CD#31 – Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?

The Castle Drum would like to welcome two rather unusual new members of staff to the ranks. Neither has an official given name (yet), but the first hails from Sweden and goes by the designation Husqvarna 430X.

The Husqvarna 430X – complete with headlights so it can continue cutting grass while all the humans are safely a-bed.

You may have already spotted this automated electric lawnmower in the Courtyard recently while the Gardens and Grounds Team used a trial period to put it through its paces. The Castle Drum is pleased to report that the Husqvarna 430X will now join the team on a permanent basis, covering the Courtyard in the first instance, before adding the lawns of the Elizabethan Gardens to its regular duties.

Computation leads to circumnavigation. A metal grate is no match for the 430X.

Sadly, the 430X is incapable of the sort of lawn stripes that would shame Wembley Stadium, but this is not to say that it is not an utterly ingenious machine. Thanks to built-in GPS, it is capable of learning its terrain and even remembering the exact positions of obstacles and particularly tufty areas of grass. While the path it chooses may appear rather erratic to the casual bystander, by cutting the grass a small bit at a time, its three razor-sharp blades should deliver a lawn quality that conventional blades could never achieve. As it rolls along, it will also create miniscule clippings that will provide a constant source of fertilization for our lawns, and help to keep them healthy, lush and green. Best of all, this electric mower is silent, so it is good for both the environment and anyone trying to work in peace.

The Mavic Pro Platinum takes off on its maiden flight – 13th December 2018
Straight to work. A bird’s-eye view of Herstmonceux Castle on a bright December morning.

Our second new addition is the Mavic Pro Platinum. This camera drone has a range of around 4 miles and can shoot photographs and videos in exceptional 4K quality. While the rather exciting potential for use in our marketing and promotional activities immediately springs to mind, it will also carry out important duties for the Maintenance Team. The clarity of the images it records are such that the drone can be used for high-risk surveys of the Castle’s exterior brickwork, roof and battlements. It should practically remove the need for sending brave folk up ladders and allow the team to maintain a photographic record of the Castle’s general state of repair. It represents a truly 21st century way of ensuring that our 15th century castle complies with Health and Safety regulations.

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While The Castle Drum recognizes the very real threat of instigating another Boaty McBoatface-style debacle, we figure we can’t go around referring to our new additions as Husqvarna 430X and Mavic Pro Platinum forever. If anyone in the Castle community has any inspired ideas about what to christen a fully automated Swedish lawnmower, or a sophisticated quad-copter camera drone, please drop us a line. We could always put the question to the students next term of course, but then why should they have all the fun?

»’I think I’ll just take another walk,’ he said.
‘Don’t blame you,’ said Marvin and counted five hundred and ninety-seven thousand million sheep before falling asleep again a second later.«

CD#30 – A memorable journey of remembrance

A group of 110 students, faculty and staff from the Bader International Study Centre  travelled to the French town of Vimy on a cold, wet, and windy Nov. 11, as the world marked the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War.

Today, the Canadian National Vimy Memorial, Canada’s largest overseas war memorial, sits at the highest point of Vimy Ridge and commemorates not only the Battle of Vimy Ridge, (April 9-12, 1917) but all Canadian Expeditionary Force members killed during the First World War, including those with no known resting place.

While students from the BISC have been travelling to the memorial on or around Remembrance Day for the past several years, this is the first year that the BISC Chamber and Open Choir has been invited to participate in the Remembrance Day ceremony itself.

Members of the BISC Chamber and Open Choir lead a procession of pipers and local dignitaries to the memorial site. (Photo by Pascal Brunet)

The BISC’s 40-member choir, robed and sporting their BISC scarves, was afforded the honour of leading a procession of pipers and local dignitaries to the memorial site. The choir sang two moving excerpts from Requiem by Eleanor Daly, a Canadian composer and Queen’s University graduate. As the rain came down in earnest, soloist soprano and BISC Musician-in-Residence, Diana Gilchrist also sang Mozart’s Laudate Dominum from his Solemn Vespers.

BISC students Harriet Wright, Wyatt Mann, and Sarah Dulmage lay a wreath on behalf of Queen’s University at the Vimy Memorial. (Photo by Samantha Brown)

Three first-year BISC students, Wyatt Mann, Harriet Wright, and Sarah Dulmage, laid a wreath during the ceremony on behalf of the BISC and Queen’s University. They were chosen from dozens of applicants for their outstanding submissions on the subject of what laying a wreath at the Vimy Memorial would mean to them and their families.

Wyatt says, “I just recently got my first voter card, and to me, it symbolized the freedoms that I have today because of the sacrifice of our soldiers one hundred years ago, and every year since, that so many people take for granted.”

Harriet agrees, “It is not just about wearing a poppy for Remembrance Day, it is about understanding the sacrifice of our veterans and those currently serving. I am so proud to have worn the Royal Canadian Air Cadet uniform as a Drum Major, saluted the veterans, and worn the poppy over my heart and for these reasons, laying the wreath at the Vimy Ridge Ceremony was an absolute honour.”

“With this opportunity, I take great pride in being able to represent those who have come before me. My great-great grandfather Charlie Wright fought in World War One and took part in the Battle of Vimy Ridge,” says Sarah. “My family is composed of many military personnel, so to me, laying the wreath meant giving the ultimate thanks to my family who have served and allowed me to be who I am and where I am today.”

Members of the BISC Chamber and Open Choir perform during the Remembrance Day Ceremony (Photo by Samantha Brown)

Choir member and BISC 100 lecturer Beth Richan says she was proud seeing such a mix of generations and a sea of Canadian red in the assembled crowd as the bugler played The Last Post.

“What struck me from speaking to the students afterwards was just how many of them expressed that being present was not only very important to them personally, but would be hugely significant for their parents and grandparents too,” she says.

BISC student Jake Kidd takes a photo of his great uncle’s inscription after locating it on the Vimy Memorial. (Photo by Diana Gilchrist)

Student Jake Kidd was one of many who searched the thousands of names etched into the Vimy Memorial on behalf of their families and found a relative, his great uncle. Diana Gilchrist, who took the photo of Jake says, “That was an unexpectedly touching moment. We were just walking up the monument after the ceremony to the official photo shoot when Jake suddenly discovered his great uncle’s name and was so moved.”

Following the ceremony, each student was presented with a commemorative Vimy pin and poppy. The students then had the opportunity to visit Ypres and the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing, before returning to Herstmonceux Castle.

Members of the BISC Choir pose with Johanne Gagne, Program Manager, Canadian Vimy Memorial (Photo by Pascal Brunet)

The trip to Vimy was the culmination of an entire term’s worth of opportunities to learn more about the history and experience of war. On Nov. 7 and 8, approximately 125 students attended performances of Lest We Forget at Hastings’ Stable Theatre. This contemporary production is based on stories from survivors of the Great War from East Sussex and weaves readings, poems, and songs from the era into the narrative. In addition, the Castle Reads group, which encourages members of the Castle community to come together through a shared love of literature, has chosen the First World War novel Strange Meeting by Susan Hill as their book for the fall term.

Back in the UK, the students will have the opportunity to reflect further on their experiences with a concert at the Castle on Sunday, Nov. 25 in honour of the 80th anniversary of Alfred Bader’s participation in the Kindertransport of 1938. Dr. Bader, along with some 10,000 other Jewish children, was evacuated to the safety of the UK from Nazi-occupied Austria.

 

»Lest We Forget«

 

CD#29 – Castle Reads launched

Members from all sections of the Castle Community gathered in the Elizabethan Room Tuesday night to launch Castle Reads, a shared reading experience never previously attempted at the Castle before. Taking the form of a traditional ‘book club’ combined with a series of events, Castle Reads is for everyone at the Castle who enjoys a good book. And the book chosen for this term is Strange Meeting by Susan Hill.

Shannon Smith encourages the Castle Reads community to further enrich their experience of the novel by attending ‘Lest We Forget’ at the Stables Theatre in Hastings.

As Shannon Smith notes, “This term’s book was chosen to coincide with the Castle’s observations of the centenary of the end of the First World War. Susan Hill’s Strange Meeting is not a new book, but it is a book that remains both prescient and engaging. Along with the discussion meetings we hope members will take advantage of, there are some other events programmed to tie in with our reading”.

Shannon went on to explain about the production of Lest We Forget by the Stables Theatre in Hastings. “From 8-11 November, at the Stables Theatre in Hastings, a local theatre group is staging a unique production to commemorate the end of the First World War. Lest We Forget is a play that uses local and personal histories from Hastings-area residents to tell the story of East Sussex’s involvement in the First World War. The director, Tim Wormley-Healing, and his team, have been working to collect people’s stories and turn them into an evening of theatre and music that is not to be missed. Details about the play, along with ticket prices and booking links, are available here.

On 14 November, at 7.00 pm, Tim and some of the cast of Lest We Forget will be visiting the Castle for a discussion of their work and to answer questions about the production. This event is open to the community, regardless of whether or not you have seen the play.”

How these two events fit into the tentative schedule is below:

  • w/b October 29 —first shared reading
  • November 9-10 — Lest We Forget at the Stables Theatre, Hastings
  • November 14 — Visit by the cast of Lest We Forget
  • w/b November 26—second shared reading
  • w/b December 10—third shared reading
Some 100 years on from the events it portrays, Peter Lowe provides some additional background on the novel.

The schedule of events is tentative because Sarah Butler, administrator for the endeavour, stressed that Castle Reads was very much ‘organic’ in nature, and its direction would be steered by its members. Looking to the Winter term, she noted that this Fall’s membership would be responsible for shortlisting and ultimately selecting the book for next term. The Castle Reads ‘committee’ (a term used to describe here a group of interested individuals with some collective thoughts, which currently comprises Beth Richan, Sharon Jakeman, Shannon Smith, Peter Lowe, Rob Hyland and Sarah Butler) is looking for additional membership from the student community to help lead and provide impetus to the group.

Click the logo link to open a new window and visit the Castle Reads page on the BISC website.

So, what’s next? In short, grab the book and start reading! If you need a copy of the book, go to the Library where there is a free copy waiting for you. In the next few days, Sarah will be setting up the first shared reading experience. There will be two opportunities to attend, so hopefully everyone who is interested will be able to come to one or the other. And finally, there’s the Castle Reads Forum, which will keep you up-to-date with all that is going on, and gives you a platform to share your thoughts on the book, if you can’t make a meeting.

»Not entirely averse to the odd strange meeting or two since January 2017«

CD#28 – A progressive Castle community

“Excellence at Queen’s involves intellectual diversity of perspectives which, in turn, requires cultural diversity, socio-economic diversity, and racial diversity.” – Daniel Woolf

In April of 2017, the Principal’s Implementation Committee on Racism, Diversity, and Inclusion (PICRDI) published a report, identifying key priorities and suggesting measures that would ensure that lasting change could be effected at Queen’s regarding the issues of anti-racism, diversity and inclusion. This small group, established by Daniel Woolf, included representatives from the student body, staff, and faculty. It was tasked with reviewing past reports on these issues, and examining how and why implementation of their recommendations may have fallen short.

Principal Daniel Woolf said, “We must view this as a process which requires constant re-evaluation. Our ability to remain a top-tier university will depend on our ability to embrace change – not because we are under intense pressure and scrutiny, but because it is the right thing to do.”

The BISC, in turn, must also constantly re-evaluate its own policies and guidelines, to ensure that we live and work in a progressive campus community. To that end, the VP’s Advisory Committee on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity was established, to build upon the recommendations of the University (BISC) Inclusion Committee Report issued in August of 2017. The Committee is responsible for coordinating, reviewing and reporting on the progress of the promotion of access, equality, diversity and inclusion on the BISC campus.

The 2018 VP’s Advisory Committee on Equity, Inclusion and Diversity comprises:

  • Roxy Denniston-Stewart (Chair) & Melissa Burke – Student Services
  • Ben Martin & Diana Gilchrist – Faculty
  • Caroline Harber & Jackie Argyrou – Staff
  • Sara-Maya Kaba & Chloe Smith – Students

The committee, which will complete their work over a three year period, has been asked to submit an annual report by the beginning of May with recommendations on priorities, ways to promote the streaming of relevant policies, protocols and processes, identification of opportunities for collaboration, and ways to foster potential synergies, both internal and external to the university.

The purpose of this article is to make everyone in the Castle community aware that you may be approached by the committee members in the coming weeks as they compile their report, but the Castle Drum would also actively encourage readers to seek out your department’s representatives if you have any pertinent feedback on your experiences of these issues, or suggestions for further study.

Ben Martin told the Castle Drum, “The committee provides recommendations to SMT, which in turn will allow them to make informed decisions on issues of equity, inclusion and diversity. Equity is not a word commonly used in the UK however. Perhaps a better way to think of the committee’s focus, is that it is concerned with the concept of equality – ensuring equality of opportunity for all. A prime example would be making sure we are communicating our scholarship opportunities and financial support packages effectively and offering the BISC as an opportunity to all students, regardless of their socio-economic backgrounds.”

Diana Gilchrist added, “I’m pleased to be involved in the process for a second year. I’m confident the report will celebrate our successes, as well as provide the necessary recommendations to ensure that the BISC is inclusive and diverse as a community. On the back of our last report, we introduced a robust policy on issues of personal harassment. This time around, I think our next steps will be to establish our initial priorities, draw up policies to address them and then most importantly of all, communicate them properly to staff so that everyone understands exactly why they are in place.”

You can download the full PICRDI report here and a copy of the 2017 BISC University Inclusion Committee Report  here.

»A cymbal of equality since January 2017«

CD#27 – Walking in our visitors’ shoes

Image of Castle courtesy of Murryn MillerSo Spring is here again, and Herstmonceux Castle is ready to open to public once more. This Saturday, 3rd March, will be the first day of the new season.

In celebration of this event, why not refamiliarize yourself with the visitor’s view of the Castle, with a stroll around the gardens and grounds? There is plenty to see as plants start poking their leaves through the soil and animals begin to shake off their winter lethargy – although many have perhaps dived for cover again in this recent cold spell!

And while you’re stretching your legs, why not help Dave Brown in his creation of the Interpretours app? You may remember that Dave did a presentation back in November in which he highlighted how he was creating an interactive map of the Castle for visitors to access on their mobile phones. The project includes identifying points of interest (POIs) around the gardens and grounds, describing them, and creating routes to guide visitors around them in a logical order or, for the more random among us, in any order desired.

If you fancy getting involved in this project (and Dave is calling upon absolutely anyone who is reading this article and has a love of the Castle: staff, faculty, students, friends, visitors…), here are just some of the ways in which you can:

  • Auditing the list of POIs, to spot any that may have been missed;
  • Correcting and updating the descriptions of the POIs. (If you are a seasoned or even budding writer this is your chance to include your own stories about the Castle and its features, including providing photos, documents, and other resources.);
  • Researching individual POIs. (Are you a natural investigator and like rummaging through paperwork? If so, this may be an interesting challenge, and may involve hunting through the BISC Archive!);
  • Field-testing tours (but only if you have an Android phone);
  • Sharing anecdotes, trivia, stories, childhood reminiscences (and even gossip) about the Castle and estate – it’s the human element which makes the Castle’s history after all. History is brought to life by the stories of the people who have lived it, so now is an excellent opportunity to share your stories.

If you want to find out more about the current POIs, the information Dave has gathered to date, wish to become involved in the project or if you have any questions about how to get involved, contact Dave direct on dbrown@brocku.ca. He’ll be more than happy welcome you to the Interpretours project.

And while we are on the subject of helping the Castle in its tourism endeavours, why not pick up a handful of Herstmonceux Castle Gardens & Grounds leaflets from Castle reception and distribute them liberally at your favourite haunts (or just the doctor’s and dentist’s, if all else fails)? It would be great to raise the profile of the Castle among the local and not-so-local community.

Finally, for those of you on social media, please follow and share posts on Facebook. Sir Roger now has his own page (and if you don’t know who ‘Sir Roger’ is, simply check out his page…).

»Welcoming visitors since January 2017«

CD#26 – The CD gives you the full S.P on ‘Me to We’

The Castle Drum is proud to announce a series of leadership and educational activities for students in the run up to We Day in London on March 7th, 2018. A familiar organization to many Canadians, for the uninitiated, the Me to We Foundation is an innovative social enterprise that aims to create sustainable change in disadvantaged areas of the world by shifting from “me” thinking to “we” acting. It is part of a family of organizations, that along with WE Charity hopes to empower each of us to make the world a better place.

In 2016, charismatic Me to We ambassador Spencer West visited the Castle and spoke to the student body about climbing to the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro using a wheelchair and his bare hands. It was a truly inspirational address, although the Castle had admired the work of the Me to We Foundation for many years before, as many of our students are involved with its voluntary projects prior to joining us.

Me to We organizes unique volunteer trips that allow young people and adults to participate in health, education and economic development projects abroad. The vision of the organization is to empower youth to contribute to change in a positive way, and there is obvious synergy between the organization’s values and the BISC’s own ethos of providing students with creditable community engagement projects that will enhance their learning experience while they are in the UK.

Volunteering in the local community empowers BISC students to be proactive, taking responsibility for their own learning, whilst seeking activities that will provide them with transferable skills such a critical thinking, team-work and a sense of social justice. This term, BISC students have organized volunteer placements at Herstmonceux Primary School, The 1st Herstmonceux Scout Troop and Eastbourne Cats’ Protection & Adoption Centre, to name but a few.

Jamila Skinner, the BISC’s Community Engagement SLC, successfully applied for 16 tickets to We Day in London by outlining her proposal to ask students to ‘earn’ their ticket for the event through community engagement activities. To apply, students have been asked to demonstrate community spirit in any capacity including, but not limited to student government, peer health educating, or volunteering. All applicants must have committed a minimum of 10 hours of service in their chosen field to be considered by the BISC’s Me to We Committee.

The BISC’s 2018 Me to We Committee

(From left to right: Natalie Vukusic- Global Events Rep, Danielle Lee – Communications Rep, Jamila Skinner – SLC Community Engagement Rep, Emily Duncan- Educational Awareness Rep, Sara-Maya Kaba- Local Events Rep).

A series of events at the Castle  has been planned to raise awareness of We Day and the work of the Me to We Foundation. On February 6th for example, students will highlight the struggles of obtaining clean water in the developing world and relief countries by filling a 40lb Jerrycan and asking fellow students to walk just a few yards whilst carrying it. This ‘Water Walk’ will give students a mere inkling of the physical effort required to fetch water from wells and watering holes from several miles away in a standard 5-gallon container.

The walking theme will continue in the lead up to International Women’s Week, which begins on March 9th. Students of all genders will be invited to walk the 5 minutes from their accommodation at Bader Hall, to the Dining Hall at the Castle, in a pair of high heels!

The BISC is keen that students’ commitment to volunteering and community engagement on and off campus will continue long after the We Day celebrations. Volunteering remains a key component of the BISC’s experiential learning program. Jamila Skinner, the SLC lead on student community engagement said,

“After the students’ experience with We Day, we will expect them to reflect on their experience in a critical manner by completing a journal entry for Student Services. This will allow students to think about their involvement with the organization and how they can extend their learning beyond a few events. We want them to be able to apply their learning outside of the classroom and in everyday life.”

For more on We Day, click here

»Championing the extra-curricular since January 2017«

CD#25 – February is the month to…visit

Over the coming months we will be receiving numerous visitors to the Castle, and many of them will be from main campus. The Drum thought it might interest you to know who is visiting and what they will be doing while they are with us.

Lori Stewart
Lori Stewart

During the week beginning 5th February, Lori Stewart, Director, Office of the Provost and Vice-Principal, and Megan Sheppard, Associate Vice-Principal, (Planning and Budgeting), will be working with the Senior Management Team on a number of projects, including a review of progress on implementing the space study and training us on
how to carry out the performance dialogue process at

Megan Sheppard
Megan Sheppard

the BISC. Megan will be conducting training on how to go about identifying risks (of all kinds!) as we move towards developing a risk register. Lori will also be working with us to determine how we respond to ongoing developments following the launch of the UK government’s new Office for Students (OfS).

 

Jill Scott
Jill Scott
Wendy Craig
Wendy Craig

Between 12th and 14th February Jill Scott, Vice-Provost (Teaching and Learning) and Wendy Craig, Head of Psychology, will be joined by Joanne Paul, Lecturer in History at Sussex University, at the Castle. They will be carrying out their annual informal assessment of teaching and learning, which ensures we maintain an excellent performance whenever we are assessed by the Quality Assurance Agency. This year, as we performed so well last year, the QAA assessment is expected to be a light touch, but it is always a good idea to be prepared!

Sue Blake
Sue Blake

At the end of February until the beginning of March (25th February to 3rd March) Sue Blake, Assistant Dean (Studies) Arts and Science, Jill Atkinson, the new Associate Dean (Studies) in Arts and Science, and Heather Carter, Academic Advisor in Arts and Science, will be on campus to help students plan their studies in future years.

Jill Atkinson
Jill Atkinson

This will be Jill and Heather’s first visit to the BISC. The Academic Advisors will be offering students the opportunity to learn more about their options in general sessions, as well as ensuring each

Heather Carter
Heather Carter

student has the opportunity for a one-to-one discussion to explore their own individual choices. So, please expect a lot of activity in the Boardroom during this time.

Peter Chin
Peter Chin

During the same period, Peter Chin, Associate Dean Undergraduate Studies in the Faculty of Education, and James Fraser, Associate Professor in the Department of Physics will also be visiting. Peter will be meeting with the ConEd students, visiting a number of our partner schools where the ConEd students are carrying out their practicums, and doing some classroom observations. There will also be a Q&A session with the ConEd group.

James Fraser
James Fraser

We are very fortunate to have James here, where he will be consulting on the process of setting up the first year Physics program at BISC, with PHYS 106 to be launched in September 2018. James is an award-winning lecturer, having been selected as one of ten 3M Teaching Award Fellows in 2017, the highest award for teaching at the university level in Canada. He also does some rather extraordinary research with high powered lasers, that he will talk about to our science class.

At the beginning of March (5th-9th), Cathy Keates, Director, Career Services, will be at the Castle to work with the Experiential Learning Office and Student Services, as we roll out our new experiential learning programming made possible by the Career Ready Fund. Integrating workplace or simulated workplace experiences for students into the curriculum is a priority for the Ontario Government, and we expect this to be an emphasis in future quality assurance assessments and government grant competitions. Cathy will be working with the BISC as we determine how to best position our already leading experiential learning opportunities to make the most of these developments.

Also in March, Tom Gallini, Senior Admission Coordinator (BISC)

Stuart Pinchin
Stuart Pinchin

(and former Student Services and Enrolment Manager) will be visiting (date to be confirmed), and also perhaps in the same month, Stuart Pinchin, Executive Director, Undergraduate Admissions and Recruitment. Both will be on site to determine how best to pitch the Castle to prospective students and to experience our fantastic learning environment afresh, although we are guessing Tom can remember it pretty well…

Zhiyao Zhang

Finally, looking even further ahead, Zhiyao Zhang, China Liaison Officer for Queen’s University, will be visiting the Castle in April. Queen’s has long-standing partnerships with many Chinese Universities, and recruits international undergraduate students heavily in China, particularly in the Beijing and Shanghai regions. Zhiyao leads the Queen’s team in China that has more than tripled the number of international students enrolled in the university over the last three years. Zhiyao is based at Queen’s Shanghai office at Fudan University. While he is a frequent visitor to main campus, he has never been to the BISC before. One of his goals is to learn more about us, so he can promote us as he works with University Admissions in recruiting undergraduate students to the BISC, to identify opportunities for research collaboration, and to increase student mobility with our Chinese partner institutions.

So, look out for some new and some familiar faces, as we welcome the chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones!

»Welcoming all comers since January 2017«

CD#24 – New Scholar in Residence

A familiar face around the Castle, Christopher Bennett joins us this term as our Scholar in Residence.

“Building on my strong experience of eating in the Dining Hall, I’m hoping to contribute to Castle life by providing some perspective on current political events. Thanks to a series of dramatic electoral results – Brexit and Trump are obvious examples; less well-known examples, at least in the English-speaking world, might include Syriza in Greece or the ÖVP in Austria – there is a glut of material. I’ll try to be as accessible as possible, holding office hours and parking myself at a cafeteria table every so often for some informal chats.

The contribution to Castle life that I am most excited to make is undoubtedly my Bullshit lecture (keep an eye out for the quality posters). There is plenty of hand-wringing on both sides of the Atlantic about the tone of political debate and the sorts of reasons to which politicians of all stripes appeal. Thankfully, significant philosophical attention has been paid to the concept of bullshit. This term, I’ll be giving a talk on the subject that hopefully will give staff and students some food for thought!

Scholar in Residence – Dr. Christopher Bennett

On a more mundane note, I am a Queen’s alumnus myself, having finished a BA and MA there, so I remember quite a bit about the various departments across the social sciences and humanities and in fact took many of the classes that are still offered today. If anyone would like to discuss some of the options available to them, please don’t hesitate to drop me a line, or come by my office.”

Having just finished his PhD at Warwick University, Christopher will be splitting his time between his teaching commitments at Warwick and a series of events planned here at the Castle. If you find your interest piqued by any of his talks, are thinking of applying to graduate schools here in the UK, or would simply like to discuss political issues from Palestinian-Israeli relations, to supply-sided interventions in renewable energy markets, please feel free to drop by Office 209, or email him at c_bennett@bisc.queensu.ac.uk. He’ll be happy to talk!

»Excusing political debate at the dinner table since January 2017«

CD#23 – Encouraging Biodiversity in the Woodlands

Rhododendron clearance near the moat
Rhododendron clearance near the moat

During the Winter, the Grounds Team, led by Guy Lucas, Head of Grounds, will be continuing their programme of improving the health, resilience and biodiversity of the woodlands, working alongside English Woodlands Forestry in an advisory role. Guy explains here what the programme entails.

The team’s main initiative this year is to remove much of the rhododendron from the woodland and moat area due to the harmful impact it has. Guy notes, ‘As a non-native and invasive species, it is capable of dominating and suppressing native flora and fauna leaving a lasting negative effect on areas, which can take years to recover. As well as playing host to Phytophthora ramorum and Phytophthora kernoviae, an infectious pathogen killing many of our native trees, rhododendron also produces a form of growth inhibiter which is secreted into the soil from the leaves, flowers and bark, leaving the ground beneath bare and toxic. Although it does produce an attractive flower, the lasting negative effects of this species far outweigh the good and will drastically impact the wildlife at the Castle if not dealt with.’

Unfortunately, for a brief period this work may seem harmful and unattractive but by intervening now the team are confident they can deal with the problem before it becomes unmanageable and irreparable, and intend restoring the woodland to a healthy environment for trees, flowers and wildlife to inhabit.

Map detailing the Grounds plan
Map detailing the Grounds plan

The map explains the work taking place in detail. In November this year rhododendron on the eastern side of the woodland (yellow area) was sprayed with a herbicide. Much of the rhododendron around the moat area (pink area) will also be cut and treated to open up the moat walk. At the same time, the team will cut the sweet chestnut (Castanea sativa) in the blue area. This is to allow for easier access for the next stage of works the following year and to continue the age-old rotational cutting technique of coppicing. In Winter 2018 the team will cut the large ‘wall’ of rhododendron from the woodland (orange area) and then treat the stumps and regrowth with a herbicide application to prevent regrowth.

Finally, the area shown in dark green will form part of our parkland creation/restoration. As much of the Herstmonceux Castle estate was converted for agriculture, this area is one of the last remaining fragments historically recorded as deer park. Due to commercial forestry planting and some experimental planting the parkland has lost its way through the years. By removing of some of the non-native and prolific tree species we hope to return this area to a floristically rich, diverse, historic parkland once again.

So, that’s the plan. Over the next few years you will see fewer rhododendron, temporary bareness, but in time, and with the help of patience and nature, you will witness new vistas opening up, greater diversity in flora and fauna, and an overall healthier estate.

If you have any questions about the work the Grounds Team are doing, please feel free to contact Guy on estate@bisc.queensu.ac.uk.

»Laying it bare since January 2017«

CD#22 – Have you had a Conversation yet?

The strapline of The Conversation is ‘Academic rigour, journalistic flair’. The publication describes itself as, ‘an independent source of news and views, sourced from the academic and research community and delivered direct to the public’. When one is constantly being bombarded with allegations of ‘fake news’, it is reassuring to have a news source founded on academic research and thriving on academic debate. The Conversation aims to be just a source. Certainly, from the non-researcher’s perspective the content makes interesting reading – from the number of coffee shops in the UK to recognising ADHD in your child, to the fate of Mugabe. It’s now high up on The Castle Drum’s list of favourite reads.

So what about the publication from a researcher’s perspective? It’s probable that very few would dispute that research in and of itself is interesting, but research which has real-world impact has even greater value. The Conversation serves as a platform to ensure that academics, who have expertise built up through years of research, have a chance to deliver such impact, by providing data, analysis and evidence – not necessarily terms associated with today’s internet journalism.

In July, Queen’s became a founding member of The Conversation Canada. The publication launched in Australia in 2011 and has been around in the UK since 2013. Whether you publish in the Canadian or the UK edition, we would urge you to publish in The Conversation. It is an excellent, free source in which to publish your research and further your name as an expert in your field. As a moderated source there are guidelines to follow, but these are straightforward and eminently sensible in an academic environment. If you are interested in becoming an author, you can do so here.

Peter Lowe, Research Director and Associate Professor in English Literature, published an article in The Conversation UK back in January. He notes, ‘It’s an excellent forum for making academic research topical and accessible. Once your proposal has been accepted they’re very helpful with the process of getting your work up on the site, and I think there are many of us here [at the BISC] who could contribute both to the Canadian version and to the UK one, especially as Brexit-related news stories make discussions of ‘British identity’ in the world so topical.’

If you are interested in following Peter’s example, sign up as an author. And please don’t forget to tell The Castle Drum when you have published something – we’d love to tell everyone else!

»Starting a conversation since January 2017«