Country Life Today: A farm-friendly plastic solution

In today's round up, we bring you exciting developments of a plastic alternative, good news for pine martens and experts' views on UK flooding.

Grass, straw and maize could provide alternative to plastic

Leftover farming materials including grass, straw and maize could provide alternatives to plastic packaging.

Researchers from Bangor University in Wales are working with the plant fibres to create trays for fresh fruit, vegetables and eggs.

The materials are compostable, and already produced in large quantities by farmers.

‘Even if they’re being used as animal feed, there’s enough surplus to divert some into alternatives like this,’ said Dr Adam Charlton.

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‘This research could add value to materials that farmers currently aren’t using.

‘All of the UK supermarket retailers are desperate to solve the problem around single use plastics.’

Full story (BBC News)

Fresh hope for pine martens

Pine martens are opportunistic and can adapt their diet better than previously thought, according to new research by Queen’s University Belfast. Scientists found that although pine martens follow a different diet depending on where they live, their eating habits remain the same: they combine a small range of staples, such as beetles, slugs, snails and earthworms, with seasonal food that can range from fruit to songbirds, shrews, grey squirrels and rabbits.

European pine marten (Martes martes) in forest.

This adaptability makes it easier for the species to survive. ‘Pine martens are starting to recover from a severe historical decline which resulted from the combined effects of widespread persecution in both Britain and Ireland, and habitat loss,’ says lead researcher Joshua Twining. ‘Their recovery is surprising, as, despite legal protection granted in the 1980s, there is still a complete lack of suitable habitat. Our evidence shows [pine martens] can adapt and survive in a variety of woodlands, including the immature commercial plantations that make up the majority of the UK’s forest cover, and are not just restricted to their traditional habitat of ancient woodland, which is fantastic news.’

Full story (European Journal of Wildlife Research)

Poor management is making floods worse

With largest swathes of Northern England suffering underwater, experts have pitched in on what’s causing flooding. The issue appears to be a combination of climate change, poor management and commercial, industrial and residential developments over floodplains.

‘To some degree, it’s a problem of our own making,’ Roy Mosley, head of conservation and land management at Sheffield and Rotherham Wildlife Trust, told the Guardian. Solutions to make houses more resilient exist but are expensive and therefore, adds Prof Hannah Cloke, of the University of Reading, ‘not popular with developers.’

Full story (The Guardian)

National Galleries Scotland ends BP sponsorship over climate change

The Scottish museum group has ended BP’s sponsorship of its Portrait Award, which had been running for 30 years, because the association with the oil giant is at odd with its responsibility to tackle the climate emergency.

Scottish National Portrait Gallery,interior,Edinburgh,Lothian,Scotland,United Kingdom

BP expressed dismay at the decision while climate campaigners welcomed it. The move is widely expected to put pressure on other institutions, such as the National Portrait Gallery, which still have ties with fossil-fuel companies.

Full story (Country Life)

On this day…

On November 13, 1940, Walt Disney Productions released its masterpiece, Fantasia, at New York’s Broadway Theatre. The film, which was intended to reverse Mickey Mouse’s declining fortunes, began life as a roadshow and was later re-released several times, with some small amendments.

Despite wowing critics, the film initially lost money, partly because of the Second World War. It is now thought to be the 23rd highest-grossing film in the United States.

Piece of medieval history is lost as Lewes Castle wall crumbles

A privately-owned, standalone portion of the curtain wall at Lewes Castle toppled onto a neighbouring house on Monday. Luckily there were no casualties but the collapse represents the loss of a slice of Norman heritage.

Lewes Castle in East Sussex, England

It’s not clear why the wall fell, with theories ranging from the side effects of an earlier ivy removal to the impact of prolonged bad weather. The Castle’s museum and barbican, which are managed by The Sussex Archaeological Society and open to the public, have already been inspected and found to be sound.

Full story (Country Life)

And finally… Seal birth captured on camera

Rare footage of the birth of a grey seal has been recorded at a beach in Norfolk.

Full story (BBC News)