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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.

 

Cornish Black Bee back from the brink

Could the Cornish Black Bee be an answer to the decline in bee population in the UK?

The sad fact is that bees are in real trouble. In recent years the news coverage of their plight has become increasingly worrying. It is now estimated that of the roughly two thousand species of bee in Europe, one in ten of those is now endangered. There is no single cause for the bees’ decline, but studies have pointed to changes in climate, pesticides and a rise in devastating diseases, such as varroa, as the probable root of the problem. Frighteningly some figures estimate that bee populations have fallen by a staggering 75% in the past century.

The Cornish Bee

You can be forgiven for not knowing that Cornwall has its own native bee. Up until quite recently they were thought to be extinct. Most of Britain’s native bee population was wiped out in the 1920s (along with most Northern Europe’s honey bee population) by the deadly Isle of Wight disease. After this disaster British beekeepers were forced to import bees from southern Europe. The new colonies came mostly from Italy and surprisingly this is a trend that has continued. In recent years however small colonies of our native bees have been located in isolated pockets in Cornwall, Wales and Scotland.

Britain has nearly 300 different species of bees but most of them are the large furry balls we all see bumbling around the garden. They are Solitary, Humble or Bumble bees and they don’t produce honey for us, although they do the important job of pollinating our plants and flowers.

Unfortunately our honey bees are often mistaken for wasps, they are much smaller and slimmer than wild bees and have similar stripy abdomens – so try to think twice before you swat and remember a honey bee will only ever sting you as a last resort because unlike wasps she will die afterwards.

The Cornish Black Bee

Beside the hybrid bees that most bee keepers seem to favour the Cornish bees look more black and white, like a Saint Pirans flag! The Cornish honey bee is actually a variant of the British Black Bee (Apis Melifera Melifera) but importantly they have slight evolutionary adaptations which mean that they are naturally better adapted to our unpredictable Cornish climate.

Cornish Black Bees are especially hardy and can survive colder winters than their European cousins. Vitally they will also go out and gather pollen in poor weather, even a bit of mizzle doesn’t put them off. They are placid, generally good-tempered, so less likely to swarm. But perhaps most importantly they seem to show a particular hardiness to the varroa mite. Black bees are hairier which means the mite finds it more difficult to get to their skin. These unique qualities mean that their promotion amongst and adoption by local beekeepers could potentially mean a securer, healthier bee population in our county.

Besides providing us with their wonderful sweet, golden harvest bees are also vital to the natural world, to our own survival and many conservation groups are keen to encourage more people to take up beekeeping. 

BEE FACTS:

Bees are truly amazing creatures, and it is important to remember that a bee will NEVER sting you unless it is their absolute last resort as they will die soon after.

·       Bees can fly up to 15mph

·       They navigate using the sun

·       Bees communicate by dancing

·       A bee's sense of smell is so acute they have been trained to detect drugs and bombs

·       Each foraging trip a bee will visit between 50 and 100 flowers

·       Each colony of bees has its own distinctive smell, that’s how they recognise each other

·       Of the 60 – 80,000 honey bees in a hive nearly all are female? 

·       About 10% are males, called drones, who wait around for a chance to mate with the queen!

·       A single (lady) worker bee will travel up to 5 miles from her hive in search of pollen and it takes around 55,000 bee miles to produce just one jar of honey.

 

Some Simple Ways to Help Bees:

Here are a few simple ideas that we can all try to help our native bees:

·       Try to buy organic

·       Chose locally grown produce

·       Avoid using pesticides in your garden

·       Leave a patch of lawn free from mowing to let wild flowers grow

·       Plant bee friendly plants

·       Support your local beekeeper by buying local honey. (It’s also great for people with allergies, hay-                    fever or asthma.)

Some Bee Friendly Plants:

·       Clover

·       Lavender

·       Honeysuckle

·       Buddleia

·       Fruit blossom – apple, cherry, plum etc

·       Rosemary

·       Heather

·       Willow

·       Hazel

·       Dandelion

 

Seagrass - a way to help tackle climate change

Acres of underwater seagrass meadows are to be restored off the Welsh coast to tackle climate change.

A million seeds of the "wonder plant" have been gathered from existing meadows and will be planted over 4.9 acres at Dale Bay in Pembrokeshire. 

Conservationists say it will be the UK's biggest seagrass restoration - after 92% of it has been lost over the last 100 years.

Experts say seagrass acts as a "nursery for a wide variety of marine life". 

WWF, Sky Ocean Rescue and Swansea University are starting the replanting this winter as they say the plant is key to reducing carbon dioxide - a gas which contributes to global warming.

"When we think about climate change we probably think we need to plant more trees," said Jenny Oates of WWF.

"We wouldn't necessarily think that seagrass is something that can store carbon 35 times faster than a tropical forest.

"So actually we can do something right here in the UK to address the climate emergency."

Why is seagrass important? 

  • It takes carbon from the atmosphere up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests.
  • It accounts for 10% of annual ocean carbon storage globally, despite only taking up 0.2% of the seafloor.
  • It protects coasts from coastal erosion.
  • It is a habitat for many types of fish like cod, plaice and pollock.
  • It produces oxygen.
  • It cleans the ocean by absorbing polluting nutrients.

Source: WWF, Sky Ocean Rescue, Swansea University

Richard Unsworth, of Swansea University, said: "We've lost extensive areas of seagrass around the UK over the last 100 years…

"We're basically trying to bring that back over in west Wales by working very closely with some local communities to understand how we can restore these seagrass plants, whilst at the same time respecting people's livelihoods - the fishermen and the boaters who live and work in these areas - so that everyone develops this amazing resource."

Dale Bay, which had previously lost its seagrass meadow, has the right water depth and light levels for seagrass to thrive there again, according to conservationists.

The disappearance of seagrass is caused by pollution, run-off from the land, coast development and damage from boat propellers and chain moorings.

If the pilot project works, environmentalists want it to be replicated around the UK coastline.

"We are urgently calling on governments to use the model our project is creating to bring back these lush underwater meadows," Alec Taylor, of WWF, added.

 

Painted Lady summer

The UK could experience a once-in-a-decade influx of millions of Painted Lady butterflies this summer, after large arrivals of the nomad insect have already been spotted on the south coast.

The distinctive butterfly, known for its orange and black wings, is a long-distance migrant which embarks on a 7,500-mile round trip from tropical Africa to the Arctic Circle every year.

But this summer could be a “Painted Lady Summer” in which millions arrive in the UK to breed while on their migration north.

The last great influx of the species was in 2009, when 11 million were recorded at the beginning of the summer.
Dr Richard Fox, a butterfly conservationist, told The Telegraph “big arrivals” have already been recorded on the east and south coast of England in June.

“There were two to three hundred Painted Ladies recorded in one small area in a single day,” he said.
Conservationists are hopeful similar numbers to the 2009 influx will be recorded this year, and are calling on the public to participate in the Big Butterfly Count, organised by the charity Butterfly Conservation, to help record the event.

One reason for this year’s mass arrival could be related to favourable breeding conditions along their migration route, Dr Fox said.

He added: “Weather conditions further south, either in southern Europe or in Africa have dictated how successful the previous generation was.  “There were huge numbers reported in the eastern Mediterranean, on islands like Cyprus and on some of the Greek islands like Rhodes.

“I think that probably the conditions were really good for breeding in the eastern parts of North Africa.”

So far this year, sightings of the Painted Lady have been recorded as far north as Shetland and even on the island of St. Kilda which has no native butterflies, Dr Fox said.

Cornwall is at the forefront of the energy revolution

There is no doubt we are facing a Climate Emergency, writes Mark Duddridge, Chair of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.

The evidence is compelling that urgent action is required to tackle climate change. Unless we act now, future generations will condemn us for our failure to respond to the biggest challenge of the age.

Vital to that response is how we generate energy. Unless we create a low carbon energy future we have no hope of hitting the UK target of a net zero carbon economy by 2050 as we attempt to head off a tipping point in global warming.

In Cornwall we are being more ambitious. Having formally declared a Climate Emergency, we are working towards being net zero carbon by 2030, a full 20 years ahead of the UK.

That’s a huge challenge but also a tremendous opportunity, and one where Cornwall and the wider South West can become a global leader in the transition to a low carbon economy, especially when it comes to renewable energy.

This isn’t fanciful thinking. In the last eight years, Cornwall has cut its carbon footprint by almost a fifth, and two-thirds of emissions reductions have been achieved by decarbonising electricity.

We are the sunniest place in the UK with one of the best wind climates in Western Europe, so we are ideal for solar and wind power.

That has helped Cornwall meet 37% of its electricity demand from renewables, up from just 6% in 2009. Now we are looking at how floating wind turbines, anchored miles offshore, could deliver power, jobs and prosperity to our coastal communities.

Our geography means we have more geothermal energy resources deep underground than any other part of Britain, which we are only just starting to tap.

The minerals and metals of Cornwall and Devon that powered the first industrial revolution will power the next. Burgeoning battery technology for electric vehicles is driving global demand for lithium, cobalt, tin and copper. That’s why the prospectors are back.

Our universities and businesses boast world-leading renewables expertise onshore, offshore and underground. Technology is being harnessed to decarbonise our economy and tackle fuel poverty, from local electricity grids on the Isles of Scilly, to capturing methane from cattle near Truro.

And we are looking to space to provide the vital earth observation we need to make essential decisions about tackling climate change and global warming.

By combining our natural assets with our centuries-old spirit of discovery and invention, we will drive innovation, create jobs and tackle some of the most pressing social and environmental challenges of our age.

At the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership we are putting green energy at the heart of our economic plans. Clean growth is not a contradiction. By generating our own heat and power from renewable sources we can drive our economy, secure our supply, tackle energy inequality in our communities and respond to climate change.
Cornwall and the Great South West could become a centre of excellence for the development of a global floating offshore wind industry, supporting thousands of potential jobs.

That’s the ambition of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), which is promoting the region as an ideal location for floating windfarms that would generate clean, green energy miles offshore and not be visible from land.

The UK Government’s target is for one third of the UK’s electricity to come from offshore wind by 2030. It wants to develop the UK’s offshore wind supply chain and increase exports fivefold to £2.6 billion by 2030, and triple the number of UK jobs employed by the industry to 27,000.

The Celtic Sea off the coast of the South West and South Wales has one of the best wind resources in Europe, but the water is too deep to install conventional offshore wind turbines which rest on the seabed.

But new floating wind technology could be the answer. Using turbines on floating foundations which are anchored to the seabed could see wind farms deployed in depths of up to 800 metres, opening up huge areas of the sea for wind energy.

The UK’s first floating windfarm opened in 2017 off the coast of Aberdeenshire and consists of five 175m high turbines, anchored by chains weighting 1,200 tonnes. It’s that type of technology which could in the future be deployed far offshore from Cornwall and the South West, using local companies and ports.

The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly LEP is working closely with the offshore industry, regulators and Government to investigate how the region can be a world leader in floating offshore wind.

Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are already at the forefront of marine technology with the local supply chain providing products and services to offshore renewable energy clients throughout Britain and across the globe.  Parts of Falmouth, Hayle and Tolvaddon have Enterprise Zone status, offering incentives to inward investors in the sector, and the EU-funded Marine-i project has been set up to help the marine technology sector in Cornwall and Scilly to grow through research, development and innovation.

Cornwall - officially the best place for a 'staycation'

A new survey into the most popular locations across the UK has seen voters pick our beautiful county as their favourite place for a 'staycation'.

Celebrated for its countryside, rich coastline and pretty towns, the county ranked in first place, beating of stiff competition from some of the nation's favourite staycation locations, including Devon, Edinburgh and London.

The research, which was conducted by photo printing specialist CEWE, also found that Truro was voted as one of the UK’s most beautiful cities, with St Michael’s Mount topping the chart as the most photogenic location in the UK and one of the country’s best landmarks.

The study revealed a continuing trend into Brit’s opting to holiday at home, rather than travelling abroad, with 83% of Brit’s looking to staycate, with the majority (63%) revealing convenience and cost were key considerations when choosing to take their main summer holiday in the UK.

The study also found peace, isolation, exploring somewhere new, and - most importantly - beautiful scenery were also major driving factors for those choosing to ditch the passport and holiday at home.

The top 10 staycation locations were voted as:

1. Cornwall
2. Devon
3. Dorset
4. Somerset
5. Northumberland
6. Norfolk
7. Yorkshire
8. Edinburgh
9. London
10. Lancashire

Clare Moreton, digital marketing director at CEWE, said: "We already know from the amazing images we receive on a daily basis as part of our photo competition and the beautiful photobooks our customers make that the UK is bursting with amazing staycation locations, so it’s fantastic to see that the trend of holidaying at home seems to be here to stay.

"The UK is spoilt for choice when it comes to beauty spots, and this really comes across with our research, from the stunning York bars walls, to the Cornwall coast and further afield, there’s so much choice and beautiful scenery that the UK has to offer. The hard bit now is choosing where to visit first."

The CEWE research forms part of a free photographic travel guide the company has compiled for those looking to take advantage of the diversity Britain has to offer.

Those looking to holiday at home can access a range of travel guides on the CEWE website, complete with best spots to take stunning photos, the most delicious eateries the UK has to offer and hints and tips on what to do and where to stay.

To take a look at CEWE’s travel guides to the top locations in Britain, visit: www.cewe-photoworld.com/bestofbritain

Britain enters the space race with plans for spaceport in Cornwall

The UK Space Agency has confirmed that it is drafting regulations for Europe's first spaceport set to be built in Cornwall.

Rules are being drawn up now to allow sub-orbital human spaceflight from the spaceports on Virgin Galactic spacecraft within the next decade.  Sub-orbital flights, which are currently undergoing tests in the US, could be operating from the base in the early 2020s, officials said.

Rocket trips will allow passengers to experience weightlessness and view the curvature of the planet and could mean 90-minute journeys to Australia.

Virgin will use the Cornish site to carry small satellites into orbit aboard their LauncherOne rockets, which are ferried into the atmosphere by carrier plane.

The UK Space Agency are putting forward £7.85 million ($10 million) in funding for the scheme, which will be joined by £12 million ($15 million) by Cornwall Council, subject to final approvals.

Further contributions are expected, including £0.5 million ($0.6 million) from the Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership and £2.5 million ($3.2 million) from Virgin Orbit, the US-based space launch operator.

The collective support will enable Spaceport Cornwall and Virgin Orbit to develop the facilities needed to launch small satellites from the UK as soon as early 2020.  In the future, the spaceport could also see fee-paying space tourists take off on sub-orbital pleasure flights.

This announcement is the culmination of five years' hard work and will be transformative for Cornwall,' said Mark Duddridge, chair of the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Local Enterprise Partnership.  'It puts us and the UK at the heart of the international satellite launch market, offering affordable access to space and will inspire a generation.'

Spaceport Cornwall's development is expected will create around 150 new jobs and permit the UK to compete within the global market for deploying small satellites into Earth orbit — and industry expected to be worth £3.9 billion by 2030.

Virgin Orbit's contribution to the development will allow the firm to operate its LauncherOne system from the spaceport.  LauncherOne is a two-stage, air-to-orbit rocket that can carry small satellite payloads weighing up to around 660 pounds (300 kilograms) into low-Earth orbit.  The rockets are carried up into the atmosphere on a carrier aircraft, dubbed 'Cosmic Girl', a Boeing 747-400 that was converted from its former role as a passenger airliner in the Virgin Atlantic fleet.

A maiden launch of the Virgin Orbit system is expected to take place, launching from the US, sometime in late 2019.
Meanwhile, the UK Government is working with US authorities to establish the legal and technical frameworks needed to lift-off US space vehicles from launch sites on UK soil.

These funding announcements come at the same time as the UK announces plans to establish a new National Space Council later this year.  Once formed, the body will provide the government with strategic guidance on all space-related issues and coordinate the UK's space strategy.

The UK will remain in the European Space agency and is considering launching an investment programme to forge new international partnerships in the space sector.

'As we approach the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, these announcements demonstrate the UK government's commitment to space,' said UK Science Minister Chris Skidmore.  'Satellite technology is crucial to our daily lives, for observing the Earth and gathering vital climate change data, and the space industry is growing rapidly with 42,000 jobs across the country,' he added.

New Tintagel bridge takes shape

A spectacular footbridge that will link the Cornish mainland with the island fortress of Tintagel is beginning to take shape thanks to technology usually employed for challenging construction projects in the Swiss Alps.  Hefty sections of steel, each weighing up to 4.5 tonnes, have arrived in Tintagel village having been manufactured off-site and are being manoeuvred into place this week.

The 70-metre-long bridge is to comprise of two cantilevers, one reaching out from the mainland to the island where according to legend King Arthur was conceived. The other stretches back towards the mainland but the two will not quite meet, creating a 40mm gap.

For hundreds of years, since the collapse of a narrow natural land bridge that used to reach out to the rocky headland on which the castle sits, visitors have had to scramble up and down hundreds of steps and across a modest wooden bridge to visit the attraction.

English Heritage, the custodian of the site, decided that a bridge would improve access, recreate the historical crossing between the mainland and island and help to conserve and protect the landscape.

The footbridge will be installed without scaffolding or free-standing supports and instead an unusual cable crane has been constructed for the task.  Using technology pioneered in the Swiss Alps, the cable crane has already been used to deliver materials to the site, put in place the rock anchors and build the foundations for the bridge. Now it is being called into action to drop each of the 12 prefabricated sections of the bridge into place.

Preparation work for the bridge began in autumn 2018, with the installation of the rock anchors and foundations, but it is only now when its possible to see the bridge really coming together.  It is set to open in summer 2019.

English Heritage says the new footbridge will follow the path of the original land bridge, allowing visitors to experience the castle as its historic inhabitants once did. The original narrow access point gave rise to the stronghold’s name, the Cornish Din Tagell, meaning “the fortress of the narrow entrance”.  The new bridge will hugely improve the experience and access for visitors.

Tintagel Castle attracts almost 250,000 visitors each year and English Heritage says the new footbridge will help to reduce congestion, especially at peak periods, and provide a step-free route to the island.

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Updated on January 27th, 2013

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