News Round Up 2021/ 2020


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

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.

Scroll down to read all the exciting event details and editorials below

Rothamsted’s iconic building is a hub for new agri-tech businesses

Refurbishment work is almost complete at world-leading Rothamsted Research to bring its striking Russell Building back to life as a hub for high-growth agri and food tech businesses and entrepreneurs. Thanks to a £1.7m joint Local Growth Fund investment from Hertfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and Hertfordshire Innovation Quarter (Herts IQ), the building will be renovated to provide much-needed grow-on and start-up space for agri- and food-tech businesses. The prime office space will be launched this summer.

The building, which will house 22 offices, will enable high-growth, high-tech companies to join a thriving ecosystem of agri-tech, food tech and innovation businesses based on site, with excellent transport links to the rest of the UK as well as international airports. In total, the building will accommodate up to 118 people in spaces ranging from 200ft2 to over 1,200ft2. These will include an open plan innovation space, where early-start entrepreneurs can work together before prototyping their ideas and testing on site, to grow-on spaces and offices for these early start-ups and related businesses.

Peter Oxley, CEO at the Lawes Agricultural Trust said: “Increased demand is behind the expansion of our innovation facilities for businesses, with the other buildings occupied by external businesses (Daniel Hall and Lawes Open Innovation Hub) on the Rothamsted estate currently at full capacity. This is extremely positive news for the campus, for entrepreneurs, for the town, and for the region, as we bring more jobs and businesses into Hertfordshire.”

Demand for more office space has also been boosted by the recent launch of the privately-funded accelerator programme ‘Shake Climate Change’ and the AgRIA Project, providing entrepreneurs and SMEs with funding and on-site entrepreneur support to encourage cross-working of various sciences.


“We are delighted by this development,” said Angela Karp, Rothamsted Research Interim Institute Director and CEO. “Bringing together entrepreneurs on campus with our world-class scientists, I am confident we can look forward to a new era of ground breaking innovation in agricultural science and technology at Rothamsted.”   

“The Russell Building has been an iconic landmark in Rothamsted for generations and this £1.7 million of investment from the Government’s Local Growth Fund will give it a new lease of life as a world-class base for businesses in the growing agri-tech sector, which will create jobs and boost the local economy.”

Businesses in these sectors looking for new office premises in Hertfordshire should and all calls to 01582938500.


April 2020. Downsizing options or equity release to

make life easier.

As I sit at my computer in splendid isolation, working from home during this difficult time, I have been reflecting on the pleasure my wife and I get from the apartment we downsized to eleven years ago. Made even better with hardly any planes flying out of Luton airport, meaning we can for once hear the birds singing!

We downsized at an early age and are now so pleased that we did, the thought of thirty trips to the recycling centre at our age is very daunting! Of course, for many there is an emotional attachment to our home. Being where the family was raised, maintaining space for the grandchildren and loved ones to visit or simply loving where you live.

So, if you don’t want to downsize but would like to get an extra income in later life to fully enjoy retirement or to pass on money to your children, what can you do?

At Lyndhurst we are members of the Society of Later Life Advisers, SOLLA, and advise our clients on how they might achieve their financial goals both before and after retirement. One of the solutions we are licensed to advise on is equity release, a means of taking money out of your home without having to move.

There are several different equity release solutions that we can use depending on your circumstances and objectives and as independent financial advisers you will be able to discuss your requirements with one of our qualified advisers ensuring you get the best possible advice considering all of your options.

As Martin Lewis commented on a 2018 interview with GMTV ‘always consider downsizing first but if you don’t want to do that then equity release is well worth considering’.

During this pandemic we are mostly working from home but are still able provide our clients with the excellent financial advice we are known for; our telephone number is 01582 715777 or 01462 441100.

Geoff Newman


Lyndhurst Financial Management Ltd. Authorised and Regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority.

April. The Harpenden Society awards Welcombe House its prestigious plaque for 2019.

The Harpenden Society has been helping to maintain the Town’s unique visual image for more than 40 years by recognising building, design & site developments of  a high architectural standard that blend within the town much of which is a conservation area.

In fact the first ever award can still be seen on the wall of the now Brown’s Hair Salon. In the late 70’s was almost acquired by a developer to knock down and develop with new shops/bars. It was saved thanks to local opposition and the efforts of The Harpenden Society and its chairman Paul Usher.

A small committee of society members chaired by Penny Ayres assess the the nominations from Society members in the early Spring prior to the official announcements at the AGM in April. OFFICIAL PRESENTATIONS TO WINNERS HAS BEEN POSTONED FOR THE MOMENT


1.Buildings or site developments completed in the year ending December 2019

2.Buildings or site developments that have architectural merit.

3.Buildings or site developments that contribute a benefit to the town’s residents


The prestigious Harpenden Society Plaque

Certificates of Merit

Letters of Commendation

AWARDS for 2019

This year  we awarded the prestigious Harpenden Society Plaque to Fairview 'Prestige' for the Welcombe House and the associated development on Southdown Road on the old Harpenden House Hotel site

Also a Certificate of Merit to the

Harpenden Cricket Club for the

newly refurbished pavilion which

enhances the already lovely

view of the cricket being played on

Harpenden Common .

And finally three Letters of Commendation to (in no particular order)  the Salvation Army for their new expanded building which has been achieved with care so that the green space in front neatly links in with Leyton Green and  also provides a useful hall for use by the wider Harpenden community;  to Mr Sean Coleman for the excellent thatching of two cottages overlooking Hatching Green including the rebuilding of the flint wall in front of the cottages;  also to  the newly expanded Skye Opticians  where the building has been joined up with the next door shop (the old Galloways shoe shop) to make an attractive modern yet restrained double fronted building.'

Dec 2020.  SADC to start afresh with

new Local Plan

following rejection by

Government Inspectors

After two previous failed attempts to secure the Plan’s approval

including a failed Judicial review in late Spring 2017 ( where it

lost over failure in its duty to co-operate)  you would have thought

the Council’s officers and politicians would have learned from their

errors of judgement. OBVIOUSLY NOT!

An 18 page letter expressed many key issues of concern:

*The decision to assign the Radlett rail freight terminal site for housing.

*The alteration of the district’s Green Belt boundaries without submitting adequate evidence.*

*The Plan had not been produced in accordance with the council’s statement of community involvement.

*Failure of the Sustainability Appraisal to consider some seemingly credible and obvious reasonable alternatives to the policies and proposals of the plan;

*Failure of the plan to meet objectively-assessed needs;

*Lack of evidence in support of policies**

Cllr Jamie Day, portfolio holder for planning said; “we will be responding to the inspector’s letter to address the concerns raised. “It’s extremely important that the council progresses this Local Plan so that it is able to manage the district’s growth in a sustainable and positive way. Over recent years, the council has made improved efforts to work with its neighbouring councils and Herts County Council to demonstrate its commitment to cooperating with our neighbouring authorities, so it’s disappointing to be called out by the inspectors on that point.”

David Lane of local agency DLA Town Planning said: “This is disappointing news. I appreciate the council has a difficult job on its hands in producing a Local Plan but it is hugely frustrating that the process has been delayed again. The ongoing uncertainty benefits nobody and will only delay the delivery of much-needed new homes.”

*Green Belt queries:

1. In light of the large number of homes that would need to be accommodated, the Council decided that only strategic scale Green Belt sites would be taken forward in the Plan.

2. In looking at Green Belt releases we have concerns about the narrow focus that has been placed on only strategic sites. This has ruled out a number of sites that have already been found to impact least on the purposes of the Green Belt.

3. Whilst the Council indicates in the May 2018 PPC report that small sites in the Green Belt are not needed (and so have not been assessed) this position appears at odds with the context of the identified shortfall situation.

4. Additionally, we see no reason why the identification of some smaller sites would unacceptably spread the adverse impacts of development on Green Belt purposes.

5.We accept that large scale urban extensions would provide significant amounts of new infrastructure which both the new and already established communities would benefit from. On the other hand, a range of sites including smaller sites could also provide benefits. For example, they could be delivered more quickly without requiring additional infrastructure, provide choice and flexibility in the housing market and secure affordable housing more immediately.

6.We accept that large scale urban extensions would provide significant amounts of new infrastructure which both the new and already established communities would benefit from. On the other hand, a range of sites including smaller sites could also provide benefits. For example, they could be delivered more quickly without requiring additional infrastructure, provide choice and flexibility in the housing market and secure affordable housing more immediately.

Lack of evidence queries:

1. The Framework indicates at paragraph 31 that the preparation and review of all policies should be underpinned by relevant and up to date evidence. This should be adequate and proportionate, focussed tightly on supporting and justifying the policies concerned, and take into account relevant market signals. There are number of key documents missing from the evidence base.

2. There is no Heritage Impact Assessment as required by Historic England in relation to the Broad Locations.

3. The Broad Locations are not supported by a Transport Impact Assessment even though it was evident from our site visits that most of them would be likely to require significant road improvements as many are currently accessed via relatively narrow roads.


Harpenden Library are NOT now operating Limited Browsing but have gone back to “Ready Reads” their form of click and collect. ALSO they are also allowing customers to pre-book 1 hour slots on the public PCs, this has to be done at least a day in advance.

Opening hours are now; Monday and Thursday 10am-5pm, Tuesday and Friday 1-5pm Saturday 10am-4pm, closed Wednesdays and Sundays. Information on these services and any updates are available on Harpenden Library’s Facebook page.


Ready Reads is a new way to borrow books from Hertfordshire libraries. Simply let us know what you like to read, which of our participating libraries you’d like to collect your order from, and we’ll choose a selection of books for you. You won’t be able to request specific authors or titles in your pack, but we’ll do our best to find books you’ll enjoy. You can make reservations through our catalogue in the normal way.

There are 6 books in each adult and teen Ready Reads pack and 12 books in each children's Ready Reads pack.

Request a pack online. Customers who are unable to complete the online form can contact us on 0300 123 4049 for assistance. All the information is on Website you can book a PC or order a Ready Reads pack, all the information is on there.  You can also go through “Ask A Librarian”

Harpenden Academy’s Young Chef’s project 2020

“This is the second year that we’ve participated in the wonderful Young Chef’s project and it was hugely successful both times. The children were so engaged learning new skills and creating their own menus inspired by a hero. The best part of the project is giving the children a real life project to put their culinary skills into practice. Last year we created a restaurant in the school hall and this year children prepared and presented their menus to their families as part of their leavers’ event. The beams of pride and joy on their faces as their parents praised their culinary creations was amazing to see.”

ABOVE:Kate Watson – Year 6 teacher

ABOVE RIGHT: A Y6 pupil sharing her three course menu inspired by David Attenborough with her family.

Find out more about the Young Chef of the Year Awards for Schools by visiting: 

Autumn Needn’t be Grey

It’s that time of the year where the garden

loses its attraction to many as the nights

start to draw in and the weather changes.

But has the garden really lost that wow

factor? With careful and planned planting,

you can have colour all year round and

autumn can be just as colourful, if not

more beautiful, than summer.

Autumn has to be my favourite season as I love reds and oranges, colours that are abundant this time of year and it’s not all because the leaves are fading from green on the trees. There is still life in the garden such as pollinators and they need to be looked after. Autumn flowering plants start to take over from the summer plants, while deciduous shrub stems and berries fill in the remaining colour gaps.

Here’s how you can add a splash of extra colour to your outside space:

There are still plenty of plant varieties that flower this time of year such as Chysanthemums, which can carry on flowering well into November. Cyclamen are my particular favourite for autumn and I love to plant them indoors and outdoors for bright and cheery pinks, reds and whites. Autumn Saxifrage comes into flower in October, delighting the gardener’s eye with its pretty starry flowers right up to the end of November.

As for bulbs, nothing beats the humble Crocus, well known for its autumn flowering habit, bringing lively splashes of colour in any beds, borders and containers.  Why not go for a variety such as Orange Monarch or Chrysanthus Herald for a more unusual looking crocus?

If you love colour and wildlife, then shrubs that produce berries are a winner. Pyracantha, or the firethorn as it’s commonly known, produces hundreds of flowers in the summer, attracting bees and other pollinators. This time of year the thorny shrub is covered in bright orange berries, not for the human stomach, but much loved by birds. One of my favourite shrubs that bears fruit has to be Callicarpa bodinieri, the Beauty Berry. Right now it will be full of light purple berries that look like little jewels in the sunlight on a cool day. If you like the sound of this plant, make sure that the variety you buy is Profusion, as it doesn’t need other plants to produce the beautiful berries, unlike other varieties.

Whilst it may be too late to plan for an autumn flowering garden for this year, there’s no excuse to not go out and treat yourself to a few container plants if you want some colourful cheer when you step out in to the autumn sunshine.

Jobs for November:

•You can still cut the grass in mild spells but do remember to raise the height of your mower blades.

•Check for wildlife before lighting any bonfires.

•Plant tulip bulbs and bare root hedging.

•Clean the greenhouse and if you have any overwintering plants in there, it may be worthwhile insulating it with bubble wrap.

  1. If you like to propagate your own plants now is the time to take hardwood cuttings.

Editorial and images by Renata Rybczyk Savage

Jan 2021. The Gas pipe network across the country is now 70 years old and in need of replacement to ensure a  safe and reliable gas supply to homes and business.

Cadent, the main contractor has a 26 year contract to undertake this work which is now underway in Harpenden (and other parts of the UK) . Work involves the replacement of the metal pipes in the roads and the connecting pipes to each house, plus a reconnect to the mains in each house. Inside homes the engineers wear their regular safety gear as well as Covid protection PPE, mask, gloves and glasses. A long but necessary process to ensure long term secure and safe delivery of gas to all.

The giant Hoover featured hear is a specialist machine, made in Germany by Mercedes Benz. In essence it sucks up the debris and water from the holes dug up in the road to access the pipes and connectors.

Renata’s background

Having had a love for gardening and nature since childhood, I have been blogging about gardening, focusing on growing fruit and veg in the hope to inspire others to do the same. Fifteen years ago, I moved to Harpenden, the decision based on the fact that the garden was a good size! In the past I’ve helped people get the most out of their gardens when I ran a gardening business. Now I’m focusing on building a new business, selling plants and garden sundries to those who enjoy their outdoor space.

You can contact me via email:

The calendar for the year 2021 has been agreed and the following dates of meetings can be put in your diary!

The meetings in the first half of the year have been

planned to take place on ZOOM given the pandemic

restrictions will prevent us returning to Roundwood

Park School probably until September at the earliest.

Meeting dates (all Tuesdays evenings 7.45-for 8.00pm)

for 2021

February 9..March 9..April 13..May 11..

September 14..October 12..November 9..December 7

The two Outings that could not take place in 2020 have been rescheduled for 2021 assuming restrictions will have been eased.

May 21Anglesea Abbey and Cambridge Botanical Garden

July 7Lamport Hall Gardens and The Old Rectory Haselbech

Details and booking forms will be emailed to you shortly.

We are pleased to welcome back for our first meeting of 2021 the ever popular Timothy Walker, Botanist, Lecturer and Author who will talk about ‘Plants, Borders and Gardens.

Our second meeting in March sees Simon White of Beales Roses give us a complete run down on the A-Z of Roses.

We await final confirmation of our April speaker but the May 11 meeting will feature Andrew Ward of Norwell Nurseries whose subject will be Fabulous Foliage:a Foil for flowers.

The AGM will take place prior to the November 9 meeting.

The Society would like to take this opportunity to welcome Renata Rybczyk-Savage to the committee and to thank George French for his many years of solid  service to the Society and wish him well in his well earned retirement.

Membership fees are being rolled over for 2021 for existing members but £12.00 per annum is the fee payable to new members joining this year.

We welcome new members. If you would like to join us please contact Douglas Knowles on 01582 769831.

See you soon!