David Bale is a long-standing friend and supporter of Camphill Village Trust. David is also the inspiration behind our 2.6 Challenge virtual peloton.
In June this year, David made plans to pack his panniers and visit each Camphill Village Trust Community across the UK, cycling between each site. With the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic, these plans were put on hold and a plan was formed to join a team of runners and riders in a virtual tour instead.
From Larchfield Community to Grange Village, St Albans Community to Stourbridge, we’ve worked out that it’s a round trip of 687 miles!
David has written a blog for us about his challenge and his plans.
I am part of a virtual peloton doing a tour of all the Camphill Village Trust locations, to raise funds for the charity. This is the link where donations may be made
For the past 65 years, Camphill Village Trust has established a network of residential communities and community-based enterprises for adults with learning difficulties and other conditions that make it difficult to cope on your own. I had made plans to cycle around and visit all these Trust facilities and communities this summer, starting off in early June. I was going to take camping equipment with me and travel light.
With the arrival of the Covid-19 lockdown, my plans have had to change. My intention is now to do the real thing next year! In the meantime, I have joined with others who are part of the Camphill Village Trust family in Yorkshire, on a virtual cycle tour of all the Trust communities.
As with other serious cycling concerns, such as the Tour de France, the pace of this peloton is blistering.
I can provide some sweet mood music, as I have chosen not to do the virtual miles on an exercise bike, but to do a 2.6-mile route, there and back, five or six days a week, and I am recording (verbally) the wildlife I encounter on my daily stints.
Birdwatching on the move
As a keen birder myself, you may notice my choice of the word “stint”. Stints are the smallest of British waders and one I am almost certain I shall not see on my cycling peregrinations. (Peregrine falcons, by the way, are a distinct possibility!) However, there are two types of stint that I have seen at Pumphouse Pit East at the northern end of the Paxton Pits Nature Reserve, where I have been a volunteer warden since 2006. I hadn’t realised it before but that date is very appropriate for a 2.6 challenge where about 2.6 miles of each ride is spent riding very close to the nature reserve’s boundary!
Anyway, I said there are two types of Stint that I have seen close to my route: Little Stint and Temminck’s Stint. Both are very good sightings in Cambridgeshire where I live, especially the Temminck’s, which I have only seen two or three times anywhere in the UK. So, it is at least some consolation that there still waders (my favourite category of all bird types) that I am likely to see or hear as I cycle along. In particular, there are Lapwing, Redshank and Oystercatcher, all of which I have now either heard or seen.
I have now completed 8 days of cycling an hour a day, usually in the morning but on two occasions later in the day. On each occasion, I have easily reached my target of at least 26 species. On several occasions, I have recorded over forty! Which is very good news for wildlife!
The reduction of air and road transport has coincided with a surge in wildlife sightings. This “coinciding” is no coincidence. It must be, at least partly, because everywhere is so quiet during Lockdown. And this gives wildlife a chance to get about and about itself!
This is particularly true of our nature reserve’s flagship bird, the nightingale. They are very hard to see; but difficult not to notice, especially when there are several singing all at once right next to the gated road on which you are cycling. And especially when you are cycling very slowly, as I always do at that point!
Every 20-40 yards or so, I stop to make a note of where nightingales are singing. When I get home, I record the exact position and add the data to a chart I am making showing where nightingale territories are situated this year.
I’m attaching this data in the form of a bar chart: these are pretty staggering results. For years birders have flocked to Little Paxton nature reserve to see our nightingales and for each year that I have visited with my binoculars (that would be from the mid 1990s) there would have always been 20 to 30 singing nightingale each year on the reserve. After three or four years of decline in nightingale numbers, there have been two or three years from 2017 to 2019 in which there have been hardly any records of them in the locations where they have always previously nested. Last year the only places to hear them at all with any frequency was the stretch at the north end of the reserve (close to where I live) and where I am doing my virtual cycling challenge this year. And even then, it was at most, no more than four or five birds throughout the whole of Spring.
But this year…. Just look at that graph! Numbers seem to have doubled or nearly tripled already. I conclude that this is due to the sudden reduction in human activity and pollution.
I hope we have learned our lesson and don’t go back to over-consumption and unlimited air miles and constant road building. But I am not holding my breath.
Please remember that at Paxton Pits we go out of way to make it a place where vulnerable people can come and enjoy nature and feel welcomed everywhere they go. When many who visit us may need more support as they grow older, and sadly sometimes their parents die and other family support is stretched to the limit, they may well depend on the kind of safe havens that the Camphill Village Trust have created in the UK, where every member of the community is valued for who they are and not just for what they able to do.
And interestingly, when provided with a secure community in which to live, it is amazing how much many Camphill Village Trust residents find they can in fact do!
So please donate!
All the best
David Bale (on a rest day today!)