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«

CD#21 – After Morgentaler – Rachael Johnstone’s new book

The Castle Drum are sure that all at the BISC will join us in congratulating Rachael Johnstone on the publication of her book: After Morgentaler: The Politics of Abortion in Canada, which was released by University of British Columbia Press last month.

The Crown versus Morgentaler was a case in 1988 in Canada in which a doctor (Morgentaler) challenged the Canadian Criminal Code’s requirement that any abortion carried out was done so in an approved hospital with the necessary certification from that hospital’s therapeutic abortion committee – a process which was inaccessible for many women. Morgentaler challenged the section of the Code in question, setting up a clinic that bypassed the process. Morgentaler won the case, and it is commonly held that the case established a right to abortion in Canada, but this is not necessarily accurate. In her book, Rachael looks at what access to abortion Canadian women have today and argues that genuine and complete access to abortion is essential for women’s equality.

Rachael teaches Politics and Gender Studies at the BISC. Both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees were in Political Studies and for her PhD she researched abortion access in Canada. This research provided the foundation for her monograph. She became interested in women’s rights, and specifically in access to abortion in Canada in her undergraduate degree, when reading about restrictive reproductive policies in other countries.

Research for the book took around five years, and from a complete manuscript to the finished product nine years have passed, a necessarily lengthy process of review, finalisation and then design. Rachael’s thrilled to finally see the book in print after such a long process, although she thinks being able to hold a copy is still a bit surreal.

For her next research project Rachael will be looking at the Canadian Drug Approval Process and its regulation of Mifegymiso – Canada’s new abortion drug. She’s also interested in the political implications of regulations on new reproductive technologies, like in vitro fertilization.

The Kindle version of the book is available on Amazon now, or if you wish to wait for the print version, this will available in March via Amazon, or you can read the copy held in the Library, if your patience is not that great…

»Published since January 2017«

CD#20 – Honouring the Fallen

On Remembrance Sunday, students from the BISC took a trip across the English Channel to Calais, to visit the nearby town of Arras and the surrounding Douai Plains. The Battle of Vimy Ridge, the bloody military engagement that came to define the Battle of Arras, took place there between Easter Monday 9th and 12th of April 1917.

The Canadian National Vimy Memorial – Vimy Ridge

It is a battle of considerable significance for Canadians as it was the first occasion that all four Canadian divisions, made up of troops drawn from all parts of their country, had fought as one.

The unified Canadian forces stormed a steep escarpment that had been under the control of the German 6th Army since 1914. It was a literal uphill battle against well dug-in defences and by the time the Canadian Corps had wrested control of the ridge, they had suffered some 10,602 casualties: 3,598 killed in action and 7,004 wounded.

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

‘To the valour of their countrymen in The Great War and in memory of the 60,000 dead, this monument is raised by the people of Canada.’

The Castle Drum asked two students on the trip to share some of their thoughts and memories of the day:

Joshua Lu

‘I had heard of Vimy before, because we learn about it at school, so I was keen to go on the trip and see it for myself. The memorial was about a ten-minute walk from the Visitor Centre, but it can be seen from a great distance away – it really dominates the landscape! We all walked around it and took our own route, to explore and read the names inscribed there. It wasn’t until I received the pictures from my drone that I appreciated the scale of the battlefield. As it took off, I had a birds-eye view of the craters that the mortars had created. The sheer size of them cannot be appreciated from ground level. I got a real sense of the scale of destruction, and I think that will be my abiding memory of the trip.’

At the summit, the inscription reads, ‘The Canadian Corps on 9th April 1917 with four divisions in line on a front of 4 miles attacked and captured this ridge.’

Cheyenne Bates

‘I went on the trip to honour my Great Great Uncle, Lance Corporal Samuel Lyons, who died at the battle. He was 24. I went to Eastbourne the day before to buy flowers to take with me. The Visitor’s Centre was interesting and many of the staff there were Canadian students like us, on a Gap Year. It was a chilly, windy day, so as we walked along the lines of the trenches toward the top of the ridge it made me think of how miserable conditions must have been. At the memorial, I found my Great Great Uncle’s inscription and took photos for my family. In class, casualties are sometimes just a number in your mind, but seeing the long list of the names of the Fallen brought home a real sense of the human cost. Later, as I stood at the top of the ridge and looked back down the slope I thought of the Canadian troops. They must have felt so relieved to finally make it to the top and take the ridge, and yet it would have been a bitter-sweet victory given the losses they had suffered.’

The Vimy memorial dominates the landscape

The Castle Drum would like to thank Cheyenne and Joshua for allowing us to use their photos of the day. For more of Joshua’s drone footage, which also features many images of Herstmonceux Castle, please visit his Instagram page @joshualu98.

 

»The Victoria Cross, the highest military decoration for valour, was awarded to no less than four members of the Canadian Corps for their actions at The Battle of Vimy Ridge.«

CD#19 – The BISC Remembers

On Saturday 11th November, the BISC hosted a Remembrance themed concert in aid of The Friends of East Sussex Association of Blind and Partially Sighted People. The Castle Choir, together with BISC Musicians in Residence, Diana Gilchrist (Soprano) and Shelley Katz (Piano) performed a range of popular music from World Wars 1 and 2.

The BISC Musicians in Residence – Shelley Katz and Diana Gilchrist

Diana Gilchrist said, ‘When planning any programme for the students, both Shelley and I feel that it is incredibly important that the music has a strong pedagogical aspect as well. In the weeks leading up to this concert we challenged the students to think hard about the words they were singing and ask themselves, with hindsight, how should these songs be sung? The students accepted the challenge with a genuine sense of empathy, for those going off to war and for those that they left behind, that I think certainly shone for all to see in their performances.’

The choir began in an upbeat way with a stomping rendition of Pack up your troubles. The energy and confidence of the piece channelled the sense of fanfare, camaraderie and patriotism that would have been used to send young men and women off to war. By contrast, the Chamber Choir’s beautiful rendition of Keep the Home Fire Burning moved some audience members to tears. Sadness was just as quickly replaced by laughter however, after the Men’s Choir’s hilarious showstopper, The Quartermaster’s Store.

Diana and students from the BISC Ladies’ Choir

The connection between the Castle Choir and audience was something that brought Diana great pleasure. Speaking afterwards she said, ‘The evening reiterated that great performance is a combination of three factors – the music, the performers and the audience. What we experienced on Saturday was truly a two-way communication, with the choir connecting with the audience in a very personal way.’

Diana believes the somewhat bizarre architecture of the performance space was an important factor. Those in attendance were seated in long rows in the castle’s Ballroom, meaning every member of the choir could make eye-contact with at least one member of the audience. For students from a generation where perhaps the world wars only exist in the movies, it was a chance to perform for an audience made up of people with personal memories of World War 2 – of being evacuated, and of saying goodbye to loved ones.

The evening begins with a rousing rendition of ‘Pack up your troubles’

The special atmosphere in the room was not lost on the students. First Year student Sara-Maya Kaba says, ‘After the performance, I was absent-mindedly looking around the room when an older gentleman’s gaze met with my own, and he came over to talk to me. He said, “These songs have no meaning to you – you weren’t alive during the war. But the way you all sang tonight, you wouldn’t be able to tell. It really brought me back, it was brilliant. Thank you.” The gratitude and happiness – if not awe in his voice is something that will stick with me forever.’

Mrs Shirley Price, Vice Patron of ESAB said afterwards, ‘I’m 85 and until I heard the Ladies’ Choir sing Johnny Canuck it had never occurred to me that Canadians have war songs too! Thank you for a most magnificent evening. You could not have put together a better, well balanced and more memorable concert if you had tried!’

___

The ESAB is dedicated to making the lives of blind and partially sighted people in East Sussex richer and more independent. For more information, visit www.eastsussexblind.org

»There is music in the midst of desolation. And a glory that shines upon our tears. (For the Fallen – Robert L. Binyon)«

CD#18 – Talking, walking, living history

Dave Brown

The new term is now under way, and there are many new faces to welcome to the community. A more familiar face is our new Scholar in Residence, Dave Brown, who was around during the summer, but who has recently joined us in earnest for the coming year. So if you are wondering what Dave is up to at the Castle, read on, as Dave explains about his work and what it means for tourism and research at the Castle.

“It’s not unusual to see people wandering about on the grounds of Herstmonceux Castle peering intently into their smartphones” says Dave. “But you might notice me doing it a bit more frequently than most, accompanied by a chorus of dings, beeps, and disembodied voices.

Despite appearances, however, I’m not a tech addict; I’m a prof in the Dept. of Geography and Tourism Studies at Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario. My apparent obsession with digital devices stems from my work on Interpretours, a mobile digital interpretive platform that uses smartphones to automatically deliver multimedia information on many topics to users, based on their current physical location.

The diverse and storied Castle estate provides an ideal location to create content for the platform. Though there’s no substitute for a real-life, knowledgeable tour guide, the platform can enhance the experiences of visitors and Castle community members by providing wayfinding information, interpretive routes of the extensive grounds, and specialised thematic information about the history, architecture, natural history, and evolution of the Castle and its grounds.

Delivering site-specific, GPS-triggered multimedia content to your mobile.

Like Herstmonceux, many places have unique heritage features, rich histories, and wonderful stories – but it’s not always easy for visitors to fully appreciate what an area has to offer without doing a lot of research beforehand. Interpretours is designed to address this challenge – by being a kind of ‘knowledgeable GPS unit‘. Based on your interests and physical location, the app guides you to your chosen points of interest and back again – by car, bike, public transit, or on foot – with automatic turn-by-turn directions using one familiar, portable, and easy-to-use device – your smartphone. You can visit individual destinations, explore areas at random, or follow custom or prepared tour routes. But unlike a regular satnav, it also tells you thematically relevant stories along the way, and provides automatically-triggered interpretive information for each point of interest you visit when you get there. It also works in many different environments, from dense cityscapes to remote rural locations where the Google cameras have never visited. No street address or pre-existing mapped route is required.

The platform’s authoring tools also allow users to easily create and share their own geo-located interpretive blurbs for points of interest, as well as custom route itineraries keyed to their own needs and interests. As an educational tool, the platform uses a full spectrum of multimedia tools allowing instructors to create self-guided learning walks for field studies on any topic, and researchers to create specialized geo-located research utilities to share with their peers. And students can complete media-rich field assignments, the best of which can live on as interpretive resources for other students and the public.”

Dave will be working with BISC faculty and partner institutions on digital interpretive materials for locations in London and elsewhere in East Sussex. If your interest has been piqued, find out more about the Interpretours platform from the website or from Dave himself. And if you have your own ideas or opportunities for the platform, or just want to say ‘hello’, feel free to track Dave down in his office (209) or email him on  dbrown@brocku.ca. He will happily tell you more about the project!

»Telling stories since January 2017«

CD#17 – Shakespeare al fresco

Here is an event for those of you who enjoy Shakespeare. Tomorrow evening (10th August) the touring company Illyria will be staging their version of The Comedy of Errors at the Castle – so if you are a fan of the Bard, this is literally right up your street!

Comedy of Errors – a Mexican version

Illyria has been round a number of years – 26 years in fact. Julie (in a previous role as an events organiser) booked them in their very first season all those years ago. The company have gone from strength to strength and now tour around the UK with a number of productions. If you would like to know what to expect from this Mexican version of the Bard’s shortest and funniest comedy, read this review from the company’s Penzance performance (click on the image to make it legible).

Tomorrow night’s performance will be staged in front of the Castle. It starts at 6pm and lasts 2hrs, including of a 20-minute interval. As a member of the Castle community you can buy tickets for a discounted rate of £10. Simply arrive and purchase your tickets ‘on the door’ (although that will actually be under the gazebo in the visitors’ car park – due to the absence of an actual door!)

Don’t forget to bring a chair or rug, warm clothes and something to nibble on. The forecast is fine for tomorrow evening, so you may wish to be brave and leave the umbrella at home.

We hope you will join us to experience a laughter-filled evening of entertainment.

»Not quite the Bard, but trying hard, since January 2017«

CD#16 – Feeling the benefit…

Visit the Science Centre at a discounted rate

There are more rewards from working at the Castle than just pay and a pension. There is the community spirit, the chance to hang out with a great group of people, the beautiful location…and a number of hidden benefits which you may not even be aware of.

For example, did you know that, as a staff or faculty member, you can gain free or discounted entry to a range of places, events and activities? So, if you are wondering how to keep your family or friends entertained at the weekend, here are a few suggestions:

  • Visit the Castle gardens and grounds with up to four family members or friends for free, during the open season.

    Explore the grounds with your family
  • Borrow the staff passes for Sussex Top Attractions, which will give you free entry to selected local attractions for two people.
  • Visit the Observatory Science Centre at a discounted price of £5 per person, for an unlimited family members or friends if you accompany them carrying your BISC/HCE ID card.
Attend the Medieval Festival
  • Take advantage of the 50 free tickets to the annual Medieval Festival in August – tickets are issued on a first-come, first-served basis, limited to 2 per member of staff, so be quick with your requests!
  • Stay at Bader Hall for a reduced rate, if you fancy getting away from it all.

And don’t forget some of the perks for when you are at work. The challenge is finding the time to take advantage of them:

  • Join the Dining Hall meal scheme and experience great value at £2.40 per meal.

    Take afternoon tea at Chestnuts
  • Buy discounted hot drinks from Chestnuts Tea Room. Just mention that you work at the Castle at the counter and your discount will be applied.
  • Don’t pay a fortune for gym membership, use the Bader Hall gym for free. It has an open floor space for games (team mates not provided) and aerobics, free weights, exercise bikes, running machines and rowing machines (to make you into that mean machine).
  • Attend a range of interesting talks and activities organised as part of the BISC academic program.
  • Want a quiet night in? Borrow a movie from the Library’s DVD collection (many not available in Netflix!), or grab a book.
  • Always fancied learning photography or some other skill? Sign up for courses on Lynda.com.

These are just some of the tangible rewards of working at the Castle. For a full list contact Nicola, Administration Manager.

»Benefiting the Castle Community  since January 2017«

CD#15 – The BISC – an inspirational setting

Steven Bednarski

The BISC, its location, and its history, have garnered international praise through an award recently made to Steven Bednarski for innovation in teaching, the Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education’s 2017 D2L Innovation in Teaching and Learning Award. The STLHE recognized Steven for his “collaborative, cross-disciplinary, hands-on” approach to teaching, as evidenced at Queen’s University’s UK campus of Herstmonceux Castle and at Waterloo, Ontario.

Many of you will know Steven as a former Scholar in Residence and faculty member, regular on-site researcher, and long-time partner of the BISC. In 2011, Steven began a formal partnership between the BISC and Queen’s University and his home institutions, the University of Waterloo and St. Jerome’s University. The purpose of this relationship is to research the relationship between East Sussex’s changing environment and climate, and the ways in which inhabitants of the Castle estate and surrounding medieval village lived and adapted to their landscape. In 2013, this research received generous funding through a Partnership Development Grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), which included funding from Queen’s University.  The most visible part of this work happens each summer, when students from the partner institutions come to Herstmonceux to further work on the various archaeological sites across the grounds. A regular member of the archaeological team has been the recipient of Undergraduate Summer Student Research Fellowship (USSRF) funding made available by Queen’s in recognition of the importance of the partnership.

Hands-on experience

Steven’s approach to teaching is inspired by a core principle of the BISC programming: learning by doing. Students who participate in the program and who study, live, and work at Herstmonceux have the opportunity to engage with the past by actively seeking evidence of it, both in the ground and in the archives. Finds from the digs have been cleaned, analysed, catalogued and are now archived on site. Primary sources from the archives have been catalogued and digitised. The cross-disciplinary nature of the project has enabled students to acquire knowledge, training and transferable skills in archaeology, history and archives.

A number of students, having left the BISC, return to Waterloo to continue working on the project in new ways, for example, through the creation of a digital repository of information that ultimately could support research in similar areas of climate change. Just last year Steven established the D.R.A.G.E.N. (Digital Research Arts for Graphical and Environmental Networks) Lab to continue exploring the role of technology in helping us understand and visualise the past. By blending programming, Steven’s students acquire hands-on training, experiential learning, and internationalization at the BISC which they then bring back to Canada and put to work, for credit, in transferrable settings. In this way, the BISC and Queen’s helps provide high-quality research training to students who are at the forefront of emerging technologies and research approaches.

Engaging with the past

You can learn more about the project, including viewing an interactive map showing how the sea reached the Castle’s South Gate, by visiting the Herstmonceux Project Website.

 

As Steven says, “BISC programming is transformative for my students and junior research partners. It enables them to return to Canada with new skills and a real appreciation for collaboration, hands-on learning, and the creation of original research. The Society for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education’s D2L Innovation in Teaching and Learning Award is affirmation that the partnership between Waterloo and the BISC is truly unique and beneficial. I was honoured to accept the award on behalf of the Partners and delighted to know that what we are doing together is gaining recognition by our peers, nationally and internationally.”

»Inspirational since January 2017«

CD#14 – Summer visitors

A comma butterfly – one of our many summer visitors

Have you noticed that it has got a little hotter recently? If you haven’t, well done. You must be sitting in the shade somewhere. If you are a hardy individual and are tempted to brave the heat, now may be an excellent time to enjoy a trundle around the Castle estate.

Yellow rattle

Guy, the Castle’s Head of Grounds, recently got in touch with The Drum about some of the interesting visitors to the grounds we have been welcoming in recent weeks – and not of the human kind! Here’s Guy’s update on what you may be able to see on your estate travels.

“Thanks to the glorious weather the Estate Team have been busy mowing and strimming around the grounds. However, the summer is the best time to see the fruits of our labour from the previous winter’s work.

    

(Left to right: common spotted orchid, plant and flower, yellow rattle)

On a short walk with keen naturalist Ian Standivan, we identified a fantastic array of the wildlife that benefits from our work on the estate. These include dragonflies (broad bodied chasers); mammals (pygmy shrews); birds (goldfinches, whitethroats, blackcaps, chiffchaffs,great spotted woodpecker, long-tailed tits, coal tits, reed warblers, garden warblers, mallards, moorhens, swallows); butterflies (common blues, meadow browns, small tortoiseshells, red admirals, white admirals, painted ladies; moths (silver Y).

(Left to right: ragged robin, knapweed and mallow)

The wild flower meadow is starting to show great signs of improvement and species diversity and, with ongoing work, we hope it will develop year on year.

Foxglove regeneration

Through the woodland thinning we are now seeing some fantastic signs of regeneration with elder hazel, honeysuckle, bluebell, wood anemone and foxglove making a strong appearance in the understorey.

Later in the summer we hope to start a barn owl ringing program to keep track and monitor breeding barn owls on the estate.”

Bumblebee feeding on common vetch

 

So now is your chance to grab your Spotter’s Guide to… and head off into the meadow and woodlands!

All photos in this post were taken by Guy.

»Publishing hot topics since January 2017«