Archive for the ‘culture’ Category

Photo competition – Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon | Moorland, the Heart of Exmoor

2 July, 2011

Photo competition – Museum of Barnstaple and North Devon | Moorland, the Heart of Exmoor.


Get close to a Water Shrew!

11 March, 2010

Once in a lifetime you might see these amazing little mammals in the wild… if you’re lucky. But now you have the chance to meet secretive creatures like Water Shrew, Water Vole, Common Dormouse and Badger.

Now you can meet mammals like these with the help of experts around the UK – like Wildwood in Kent, Cheshire Wildlife Trust or WildCRU.

Run in association with The People’s Trust for Endangered Species, these events have some places left – but act now. To book your place, check out the PTES wildlife encounters web page.

Country Wedding Venues – Sheepdrove

16 February, 2010

Discover a Berkshire wedding venue with a difference. Sheepdrove offers a remarkable rural location on the Berkshire downs… a very modern, eco-friendly building… set at the heart of an organic farm! Sheepdrove is a very special place.

What truly sets it apart from any other countryside wedding venue – indeed, any venue in Berkshire – is that so many great things combine here to make it an unmissable choice for that perfect day.


When your families and friends gather in the majestic Oak Room, the uplifting sensation you feel when gazing up at the tall wooden arches is inspirational. These huge arches continue to strut proudly overhead in the Dining Room. This elegant architecture is an award-winning example of a contemporary timber frame grand design.


A quiet flock of steel sheep greet your arrival at the centre, and a sculptural centrepiece stands in the courtyard. Outdoor spaces are graced by sentinels of stone, engraved with poetry. Within the building, natural wood surrounds you, while unusual artwork decorates the walls.


Fragrance emanates from the herbs of the Physic Garden which sits neatly behind the centre, and secretly hides an amphitheatre. Beyond lies a circular walk route around reedbeds, ponds and a lake where a small wooden building nestles in the valley. The Boathouse is a hidden gem, also available for hire.

The kitchen is brimming with delicious seasonal delights of the sort you might expect in a rural restaurant. The culinary experience has a unique provenance to the farm and gardens, which provide plentiful organic food all year round. You can’t get more local, seasonal and organic!

Contact details

Please contact Harriet Collins on 01488 674737
More information on Sheepdrove the wedding venue 

© 2010 Jason Ball
Article by Jason Ball @
Shortlink –

UK petition – help our bats and birds

19 January, 2010

There’s an excellent petition now up – please add your name – to ensure buildings make room for birds and bats.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not just the old castles and churches that make excellent homes for bats and birds such as Barn Owl and Swift. New buildings are very important. Also renovations of old buildings can be done with bats and birds in mind more simply than you might think, using bat-bricks, nest-bricks, etc.

Petition > to make builders provide for bats and birds

2 Nov BBC Berks interview

2 November, 2009

I’ve just been interviewed live on BBC Radio Berkshire by Phil Kennedy. He began by mentioning that I work at Sheepdrove Organic Farm – so a good plug there!

We had a chat about some of the things I’ve seen and written about for BBC Berkshire’s Nature pages as a sort of local Autumnwatch.

Phil asked me if I enjoy autumn, and suggested that the season is “rather sad” in some ways, because it’s a time of things dying off for winter… but I wanted to enthuse about autumn and talk about more than just pretty colours.

Autumn does, in fact, have action, growth, and energy. Lively aspects of nature in autumn are hidden sometimes – like the countless seedlings which sprout beneath leaf litter, in preparation for a great start in springtime; or the bursting out of fungal fruiting bodies; or the wild flowers which peak at exactly this time, such as Autumn Hawkbit.

Phil described seeing a field full of red poppies last week! How spectacular for October! And told us he’d encountered a stag while driving in the dark – just standing ahead in the road. The rutting season makes the deer behave a little strangely, of course, and the warm weather has certainly blessed Berkshire with sights of creatures and flowers we wouldn’t have seen in a cold year.

BBC Berkshire Autumnwatch gallery.

Listen again to Phil Kennedy on BBC Radio Berkshire.

BBC Earth starts soon!

17 September, 2009

Hi – loved your site and blog! Thought you and your followers might be interested in BBC America’s September programming block where we will be showcasing BBC Earth.

Featuring five fascinating documentaries, this block takes viewers from atop the Himalayas with the grizzly bear, to inside the lion’s den with the help of state-of-the-art technology. Led by channel premieres of The Life of Mammals: A Winning DesignGrizzly: Nature’s Entrepreneur and Lion: Spy in the Den – all the documentaries are presented by multi-award winning and world renowned natural history expert, Sir David Attenborough.

The BBC is the largest producer of natural history programming in the world, including the hugely successful Planet Earth. Its new global brand, BBC Earth, aims to highlight this incredible content across all platforms. The BBC Earth block airs this Sunday, September 20, from 3:00 pm ET to 8:00 pm ET on BBC AMERICA.

We have created two videos that I think your readers would really like. Details, links and embed codes are below if you’d like to use them on your site.

Please let me know if you need anything else.

Nicole Wetzold
Director, Marketing
BBC America

Link to video–neil-nightingale-and-others/

Link to video

Watched AGE OF STUPID – now what?

5 September, 2009

Last night I went to see AGE OF STUPID at the Sheepdrove Eco Conference Centre. The screening was organised by the local group of SLOW FOOD UK and there was delicious home-made popcorn and pizza!


The film was better than I expected. (So was the cinema experience in the Oak Room!) I braced myself for tedious reels of news footage, but not much new.

In fact the film’s a strong documentary. In parts it is rather basic – but that covers the ‘beginners’ who might be new to the whole environmental movement, why the rush to act on climate change, what the problems are with oil, how addicted we are to it (try spotting an object in your house that was not produced using fossil fuels) and why consumerism is shit. The film makes connections that might not be obvious.

During the movie you meet several characters. Real people. A man who survived Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, and lost all his belongings. An ancient mountain guide shows us his local glacier, which is shrinking. A British family actually sit down and plan their individual carbon budgets for the year! Children who fled from the oil war in Iraq try to make a new life in Jordan. A young woman in Africa struggles to better her life in an area ruined by a big oil company, yet finds the best money-making opportunity for her is in diesel smuggling!

Sometimes THE AGE OF STUPID has busy graphic animations but overall the use of imagery is very clever. Here are a few of my favourite bits:

  • A doll lies in the mud after Hurricane Katrina and stares at you. She’s wrecked and lost after a violent storm, which they say is going to become more common in future as sea temperature rises. The mouth is moulded open ready for a feeding bottle. She’s built for consumption, she’s made from oil and she’s a role model.
  • A woman has caught 2 small fish from her local lake where the wildlife has been decimated by the effects of the nearby oil base. Her fish are covered in oil so she uses detergent to wash them. Afterwards they shine but you know they aren’t clean inside.
  • You follow a man through his house, his conservatory, and into a summer house in the garden. No science lab university location, no fancy computer graphics. He’s a man in a shed drawing a graph on a piece of paper for you. He says, “if you remember just one number, make it this: 2 degrees.” Beyond 2 degrees the climate change effects self-multiply because of methane and CO2 released by warmed tundra and forests. His pen traces a line that peaks in 2015. The graph has to be going down by 2015. We have 5 years to push it in that direction.

Seen the film, recycled the t-shirt?

After watching AGE OF STUPID it’s probably polite to hold an open discussion. It distracts the audience from their sense of imminent doom!

ecocinemaClare Marriage from the local Slow Food convivium did a good job of stimulating discussion and drawing a few questions from the people in the room. Up on the stage with her were Lawrence Woodard OBE from the Organic Research Centre and Peter Kindersley of Sheepdrove.

Peter started by saying that we’ve got to grow more vegetables and concentrate less on grain. He said we shouldn’t subsidise grain any more, we should subsidise small-scale vegetable plots. He took the line that it’s too late to stop the accelerate rate of Climate Change. But still said we must take action. // Personally I agree – if we are bound to see a massive change it’s all the more important to act sooner, and take bigger steps.

Lawrence pressed the need to take direct action, and cited protest as the only example shown to massively shift goverment policy in a short time. Doing your bit is good, but it’s not enough.

I knew many people in the room and I was sure most of us were already doing all sorts of things at lifestyle-level to shrink our ‘footprint’ on the planet. But people still asked, “What can we do?” They wanted to do more.

Suz from HEAT told us the AGE OF STUPID film has kicked off the 10:10 campaign which aims to unite everyone in the UK to cut 10% of their Carbon Footprint by the end of 2010. Role models include the Todhunter family who have already reduced their CO2 emissions by 28.4% in the past three years – and said it’s not difficult.

Somebody in the audience said “People need to know what they can do. On Radio 4 they have Thought for the Day, and it’s usually religious, but what about the urgency of Climate Change? It should be top of the agenda. What if they had something like that, but for the environment?”

Petition Radio 4 with me!

So at the end I cheekily asked to say a couple of things:

1) I invited everyone to join a pro-wind-turbine protest march. Sheepdrove Organic Farm would soon be grateful of their support when they enter a planning application for wind energy.

2) I said I’d start the campaign for a Green Thought for the Day programme. Sheepdrove’s petition letter is already on the Sheepdrove blog. Please add your name!

Where to watch it…

Watch the film trailer at and check that website for more dates and locations.

By the way, the next showing of AGE OF STUPID near me is on 18th September, at 7.30pm at the Croft Hall, Hungerford. Tickets £4 from The Hungerford Bookshop or from Suz on 01488 680642.

Forthcoming review – dormouse book

15 August, 2009
Living with Dormice

Living with Dormice

Coming soon… my review of the new book by Sue Eden – Living with Dormice.

I’m captivated so far! Whodunnit? What happens at the end? Ooh, look at that!

Jason Ball @

Ed Will Ginger walking

11 June, 2009

I’ve just caught an audio glimpse of Ed, Will and Ginger, as they wandered through BBC Radio Four. I went to the BBC iPlayer to listen to Farming Today This Week (last week’s) and there they were, because the editing robots had put the end of a Ramblings programme onto the clip. Click here to hear Ed, Will and Ginger (by accident)

Facebook group > Ed, Will and Ginger a-walking-o

Age of Stupid showing at Reading

10 June, 2009

The Sustainability Team at Reading Borough Council will be screening The Age of Stupid, a film about climate change on Tuesday 30 June.  

Doors open 6.45 pm for 7.15 pm start.
Tickets £5.50 or £4.50 with Your Reading Passport. 
Further concessions for groups bookings are available.  Tickets available from Reading Town Hall and The Hexagon. 

Further details at