Saturday, 10 October 2015

Low Newton and the new and old first years

Two days of autumn murk, the rain barely able to decide if it should be fog or cloud. Then two days of brilliant low sun, searing across the landscape, picking out every curve and trench, hollow and bump. Three weeks into their new course and we took the Environmental Science first years for a walk over the southern Cheviot foothills, then, the next day, along the coast to Low Newton. The sea was perfect pale blue with huge rafts of gulls, made white specks by the sun, bobbing off shore. This little dune slack pool is tucked behind the high dunes at Low Newton, a deep, warm hollow protected by the steep dune seaward and a cosy mess of wet woodland north and south. Red Admirals showed off with glide fly-bys around us

The pond was dug out some fifteen years ago by the National Trust who own the site. They could have dug out the whole area of the slack but, instead, put in six separate pools of varying sizes. Each one is now rather different. Clusters of smaller pools usually have more species of plants and animals than one large pond because each pool goes its own way. The pools at Low Newton are now chocked with bur reed and bulrush, over a vivid carpet of moss. Ideal pools to bury carbon, the moss layer keeping the sediment wet and anoxic even if the site dries out.

Post grad Scott came along on the walk, outlining his work to the students. That's Scott on the left. Two days of hard working, (and one night in Wooler of hard pool and pints), and they were still keen to note down the first hand account of research, a revealing mix of physical struggle in the mud and delicate geochemistry in the lab. Six years ago Scott himself was stood there, a first year himself.  An inspiration to our newer recruits. They probably learnt more in 10 minutes talking with Scott then in a two hour lecture. The one thing they can all do, whatever their future holds, is dig a pond.

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