Country Life Today: Plastic bag sales plummet by 90% thanks to Blue Planet effect and seagulls are up to no good in an Exeter pub

Our news round-up features a 90% drop in the sale of plastic bags, The Prince of Wales's new guide to village life and how you can help basking sharks find protection in Scottish waters.

Supermarkets report drop in plastic bag use

Plastic bag sales by supermarkets have dropped by 90% since 2015, when the 5p charge was introduced, and halved in the last year.

Waitrose, Marks and Spencer, Tesco, Asda, the Co-op, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s sold 549 million plastic bags in 2018-19, compared to one billion the previous year.

The reassuring move began in 2015, when the 5p charge was introduced to tackle plastic pollution and plastic-avoidance has accelerated since then. The move away from single-use bags has been partly attributed to the Blue-Planet II television series, which highlighted the scale of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. The compelling series attracted more than 14 million viewers.

The statistics are ‘a powerful demonstration that we are collectively calling time on being a throwaway society,’ according to Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers.

(Full story — BBC News)

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The Prince of Wales’ very British guide to country life

The Prince's Countryside Fund - Village survival guide


The Prince’s Countryside Fund has pulled together local knowledge to compile a practical guide to living in rural areas

To mark the official first day of National Countryside Week, the Prince’s Countryside Fund has launched The Village Survival Guide, a publication all about how to build a strong community in a rural setting.

The book is an extension of the work done by the Fund’s 2018 research, which saw over 3,000 people share the challenges they faced living in rural communities, and ways they found to pull together.

(Full story — Country Life)

Getting to grips with Lyme Disease


Getting bitten by a tick isn’t just irritating and slightly icky – it also brings with it understandable fears about Lyme disease. Charlotte Peters explains what you need to know.

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Basking sharks need our help

basking shark

The Scottish Government has proposed a new protected area for basking sharks in UK waters – it would be the first of its kind in the world and conservationists are asking the public for help to make it happen.

Conservationists are asking the public to support a proposal to create a protected area off the coast of Scotland where basking sharks can thrive. The Sea of the Hebrides Marine Protected Area (MPA) is one of four new locations suggested by the Scottish Government – the proposals are currently at the public consultation stage.

The Sea of Hebrides MPA would be created between the Western Isles and the coasts of Skye, Mull and the Ardnamurchan Peninsula; it is one of the most popular gathering areas for basking sharks when they visit the UK between May and October.

Full story (Country Life)

Cows lick the bowl too

One of the dairy herd, a resourceful cow named May at The Home Farmer (a small dairy farm in the Yorkshire Dales) proves cows lick the bowl of their cow cake, just like we do.

Read more (The Home Farmer)

Jousting gallops into the 21st century

In an interesting turn of events, Britain’s most ancient sport is employing the most modern of methods to keep the game fair.

The ancient sport of jousting is being shaken up by the use of VAR technology to score competitions at English Heritage venues this summer.

Jousting, England’s first national sport, is being brought into the 21st century as English Heritage introduces Video Assisted Referee, or VAR, sports technology to its jousts across the country this summer.

Today at Pendennis Castle in Cornwall, English Heritage’s jousters are being subjected to the scrutiny of the same vision processing technology used in tennis, football and rugby for the first time, as sports specialists Hawk-Eye track and use video replay to accurately score the competitors’ moves.

Full story (Country Life)

Just how much water do hanging baskets need?

Hanging baskets UK gardens

Hanging baskets are an integral part of gardens, parks and villages across the country, and this summer the RHS is determined to find out the best ways to keep them watered without going over the top, as it were.

People are keen for an answer, it seems, since a recent survey of 3,447 gardeners found that that as many as 75% respondents were keen to know more about watering hanging baskets and containers, while 80% were concerned about water use in their gardens, the RHS said.

Full Story (Country Life)

On this day…

On 1 August 1774 Joseph Priestley (1733-1804)  happened to discover oxygen. A Unitarian minister, teacher, author, and natural philosopher, he was also the Earl of Shelburne’s librarian and tutor to his sons.

Using a a 12-inch-wide glass ‘burning lens’ aimed at a lump of mercuric oxide placed in an upside down glass container in a pool of mercury, he managed to capture a gas which he announced as  ‘five or six times as good as common air.’

Priestley called this air ‘dephlogisticated air’ and his findings enabled French chemist Antoine Lavoisier to discover its role in combustion and name it oxygen in 1778.

And finally…

Seagulls are once again hitting the headlines for their bad behaviour.

Following last week’s nasty incident involving a chihuahua, the birds are now causing havoc elsewhere.

Customers at Imperial Wetherspoon pub in Exeter have reportedly been terrorised by the hungry gulls, who have been landing on tables and stealing food.

The pub plans to introduce a ‘bird of prey deterrent programme’ to tackle the problem.

Full story (DevonLive)