News Round Up 2018


Tune in to Nickey Radio via their NEW web site.

They are a non-profit community radio station serving residents and business in Harpenden, Hertfordshire, and the surrounding areas.  Nickey Radio provides news, views and plays the kind of music YOU want to hear.

They invite residents and schools in the district to join them and add their voice. They want presenters and budding DJ's as well as local businesses to support them.

Nickey Radio broadcasts online at the moment but aims to be on FM soon once frequencies become available.

Nickey radio is named after the railway which ran from Harpenden to Hemel Hempstead from 1877 until 1947.

It is sad the line was closed but the route is now a lovely walk through the countryside.

Tilting willows produce increased biofuel efficiency

A team of researchers at Imperial College London, in collaboration with Rothamsted Research, have used medical imaging techniques to explore why making willow trees grow at an angle can vastly improve their biofuel yields. Using micro-CT scans, the team showed that the trees respond to being tilted by producing a sugar-rich, gelatinous fibre, which helps them stay upright.


Willows are suitable for widespread cultivation as biofuels because they produce large quantities of accessible sugar, are fast-growing and can tolerate harsh environmental conditions, such as windy slopes and poor soil. In fact, trees grown in harsher conditions or polluted soil can even produce better biofuel because the sugar they produce is more accessible, requiring less energy to harvest it.


Growing the willow trees at a 45-degree angle simulates this natural stress, encouraging  the trees to produce up to five times more sugar than plants grown normally. But exactly why and how this happens has not been clear until now.


Rothamsted researchers, in a study lead by Imperial College London, worked with experts at the Natural History Museum, and the University of Surrey to use X-ray micro-computed tomography (CT scanning) to examine the willow’s growth through high resolution 3D images.


This enabled them to see the changes in the willow at a cellular level and how they affected the plant’s growth. They found that tilted willows prolonged the life of certain cells in order to produce a sugar-rich, or gelatinous, fibre, to help them stay upright. The team were able to measure how much longer the cells needed to stay alive to produce the special fibre.


“It was difficult to see why the trees were releasing so much more sugar when stressed in nature or grown at an angle. Being able to visualise the differences occurring at a microscale, or cellular level, allowed an insight into the biology behind the macroscale effects on the whole tree,” explains Dr Nicholas Brereton, from Imperial’s Department of Life Sciences.


“Willows are naturally very variable, and this includes the degree with which they respond to tilting or bending in the wind. We will be able exploit these new findings in the breeding programme at Rothamsted to produce better willow trees for industrial uses without the need for any genetic engineering “ explains Prof. Angela KarpDepartment of Agroecology, Rothamsted Research.


“Willow is a great crop because it grows in really inhospitable places. It can add value to marginal land and is also useful for helping to clean up areas of polluted land,” adds Dr Brereton. “Our research will help the biofuel sector select and use growing sites and conditions where no other crops can survive.”


The research, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and published in BMC Plant Biology, was part of the Perennial Biomass Crops Programme, one of six hubs making up the BBSRC Sustainable Bioenergy Centre (BSBEC). The next step for the team will be to use even higher resolution CT scanning to investigate the gelatinous fibres in more detail. The aim will be to measure how much of the fibre is produced by different plants, which will help identify which species of willow are likely to be the world’s best 2nd generation biofuel producers.

For more information about the Willow breeding programme at Rothamsted Research please contact: Professor Angela Karp.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see:

The first GM oilseed crop to produce omega-3 fish oils in the field

In a landmark paper published today in the journal Metabolic Engineering Communications, scientists at Rothamsted Research have announced the first year results of the field-scale trial of Camelina oilseed plants genetically engineered to make omega-3 fish oils in their seeds.


Omega-3 fish oils specifically long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 LC-PUFA) eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are acknowledged by the medical community to be beneficial components of the human diet. The primary dietary sources of EPA & DHA are marine fish, either wild or farmed (aquaculture). Although some types of omega-3 fats are available from other sources in the human diet (such as flax seeds), the nutritionally-beneficial omega- 3 LC- PUFA EPA & DHA are only available from marine sources. Fish, like humans, accumulate the omega-3 fish oils by feeding on other organisms in the marine food chain or, in the case of farmed fish, through fishmeal and fish oil in feed.


Farmed fish is a rapidly growing sector, and today over half of the fish consumed worldwide comes from aquaculture. As the production of fish through aquaculture increases so does the need to find alternative sources of omega-3 fish oils. Rothamsted's new data - which demonstrate an important proof of concept that a crop plant can be engineered to synthesise these beneficial fatty acids in seeds - provide hope for sustainable land-based sources of omega-3 fish oils, thereby releasing pressure from the oceans.


Dr Olga Sayanova, the senior Rothamsted Researcher who developed the GM Camelina plants, commented: “We are delighted with the results of our first year field trial. Finding a land-based source of feedstocks containing omega-3 fish oils has long been an urgent priority for truly sustainable aquaculture. Our results give hope that oilseed crops grown on land can contribute to improving the sustainability of the fish farming industry and the marine environment in the future."


Rothamsted scientists, strategically funded by the BBSRC, have already shown that they can successfully engineer Camelina sativa plants to produce non-native EPA and DHA, by introducing a set of seven synthetic genes based on the DNA sequences found in photosynthetic marine organisms. Although previous experiments in glasshouses had given positive indications for the performance of this trait, this trial demonstrated the stability of the trait and the ability of the GM Camelina plants to synthesise useful quantities of fish oils without any negative effects on yield. Monitoring of the plants grown in the field showed no obvious phenotypic differences in the growth, flowering or seed-set of the GM Camelina plants when compared to the non-GM control plants.


Professor Johnathan Napier, leading the GM Camelina programme at Rothamsted Research, said: “The omega-3 fish oil trait that we have developed is probably the most complex example of plant genetic engineering to be tested in the field. This is a globally-significant proof of concept and a landmark moment in the effort to develop truly sustainable sources of feed for fish farms.”


The field trial conducted at Rothamsted Research’s experimental farm continues this year.  In the field this year two GM Camelina lines are sown as well as the non – GM controls.  One line is the same as the one described in the current publication making EPA and DHA. The second one is a GM Camelina line that makes only EPA. Analyses and comparisons will be conducted between the two lines.


The field trial and the associated laboratory analyses are funded by the government-supported Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC).  The scientific paper to be published tomorrow Tuesday 7th July 6pm (full details below)will be available in open-source format from the journal Metabolic Engineering Communications.

For an extensive Q&A on Rothamsted Research’s GM Camelina project see

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles help to accelerate the monitoring of field experiments at Rothamsred.

UAV’s can scan huge farm fields in a far shorter time than traditional farm practices and provide much more accurate data to help farmers to be more efficient.

Crop growth, yield and nutrient requirements are all measured via a process called phenotyping.

So how’s it done? The UAV’s carry conventional RGB (red, green & black) cameras, a multispectral near infrared camera and a thermal infrared camera.

In the short term scientists at Rothamsted will use the data to test the efficacy of new breeds of wheat to help increase yields to 20 tonnes per hectare within the next 20 years.

The CROPROTECT App shares information with farmers and agronomists about pest, weed and disease management.

Crop protection is an issue of increasing concern in the farming community. Improved access to information about managing pests, weeds and diseases is needed as conventional pesticides are being lost due to evolution of resistance or because of changes in legislation. The CROPROTECT App is a novel smartphone App (for Android and iOS) and provides information for farmers and agronomists about pest, weed and disease management.  It will be particularly useful in situations where effective pesticides are not available and alternative or integrated approaches are required such as agronomic practices, biological control methods or resistant crop varieties.


The CROPROTECT App enables even easier access to the information also available on the website and is an output from the CROPROTECT project that shares key information and management recommendations about target pests with farmers, agronomists and other end-users. The project is developing and providing a two-way web-based free knowledge exchange resource through which farmers and agronomists can get specific information relevant to their needs. Farmers and agronomists can also provide their feedback regarding the issues that they face in the farm. Dr Toby Bruce, Rothamsted Research senior scientist who co-ordinates CROPROTECT, discussed requirements with users and many of them said they wanted an App for improved accessibility.


Dr Toby Bruce commented: “We are listening to the needs of the farmers and agronomists. We know that they are the experts for their local fields and we are aiming to give decision support not decision making”.

The CROPROTECT App can be downloaded from the website

The overall intention of the project is to provide key pieces of information that farmers and agronomists need for their farm management. As the system evolves, it is envisaged that it will include more links to further online resources. Further engagement with the end-users will facilitate advancement of the tool, which is being built in partnership with users and in consultation with the online farming forum AgriChatUK, the AHDB levy board, agronomist organisations (Hutchinsons, Agrii and the AICC) and the National Farmers Union.

CROPROTECT is being developed by three crop protection experts from Rothamsted Research, which receives strategic funding by the BBSRC, with technical help from Ether Creative.

Bed Bugs in Harpenden? Yes, but under safe keeping for research at Rothamsted Research.

An international study of the genetic code of bed bugs reveals that these human blood feeders are adaptive and hardy.

A group of over 80 world wide scientists (inc Dr Jing-Jiang Zhou at Rothamsted Research), has today [2nd February] published in Nature Communications.

The research involved the rearing of bed bugs to extract DNA from their cuticle, which is what forms the outer protective skeleton of the insect. This was followed by sequencing, automated annotation, and manual analyses of the bed bug genetic code or, what the scientists call, the genome. The research provides a full annotation of the genes which makeup the bed bug genome.

The scientists inc Dr Zhou identified the collection of genes that are linked to the bed bug’s sense of smell (olfaction) and sense of taste (gustation). Commenting on his contribution to the research, Dr Zhou, said: “Sense of smell and taste are critical to how bed bugs find mates to reproduce, locate their human hosts to feed, and navigate through the dark environment of a bed. To do all of this, bed bugs use smell (olfaction) and taste (gustation) receptors, and smell (odorant) binding proteins

Commenting on the work, leading author, Dr Joshua Benoit, from the University of Cincinnati said: “Given that bed bugs are associated with humans in the built environment, are active at night and have no wings to fly we expected a collection of genes which were linked to controlling the ways in which this parasite locates and accepts its host, and ingests and digests blood. And also a range of genes linked to how bed bugs have, over time, become resistance to pesticide.”


The research has uncovered underlying characteristics surrounding fundamental questions such as why bed bugs feed only off blood, and how they can survive an entire year without a meal.

Dr Benoit said: “If someone’s home is infested and that person leaves the premises for a few weeks in the hope that the bed bugs will go away, that isn’t going to happen. The bed bugs will be hungry and waiting for when the ‘host’ gets back home”.

Dr Zhou concluded: “Almost certainly humans and bed bugs will remain closely associated for the foreseeable future.


As the only British scientist in this study, I am very proud to have contributed to the work. It provides us the genetic resources to study molecular mechanisms of bed bug olfaction and chemosensory specialisation through comparative genomic studies. And is a platform for future research to ask questions such as: what has triggered the current bed bug resurgence and do bed bugs originate from one or multiple sources?”


Bed bug photo Courtesy of the CDC PHIL gallery/Photographer Piotr Naskrecki

Harpenden population 32,500+

Harpenden’s 3 GP Surgeries registered patients = 43,274.

What’s going on??

A chance visit to the NHS Choices web site on May 6 revealed the following registered patient numbers:

Village Surgery = 15,983

The Elms = 14,749

Davenport House = 12,542

SO if the numbers are accurate where do all these people live? (Redbourn and Wheathampsted have their own surgeries.

OR are the numbers duplicated OR are they simply out of date?

WELL, on average GP Surgeries are funded at £136 per patient so the numbers generate high income.

THE average number of patient visits per year is 7 giving a cost per visit of £19.42.

YES it’s obvious that very young patients and elderly patients have more than the average number of visits.

These figures do not cover the prescription costs.

AND YES we know averages disguise the actual numbers BUT something is amiss?

WITH more and more homes bing built in Harpenden how will GP Surgeries cope with this  influx?

More to come on this story.

‘Which?’ joins forces with Herts County

Council to form a ‘Trusted Traders’


The joint scheme builds on the success of both Which? Trusted Traders - the iconic endorsement from the UK’s largest independent consumer organisation - and Hertfordshire County Council’s current approved trader scheme.

Traders on the new scheme will undergo an assessment by Which? and Hertfordshire trading standards professionals - including face-to-face interviews, financial checks, and even Trading Standards checks, in order to become endorsed.

Endorsed traders will have use of the new Hertfordshire Trading Standard approved and Which? Trusted trader endorsement logo, and consumers will be able to find a profile of the traders at:  

Richard Thake, Cabinet Member for Community Safety at Hertfordshire County Council, said:
“Our Trading Standards team and Which? Trusted Traders both aim to make it easier for consumers in Hertfordshire to find a reputable trader. We hope this partnership, with its added assessment from both successful schemes, can be mirrored in other parts of the UK.”

Paul Smith, Managing Director of Which? Trusted Traders, said: “Whether it’s an emergency or a planned home improvement, people want to hire someone trustworthy. However, if you’re up against the clock or starting from scratch, it can be hard to know who best to turn to.

Melanie Wording-Jones, of Redbourn Auto Solutions, said: “Being a member of this new scheme is very valuable as it lets our customers know they’re dealing with a reputable business. It gives an incredibly strong message to have the local Trading Standards endorsement as well as the national Which? brand.”

The new scheme has also been endorsed by Hertfordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner. He said: “Tackling those who flout the law, is ‘Everybody’s Business’, particularly within the business community. I am delighted to see local and national services coming together to provide a platform for consumers that offers the access to good, local honest businesses in Hertfordshire. The message as underlined in my Police and Crime Plan is clear – help is here for businesses that comply with the law. Targeting enforcement work on non-compliant businesses not only protects the consumer but will help honest businesses thrive.”

The Harpenden Gardening Society can trace it's roots back to 1879 !

Popularity for working on allotments grew and sprung up all over the village of Harpenden – in the field behind the Old Bell, Church Field, Long Field and many more. The idea of establishing a horticultural society was conceived following several exploratory meetings and on Monday May 19 1879 the Harpenden Horticultural Society was formed.

The Society continued, faltering occasionally until May 1931. Various events had been held to raise money but paying it's way had become increasingly difficult. At the AGM the Society had debts of £21.1s.10d and it was reluctantly agreed to close down.

During the 1930's the war clouds of Europe became more ominous and the cultivation of of gardens and allotments and fields took on a new and more serious meaning.

When peace reigned once more, the Society was re formed in 1946 when  the population of Harpenden was just over 13,000 and digging for victory had become a thing of the past.

The Society changed it's name to the Harpenden Gardening Society in 2011 to widen it's appeal to encourage a range of younger amateur gardeners.

The Society meets at Roundwood Park School hosting 8 evening talks per year (February-May and September-December) featuring an eclectic  mix of Chelsea gold medal winning garden designers, Nurserymen, Newspaper columnists and Head Gardeners from across the UK.

Day trips by coach take place during the summer months and this year visits to Barnsdale (the late geoff Hamilton's garden) and Coton Manor were a great success. Next year Kew Gardens will be one of the venues we shall be visiting.

The Harpenden Gardening Society was selected recently to host a recording of the popular BBC Radio 4 programme 'Gardeners Question Time' which took place in Park Hall. Over a 100 members and friends enjoyed a fascinating evening when the panel (who have no knowledge of the questions in advance) provided a stimulating and very amusing evening answering questions from some of Harpenden's amateur gardeners!

Annual membership is only £7.50p and each talk is followed by free refreshments where members and friends can chat about any gardening questions or concerns with the speakers, some of whom bring plants which can be purchased on the night. The 6 December talk is by Fergus Garret the well known Head Gardener from Great Dixter and will be followed by mince pies and wine.

Members of the Society can also buy plants at Bridge Valley Nurseries and the Herts Garden Centre in Redbourn at a 10% discount on production of their membership card.

For further information  of forthcoming events and how you can join the Society go to our website:

Harpenden Secondary Education Trust proudly announces the chosen name of the new secondary school to be built in Harpenden. The school will be called the Katherine Warington School after the scientist who lived in Harpenden for 90 years and pioneered research into the beneficial impact of boron and boric acid on plant and bean fertility during her working life at Rothamsted Research.

The name was one of over 700 suggestions from pupils at primary schools in and around Harpenden. These were narrowed down to a list of ten. Further research and investigation led to a final shortlist of three names. The Katherine Warington School emerged as the favourite name at a meeting of the Harpenden Secondary School Trust.

The name was initially suggested by Elizabeth Gilardo, an 8 year old pupil from St Dominic Catholic Primary School. Elizabeth said:

“I wanted to suggest a name that had something to do with Harpenden and someone who had made an impact. I searched the internet and liked the name Katherine Warington. I felt it was different from lots of the other schools that are either named after men or trees. I also liked that she was a woman working in science all those years ago. 'I was surprised that Katherine had not been fully recognised for her achievements so her name becoming the school name would help that.”

Katherine Warington (1897 – 1993)

Katherine Warington was born in Harpenden, Hertfordshire on 5 September 1897, a twin and one of the five daughters of Helen Louisa Makins and the agricultural chemist Robert Warington FRS [Jnr]. She was educated at the all-women Holloway College, University of London graduating with a B.Sc (Hons) in Botany in 1921. Katherine joined the staff of the Botany Department at Rothamsted later that year.

In the 36 years she worked at Rothamsted agricultural research station in Harpenden, Katherine Warington carried out investigations into the weed species that grow in wheat and the nutritious properties of boron that are valued to the present day, and form the basis of modern experiments in Britain and overseas.

Warington was the first person to demonstrate that boron, in the form of boric acid, is essential to the healthy growth of broad beans and by 1923 she had published her groundbreaking research and proof.

Dr Hugh Nicol commented “It is not given to everyone to found a minor industry with her first piece of research, yet this, in effect, happened in her case.”

This work earned Warington world-wide recognition from scientists interested in plant nutrition. She went on to investigate the response of other crops to boron, and later she used similar techniques to investigate other so-called 'minor elements' or trace elements, eg manganese and molybdenum.

In 1928 she studied spectrographic methods of analysis under Professor Lundegårdh at Experimentalfältet, Stockholm. Her work on boron was the basis for her D.Sc. from the University of London

Warington was respected by all who met her professionally, but she was a quiet and modest person. The few people privileged to become her friends admired her greatly for her strength of character and fortitude in adversity, based on a deep and abiding faith. While she lived in Harpenden she worshipped regularly at the parish church, St Nicholas, and after her retirement she did voluntary clerical work in the parish office. Eventually she became too frail to live alone and moved to a residential home in St Albans. Katherine died in St Albans on 3rd July 1993 following a stroke at the age of 95.

Philip Waters chair of the Harpenden Secondary School Trust said:

“We are delighted that the new school celebrates a female scientist who was both ground-breaking and steeped in Harpenden history. The Trust look forward to seeing her name above the door of the new secondary school. We wanted the name to reflect not only the town but also the high achievement which is a characteristic of all the secondary schools in Harpenden and is very much what the parents in our community want too.”

Through the course of this selection process, living relatives of Katherine Warington were contacted and asked for their permission to use her name in this manner. The living family were delighted at the prospect of their pioneering relative being remembered and honoured in such a way.  Andrew Warington Wickham, great nephew of Katherine said:

“The family all feel deeply honoured and proud that the school will be named after a female scientist.”

The Katherine Warington School intends to open to students in September 2018

Left to right: Philip Waters, chair of the Harpenden Secondary School Trust; Andrew Warington Wickham, great nephew of Katherine Warington; Jenny Wickham, great niece of Katherine Warington; Elizabeth Gilardo, pupil from St Dominic Catholic Primary School.

Why is the weather so bad this Spring?

The Gulf Stream activity (the flow of Atlantic sea water that normally warms our coasts) is having an effect shown by new research led by University College London (UCL) and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). They have found a key cog in the global ocean circulation system has not been running at peak strength since the mid-1800s.

If the system continues to weaken, scientists say it could disrupt weather patterns across the world and cause more rapid increase in sea levels on the US East Coast.

The constantly moving system of deep-water circulation, sometimes referred to as the Global Ocean Conveyor Belt, sends warm, salty Gulf Stream water to the North Atlantic where it releases heat to the atmosphere and warms Western Europe. The cooler water then sinks to great depths and travels all the way to Antarctica and eventually circulates back up to the Gulf Stream.

Researchers believe that as the North Atlantic began to warm near the end of the Little Ice Age, freshwater disrupted the system, called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC). They found the AMOC has been weakening more rapidly since 1950 in response to recent global warming and this weakening may already have an impact on weather in Europe. For more information, please visit

Photo images courtesy whoi.


No matter where you live, the ocean affects your life.

50% of the OXYGEN from photosynthesis is produced in the ocean

44% of Earth's POPULATION lives within 150km (100 miles) of a coast

90% of international TRADE travels by ship

95% of the ocean is UNEXPLORED by humans

90% of HEAT from global warming has been absorbed by the ocean

Rail Changes upset Harpenden Commuters -

Big Time

This is what Thameslink’s CEO told customers when they challenged him on how they should manage following his arbitrary decision to axe key services by a third without consultation. “GET THE BUS”!

Changes being investigated by the Public Account Committee

Commuter group sends letter of complaint to Transport Sec Chris Grayling,

Southdown Industrial Estate is home to many established businesses in Harpenden and designated to retain its commercial status in Harpenden’s Neighbourhood Plan.

Local businesses are an important part of Harpenden’s diversity away from being just a dormitory town. The Town Council have recognised this and have included industrial development as a strategic element of the Neighbourhood Plan.

The existing Southdown Industrial Estate is home to over 20 established businesses both small and large several of whom have traded there for many years. This area has been designated as an industrial area going forward and will hopefully secure this status when the Neighbourhood Plan is approved in the Referendum by Harpenden residents later in 2018.

One example of the businesses here is MAINROCK Furniture and Interiors who have been established in Harpenden for many years. They offer a design, supply and installation service for business locations-offices; receptions; work areas; boardrooms; kitchens and rest rooms. Products include furniture; glazing. flooring; lighting; air conditioning; decor and graphics. It all starts with the in house design team who will assess the workspace situation and supply a detailed plan which once approved will be actioned to bring a totally new look. They service London and the south east.

Graham Goulding a director said. “We love being in Harpenden, it’s a superb location enabling us to operate and serve our clients in the region from the commercial estate which is at the heart of the town, but almost hidden from view.”

Award winning Harpenden restaurant celebrates with

The Harpenden Society Letter of Commendation.

Côte Brasserie restaurant in Station Road was nominated for the Award by Society members and the Awards committee who said ‘it has enhanced an otherwise dull building with attractive awnings and window boxes’.

Presenting the award to restaurant manager Ava Evelina Kmerpska on June 8 Society chair Phil Waters said how impressed he was with the interior styling. Sharing delicious pastries and coffee Ava explained the philosophy of Côte Brasserie. We offer top quality food and drinks using trusted suppliers, cooked by expert chefs and served by fully trained professional staff. An experience to be be enjoyed.

Above. From the left: Mike Waddilove, (Awards Committee) Penny Ayres, (Awards Chair) the Head Waitress Livia Stoia. Restaurant Manager Ava Evelina Kmepska. Phil Waters.(Society Chair) Pauline Waddilove, (Awards Committee)