Environment, volunteers, healthy living


How important are Honey Bees to our everyday lives?

  1.  Honeybees, together with other types of bees and pollinating insects, increase the yields of about 75% of the crop species grown worldwide

  2. · The value of pollination performed by these insects has been estimated at €153 billion per year

Important facts about Honey Bees and Honey

  1. ·The number of honeybee hives in Europe declined by 16% between 1985-2005. In the USA colony numbers dropped 61% between 1947-2008.

  2. ·Honey is nectar that bees have repeatedly regurgitated and dehydrated

  3. ·A single hive contains approximately 40,000-45,000 bees

  4. · A queen can lay her weight in eggs in one day and 200,000 eggs in a year

  5. ·The queen mates in flight with approximately 18 drones. She only mates once in her lifetime

  6. ·Honeybees communicate with one another by 'dancing' so as to give the direction and distance of flowers

  7. ·The Varroa mite is a major pest species of the honey bee

  8. ·In the course of her lifetime, a worker bee will produce 1/12th of a teaspoon of honey

  9. ·To make one pound of honey, workers in a hive fly 55,000 miles and tap two million flowers

Rothamsted scientists working in collaboration to find out what makes the varroa parasite of honey bees resistant to chemical treatment.

One of the biggest problems facing honey bees, the parasitic mite Varroa destructor (varroa) is now found almost worldwide and usually kills untreated hives within three years. For varroa control, many beekeepers use the chemical tau-fluvalinate, marketed as Apistan®, but its effectiveness has been in decline since the mid­­-1990s. Scientists studying varroa mites collected from Florida and Georgia, USA, have identified two new mutations that give the parasites resistance to tau-fluvalinate.

The discovery of the two mutations enables testing of varroa populations to determine whether control with tau-fluvalinate will be effective. The research was carried out by scientists working in Spain, the USA and Germany in collaboration with a team at Rothamsted Research, which is strategically funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). The study is published today in the journal PLOS ONE.

Joel González-Cabrera, scientist at Rothamsted Research who led the study, said: “We identified the mutations in a known hot-spot for pyrethroid resistance on the sodium channel protein—a region proposed as the binding site for these compounds. Together with our previous work on European mites, this finding allows us to develop diagnostic screening tests to analyse individual mites for the presence or absence of the mutations. The diagnostic test should help beekeepers to decide whether to use pyrethroid-based chemicals to control this highly damaging parasite.”

Hundreds of women in Hertfordshire have rediscovered a love of cycling, are getting fitter and healthier along the way  and making fabulous new friends thanks to free, women only bike rides sponsored by British Cycling.

Breeze women-only bike rides is British Cycling's biggest programme ever to get more women into riding bikes for fun. Its aim is to help thousands of women feel confident about going on a bike ride, and have lots of fun with like-minded ladies.

In Harpenden, St Albans and Redbourn alone more than 250 women are involved in the Breeze "community". Local leaders organise rides for every ability from new starters to experienced cyclists and for every age group. There are plans to expand the programme this Autumn with weekday rides as well as the established weekend outings.

Every ride is colour coded depending on experience and abilities. There's Mellow Yellows for total beginners, Graceful Greens travelling 15 miles at a steady pace of 8-10 mph, Blazing Blues going further afield 30-40 miles, Pacey Purples - 40 miles plus and Roaring Reds for experienced and faster riders.

Every ride includes a coffee and cake stop at wonderful local cafes around the county. For more information visit https://www.britishcycling.org.uk/recreation/article/20141110-Breeze-bike-rides-for-women-0 or visit the Facebook page Breeze Harpenden & St. Albans

Rothamsted Research is granted permission by Defra to carry out field trial with GM wheat plants

The trial will test whether GM wheat plants are able to carry out photosynthesis more efficiently in the field and whether this trait could result in a higher yielding crop.

Scientists at Rothamsted Research, in collaboration with researchers at the University of Essex and Lancaster University, have developed wheat plants that can carry out photosynthesis more efficiently i.e. convert light energy into plant biomass more efficiently. This trait has the potential to result in higher yielding plants. The purpose of the proposed trial is to evaluate the performance of the engineered plants in the field.


Ensuring food security is a major challenge given the projected need to increase world food production by 40% in the next 20 years and 70% by 2050. Wheat is one of the major grain crops worldwide and provides approximately one-fifth of the total calories consumed globally. However, wheat yields have reached a plateau in recent years and predictions are that yield gains will not reach the level required to feed the 9 billion population predicted for 2050. Traditional breeding and agronomic approaches have maximised light capture and allocation to the grain. A promising but as yet-unexploited route to increase wheat yields is to improve the efficiency by which energy in the form of light is converted to wheat biomass.

Dr Malcolm Hawkesford, Head of the Plant Biology and Crop Science Department at Rothamsted Research and lead scientist at Rothamsted for this trial said: “We will perform the proposed controlled experiment in our already established facilities here at Rothamsted Research. This trial will be a significant step forward as we will be able to assess in ‘real environmental conditions’ the potential of these plants to produce more using the same resources and land area as their non-GM counterparts. These field trials are the only way to assess the viability of a solution that can bring economic benefits to farmers, returns to the UK tax payer from the long-term investment in this research, benefits to the UK economy as a whole and the environment in general.

Photos below show the visit by Michael Portillo in Oct 2016 when he reviewed the key work undertaken by the scientists.

Why can’t we have a safe cycling track from Harpenden Town Centre to Southdown?

We have the land (owned by the Town Council)

Funding could be made available from S106 contributions by the Developers of new builds like the Harpenden House Hotel homes. 



for children. pedestrians, cyclists and drivers.

Fairly simple you would think?


No funding available from Herts County Council

No Police resources to enforce the speed limit

Difficulty gaining support from the majority of

residents in the designated roads.

(As advised by County Councillor Teresa Heritage

on Jan. 26)

What action can you take?

If drivers speed on your road then, gain the support

of as many residents as possible and complain to

your local councillor.


Feb 2017. The green belt should

be preserved

The green belt should be preserved and

treated as a key part of the country’s natural

capital 'asset register', according to the chair

of the Natural Capital Committee.

Professor Dieter Helm (right) was speaking at the ‘Green Belt of the Future’ seminar held  on Feb 16 at the GLA building in London.

Speaking in a personal capacity, Helm spoke of observing “decades of an almost entirely fruitless debate between people who think that the economy is on one side of the debate and the environment on the other”.

This, said Helm, was “an entirely sterile debate, and the wrong way to think about the argument; it misses out the enormous opportunities that come by viewing the environment as a key part of the economy".

Linking the need to protect the green belt to the need to define the country’s natural capital assets, Helm explained how natural capital has at its heart the idea that the environment “is a set of assets in overlapping ecosystems that are just as important as any other assets in the economy”.

Defining it as “a hard and measurable concept with proper accounting and balance sheets”, Helm suggested that, like the green belt, “natural capital needs to be situated right next to the people to whom it will provide the maximum benefits.”

At the same event, Janet Askew, director of academic engagement and enhancement at the University of the West of England, gave a passionate defence of the green belt.

“If nothing else,” she said, “we should leave this room today knowing that London has been influential around the world at defining what a compact city is. The green belt is a sustainable policy and it works."

"Those calling for building on green belt were unimaginative, recognising that, for them, building on flat green land is "much better and profitable than dealing with brown.”

How to Choose a Bike, According to Science – 10 Factors to Consider

from Jess Miller.

Do You Need A New Or A Used Bike?

Finding The Right Size

Determining The Right Brake System

Choosing The Right Gearing For A Bike

Do You Have The Right Wheel Size?

Don’t Forget To Pick The Suspension System

Make Sure Your Bike Lasts Long

Which Handlebar Are You Most Comfortable with?

Where Would You Ride Your Bike?

Picking The Right Bike Type

Go to the web site and read up


then pop along to the bike shops in Harpenden or Redbourn and impress them with your knowledege. THEN choose your bike with confidence.

The Bike Loft. 70, High Street, Redbourn AL3 7LN


Harpenden Cycles. 115 Southdown Rd, Harpenden AL5 1QQ


Crop protection research secured at Rothamsted

Rothamsted Research has secured government funding to kick-start its new five-year strategic programme, Smart Crop Protection, to control sustainably the pests, pathogens and weeds that destroy nearly a third of crops grown worldwide. The investment of circa £6.3 million covers the programme’s first three years.


The announcement of the investment from the government’s flagship Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) comes today [11 Aug 2017] from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.  


Rothamsted’s SCP strategy will improve crop productivity by using the latest technology to detect, monitor, predict and control insect pests, plant pathogens and weeds. The programme integrates chemical, genetic, biological, ecological, mathematical and agronomic approaches to deliver more targeted control strategies.

“We are delighted to have received ISCF investment for the delivery of research that offer solutions for one of agriculture’s most testing challenges,” says Achim Dobermann, Rothamsted’s director and chief executive. “Globally, 30% of crop yield is lost to pests, pathogens and weeds. Improving the efficiency and sustainability of crop protection is one of the most accessible ways to intensify agriculture sustainably.”


Paul Neve, leader of the SCP programme at Rothamsted, commented: “Through this investment, we aim to deliver a new vision for managing crop health. Using the latest technologies, our goal is to limit the incidence, distribution, dispersal, evolutions and impact of crop biotic threats. We also aim to maximise the efficacy and sustainability of control interventions”

Universities and Science Minister Jo Johnson said: “This significant investment will support pioneering bioscience research and development projects that will reduce our reliance on carbon, boost the productivity of our nation’s crops and develop new world-leading agricultural technologies.”

For further information, please contact:

Angela Karp, Director for Science Innovation, Engagement and Partnerships

Tel: +44 (0) 1582 938 855

Email: comms@rothamsted.ac.uk

Harpenden is surrounded by green fields, parks and

The Common.

So many places to walk and enjoy the fresh air.

The Common stretches from the Public Halls to Ayres End Lane

Food security and health: revenge of the nasty fungi

Knowledge of fungal disease in agriculture emphasises a "global collapse" in the ability of chemicals to control pathogenic fungi that threaten human health as well as food security.

Fungi can evolve so swiftly to counter the chemical treatments designed to protect health and food, in much the same way as bacteria change in the face of increasingly powerful antibiotics, that urgent action is necessary to control this rapid emergence of resistant strains.

“To avoid a global collapse in our ability to control fungal infections and to avoid critical failures in medicine and food security, we must improve our stewardship of extant chemicals, promote new antifungal discovery and leverage emerging technologies for alternative solutions,” warns a research team in Science today.

Crop-destroying fungi regularly reduce annual yields worldwide by a fifth, with another 10% loss after the crop has been harvested, and fungal effects on human health are spiralling, says the team from Imperial College, Rothamsted Research and the universities of Lausanne and Exeter.

“Most people now have heard of bacterial ‘superbugs’, but resistance is a problem in all kinds of infectious diseases and agricultural pests,” says Nichola Hawkins (above) , a molecular plant pathologist and evolutionary biologist at Rothamsted and co-author of the Science review.

“The causes of resistance have a lot in common across these different systems,” she says. “Ultimately, they all come down to evolution by natural selection. But there are some important differences too.

“With antibiotic resistance, we often see the sharing of resistance genes between species. For fungal pathogens, what we’re seeing is mostly parallel evolution, where resistance evolves repeatedly in multiple different species that are each under the same, strong selective pressure.”

Hawkins advocates the sharing of knowledge across agricultural and clinical fields in an effort to seek the common drivers of resistance, and for the fields to work together to come up with new solutions. But the most obvious solution, to keep coming up with more new compounds, is not the whole answer, she notes.

“Recent experience tells us that this is not sustainable unless we also become more aware of resistance management, and develop non-chemical control measures too,” says Hawkins. “By aiming for as broad a toolkit as possible, we reduce the pressure on any one component, and improve our chances of a longer-term solution.”

The work at Rothamsted forms part of the Smart Crop Protection (SCP) strategic programme (BBS/OS/CP/000001) funded through the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund.

Human health and food security under threat from resistance to antifungal drugs.

In much the same way that antibiotic resistance is gaining ground in medicine.

Read how Rothamsted scientists are working on the the problem.

July 3. NEW WASTE BURNING INCINERATOR PLANNED NEAR HARPENDEN or the nice title of Chiltern Green Energy Park

Why do we need this?

Energy from waste offers a sustainable source of energy and heat, processing waste products which are far more widely available than fossil fuels and much more reliable than the wind or the sun. In 2016, 54% of our energy came from fossil fuels (42% natural gas, 9% coal and 3% other fuels.

The second largest source of energy in the UK is nuclear power, contributing 21% in 2016 but our reactors are old and many are closing down. Of the current stock, only one is expected to still be active by 2025. 

As a result, the UK needs sustainable and reliable sources of power.

Energy from waste offers a sustainable source of energy and heat, processing waste products which are far more widely available than fossil fuels and much more reliable than the wind or the sun.


The proposed location of the Chiltern Green Energy Park is on agricultural land just north of New Mill End in Central Bedfordshire. The 9.2 hectares of land is currently Grade 3 agricultural land in between the Lower Harpenden Road (B653) and the Luton-London railway line. No suitably sized areas on brownfield are available in Cen Beds and Herts. 


Once the facility is up and running, the plant will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with occasional downtime for maintenance and repairs. It is expected that the majority of deliveries will take place between 6am and 7pm.

What's the visual impact?

The building will be designed to fit in with its surroundings to minimise negative visual impact. The site sits between the railway line, built between raised banks, and the East Hyde Sewage Treatment Works. The building will be dug into the ground, reducing its height and therefore visibility. Soil dug out during building will be used to create a grass bank around the site. 

The most prominent feature will be the stack which is likely to be no higher than 100 metres, a height deemed suitable by aerodrome safeguarding regulations. Assessments will be carried out to determine the visual impact of this, including options for the colour of the stack to reduce visibility in the surrounding landscape.

What about emissions?

Combustion emissions are filtered to ensure minimum levels released from the facility. This is continuously monitored to comply with national emission standards. There is no odour associated with this process. The stack height will be calculated to ensure effective dispersion of any remaining material, taking into consideration height restrictions necessary for airport safeguarding. 


The noise impact of Chiltern Green Energy Park will be assessed during the Environmental Impact Assessment. Some noise would be expected from a facility such as this one, however its location in the valley means that it is expected to have minimal impact on the surrounding area. Setting the building lower than current ground level and the resulting banks which will be built around the site with excavated earth, will significantly reduce the noise heard outside the plant.

There may be some traffic noise during the day, from delivery vehicles and staff transport. However, the site location is such that no delivery routes will pass residential businesses when travelling to and from the site. Noise impact will be considered during the design and layout of the facility, in order to ensure that the loudest equipment is situated furthest from nearby residential properties.

Does this mean lots of traffic?

There will be some traffic to and from the site, initially for building work and then for deliveries and collections once the facility is open. 

If the facility is processing waste at maximum capacity (500,000 tpa) it is expected that this will generate 132 HGV trips per working day, 264 movements of lorries in and out of the facility. Based on an even spread of arrivals and departures during this 11 hour day, this is approximately 24 arrivals or departures per hour.

It is expected that the majority of deliveries will take place between 6am and 7pm and they are exploring time restrictions to maintain normal traffic flow at busier times. 

The location of the site allows traffic to travel from the M1 without passing any properties, residential or commercial so traffic impact on residents is minimal. 

We are working with highway officers from Central Bedfordshire Council to discuss potential improvements to the Lower Harpenden Road and a follow up meeting is planned in the near future. 

These take into account current speed limit change locations and the possibility of reducing the speed limit along some stretches of the road, as well as visibility needs, turning space, road widening and verge clearing to maximise safety along the route.

Will there be lots of lorries passing my house?


All traffic to the site will have to come from the north. Traffic from the M1 will travel along the A1081 and B653 allowing access to the site without passing a single residential property and safeguarding local residents from high levels of traffic.


It is expected that staffing the facility once operational will create up to 50 permanent roles and as many as 400 further contract or temporary jobs.

Energy produced at the plant will a secure and sustainable source of heat and power for existing and future homes and businesses in the local area.

A charitable fund established alongside Chiltern Green Energy Park will donate up to £50,000 per year for 25 years to local community projects.




*The promoter is saying that there will be 260 HGV movements per day. Kimpton Road, Gipsy Lane and Airport Way would bear the brunt of the additional traffic.

*This raises significant traffic conflict and capacity pressures arising from the proposed growth to the airport. In particular, the B653 is already notorious as one of the busiest B roads in the country

*There is another ERF proposal in Central Beds at Rookery South in a former claypit that has planning consent and EA approval

*I would contend that very special circumstances do not exist for such a development in the Green Belt and that the proposal represents inappropriate development

*The Lea valley location must raise a question about temperature inversions, stack height and ability to get the emissions away

*In conclusion, I oppose the facility in terms of traffic and highways; inappropriate development in the Green Belt and impacts on residential amenity and health


The County Council, the District Council and the Town Council are all consultees and I expect them to respond in a robust and appropriate fashion on behalf of local residents.


The application and the ability to submit a consultation response is here.