear visits the railway on 7-8th October and The Giants of Steam event is 13-15th October featuring many locomotives. (4)

Hayling Light Railway train 'The Islander' in front of Hayling funfair., Hampshire, England. Image by A. Howse
Hayling Light Railway train ‘The Islander’ in front of Hayling funfair., Hampshire, England. Image by A. Howse

East of England Light Railways

Other volunteer railways in England include the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway which is based at Brockford station, Wetheringsett, Stowmarket, Suffolk, IP14 5PW. The MSLR or ‘middy’ ran from the early 1900’s. This line has also had a bumpy ride during its history and after being closed in 1952 due to disrepair, the MSLR was reopened in 1990 as a registered charity recreating the splendours of Edwardian train travel. (5)

The world’s smallest light railway named the ‘Wells and Walsingham Light Railway’ can be found just to the east of Wells-next-to-the-Sea. This relaxing half hour rail journey connects with the village of Walsingham on the north coast of Norfolk. (6)

Midlands Light Railways

Evesham Vale Light Railway spans over a mile across a country park in the Vale of Evesham. The attraction is owned by Adrian and Sandra Corke and operates throughout the year. The Evesham Vale Light Railway website describes how “volunteer roles provide an interesting and enjoyable past-time that enthrals visitors and enthusiasts alike.” At Evesham Vale Light Railway they provide a branded uniform. (7)

Situated in Chasewater Country Park, north east of Wolverhampton in Staffordshire, The Chasewater Railway operates passenger trains from its headquarters at Brownhills West to Chasetown, with intermediate stations at Norton Lakeside and Chasewater Heaths. A round trip of nearly 4 miles takes about 45 minutes.

Chasewater Railway Volunteer Opportunities include an “active junior team” of volunteers “involved in Operations and Permanent Way work” as well as organising a range of fun seasonal events, all coordinated via Facebook communication. (8)

North of England

The Kirklees Light Railway in Yorkshire opened to the public on the 19 October 1991, but the foundations of the line date back to the mid-19th century. Situated in the Pennine foothills, this steam train railway can be found between Huddersfield and Barnsley. The railway line now runs from Clayton West to Shelley, a distance of just under 3.5 miles. The Kirklees Light Railway claims to offer one of the best family days out in Yorkshire!

The Kirklees Light Railway is supported by dedicated volunteers who assist the small team of permanent Whistlestop Valley staff to maintain and operate the railway. “This involves an immense amount of work undertaking a multitude of activities.” (9)

The East Lancashire Railway is located at the heart of Bury town centre which is north of Manchester. The 12-mile line includes 7 stations and stops at the Bury Transport Museum. Visitors can choose from countryside walks to more bustling village destinations offering a custom-made day to suit everyone. The ELR’s autumn events programme features days out with the popular train character Thomas and Friends, Halloween Ghost Trains, wine tasting and dining onboard and an Autumn Steam Gala on the 13th to 15th October. (10)

The East Lancashire Railway “relies on volunteers all day, every day.” The ELR states that without them “we wouldn’t be able to maintain and run our heritage trains, open stations or host the events and experiences our guests love.” (11)

West of England

Swanage railway operates a service with full size steam and diesel passenger trains that cover five 5.5 miles of line from Norden to Corfe-Castle and down to the Victorian seaside town of Swanage. As well as Norden and Corfe-Castle the vintage trains stop at Harmans Cross and Herson Halt and Swanage. (12)

Although not a heritage line The St Ives Bay Line in Cornwall claims to be one of the most scenic in Britain and we think this could well be possible. Spectacular views along the coast from Hayle Towans and Carbis Bay can be enjoyed whilst traveling by rail. St Ives station is right next to the beautiful Porthminster beach. (13)

The Bodmin Railway connects Bodmin General with peaceful Colesogget Halt, Bodmin Parkway, Boscarne Junction. This month the railway is delighted to receive their wedding license so eloping and engaged couples can now plan their special day in 1950’s country style. “Your skills could be just what we need!” declares the Bodmin Railway management. They explain that the steam and diesel route “could not run” without its treasured volunteers who are all aged over 14 years. The Bodmin Gala will be on 14-15th October 2023. (14) (15)

Valued volunteers benefit and can experience a variety of roles on the railways

Volunteers of all ages are key to enabling visitor attractions and organisations all over the United Kingdom to continue to offer reasonably priced educational and leisure activities, during a challenging time in our country’s economic history. Volunteering with light railway companies can involve steam driving, diesel driving, guard duties and shop and ticket sales, track maintenance, engineering works, overgrowth clearance, building works, grounds maintenance and more.

The benefits of keeping fit, making friends, expanding an interest for history and engineering, enjoying the outdoors and countryside as well as making a difference to the local area are all really positive incentives for people who have some spare time to contribute to their community.

Volunteers keep these historic pleasure routes on track and looking forward to further development as cultural destinations as an essential part of the tourist industry in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and an important part of the UK’s national identity and income.

Dozens of light railway attractions contribute to UK economy

Wikipedia is a good place to read more details about the more than fifty narrow-gauge railways in Britain today and also all the museums that can be visited across the British Iles. (16)

For an interactive map of the dozens of wonderful miniature railways in the United Kingdom head over to Britain’s Great Little Railways website. Britain’s Great Little Railways (BGLR) represents the UK’s leading narrow, miniature and minimum gauge steam & diesel railways. The organisation covers trains of every size and shape whether they are powered by steam, petrol, diesel and batteries. (17)

There is also a Great British Railways Facebook page with news and events around the country. Scenic rail Britain is a visually impressive blog that outlines the best railways to visit and where to see coastal train views. (18) (19)

Heritage railway systems sales are not covered by government statistical analysis at present. However, the light rail and tram railways generate a substantial amount of revenue altogether which contributes to the UK economy.  Last month government figures reported that passenger revenue was up by 23% in England to more than 211 million journeys and operators received a passenger revenue of £329 million.  (20)

(1) Hayling Light Railway Trust, official website, 27th September 2023 Hayling Light Railway Trust

(2) ‘The Hayling Light Railway Trust’ Facebook page, 27th September 2023 ‘The Hayling Light Railway Trust’ Facebook

(3) Scarecrow ‘busker’ Hayling Scarecrow Festival, Hayling BEST community group website, 27th September 2023 Scarecrow ‘busker’ Hayling Scarecrow Festival at Hayling Light Railway

(4) Bluebell Railway, The Stations, official website, 27th September 2023 Bluebell Railway, The Stations

(5) Mid-Suffolk Light Railway, official website, 27th September 2023 Mid-Suffolk Light Railway, official website

(6) ‘Wells and Walsingham Light Railway’ official website, 27th September 2023 ‘Wells and Walsingham Light Railway’ official website

(7) ‘Evesham Vale Light Railway’ official website, 27th September 2023 ‘Evesham Vale Light Railway’ official website

(8) Chasewater Railway’ official website, 27th September 2023 ‘Chasewater Railway’ official website

(9) The Kirklees Light Railway official website, 27th September 2023 The Kirklees Light Railway official website

(10) East Lancashire Railway official website, 27th September 2023 East Lancashire Railway

(11) Swanage Railway, official website, 27th September 2023 Swanage Railway, official website

(12) Great Scenic Railways, St Ives Bay Line, St Erth (P & R) – St Ives, 27th September 2023  Great Scenic Railways, St Ives Bay Line, St Erth (P & R) – St Ives

(13) Bodmin Railway on Facebook Bodmin Railway on Facebook

(14) Bodmin Railway website, 27th September 2023 Bodmin Railway website

(15) British narrow-gauge railways, Wikepedia, 27th September 2023 List of British heritage and private railways

(16) List of British heritage and private railways, Wikipedia 27th September 2023 British narrow-gauge railways, Wikepedia

(17) Britain’s Great Little Railways, Find a Railway, 27th September 27th 2023 Britain’s Great Little Railways, Find a Railway

(18) Great British Railways Group on Facebook Great British Railways Group on Facebook

(19) Scenic Rail Britain website, 27th September 2023 Scenic Rail Britain website

(20) Light rail and tram statistics, England: year ending March 2023 Department of Transport published 5 September 2023 Light rail and tram statistics, England: year ending March 2023

20 years of Hayling Light Railway Shows How Locals Can Really Connect the Community

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Mengham cafe and beach huts, Hayling Island, Hampshire, England. Image by A. Howse
Mengham cafe and beach huts, Hayling Island, Hampshire, England. Image by A. Howse

Volunteer groups can really impact how vibrant and successful an area is and also how tempting a location is to national and international visitors. A good example of this phenomenon is the friendly team of likeminded locals that painstakingly built and updated the Hayling Light Railway. The smart, traditional light railway engine and its many carriages forms the “cherry on top of the cake” along Hayling Islands picturesque beachfront, which overlooks the Solent and across to the Isle of Wight.

Hayling Light Railway Trust is situated on the south coast of Hayling Island which is reached via the car bridge across Langstone harbour in the southern Hampshire, England. The Hayling Light Railway line consists of three stations; Beachlands, Mengham and Eastoke. The line runs ‘east, west’ along the seafront. (2)

Beachlands railway station postcode is PO11 0AG which is handy information for those traveling by motor vehicle. There is a £3.50 for the day car park which is also adjacent to a funfair, visitor information centre, café and accessible toilet facilities.

Mengham features a memorial to the C.O.P.P. or Combined Operations Pilotage Parties who were heroes of World War II. The C.O.P.P. were based on Hayling Island from 1943 under the leadership of Lord Mountbatten and members of this group carried out covert beach operations to assist the war effort prior to the Allied Landings. There are also refreshments available at Mengham and accessible toilets.

C.O.P.P. Memorial and windswept trees, Hayling Island, Hampshire, England. Image by A. Howse
C.O.P.P. Memorial and windswept trees, Hayling Island, Hampshire, England. Image by A. Howse

Eastoke is the location of the HLRT’s Eastoke Railway Souvenir and Gift Shop which is open during train running hours. The shop stocks a wide range of Thomas the Tank Engine, railway merchandise, toys, metal wall signs, jigsaws and other gifts. Eastoke has a play park for children with shops and cafes. There are accessible toilets.

Eastoke view from cafe, Hayling island Light Railway, image by A.Howse
Eastoke view from cafe, Hayling island Light Railway, image by A.Howse

Hayling Island is served by the Stagecoach 30 and 31 bus routes, both buses have stops by all the three stations along the Hayling Light railway route. The nearest main railway station is Havant which is near to the Havant bus station.

Until 1963 there was a railway line called ‘The Hayling Billy Line’ that was a branch that connected Hayling Island to the mainline Havant station which has regular train services to London, Brighton, Portsmouth and Weymouth.

‘The Islander’ as the Hayling Light railway is called is a nostalgic new version of old ‘Billy Line’ steam trains that would have served residents and tourists visiting the picturesque island from 1867 to 1963. Run entirely from volunteers this characteristic and rather splendid burgundy steam train replica runs on a track formed of hundreds of iron rails.

The trains operate Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year and daily through Hampshire school holidays. Ten trips carry enthusiastic tourists and locals along the route on specific times roughly every 50 minutes from 10am until 5pm. The fares are a reasonable £5 return for adults and £3 for children / concessions.

The first train departed Beachlands of Saturday 5th July 2003 and many of the original band of volunteers are still at the controls today. Over the past two decades the line has been developed including a new main shed location. There have been several ‘locos’ and the current ‘home fleet’ consists of blue ‘Alan B’, red ‘Jack’ yellow ‘Edwin’ and a rather smart green loco named ‘Alan Keef 11’.

Beachlands train shed, Hayling Island Light railway, image by A.Howse
Beachlands train shed, Hayling Island Light railway, image by A.Howse

In 1988 Bob Haddock opened his ‘East Hayling Light Railway’ within the popular Mill Rythe holiday village. In 2001 Bob Haddock moved the railway and opened the ‘East Hayling Light Railway’ along the seafront. When Bob retired the East Hayling Light Railway society purchased the railway and the renamed ‘Hayling Light Railway Trust’ has continued to be developed and celebrated by this local team of rail enthusiasts operating as a charity.

The famous Thorpe Park resort has kindly contributed to the success of the railway working with the dedication of the volunteers in the Hayling Light Railway Trust. “The first project of this newly established charity was to recover rails, sleepers and an old locomotive from Thorpe Park Resort. A member of the HLRT heard about Thorpe Park’s plans to build a new rollercoaster and remembered the railways of old that the theme park hosted.

Hayling Light Railway carriages and beachuts, Hampshire, England. Image by A. Howse
Hayling Light Railway carriages and beachuts, Hampshire, England. Image by A. Howse

Not only were all the track materials still on the site, but AK11 of the old Treasure Island Railway was still on site and free to us as long as we could recover it. After a few works parties, the volunteers had recovered 2000 feet of rail, 70 sleepers, clips and, of course, AK11.” explains the HLRT official website. (3)

On the 26th July 2023 the Hayling Light Railway Trust celebrated the long-anticipated arrival of the recently reconditioned Alan Keef 11 locomotive. “Spectators gazed in awe as the 0-4-0 diesel hydraulic loco was raised in the air before being placed onto the Hayling rails.” (3)

This 23 and 24th September a 20th Anniversary Gala will be held accompanied by the ‘Hayling hot rods’, visiting steam loco ‘Peter Pan’ and a model railway exhibition and trader stalls at the community centre. A free bus service will ferry customers between the buildings in the show.  (4)

Although the beach line railway was initially objected to by the council who were unable to find a way of reviving the original Hayling Billy Line, the Hayling Light Railway has proved to attract and delight visitors from all over the United Kingdom and beyond. The upcoming Gala event this weekend puts Hayling Island on the map for train fans.

This Autumn event is in addition to the existing festivals on the island that are ideal for water sports and kite surfing fanatics, which are the other exciting leisure activities for which the golden sandy beachfront is well-known.

Our next article is all about Light Railway visitor attractions to visit all over England this season.

(1)    Based in Portsmouth Hampshire, The News recently shared a wonderful photo of Horndean Light railway which was a tram car like system which transported passengers down Portsdown Hill to the town of Cosham, a few minutes’ drive north of Hayling Island.

‘Throwback photos of Portsdown Hill from over the years’ Steve Deeks, The News, Portsmouth, Hampshire, 23 June 2023 Portsdown Hill from over the years’ Steve Deeks, The News

(2) Hayling Light Railway Trust, official website, 20th September 2023

https://haylinglightrailway.wixsite.com/ehlr

(3) ‘The Hayling Light Railway Trust’ official website, 20th September 2023

‘The Hayling Light Railway Trust’ official website

(4) ‘The Hayling Light Railway Trust’ facebook page, 20th September 2023

https://www.facebook.com/haylingrailway

 

Last Call for Andy Warhol: The Textiles at London’s Fashion and Textile Museum

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American born Andy Warhol grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and lived and worked in New York, USA. Exhibiting as a commercially trained artist in the 1950’s and 1960’s Warhol is known for being a founder of the Pop Art movement and best known for his famous silkscreen prints of Marilyn Monroe and other prominent celebrities of the mid-20th century.

Warhol’s multidisciplinary career encompassed art, film production, music production, sculpture, advertising and writing as well as the design and creation of graphics and fabrics for American manufacturers. Warhol was crediting with developing innovative silk-screen printing techniques and inspiring the art and craft of visual merchandising which is still practiced in retail businesses all over the world today. Warhol’s most popular works celebrate the wonder of the everyday through the repetition of commonly consumed products, such as the Campbell’s soup can artworks.

It is Warhol’s textiles which are the subject of the latest exhibition at the Fashion and Textile Museum at 82 Bermondsey Street, London, SE1 3XF which is open until Sunday 10th September. This wonderful collection of bright pieces reflect the optimism of post-war America and the society and times during which they were created.

Themes such as gardening, sewing, sailing, delicious food and desserts, nature and even housework tools are both colourful and joyful and represent what was actually happening in many households at the time. We are reminded that ‘art reflects life’ and that later in his career Warhol is known for deliberately highlighting individual personalities in his work, giving them his memorable signature or “fifteen minutes of fame”.

It is special to look closely at Andy Warhol’s inky sketched hand drawings that form the basis of the repeated screen-printed cottons and silks in the series of fabrics on display at the fashion and Textile Museum. The ‘all over’ printed patterns often border on the abstract and nostalgic and it is not surprising that they had such wide appeal with customers in the American market.

There is a splendid mixture of ‘on the roll’ fabrics and beautifully sewn garments, many of which are vintage dresses and patterns from the 1950’s and 1960’s that convey this exciting time in fashion brilliantly. The summer silk frocks that are showcased on the first floor of this voluminous building are stunning. The simple Warhol designs glow in beach ready hues and create lots of impact despite their often relatively mundane subjects.

Admission to the Fashion and Textile Museum is a reasonably priced £12 and concessions are available. A ‘drawing room’ is provided for visitors to chart and network and enjoy sketching and drawing their own versions of Warhol inspired couture. British fashion designer Zandra Rhodes owns this gem of a city museum. Rhodes and her team endeavour to promote fashion and textile artists and the industry as a whole and keep art and design accessible for creative residents of south London and beyond of all ages.

Warhol is quoted in his online biography ‘Monsters and Critics’ as having said “I’d rather buy a dress and put it up on the wall, than put a painting, wouldn’t you?”[ 

It is fantastic that this beautifully curated exhibition has been able to remember and pay tribute to Andy Warhol’s textiles and display them to such a high standard. Warhol was very successful in his lifetime and he continues to delight new generations with his original approach to art, textile design and illustration.

 

(1) ‘Andy Warhol’ biography, Monsters and Critics online, 8 September 2023 ‘Andy Warhol’ biography, Monsters and Critics

(2) ‘Andy Warhol’ Wikepedia, 8 September 2023 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andy_Warhol

(3) Fashion and Textile Museum, 8 September 2023 Fashion and Textile Museum