On The Bed

In the upstream area of a river, where the water isn’t too deep, you can more clearly see what is happening on the river bed.

Here on the River Severn you can see the underlying rock layers tilted at an angle.

In other sections the bed is entirely covered by loose material – pebbles and stones of various sizes.

Most of these stones, especially the biggest ones, will just sit there, but in times of fast flow the river will have enough energy to pick up the smaller stones and jiggle some of the others.  The biggest ones might not get moved, but the ones that are moving will swirl about and crash into them and bits will get broken off.

This is called attrition.  It results in the pebbles becoming smaller, smoother and more rounded.

Eventually the big stones will have become small enough to be moved downstream by the flow of water.

My Landscape – Shrewsbury – by Martha

The River Severn flows from its source at Plynlimon across Wales then over the border into England. The first town it comes to in England is Shrewsbury. My Mum has lived here for 18 years and she hasn’t been able to work out why some people pronounce it “Shrowsbury” and others “Shroosbury“!

You can see that the river is mature by the time it gets here.

Salmon have to navigate the weir at Shrewsbury on their way from the Atlantic to their spawning point further upstream.

The river loops around a hill which seemed to the ancient Britons to be a good place to build a castle and a town. The name Shrewsbury derives from the Old English name Scrobbesburh meaning “the fortified place in the bushes”. The town walls, which still exist in part, and the castle are built of sandstone quarried locally at Grinshill.

The town park is built in an old quarry.

Shrewsbury is well known for our annual flower show, which is attended by around 50,000 people over three days in August.

Shropshire is one of the least densely populated counties in England.  Over 95% of the population is white British. People who originate from Shrewsbury area have a distinctive accent, blending elements from mid-Wales, the West Country and the Black Country.

The most famous person from our town is probably either Charles Darwin who wrote about the theory of evolution, or the England goalkeeper Joe Hart, depending on your interests.

Throughout the medieval period, Shrewsbury was a centre for the wool trade and brewing and used its position on the River Severn to transport goods across England via the canal system. Unlike many other towns since that period, Shrewsbury never became a centre for heavy industry.  Today the local economy operates mostly within the general service and professional sector.

We love our town and hope you will enjoy visiting one day!

The Mini System

I have a soft spot for the Mini.  It was my first car!

So when I got the opportunity to tour the Oxford factory where they are assembled, I jumped at the chance.

A factory industry is a system, with inputs, processes and outputs.

At Oxford the cars are assembled – all the components have already been made and are here put together to produce the car.

The components are inputs to the factory.  The engines are made in Birmingham, while a factory in Swindon makes the doors, the body panels and does some sub-assembly, putting smaller parts together so that they are already ready to go onto the car when they arrive at Oxford.

Components are delivered to Oxford by truck.  Stock is carefully controlled so that the right things are in the right places at the right time.  200 truck deliveries per day keep the assembly line supplied.

Other inputs are less obvious, but anything that is essential to production counts as an input – labour (about 4000 workers), machinery (1000 robots, plus conveyors and other equipment), electric power (from solar panels on the roof, which also supply 850 houses), the buildings themselves and the money that has been invested to set up the factory.

As for the outputs, a new Mini rolls off the end of the production line every 67 seconds.  Up to 1000 cars are produced per day and 80% are sold overseas in 110 different countries.  A branch from the railway comes directly into the factory and 2 trains per day are loaded with new cars and sent to the port of Southampton for onward shipment.

Other outputs include profit and maybe some waste.

But what actually happens at the Oxford factory?  What are the processes?  I’ll tell you more about that next week.

Meanwhile check your inbox for a worksheet to use with this post.


Where? – 17 – Places in Paintings

There are loads of landscape paintings out there, but often the view is a general scene, with little clue as to the location.  However, many of Turner’s landscapes are clearly located, and there’s loads of them too.  I could have made a whole post with just his paintings, but I’ve added in a few other artists, to include some famous works and to ensure a good range of places.

As usual, print out a blank outline map.  You can use the one below.

The best way to learn where things are is to put them on a map, but if I just give you a completed map, that won’t help much, so grab a blank map and a pencil, and find somebody for a bit of competition.

Each location has a link to the painting.  Maybe that will help with the geography…or maybe not.  Anyway, do have a guess, by marking your map with a small circle and writing the name of the place next to it.

We’ll start with paintings by Turner (1775 – 1851).

  1. Beachy Head  
  2. Dover
  3. Durham
  4. Edinburgh
  5. Harlech
  6. Melrose
  7. River Clyde  
  8. Isle of Skye
  9. Snowdon
  10. Connemara by Henry
  11. Dublin by Ashford
  12. Eton by Canaletto
  13. Powerscourt Waterfall, Wicklow Mountains by Barret
  14. River Stour by Constable
  15. Salisbury by Constable
  16. Westminster by Monet
  17. Weymouth by Constable

When you are ready, scroll down, past my photos, to find the answers.  If you are having a competition, then 2 points if your spot touches mine.  If everyone is way out, then the nearest gets 1 point.

Isle of Skye

Finally check your inbox for a map with all the dots in roughly the right place, ready for labelling. (Sign up form is in the side bar.)


Scilly’s Changing Habitats

As the sea level rose around Ennor, so the land was reducing in size.

With over 150 bronze age burial mounds in the islands, (dating from 2000BC), it seems there were quite a few people in residence, in what was a gradually reducing land area.

The natural vegetation for an unpopulated Scilly Isles, would be deciduous forest.  Samples of peat show that there was woodland – mainly oak, with some elm and ash.

However, by the time of the late iron age village of Halangy Down, (which was believed to be occupied into the 2nd century AD), the forest had been almost completely cleared, to make way for farming, as the population grew and the land size reduced.

There are few trees on the islands today, most being planted as windbreaks.

The loss of the woodland habitat led to the loss of the animals that would have lived in that habitat.  Many animals, that are common just 28 miles away in Cornwall, are not found on the Scilly Isles.

However, it hasn’t all been loss.  Some species have arrived on the islands.  Shipwrecks have caused this to happen by accident, but some introductions have been deliberate, such as the planting of Tresco’s sub-tropical gardens.  Seeds from there have dispersed across the islands, with the help of the wind and birds.

Introducing a new species often upsets the previous balance of nature.  Hedgehogs were brought in as pets and have since escaped and multiplied.  They are fairly safe on the islands, without foxes etc to hunt them down, and are disrupting the food chain by consuming too many slugs and snails.  They also eat bird’s eggs and nestlings.

But for the birds there is also a success story.  I’ll tell you about that next week.