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Star of wonder 

What is the star next to the moon this time of year and why is it so bright?  The light isn’t actually a star, it’s in fact a planet - Venus.

It’s not the flashiest celestial event, and it’s far from the rarest, but the juxtaposition of the crescent moon and Venus tonight will be worth a look.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere and you’ve got a clear sky Thursday, look to the southwest and you’ll see a very bright Venus alongside the crescent moon.  With the moon just a thin fingernail, Venus will stand out in the night sky.

Venus — the third-brightest object visible from the Earth, after the sun and moon — is currently appearing as “the evening star.” It is approaching its greatest evening elongation of the year, the point at which, from an Earthly vantage, it appears farthest from the sun.  

When it is on the far side of the Sun, Venus can’t be seen, but as it comes round, getting closer to Earth, it becomes brighter and brighter, reflecting light from the Sun.  As it gets closer to us it is visible in the evening, then when it passes its closest point and moves away again it is visible in the morning.

When the greatest evening elongation is close to the spring equinox, Venus is visible for a maximum time after sunset.

During next month’s crescent moon, a similar display will occur, with Venus reaching maximum elongation on March 24. 

In the latter half of the year, Venus will shift to become “the morning star.”

 

 

 

 

Government Bill proposes ban on plastic waste exports

Exporting polluting plastic waste to developing countries will be banned or restricted under a new law.

The rule presented to the UK Parliament is aimed at protecting poorer nations against becoming the dumping ground for unwanted rubbish.

The latest trade data shows that some 356,233 tonnes of plastic waste was sent for recycling from the UK to developing countries in 2018.  The plastic often ends up dumped in waterways.

The revised Environment Bill also rules that firms producing packaging must take more responsibility for products and materials they put on the market.

Environmentalists say the bill should also include measures to reduce the amount of plastic produced in the first place.

Other powers in the bill include the promise of legally-binding targets to reduce air pollution from ultra-fine particles known as PM2.5s.

There’s also a framework for long-term legal targets to support nature and improve the quality of air and water.

How strong is the new bill?

Green groups have welcomed much of the bill but they say that, in some ways, it still leaves environmental protection weaker than under the EU.

They are especially concerned about the role of a proposed new “independent” environmental watchdog that will replace the over-seeing power of the EU and hold ministers to account for their policies after Brexit.

The EU can threaten to fine nations that fail to meet environmental laws – that threat forced the UK to tackle air pollution more seriously.

The new Office of Environmental Protection (OEP) won’t have the power to fine the government. What’s more, its members will be appointed by ministers, so critics say it won’t be fully independent.

The government says it will still hold ministers to account – including on the issue of the UK meeting its 2050 Net Zero greenhouse gas emissions target. 

Most of the clauses in the draft legislation were unveiled before the election. 

The revised bill introduces the promise of a two-yearly review of significant developments in international environmental legislation to ensure the UK keeps up with green protections.

What does the bill do for wildlife?

The bill will support the government’s 25-year plan to improve the state of nature by demanding that developers show they will actually improve conditions for wildlife. 

Critics say this may prove hollow unless the current balance of power between developers and local councils is shifted away from developers.

The bill also includes steps to give communities a greater say in the protection of local trees, following the row over tree felling in Sheffield.

There will be a more consistent approach to recycling across England to tackle the "postcode lottery" on waste collections.

Will plastic spoons face a levy?

There will be powers to create a deposit return scheme for drinks containers and a mechanism for introducing a levy on single-use plastics that could be applied to takeaway cutlery.

The Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers said: "We are facing climate change and our precious natural environment is under threat. We need to take decisive action.

"We have set out our pitch to be a world leader on the environment as we leave the EU and the bill is a crucial part of achieving this aim.”

The bill promises that the environment will be at the heart of all government policy making – although environmentalists are asking how that squares with ministers’ plans to spend £28.8bn on roads.

Kiera Box from Friends of the Earth commented: “We welcome much of this bill, but we’re concerned about the OEP. It needs to have independent staff – not appointed by ministers. 

"It needs a guarantee of multi-year funding and it needs complete organisational independence from Defra (the government environment department).”

Will a waste ban solve the problem?

The group also said banning plastic waste to developing countries wouldn’t solve the problem as non-developing countries such as Turkey and Poland both host poorly-regulated dumps receiving UK plastic and other waste. 

Ruth Chambers from Greener UK – a coalition of environmental groups – fears that the bill doesn't guarantee the avoidance of back-sliding from EU environment standards after Brexit.

She said: “This bill is not itself regressive – but it offers no legal guarantee to raise environmental standards in line with other nations in future.”

On the issue of air pollution, Dr Alison Cook from the British Lung Foundation, said: “This Bill is a step in the right direction and we welcome the commitment to set legally binding targets on air pollution, including PM2.5 which is the most dangerous form of pollution to human health.” 

“We now need to see a firm commitment from government that limits for PM2.5 will be set in line with those recommended by leading experts at the World Health Organization (WHO) and for them to be met by 2030 at the latest.”

Business groups commented: “The return of the Environment Bill sends an important signal to business, but the bill needs to clearly set out the expected ambition of future targets and how they will be set."

 

 

Big Garden Birdwatch 2020

Why not take part in the world’s largest wildlife survey on 25-27 January and do something great for nature. Just choose an hour any time over the three days and enjoy time with nature counting birds.

How to take part

It’s so easy to take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. An hour with the birds is a wonderful opportunity to sit back, relax and spend time with nature. So, pop the kettle on, put your feet up and start counting!

Watch the birds for one hour 

Choose an hour between 25 and 27 January to watch the birds in your garden or local park.

Count the most birds that land at once 

Only count the birds that land in your garden or park, not those flying over. The same birds may land more than once, so you can avoid double counting by recording the highest number of each bird species you see at any one time – not the total number you count over the hour.

Tell the RSPB what you saw 

Every count is important, so don’t worry if you don’t see anything. Observing which birds aren’t around is as important as seeing the ones that are. You can submit your results online at rspb.org.uk/birdwatch from 25 January until 16 February.

If you’d prefer to send your results by post, you can download a submission form from rspb.org.uk/birdwatch. Please make sure you post your findings back to us by 11 February. 

What about other wildlife?

The threats to nature mean that it's not just birds facing tough times. It's our hedgehogs, frogs and other wildlife too. So, to help the RSPB get a more complete picture of our garden wildlife, they also ask about what other animals you see in your garden as part of the Big Garden Birdwatch. By filling in this section – even if you don’t see anything – you are helping them to build up a fuller picture of how our garden wildlife is faring.

Happy watching!

 

Cornish wrestling - an ancient sport still practiced today

Cornish wrestling (Omdowl Kernewek) is an ancient form of wrestling which was established in Cornwall and is colloquially known as "wrasslin" in the Cornish dialect.  It is a tradition that survives to the present day.

The wrestlers in the Cornish style both wear tough jackets enabling them to gain better grip on their opponent. All holds are taken upon the other wrestler's jacket, grabbing of the wrists or fingers is forbidden as well as any holding below the waist. Although all holds are to be taken upon the jacket, the flat of the hand is allowed to be used to push or deflect an opponent.

The objective of Cornish wrestling is to throw your opponent and make him land as flat as possible on his back. Three sticklers (referees) watch and control each bout whilst also recording down the score of points achieved in play. Four pins are located on the back of a wrestler, two at the back of each shoulder and two either side just above the buttocks. If a wrestler manages to throw his opponent flat onto his back, simultaneously scoring with all four pins they score four points in that single throw and this is called a "Back" at which the bout is then finished and the throwing wrestler is the winner. The sticklers will each raise their sticks when they perceive a Back has been achieved. If two sticklers raise their sticks but one does not, a back is still awarded.

The Cornish Wrestling Association was formed in 1923 to standardize the rules and to promote Cornish Wrestling throughout Cornwall and indeed Worldwide.

History

The history of Cornish Wrestling goes back so far it is lost in the midst of time. The first mention of Celtic Wrestling appears in the ancient book of Leinster, referring to the sport being included in the Tailteann Games which date back to at least 1829 BC. We know Wrestling was established in Cornwall before the Roman invasion and that the Cornish meetings on Halvager Moor were held during the dark-ages.

The Cornish contingent with Henry V at Agincourt (1415) marched under a banner depicting two Wrestlers “in a hitch”. The banner needed no words; the pictures of the wrestlers was enough to let anyone know the men of Cornwall were behind it.

During the famous meeting between Henry VIII and Francis I of France (on the Field of the Cloth of Gold) a team of wrestlers representing the English king defeated the champions of France. This contingent, which humbled the French team, consisted entirely of men from Cornwall. Godolphin the chief wrestler had received the Royal command direct to bring his men to uphold the king’s honour at Calais.
Wrestling is our national sport in Cornwall, a direct living link with our ancestors handed down through an un-broken chain, from father to son, brother to brother and friend to friend for over 3,000 years.

Many times, Cornish Wrestlers have displayed their prowess before a royal audience. King Charles II believed that the Cornish were “masters in the art of wrestling” after attending a tournament at Bodmin while on his way to the Isles of Silly. It was during his reign that Tomas Hawken of Cubert threw Lyttleton Weynorth, who claimed to be the champion wrestler of “all England”.

Richard Carew, famous for his survey of Cornwall (1602) said that at about 1590 even their Breton neighbours did not match the Cornish in the art of Wrestling. Men from all walks of life took part in the sport. One of the best known wrestlers of the 17th century was Richard Stevens, the head master of Truro Grammar school; inventor Richard Trevithick was another. In the 18th and 19th centuries for which information is more readily available, we see records of tournaments that ran for a week to find the standing men to contest the semi-finals and finals on the Saturday and Sunday. With crowds of upwards of 10,000 for such finals or big name challenge matches, large sums of money often changed hands

Perhaps the most famous Cornish wrestler was the US President, statesman and soldier Theodore Roosevelt, whose training started when he was New York governor, where he was taught three times a week by Professor Mike J. Dwyer.

 

 

 

Officially the hottest decade since records began

2019 was the second hottest year on record for the planet’s surface, according to latest research. However, both the past five years and the past decade were the hottest in the last 150 years.

The succession of records being broken year after year is undeniably a consequence of human action, and is bringing increasingly severe storms, floods, droughts and wildfires.

The previous hottest year was in 2016, the year that a natural El Niño event boosted temperatures. The new data is for the average global surface air temperature. More than 90% of the heat trapped by human greenhouse gas emissions is absorbed by the oceans, but on Monday scientists revealed 2019 was the warmest yet recorded in the seas, calling it “dire news”.

The average temperature in 2019 was about 1.1C above the average from 1850-1900, before large-scale fossil fuel burning began. The world’s scientists have warned that global heating beyond 1.5C will significantly worsen extreme weather and suffering for hundreds of millions of people.

The World Economic Forum’s global risk assessment for the next decade, also published today, found the top five dangers were all environmental, including extreme weather, failure to prepare for climate change and the destruction of the natural world.

 “The last decade was easily the warmest decade in the record and is the first decade more than 1C above late 19th-century temperatures,” said Gavin Schmidt, of Nasa’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which produced one of the temperature records.

“What is important is the totality of evidence from multiple independent data sets that the Earth is warming, that human activity is driving it and the impacts are clearly being felt,” he said. “These announcements might sound like a broken record, but what is being heard is the drumbeat of the Anthropocene (the Anthropocene is a proposed geological epoch dating from the commencement of significant human impact on Earth's geology and ecosystems, including, but not limited to, anthropogenic climate change).

“It’s now official that we have just completed the warmest decade on record, a reminder that the planet continues to warm as we continue to burn fossil fuels,” said Prof Michael Mann at Penn State University in the US.

The four temperature datasets are compiled from many millions of surface temperature measurements taken across the globe, from all continents and all oceans. They are produced by the UK Met Office with the University of East Anglia (UEA), both Nasa and Noaa in the US, and Europe’s Copernicus Climate Change Service. Small differences between the analyses arise from how data-sparse polar regions are treated, but all agree that the past five years are the warmest five years since each global record began.

The Met Office’s forecast for global average temperature for 2020 suggests this year could well set another record and is very likely to be among the top three hottest. The UK government will host a critical UN climate summit in Glasgow in November. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, and many others are urging nations to increase dramatically their pledges to cut carbon emissions, which would lead to global temperatures rising by a disastrous 3-4C.

 “It is obvious we are not succeeding in preventing dangerous anthropogenic interference with the climate system, which was the main goal of the original 1992 UN climate change convention,” said Bob Ward, of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics.

“Even if we succeed in limiting warming to 1.5C, this would not be a ‘safe’ level of warming for the world,” he said. “Therefore we must focus on cutting global emissions to net zero as soon as possible. We know the transition to a net zero economy is the growth story of the 21st century.”

Without doubt, this will involve every nation and every one to act... right now!

Five ways to appreciate Cornwall's natural wonders this autumn and winter

Autumn and winter can be difficult for a lot of people, and it’s normal for spirits to slump amidst the cold and long, dark evenings. Yet there’s much we can do — by taking the change of season in our stride we can make the most of our natural wonders and experience a feeling of psychological renewal. The Cornish coastline is always inspiring, the ever-changing sea even more dramatic and the refreshing wind ready to blow your troubles away.  

1. Watching the arrival of magnificent marine predators

In autumn huge shoals of sardines, whitebait and sand eels begin to amass in the seas around Cornwall. These are soon sought out by some of our most iconic marine predators, eager to enjoy new feasting opportunities after spending the summer in deeper waters. They often put on quite a show; feeding frenzies can include whales – minke and even humpbacks – jostling with dolphins, bluefin tuna and diving companies of gannets.

One way of connecting with the spectacle of these beloved visitors is through our citizen marine recording project, Seaquest Southwest, which puts on lots of events to help volunteers survey the sea from the cliffs.

Alternatively, we’re lucky in Cornwall to have a number of excellent wildlife boat operators all around our coast, which endeavour to provide the best possible viewing opportunities. If this takes your fancy, make sure you choose a WiSe (Wildlife Safe) accredited operator, which shows that they are committed to not disturbing wildlife while still providing breath-taking introductions to its wonders.

2. Diving into an underwater winter wonderland

Diving in Cornish seas during the winter can be a truly amazing experience. The water is often clearer in these months, and the coastline offers many sheltered dive sites with a great deal to see and appreciate. A good example is the mearl beds of St Mawes, where several type of slow-growing calcified red seaweed create a rich purple lattice that forms deep beds home to a huge diversity of species. In many of our estuaries you can also experience the beauty of seagrass meadows, and if you’re really rather lucky, you might be able to spot an elusive seahorse.

If you’re a qualified diver and would like to dip beneath the waves with the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, then you might like to get involved with Seasearch, where volunteer divers help keep track of nature’s underwater happenings. Just email seasearch@cornwallwildlifetrust.org.uk and take it from there.

3. Taking the opportunity for some top-notch bird watching

During the winter Cornwall is home to a range of delightful feathered visitors, who come in search of a more temperate climate after a summer of breeding in Scotland and beyond. The Cornish south coast between Falmouth Bay and St Austell Bay is a key site for great northern divers, black-throated divers and Slavonian grebe, and has therefore been designated as a Special Protection Area.

Winter is also the ideal time to catch a glimpse of the black-browned albatross, great skua, puffin, Balearic shearwater and storm petrel. If you take to the cliff tops, just make sure you bring a pair of binoculars; you never know when you’ll be gifted the opportunity to witness something amazing take to the sky.

4. Uncovering treasures from the deep

Stormy weather might disrupt our Christmas shopping trips with high wind and driving rain, but the rough seas also bring a wealth of riches to our coasts. Shark egg cases (known as ‘mermaid’s purses’) are a particular favourite, but beachcombers can also find shards of sea glass and exotic driftwood carried by currents from far flung oceans.

Unfortunately, in addition to these fascinating discoveries, we also have to contend with the arrival of plastic pollution. Admittedly, some of the plastic can be interesting in itself: crisp packets dating from the 1970s are found every year, as well as gear from fishermen working off the northwest coast of the United States. Yet the plastic presents a serious problem, and throughout the winter months volunteers from the Your Shore Network and Cornwall Plastic Pollution Coalition work to keep our local beaches pristine and plastic-free. 

5. Going for a festive ramble

One of the most joyous winter experiences is spending times with family or friends over Christmas, making the most of seeing loved ones who have journeyed down to Cornwall from up country. One of the best (and cheapest!) things to enjoy together is a good walk, and in Cornwall we’re lucky to live within a tapestry of beautiful countryside criss-crossed with footpaths. Just make sure everyone is suitably wrapped up, and that there’s plenty of hot chocolate and mulled wine waiting for you when you get back home.

Have a look at our nature reserves directory, which includes information about parking, wheelchair access and nature-spotting opportunities for all fifty-seven of Cornwall Wildlife Trust’s nature reserves. From the amazing wetlands of Windmill Farm, to the varied natural splendour of Helman Tor, there’s almost limitless scope for wonderful rambles.

The wind might blow and the rain might fall, but if you wrap up warm and step out your front door, you’ll surely find your reward.

Our thanks go to Cornwall Wildlife Trust for making these great suggestions.

Wife selling - a forgotten Cornish custom

Would it surprise you to learn that the practice of wife selling was particularly popular in the 17th century? Divorce was almost impossible for anyone but the very rich and as a consequence some husbands sort rather a interesting alternative solution. This bizarre practice was apparently more common in rural counties such as Cornwall and Devon. Indeed folklorist Sabine Baring-Gould dedicated a whole chapter to wife selling in his book Devonshire Characters and Strange Events .

‘There is no myth relative to the manners and customs of the English that in my experience is more tenaciously held by the ordinary Frenchman than that the sale of a wife in the market place is an habitual and an accepted fact in English Life.’ SBG, 1908

The practice of selling your wife was never legal, or indeed morally acceptable, but it is clear that these transactions did occur. And not on such an irregular basis that they can be brushed under the carpet as a rare social anomaly and there is a number of fascinating cases in Cornwall’s history. Cases when Cornish men took their wives to market, not to do the shopping but as the produce!

Given that the practice wasn’t ever legal the sale of a wife had a number of surprisingly well established rituals.

Usually an announcement of the intended auction would be spread either by word of mouth, printed on posters or even in the local press. The husband might advertise his wife’s positive attributes, her abilities as a cook or as a farm-worker perhaps. On the appointed day the husband would parade his wife, usually at a marketplace. The lady was traditionally haltered with a leather strap at the neck, arm or waist. Then the wife was simply sold to the highest bidder. Sometimes a written contract was exchanged as proof of the transaction. Often the deal was completed with just the handing over of the money and a handshake.

It’s fortunately an almost incomprehensible scene to us these days. But it may surprise you to know that the selling or auctioning of your wife occurred in British society for hundreds of years. In the words of 20th-century writer Courtney Kenny, the ritual was “a custom rooted sufficiently deeply to show that it was of no recent origin”. Harpers Magazine, 1876.

Certainly until the marriage laws began to change in 1857 it was frequently the cheapest, and more often the only option, available to unhappy couples. We should remember that many wives were actually complicit in their sale. Eager perhaps to escape an unhappy marriage, to get a second chance. Some wives probably had no objection to getting rid of their husbands!

Wife selling became more frequently reported with the advent of newspapers in the 18th century. There were some prosecutions but these seem to have been few and far between. And despite the fact that the custom had no real basis in law bizarrely it did persist into the 20th century. There was a report of one wife being sold as late as 1901.

The Sale of Cornish Women

The following incidents were reported in the local and national newspapers and all occurred over a period of roughly 35 years, between 1818 and 1853.  Some of the newspaper reports contain no names, perhaps to protect those involved. But these articles still provide enough detail for us to be confident that they are based on fact.

Bodmin Market 

In November 1818 a man named Walter arrived at Bodmin Market. Following along behind him was his wife. The report says he was leading her by a halter fastened neatly around her waist. Walter moved to the centre of the market place, amongst the stalls and stinking animal pens, and then unashamedly offered his wife up for sale.  The West Briton newspaper reported the outcome of the auction in the following edition on 13th November 1818:

A person called Sobey, who has lately been discharged from the 28th Regiment, bid sixpence for her and was immediately declared the purchaser. He led off his bargain in triumph, amidst the shouts of the crowd, and to the great apparent satisfaction of her late owner.

Sixpence was a tiny amount of money even then. In 1818 it was less than a day’s wages for a skilled labourer and is about the equivalent of £1.50 in today’s money.

St Austell Market 

In 1835 George Trethewey lived at High Street Downs in St Stephens-in-Brannel with his wife Susan and their son William. Born in 1779, George was a small man, just 5’3″, with dark eyes, no front teeth and he was twenty years older than his wife. But George must have had hidden charms because as well as being married to Susan he was having an affair with a woman called Ann Cundy. The liaison resulted in a child, which Ann named after George. The birth of the child seems to have led George to decide it might be time to do something about his situation. So he went to St Austell Market to sell Susan. The West Briton reported what happened next on 27th March 1835:

On Friday last, the people assembled at St. Austell market were surprised by the appearance of a man of advancing age leading a woman about thirty, by a halter which was tied round her waist.

George, then fifty-six years old, offered his wife to the highest bidder. Amongst the crowd were two travelling salesmen or tinkers. One of them offered two pence and then the other doubled the bid. George took the four pence and handed his wife over. Apparently the lady and her purchaser then hurried off to the nearest pub for a jug of ale. Unfortunately for George he was caught by the collector of tolls at the market. The official made him pay the fee usually demanded for selling a pig for the sale of Susan!

Sadly George and Ann Cundy’s relationship did not have a happy ending. In May 1842 George Trethewey was sent to Bodmin Goal for 2 months for ‘willful damage’ to Ann’s house. It was his 4th similar offence. Perhaps Susan really did have a lucky escape.

Redruth Fair

A rather strange episode which occurred in Redruth demonstrates that the wives, for various reasons, were sometimes totally complicit in their sale.  In 1967 the two authors of The Folklore of Cornwall, Tony Dean and Tony Shaw received a letter from a 79 year old man from Camborne. In the letter the writer described himself as an ex-rabbit-trapper and horse-breaker, who had begun work at the age of 12. He then went on to relate a story that he had been told by his mother. Contemporary newspaper reports also confirm his tale. He writes:

“One man from Redruth would sell his wife to the highest bidder at a local fair. She would then wait until her purchaser was asleep, kill him and steal his money before returning to her husband. No one knew how often the pair succeeded with their evil game but eventually the wife was killed by the daughter of one of the victims.”

Callington Market

A report in 1846 of the auction of a woman in Callington also goes someway further to illustrate that this behaviour was not considered normal or acceptable by some.

On Wednesday night about nine o’clock in the evening a man sold his wife in the open market at Callington for the sum of 2s 6d. We do not learn that either the authorities or the public interfered to prevent so disgraceful a scene. West Briton, January 1846.

St Germans

On a bright July morning in 1853 a couple stood before the Bodmin Registrar ready to take their vows. The registrar Mr. Elias H Liddell admitted however that he had some concerns. Since the reading of the bands he had been informed that the woman before him was already married to someone else. The would-be groom, a navvy from Bodmin, then produced a certificate showing that he had recently bought his intended from her first husband for £1. The transaction had taken place somewhere near St Germans.

Mr Liddell was forced to explain that the document was not worth the paper it was written on. He refused to marry the couple and threatened them with transportation for the crime of bigamy. Apparently the thwarted couple went away most disappointed. One wonders if the navvy asked for a refund of his pound!

Tintagel

This particular incident, which happened in February 1828, is the only one found in Cornwall in which the law seems to have been involved. in some small way. John Cook was asked to attend the Petty Sessions at Five Lanes by the overseers of the parish of Tintagel. He was accused of ‘not maintaining his wife and children’. When asked to explain his behaviour he told the court the following. Cook explained to the magistrates that in around 1812 he had been living unhappily with his wife for a number of years. Having no children with her he had decided to sell her at Camelford market. A man had purchased her there for half-a-crown. Since that time Cook said he had had nothing more to do with her. She had been living with the purchaser and together they had had seven children.

Unfortunately for John Cook his wife and her new family had fallen on hard times and had been forced to apply to the parish for relief (monetary help). And now because wife selling was against the law the magistrates held him reasonable for the support of his wife . . . and all the children!

Many thanks to The Cornish Bird for her blog from which this fascinating story was edited.

 

Magnetic north and true north merge for first time in 360 years

Anyone that has used a map and compass to navigate, knows that magnetic and true north do not align… until now!

At some point over the next two weeks compasses at Greenwich will point true north for the first time in about 360 years.

The angle a compass needle makes between true north and magnetic north is called declination and those that reguarly use a map and compass will be well versed in making the small, but vital adjustment to getting their bearings.

As the magnetic field changes all the time, so does declination at any given location.

Over the past few hundred years in the UK, declination has been negative, meaning that all compass needles have pointed west of true north.

The line of zero declination, called the agonic, is moving westwards at a rate of around 12 miles (20km) per year, experts say.

At some point in September, for the first time in around 360 years, the compass needle will point directly to true north at Greenwich in London before slowly turning eastwards.

The Royal Observatory Greenwich was established in 1676 and, from 1839, hosted the specialised magnetic observatory which made continuous measurements from 1840 onwards.

In 1926 the instruments were moved to Abinger in Surrey, as electrified railway lines had made it impossible to measure the magnetic field.

This marks the first time since the observatory’s creation that the geographic and geomagnetic coordinate systems have coincided at this location.

The agonic will continue to pass across the UK over the next 15 to 20 years. By 2040, all compasses will probably point eastwards of true north.

It is, at present, impossible to predict how the magnetic field will change over decades to centuries, so the compass may well point east of true north for another 360 years in the UK.

However, the experts have stressed that zero inclination will have no impact on daily life.  Compasses and GPS will work as usual – there’s no need for anyone to worry about any disturbance to daily life.

The agonic line is crossing from east to west.  It arrived at East Anglia and Kent in 2017 and is now passing slowly across the British Isles but will take some time before it reaches Cornwall.

 

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Updated on January 27th, 2013

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