Sunday, 2 July 2017

Week 39: (26th June to 2nd July 2017) or 'A Postcard from a Rainy Day'

England has kept its appointment with the maritime climate. As one who is accustomed to the British Summer knows only too well, occasionally the country has a 'wash, cut and blow-dry' although not necessarily in that order. On fine Sunday afternoons, husbands and wives become garden barbers, shaving the grass and pruning the sideburns which are for many the hedges between neighbours. A day or two may elapse before these trimmed gardens are rinsed in sharp downpours, so that the leaves of the Prunus may forever shine in the forthcoming sunlight. A warm breeze which lingers amongst the leaves of the trees then descends into England's mini-Edens. The waves of air which so gracefully flow over the mosaics of our rural idylls is a sympathetic score to the ears.

How wonderfully incessant this washing, cutting and blow-drying is in the calendar of rural England. Each step in the sequence breathes promise and hope. How the nation's gardeners rub their green fingers with collective patience for the rain to be delivered; how reassuring it is when the loyal droplets come. But oh, how the mood shifts in urban England! As I write, a deluge is tormenting the rooftops of Nottingham. Drainpipes have awakened and the dust that collects on dry days in pavement cracks is being chased away. Umbrellas are tortured by the harrowing wind; some relinquishing the fight by inwardly contorting themselves to concede victory. They are no longer little domed roofs above irritated heads but little defeated bowls which now collect the water that is pulled from the sky by the underground beast of gravity. How miserable the scene appears and yet thirty miles away, in suburban villages, the rain that falls is hailed as a blessing for cottage gardens, allotments and the farms.

I am in Nottingham once again to meet with Dr Andy Tye at the British Geological Survey. Let me account for the latest developments to my PhD fieldwork campaign. First I can confirm that August and September will witness the first comprehensive spell of fieldwork with a thorough sampling campaign for my four sites across the country. My two arable sites will be the focus for the BGS Drilling Rig which will be injected into the soil to extract the requisite samples of weathered bedrock. Here is a video from the BGS explaining in great detail the process of drilling.

On my two woodland sites, the rig will be substituted by a percussion corer which achieves the same objective of extracting a core of soil, but is easier to transport through a broadleaved woodland. My woodland sites will also undergo what, to an untrained eye, might perhaps look like acupuncture; a grid of large steel pins will be hammered down the slope. If these eyes are trained, one would acknowledge these as erosion pins. They work, more or less, by calculating the difference in height between the soil surface and the top of the pin after a year. A greater length of exposed pin above the soil surface would indicate some degree of erosion.

It is still raining here in Nottingham but I must now sign off this postcard, reawaken my umbrella, and depart for the BGS.

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