The Pier to Pier walk for St Helena Hospice

20160417_144724Yesterday, I did the Pier to Pier Walk for St Helena Hospice to raise money in memory of my friend Martin Hunt who died last year. They run it every year, challenging people to walk the seven miles from Walton Pier to Clacton Pier (or vice versa), or if you’re really wanting a good long walk you can do it both ways for a total of fourteen miles. I did the latter, starting and finishing at Walton Pier.

It’s an almost completely flat walk as it uses the two main promenades (Walton & Frinton, and Holland & Clacton) with the sea wall linking the two. There are a few minor slopes, but this is an Essex coastal walk, so what might be referred to as a hill or a slope here is what would likely be nothing more than a speed bump in the road in the rest of the country. Luckily, the weather yesterday was great for walking – sunny for most of it, but not baking hot and with just a light breeze blowing. It’s probably not as easy (or safe) to do the walk when there’s a storm blowing in off the North Sea and the waves are crashing over the path. As a seaside walk, it’s also very hard to get lost with the only question you need to ask to check you’re in the right place being ‘am I on the path next to the sea?’

There are plenty of beach cafes along the way too, so if you want to make a more leisurely stroll of it, you can. Alternatively, you can do what I did and push yourself through the whole thing with the thought of getting some nice chips from Yates’ in Walton at the end of it.

There were over a thousand people doing the walk to raise money for the Hospice yesterday, with a really pleasant atmosphere and lots of encouragement along the way from the people who were just out to enjoy the sunny day. I think most were doing it in just one direction as I didn’t see as many walkers on the way back from Clacton as I did on the way there, but there were still plenty of people around.

As for me, I managed to finish to keep up a decent pace throughout the walk and do it in a little bit more than two hours each way, without picking up any injuries other than a little bit of sunburn to my face. Martin’s wife and daughter came to see me off at the start, and it was good to see them to remember why I was doing it and to hear about how much the Hospice had helped them during Martin’s last months. We did note that he used to complain about having to walk too far from his car to the Town Hall, so there was a certain irony in doing a walk to remember him but I’m sure he’d have appreciated it.

Thanks to everyone who sponsored me, and you can still do it by visiting my Justgiving page or by donating directly to the hospice. Hopefully next year I can persuade a few more people to do it with me, or find some other things to help raise money for the Hospice.

If you want to see more of what it was like, the pictures are below. Click on any one of them to see it full size.

It was such a nice day, the North Sea even looked blue
It was such a nice day, the North Sea even looked blue
Setting off from Walton
Setting off from Walton
'A good walk spoiled'
‘A good walk spoiled’
Meeting some of the people coming from Clacton
Meeting some of the people coming from Clacton
First sighting of Clacton Pier
First sighting of Clacton Pier
And here we are, with a board of memories and dedications.
And here we are, with a board of memories and dedications.
Greeted by jugglers at Clacton
Greeted by jugglers at Clacton
And a time-travelling policeman
And a time-travelling policeman
Turning around and heading back
Turning around and heading back
And meeting people who were halfway through their return trip
And meeting people who were halfway through their return trip
Walton Pier finally comes into sight
Walton Pier finally comes into sight
Watch out for the punning beach huts
Watch out for the punning beach huts
The final stretch...
The final stretch…
And we're done!
And we’re done!

Walking for charity again

Pier-to-pier-website-bannerOn April 17th, I’m going to be taking part in St Helena Hospice’s Pier to Pier walk, going from Walton Pier to Clacton Pier and back again. I’m doing this to help raise money for the hospice in memory of my friend and colleague Martin Hunt, who spent time at the hospice before his death last year.

If you want to sponsor me, I’ve set up a Justgiving page where you can do it directly online, or if you can’t use Justgiving, then please get in touch with me and we’ll arrange some other method.

It should be a nice day out (providing there are no massive spring storms coming in from the North Sea that day) so please come along to show support for me and all the other walkers doing it – there’s lots of fun to be had on the piers while you’re waiting for the walkers to reappear. I chose Walton for my start and finish because there’s a very good chip shop not far from the pier, and fish and chips on the beach is a great way to relax and enjoy yourself at the end of a walk.

You can sponsor me by clicking here, or if you want to take part yourself, there’s more information and a registration form on the hospice’s website. If you really want to help, keep your fingers crossed for good weather on the 17th!

Fracking

I’ve had a number of residents contact me recently regarding fracking, and whether there’ll be any taking place in the Colchester area. Having looked into the issue, it looks very unlikely that there’ll be any taking place in East Anglia, as the geology of this area means it’s very unlikely to contain any shale gas – or, at least, any significant amounts that would be economically viable to explore for and extract.

However, if someone decided they wanted to try, they’d have to first get themselves approved by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to explore and extract gas. A license to do so in this area would then have to be granted by Essex County Council who are responsible for minerals extraction – this normally involves quarrying in this area, but would include other mining operations if someone wanted to try them – and finally, Colchester Borough Council would have to grant planning permission for any surface works involved in the operation. So, even if there were deposits here that might be accessible by fracking, there’d be plenty of opportunities for the public to have their say before anything began.

As for the principle of fracking itself, I’m still waiting to see something conclusive from the evidence. As I understand it, burning gas for power produces fewer greenhouse gases than burning coal or oil for the equivalent amount of power, but the supposed cost benefits of shale gas are not likely to be that great – from what I’ve read, gas prices dropped in the US after shale gas production started because it’s mostly separate from the global gas market, so a surge in production there affected the domestic price. However, the UK and Europe are an integral part of that market, so increases in production won’t have as big an effect on the overall market price. There’s also the question of what effect such production has on the local environment.

However, beyond those considerations, there’s the global effect of continuing to extract carbon-based fuels from the ground and release that carbon into the atmosphere. This article provides a good overview of how we’re heading for a massive overshoot of carbon targets, and even if gas does release less carbon than oil or coal, if the oil and coal it displaces in the short term is still burnt, then it all goes into the atmosphere in the long run. For me, it seems that fracking is a minor distraction in the wider vision of how we reduce the amount of greenhouse gases we release before it’s far too late.

Essex County Council election results for Colchester

These are the results for Colchester in the Essex County Council elections. Full results can be found on the Essex County Council website.

Abbey: Lib Dem (Margaret Fisher) 1273, UKIP 786, Labour 519, Green 467, Conservative 395. LD hold
Constable: Conservative (Anne Brown) 2075, UKIP 1471, Labour 504, Green 387, Lib Dem (Carolyn Catney) 303. Con hold.
Drury: Conservative (Sue Lissimore) 1957, Lib Dem (Nick Cope) 1127, UKIP 951, Labour 527, Green 314. Con hold.
Maypole: Labour (Dave Harris) 1665, Lib Dem (Lyn Barton) 933, UKIP 573, Conservative 475, Green 143. Labour gain from Lib Dem.
Mersea and Tiptree: Conservative (John Jowers) 1913, UKIP 1134, Labour 629, Green 216, Lib Dem (Gill Collings) 181. Con hold.
Mile End and Highwoods: Lib Dem (Anne Turrell) 1417, Conservative 888, UKIP 725, Labour 408, Green 180. Lib Dem hold.
Parsons Heath and East Gates: Lib Dem (Theresa Higgins) 1259, UKIP 809, Conservative 609, Labour 489, Green 192. Lib Dem hold.
Stanway and Pyefleet: Conservative (Kevin Bentley) 1723, UKIP 929, Lib Dem (Jessica Scott-Boutell) 829, Labour 491, Green 247. Conservative hold.
Wivenhoe St Andrew: Labour (Julie Young) 1895, UKIP 599, Conservative 562, Lib Dem (Shaun Boughton) 383, Green 248. Labour hold.

Agreeing with Simon Heffer

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day, and his comments on Essex County Council’s Tories are worth noting:

Tory-controlled Essex County Council decided this week not to sue their disgraced former leader Lord Hanningfield for the £287,000 of ratepayers’ money he spent flying around the world with cronies and dining in style. This is a rash move.
In four and a half months, the council is up for re-election. I am appalled that Essex Tories have such a cavalier view of financial accountability. Anyone who votes to put them back into office next May is mad.

(Emphasis added)

I also believe that Labour voted with the Tories at last week’s Essex County Council meeting to block the Liberal Democrat motion on this.

What if Colchester had been moved to Suffolk?

Here’s an interesting bit of local history for you all, going all the way back to when I was born in 1972. This was a year of many interesting events, and also the 1972 Local Government Act which brought about wholesale changes to the way large parts of the country were governed. It brought in the two-tier system of local government (counties and districts/boroughs) that’s been continually tampered with since, and also carved many new counties out of the old borders. I grew up in Redditch, so was under the auspices of the county of ‘Hereford and Worcester’ for a while, though if things had gone slightly differently I could have known it as Malvernshire or the County of Wyvern.

But today, we’re not looking at H&W, Avon, Humberside or any of the odd agglomerations that were created then, but one that was proposed and never came about – Colchester becoming part of Suffolk.
Continue reading What if Colchester had been moved to Suffolk?

Lord Hanningfield found guilty

News is just coming through from various people on Twitter that Paul White, Lord Hanningfield – former leader of Essex County Council and Conservative frontbench spokesman in the Lords – has been found guilty of six counts of false accounting. Sentencing will take place in three weeks, apparently.

UPDATE: There’s now a report on BBC News.

Maths, Hanningfield style

You may have heard that Paul White (aka Lord Hanningfield), the former leader of Essex County Council, is currently on trial on charges of false accounting in Chelmsford.

While I’m not going to comment on the substance of the trial until after it’s concluded, there’s one comment of his that’s been reported that does deserve some attention:

He said: “Essex is as big as Northern Ireland. So my job is something like the equivalent of being prime minister of Northern Ireland. It is bigger than Croatia, Lithuania and Latvia.

Leaving aside the different roles of the Northern Ireland Executive and the leadership of a County Council, let’s look at the ‘bigger than Croatia, Lithuania and Latvia’ part.

The population of the part of Essex governed by the County Council (Southend and Thurrock are unitary authorities) is, according to Wikipedia 1,396,300, in an area of 3,465 square kilometres.
Croatia, by contrast, has a population of 4,483,804 and an area of 56,594 sq km. (source)
Lithuania has a population of 3,535,547 and an area of 65,300 sq km (source)
And Latvia has a population of 2,204,708 and an area of 64,589 sq km (source)

Again, leaving aside the difference between running an English County Council and an entire nation-state, I can’t quite see how one can claim Essex as being bigger than any of those countries. I think it’s clear that neither geography nor mathematics are amongst Lord Hanningfield’s strong points, which may go some way to explaining why he is where he is today.

Potholes

Essex County Council tweeted excitedly this morning that they’ve been given £5.3m extra from the Government to deal with potholes. That’s good news, and I look forward to seeing some of the potholes I’ve reported recently to them being filled in.

Just in case anyone from the County Council happens to drop by, here are three of the worst that they could be getting on with fixing:
First, in Priory Street

In West Stockwell Street

And at the junction of Serpentine Walk and Catchpool Road