Don's Diary

November 10, 2000

Sunday
Finalise details for a workshop I have organised at Montford Bridge near Shrewsbury on the ecology and conservation of an endangered species, floating-leaved water plantain, or Luronium to her friends. Make sure that managers of sites where it grows have a prominent place in the programme. Allotment will have to wait until next weekend.

Monday
Wake up with a dig in the ribs at 4.30am as the alarm clock is dead - a power cut. Weather sounds wild. Leave Hatfield in high winds and lashing rain - a good day for Luronium . A car stranded in the "lake" across the Montford Bridge road shows how much rain has fallen.

Despite appalling conditions we are only two participants down. Luronium thrives on disturbance brought about by flooding, the greater the disturbance, the higher the productivity it can cope with. It would do well in higher education. Evening session lubricated with "Cleric's Cure", the local brew, yields draft conservation strategy.

Tuesday
Shrewsbury is effectively cut off. Our Polish and German participants are incredulous and worry how they will leave. Site managers come into their own and our elegant conservation strategy of yesterday is brought down to earth. Adapting our strategies to the real world will ensure that Luronium is pulled back one step from the brink of extinction. A lift to Swindon emerges for our continental colleagues - phew. Travel to Cornwall for launch of a book on Japanese knotweed that a colleague and I have written.

Wednesday
Rare weeds yesterday, alien invasive weeds today. Quick run before breakfast. Spot Japanese knotweed growing by stream. Example of how it aggravates flooding as dead stems from this year's growth impede flow. What did Cornwall do to deserve such a dose of Japanese knotweed?

Impressive turnout for the launch. Freeze to death standing in a mass of knotweed to have our photograph taken. Lunch of Cornish pasties, scones, jam and cream redresses balance.

Presentations demonstrate the social dimension of weed control. Similar outcome to yesterday: if managers and the community are not on your side, it does not matter how good your ecological theory is.

Thursday
Back at Hatfield, approach computer with apprehension - only 164 emails. Good news on funding from the British Council. A project we have set up with colleagues in Ukraine on developing best practice in their river management has the go-ahead.

Friday
Lug 35 Cyprus holiday brochures to advanced geographical studies session. Students enjoy using these to set up a database for Paphos. The group watches in fascination as our study area emerges within the outline of the island, a neat demonstration by one of our geographical information systems experts. Still raining but at least we can dream of next year's fieldcourse to sunny Paphos.

Max Wade is professor of environmental sciences, University of Hertfordshire, Hatfield.

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