Shells mystery

RECENTLY I went by train to Saltburn, arriving before 10am.

Oh, what a lovely day, the sun was shining, the sea was calm and it was impossible to see the horizon as both the sea and sky were that pale "eau de Nile" colour.

I wandered down to the seafront where the tide was out, and I noticed scattered "things" on the wet sand shimmering in the sunshine.

Upon investigation I found a) worm casts, b) small, shiny, smooth pebbles and c) small, shiny, black shells.

About four hours later I walked onto Marske beach intent on walking to Redcar ahead of the incoming tide.

The sun was still out, and the beach looked beautiful with no sign now of all those dead crabs etc that I had read about.

I walked as far as The Stray, passing the narrowest part of the beach easily with less than an hour to high tide.

I was noticing more black shells being washed in with the tide all along that stretch of beach, hundreds and hundreds of them, similar to those I'd seen on the wet sand at Saltburn.

The shells were from 0.5cms to 2cms long, "double" and looked to me like small mussels.

I wondered, is this a natural phenomenon or has it a link to all the dead shellfish washed up along this coast earlier this year?

I couldn't stay after high tide, so I don't know if, like Saltburn, they got left in the wet sand on the receding tide. A great day out marred only by this nagging question.

Barbara Smith, Caldwell, Richmond.

Beck banking 'risk'

I READ with astonishment the claim that the vegetation growing along the edge and down the sides of the beck at Water End, Brompton are a “health and safety” issue, “Beck maintenance” (D&S Times letters, Aug 26).

On the contrary, it clearly marks the run of the beck as a contrast to the remainder of the Green which is mown.

If a child was to trip near the edge, the vegetation would be much more likely to save the child from falling into the beck than otherwise.

I realise there are some people who like everything in nature to be controlled and tidy but with wildlife and habitats under dire threats from climate change, and intensive farming etc. we all have to make some sacrifices.

I am afraid a few buddleia bushes in gardens are not going to be enough to save the range of insects, moths, bees, butterflies that rely on a wide diversity of wild plants for their survival and who incidentally provide food for the birds higher up the food chain.

It has been wonderful to see the return of the kingfisher this year after an absence of several years following the erroneous spraying with weed killer of the beck sides.

I commend Brompton Council for their initiatives in re-wilding some areas under their care. The Water End beck and wildflower meadow are a stunning and vital addition to our village.

Sue Farrington, Brompton, Northallerton.

The unpalatable

SOCIAL injustice is invariably a pre-cursor to social unrest and yet I did not hear much within the recent Conservative leadership campaign to indicate that addressing two obvious injustices was a priority for either candidate.

Possibly because they feared that doing so would be unpalatable to their core financial backers?

Firstly, the tax loopholes, and avoidance schemes.

The Pandora papers revealed how the rich have avoided paying their fair share of tax for years and yet the government appear to have allowed them to fade from public consciousness.

Secondly, disparity between workers and executive salaries. The argument that companies need to pay these salaries to attract and retain the right people just does not wash.

Government of the country must be the most complex of companies in the country, with the PM as chief executive and ministers as board members.

Have we not always been able to find another Prime Minister and other ministers just as capable/incapable as the ones they replace?

There is every reason, with evidence, to believe that this applies across most organisations.

There are a variety of reasons why people achieve executive roles; ability is just one of them.

The belief that excessive salaries and bonuses are an essential recruitment tool is simply a gravy train philosophy perpetuated by others already on the train themselves.

This does not mean there should not be opportunity for those with ability or, those with entrepreneurial zeal, to obtain a fair reward for their efforts. It is about maintaining a balance.

If companies cannot do this voluntarily it is possible for government to have its low tax philosophy but still retain a punitive tax tool to recoup the worst excesses from the greedy few. It is about the government of the people demonstrating that they are a government for all the people.

The throwing of temporary handouts to the masses will not achieve this on its own.

Additionally, as this government has chosen to place politicians in charge of the police service, in the form of crime commissioners, so policing national unrest based on labour disputes may not prove as straight forward as once it was. This could be unpalatable for more people than a small conservative elite.

This is not party politics – I have never voted Labour – it is about fairness.

John Hutchinson, Brompton on Swale.

Food strategy

HENRY DIMBLEBY and a group of independent experts recently published a National Food Strategy for the Government. The review is comprehensive and authoritative with recommendations to improve the health of citizens and the environment. It is very relevant to North Yorkshire where farming and food production are important issues.

The strategy deals with diet, health and food poverty.

It stresses the importance of school meals, particularly free school meals for children living in poverty.

At present only children in households with incomes below £7,400 per annum before benefits are eligible. The report recommends that this should be extended to children in households with incomes below £20,000.

The Government’s response to this recommendation is that eligibility for free school meals will be kept "under review".

The free trade agreement with Australia has now come into force, despite inadequate scrutiny by parliament.

Rishi Sunak criticised it at the hustings in Exeter.

Liz Truss was warned by her own officials that the agreement, and the one with New Zealand, would shrink the country’s farming and food sectors, according to recently released information.

Thirsk and Malton’s previous Conservative MP, now Baroness McIntosh of Pickering, has also criticised the agreement.

One of the results may be the importation of food from Australia of a lower welfare and environmental standard but cheaper than home-grown produce, as highlighted by the International Trade Select Committee.

With budget cuts and the rising cost of ingredients, this lower quality produce may be used in school meals.

The strategy demonstrates how agriculture, food production, international trade, the environment, nutrition, health and equality are linked and inter-dependent.

I hope that Malton and Thirsk’s current MP Kevin Hollinrake and his fellow MPs, will press the new PM to accept the report’s recommendations and give them the urgency they demand.

Martin Phillips, Westow, York.

Pigeon control

I READ with interest the article about the use of a Harris Hawk to rid Darlington town centre of pigeons. “Hawk used to scare nuisance pigeons” (D&S Times, Sept 2).

I was services manager at Northgate House for 16 years until my retirement in 2012 when the building was closed for good.

For many years I owned a pair of Harris Hawks and on a regular early morning basis, I would bring the female of the pair, Bess, into work at Northgate House and release her to fly around the area to disperse the flying vermin population and on many occasions, she would land on the roof of at the time, Marks and Spencer's, until I called her to return.

Good luck with the control of the pesky pigeons in Darlington.

Ray Vincent, Darlington.

Government quangos

I WONDER just what purpose Ofcom, Ofgem and Ofwat serve given that we have poor communications, seas full of sewage and energy prices going through the roof.

I mistakenly assumed they were to protect the user, but this is not the case.

It would seem to me they exist as part of the government’s system of off-loading responsibility to some old pals who sit around a table and work out ways of benefitting shareholders whilst they enjoy massive incomes for services to big business.

Edwin Pickering, Darlington.

Energy supplies

OUR Government's plan was to put the coal fired power stations out of use and rely on gas fired power stations to supply the national grid system. A catastrophic strategy and without any backup plan for the future.

Nuclear power on its own is insufficient and solar and wind power cannot be considered as a backup source as they are dependent on the weather. So, we have to rely on costly imports from other countries to supplement our needs.

And do we have a backup storage for gas? No. The Rough storage facility was closed down five years ago which appears to be another self -inflicted problem for the UK Government.

On top of all that, the media are causing panic by highlighting the rocketing energy cost and winter power rationing to add to their usual misery news.

L Hume, Darlington.

Not the time

WHAT is more important – to fly to the moon, or to preserve all forms of life on planet Earth?

The news tells us of the excitement of scientists as they prepare a rocket for a now-delayed trip to the moon, and we also hear of the loss of more than 1,100 people in Pakistan as a result of catastrophic floods.

This year has seen increasing signs of climate change throughout the world and yet some of our top brains think it is more important to discharge enormous amounts of carbon into the atmosphere when a rocket is launched rather than think of ways to save the wonderful Earth on which they, and we live.

Eye watering amounts of money have been spent on constructing the latest rocket, which is expected to fly to, and round the moon before returning to Earth.

If this is successful, yet more will be spent on the rocket which will take humans to the moon.

Scientists may see this as a wonderful achievement. If successful the team behind the project will, no doubt, feel a huge boost to their ego, but what price for the world?

At this stage in history, it is vital for all finance and inventiveness to concentrate on the future of the environment, sustainable life for everyone and just now, help for all those losing their homes, livelihoods and food supplies because of the global warming brought on by the past mistakes of humanity.

This is not the time to be concentrating on space exploration. The world needs care and attention now.

Helen Robson, Leyburn.

Housing demand

IN reply to W Robotham's recent comment concerning proposals to build new housing on greenfield sites “Brownfield land” (D&S Times letters, Sept 5).

The fact is there's rising homelessness among Britons.

Others live in houses of multiple occupation.

Refugees and asylum seekers are housed in Army barracks and hotels, while the Government recently increased the amount paid to those offering a spare bed to refugees from Ukraine.

There are more than 400,000 empty properties (of varying condition) within the UK.

But the number of people seeking social housing alone exceeds over a million.

There simply isn't enough housing to meet the present demand. So new housing has to be built.

If housing is built on brownfield sites, then properties such as factories, etc (needed to provide places of employment) will have to be built on greenfield sites.

If new factories are built on brownfield sites, then any new housing developments will have to be built on greenfield sites.

This is the reality of the situation.

CT Riley, Spennymoor.