Use Your Quadrat

A quadrat can be used in all sorts of ways and you might find it useful for biology fieldwork too.  Here are some ideas for the beach.

Last week we found out how to use the quadrat to estimate percentages, so now try that with beach material.

What are the percentages of seaweed and sand?

Or the percentages of sand and pebbles?

If you are measuring pebble sizes then you can use the quadrat to tell you which pebbles to measure.

You could measure the pebble underneath each point where the strings cross…

…or if they are bigger you could just take one from under each of the corner junctions.  It doesn’t matter how you do it, as long as you decide the rules before you throw the quadrat down.

Sometimes, behind the beach you find sand dunes.

If so, then take your quadrat into the dunes.  Measure the percentage vegetation cover, just like I showed you last week with my patio weeds.

Does the percentage change as you get further from the sea?

Now look at the plants in detail.  Use a book or the internet to identify the different types.  At each location see which species covers the largest area.

Does the main vegetation type change as you get further from the sea?

If you want an easier option than identifying plants, count the number of different species in your quadrat.  You don’t need to know what they are.

Does the number of plant species change as you get further from the sea?

We’ll look at dunes again next week – there are a few more things you can investigate, that don’t involve quadrats.


Water will flow through the ground if there are cracks in the rocks. If this water flows across a layer of halite (rock salt) it will dissolve the salt. If the salty water stays in the rock then things stay stable but people wanted the salt and so started to pump the salty water to the surface. With the salt water being sucked out, fresh water can move in to contact with the halite, dissolving more salt. As the process repeats the layer of rock salt starts to disappear leaving a hole underground. The hole gets bigger and bigger and back in the 19th century, when this method was most used, there was no way of knowing exactly where the hole was…until…

If you click on the link you will see what happened to parts of the town of Northwich.

Sinking of the land surface is known as subsidence and it tended to happen suddenly, without warning.

Ashton’s Flash (above) shows the same effect. Collapse of an underground cavern has caused the surface to sink leaving a depression. There are numerous examples of these, many of which are now full of water.

This is Neumann’s Flash. Flash is a Cheshire / Lancashire word for lake.

Collapse along the course of the River Weaver at Winsford resulted in the river widening considerably, forming flashes in three places. The lakes have been popular spots since the late 19th century, when day-trippers from Manchester came for boating. Bottom Flash still hosts the Winsford Sailing Club.

The mines beneath Northwich have now been made safe by filling them with cement so the town is stable again. Solution mining is still used at the factory at Middlewich, but it is very carefully controlled to avoid similar problems. Next week we will take a final look at this area to see how the landscape is recovering from its industrial past.

Scilly Seabirds

The Scilly Isles are an AONB and contain a great diversity of habitats.

The coasts include sandy shores and rocky cliffs,

while inland there is heathland covered in heather and gorse,


and farmland with its hedges

and walls.

A great variety of habitats attracts a great variety of bird life, but you are never far from the sea and so it is the seabirds who really thrive here.

The islands are home to breeding populations of 14 species, but numbers have declined over the last 25 years, largely due to multiplication of an accidental introduction – the brown rat.

The islands are a globally important site for Manx shearwater and storm petrel.  Manx Shearwater have been breeding on St Agnes for decades, but as they nest in burrows, the eggs and chicks were always eaten by rats.  No chicks had been seen above ground on St Agnes in living memory…until September 2014.

The change in fortune for the Manx Shearwater is a result of the Seabird Recovery Project and this has basically involved the systematic removal of the brown rat.

Everyone is encouraged to be vigilant.

And it seems to be working.

Tintagel Part 11 – An Agreement Made

Last week Morgawse won the consent of the king.  Now she must get Lot’s agreement…

“How are you, Prince Lot?” she managed.

He raised his eyebrows. “I am well, Lady Morgawse.  And you?”

“Well, thank you.”

“May I offer my condolences on the death of your father.”

“I thank you, Prince.”

The two young people stared at each other.  “Well, it is lovely to see you again,” Lot broke the silence, smiling.

A flame of hope danced across Morgawse’s face. “It is lovely to see you, as well.”

“Why are you here, Morgawse?  If I may ask?”

“Of course you may ask.  Thank you for making this easier, Prince.”

His mouth twisted. “Well, I’m extremely curious.  To make such a long journey, almost on your own, even if you didn’t come the ordinary way…you must be pretty desperate about something.”

“I am.” She turned to look Lot full in the eyes. “Lot, I must ask you to be honest with me.”

“I will,” he said, surprised at her serious tone.

Morgawse clasped her hands tightly together. “Lot, last summer, we discovered feelings for each other, did we not?  At least, it was that way with me.”

Lot hastened to reassure her. “And with me, Morgawse.”

She flashed an uncertain glance up at him. “Well, I still hold those same feelings for you.  What about you?”

“As far as I can tell, Morgawse.  My feelings for you had gone a little dormant, but I have them even more now I am seeing you again.”  He smiled at her. “Such a rush I got when you came in through the door.”

Morgawse drew a sigh of relief. “You speak the truth, Lot, you still care for me?”

“I think I do.”

“Well, then,” the words came out in a rush now. “You heard my story, I am pretty desperate.  Uther is planning a marriage to goodness knows who.  So my errand in Lothian – entirely my own idea –  is to see if you still care for me, and to see if you would be willing – really, only if you want to – to marry me.  I’m trying to fight for a good life for myself, but only if you want it too.”

Morgawse stared at him desperately, her heart in her throat.  Prince Lot looked at the ground, frowning.  Presently he raised his head. “Morgawse, I do think we became very good friends, and I do like you a lot, but I’m not sure I would call what I feel for you love.  It doesn’t seem like the overwhelming emotion one associates with that word.  Do you want to risk a marriage without that?”

Was he going to refuse?  “It’s alright, Prince, I don’t think I would call my feelings love, either.  But for me, it’s either this, or a marriage to someone I don’t know.  Of course, you might get other chances.”

“I don’t think I will, Morgawse,” said Lot. “My parents have started to look for a wife for me.  Are you sure you want to marry me?”

Surprised, Morgawse sat back.  She was supposed to be the one asking questions!  “If my father was not dead, I would not have rushed up here.  But, to be honest, I wouldn’t have got much of a choice anyway.  In view of that, I would probably have chosen you.”

“You have been very honest, Morgawse, and in my turn, I was willing to go along with whoever my parents picked out for me, because it did not seem to me that we “love” each other in the commonly understood way.  But you are right, this seems like the best thing.”

“Only if you want to, Prince.”

He looked at her long.  Morgawse felt her cheeks go hot under his gaze. “I’m not sure that a have a great overwhelming desire to marry you, Morgawse.”

“Nor I,” she smiled.  They were on the same page at least.

“But I am very willing.  We are lucky indeed to get any sort of choice.  I choose you, Morgawse and we will make the rest come.”  He held out his hand.

“Under the circumstances, I am very willing,” she echoed, giddy with relief.


“I choose you, Lot.” She laid her hand in his.

Where? – 16 – Places that Inspired Music

I hope you enjoyed last week’s post on places that inspired songs.  This week we’ve some more music, but this time no lyrics.  This means that the place links are literally the titles of the pieces.  Some of them are maybe nothing to do with the places whose names they share but you’ll find some familiar tunes, including a Christmas carol!

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.

For each of the songs I’ve given you a youtube link.  There are no lyrics this time, and mostly not much to watch as many are just someone playing the piece.  The exception is Fingal’s Cave.  Watch that one!

So have a listen and, for each track, guess the location on your map, by putting a small circle where you think it is and writing the name next to the circle.

  1. Aberystwyth
  2. Cool Breeze of Brighton  
  3. Cwm Rhondda  
  4. Down Ampney  
  5. Fingal’s Cave Overture 
  6. Hereford
  7. Irby  
  8. Londonderry Air  
  9. Melrose
  10. Nottingham
  11. Padstow Lifeboat 
  12. Trip to Sligo 
  13. Westminster

When you are ready, scroll down, past my pictures, 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.


Finally check your inbox for a map with all the dots in roughly the right place, ready for labelling.  (If you’ve yet to sign up, you will find the form in the sidebar.)


Make a Quadrat

There are plenty more beach fieldwork options to come, but first you need to make yourself another piece of equipment – a quadrat.

To make one of these you need something to make the outside frame and then string to divide the central area into smaller squares.  You also need a tape measure to help you get everything in the right place.

For the frame I used garden canes, but lengths of wood would work too and would probably be more robust.  You need to cut 4 lengths of about 60 cm.  The inside edge of the frame will be 50 cm x 50 cm, but you need the extra length to fix them together.

Use string to lash the frame together at the 4 corners.  (Lengths of wood could be screwed together.)

Make sure the internal area of the square is exactly 50 cm by 50 cm.

You are going to divide the frame every 10 cm.  Mark the edge with permanent marker so that you know where to fix the strings, and so that you can see where they should be, if they slip out of position.  There should be marks at 10, 20, 30 and 40 cm on each side.

Now tie strings across.  Go first one way…

…and then the other way, twisting around each of the first set as you go.

Check the squares are still square (10 cm by 10 cm) and adjust if necessary.

And there you have it…

…a very useful piece of kit.

Here’s one way to use it.

As you can see my patio needs weeding!  We can use the quadrat to help us estimate the percentage of my patio that is covered in weeds.

Throw the quadrat down.  Yes, don’t place it, since that would be you choosing the results.

The quadrat has 25 small squares so each of them represents 4%.  Give each square a score:

  • Square is all weeds = 4
  • Square is ¾ weeds = 3
  • Square is ½ weeds = 2
  • Square is ¼ weeds = 1
  • Square has no weeds = 0

Add them up and you can see that 45% of my patio is covered in weeds.

I’m off to do some gardening, but I’ll be back next week to tell you how to use your quadrat at the beach.


Solution Mining

The rock salt mine at Winsford is not the only way that salt is removed from underneath Cheshire. The nearby town of Middlewich has a salt factory, but they get their supply of salt in a very different way.

Salt dissolves in water. If the salty water is collected and the water evaporated, then the salt crystals reform.

Quite a pile there.

Hot water is pumped into the ground to dissolve the salt. It is then pumped out again bringing the dissolved salt with it. The water is separated from the salt by evaporation. There is a nice animation here that shows the process.

Sounds like a good idea doesn’t it. The salt is brought to the surface without the need to send any people underground. But this method needs to be controlled and monitored carefully. Find out why next week.

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.

Tintagel Part 10 – Audience with the King

Last week Morgawse and Morgan arrived at the court of Lothian…

The king nodded curtly and rising, led the way into a small anteroom.  “Well, my lady, you may speak,” he said, lighting a couple of torches which illuminated some low chairs. “Sit.”

Morgawse swallowed, “Sire, you might think me rude, but I see no other way to put this than to be blunt.  When you came to visit us last summer, Prince Lot and I fell for each other.  I assume this much is known to you.”

The king nodded slyly, “Yes, indeed, it was quite obvious.”

Morgawse felt herself turning annoyingly red.  “Anyway,” she continued, “I still hold your son in remembrance.  King Uther means to marry me and Elaine for political advantage when he marries Mother, which he won’t delay in.  So, Your Majesty, would you welcome an alliance with the south?”  She held her chin up and looked Cynfarch right in the eyes.

The king’s eyebrows rose, “Well, Morgawse, you are a brave and bold woman.”

His expression was ambiguous.  “My lord,” she returned, “none of my family have been asked what we want; we are just more pawns to Uther, with no wishes of our own.  I see no reason why I can’t fight for the best life I can get under the circumstances – if you are agreeable, of course.”

“Morgawse, you have my respect,” he assured her. “Not many girls would have the grit to do what you have done.  As to my son’s marriage, I was beginning to think of it.  And you are right, it would be a useful alliance.  I give my consent, on the condition my son agrees.  Since you have taken your wishes into account, where others have not, I assume you would want to consult his own.”

A sigh escaped from Morgawse.  Half the task was complete. “Yes, of course, Your Majesty. Thank you.”

King Cynfarch gave a rare smile. “You are welcome, Morgawse.  Now come and rest.  Speak to my son.  How long do you think your sister will be asleep for?”

She followed him back to the hall.  “I don’t know exactly.  A few hours, at least.  One thing is certain, she won’t wake up till she is ready, and nobody will be able to wake her.”

Now Morgawse could pour all of her attention onto Prince Lot, as she had been too afraid to do before.  As she approached the table, he stood up and pulled her chair out for her, holding her gaze, intensely curious.  She let herself drink him in.  He was more handsome than she remembered.

A pulse fluttered in her throat.  Time for the second part of her quest.

Where? – 15 – Places that Inspired Songs

The next two weeks of Discovering Where are inspired by music, because the landscape and places of the British Isles have themselves inspired tonnes of music over the years.

This week it’s songs and next week instrumental music.

I’ve had a lot of fun putting this one together and I’ve had a few cross-curricula ideas too.  So, I’ll email out a sheet of notes to subscribers.  (Form is in the side-bar if you want to sign up.)

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.

For each of the songs I’ve given you a youtube link.  I’ve tried to pick versions that show something of the landscape or place that is in the song, so some of them have good location clues.  One even has a map!

I’ve watched the videos and checked the lyrics so you should be good to go on these.  There are a couple of others that didn’t make the cut for various reasons, which I will mention in the notes so that you can check them out for yourself.

So listen to the songs, watch the videos and guess the location on your map by putting a small circle where you think it is and writing the name next to the circle.

  1. Are You Right There Michael – West Clare, Ireland
  2. Dirty Old Town – Salford
  3. Ferry Across the Mersey
  4. It’s a Long Way to Tipperary
  5. Loch Lomond
  6. Manchester Rambler
  7. Molly Malone – Dublin
  8. Mull of Kintyre
  9. On Ilkla Moor Baht’At – Ilkley Moor
  10. Skye Boat Song
  11. Solsbury Hill
  12. Sunshine on Leith
  13. Taking a Trip up to Abergavenny
  14. The Fields of Athenry
  15. The Rose of Tralee

When you are ready, scroll down, past my pictures of Skye, 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.

Finally check your inbox for a map with all the dots in roughly the right place, ready for labelling, which I’ll send with the cross-curricula notes.