In early February the BISC’s Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Indigeneity (EDII) committee organised a special intercultural event for students. The concept for the event was actually the idea of first year student Sowmiya Sivanayagam, who wanted international students to share aspects of their cultural heritage, including cuisine, stories, music, and even a fashion show of national costumes.
This was the first time that the EDII committee had organised such an event, and we were delighted to have the support and active participation of the students’ Cultural Affairs Committee, as well as funding and support from Student Services and the Musicians-in-Residence.
Huge thanks are due to Sowmiya for coming up with the concept for the event, which was very well attended indeed. EDII Committee Chair Diana Gilchrist was delighted to report that over half the entire student body showed up to the Ballroom to enjoy the wonderful homecooked food and join in fun activities such as opportunities to learn Chinese calligraphy and traditional Indian henna painting.
Dr Isabelle Brent, who co-chaired the sub-committee, spent many hours along with several students organising these activities and beavering away in the kitchens to produce an enticing variety of food for everyone to try. The event was a huge success that has every chance of becoming a regular event in the BISC’s student programming.
This edition features BISC alumni who have taken all manner of different career paths, but as always, what unites them is a love of the Castle and the lifelong friendships they made while they were here.
Do you want even more profiles? Why not check out the Spotlight page for links to our archives where you can read every single Spotlight profile we have ever featured in the Castle Herald! We hope you'll get in touch and join them.
In the article Bees & Trees in our last edition of the Castle Herald we posted a picture of students floating a footprint trap in the castle moat. It was built by students from the Ecology and Land Stewardship group and was dubbed a ‘Mink Raft’. The idea was to check for the presence and then subsequently survey the population of invasive American Mink (Neogale vision) in the waterways across the Estate. This floating monitoring system encourages curious mink to climb on it to explore and as they do, they leave evidence of their presence in the form of footprints in a layer of sand and clay spread across the raft.
The students built the raft from scratch and displayed some highly competent woodworking skills. We should also say a massive “Thank you!” to the folks at Men's Shed for supplying the tools and wood. Their hard work paid off, because in March Simon Coppard announced that the trap had yielded what he believes to be mink footprints. As you can see from these photos, clear footprints can be seen and according to Simon they are definitely not water vole, otter, or rat, and they look closest to mink. An exciting discovery! The elusive mink, or minks are yet to be photographed, but in terms to come, Simon is keen to launch the raft again with another group of students, perhaps in a different location, to further the study and with luck, one day get a snap of our secretive visitor.
It is believed American Mink escaped from fur farms in the UK during the 1950s and 1960s and their descendants have been on the run ever since. Mink may look cute and cuddly, but they are very active predators that will feed on anything they can get their paws on, including nesting birds and endangered water voles. It is hoped that the survey raft’s footprint trap will also show the presence of otters and water voles across the Estate so we can start to compile a picture of their numbers.
The Castle Estate provides students with a living laboratory for studying the rich variety of microsystems it contains, and a wealth of biodiversity, which makes it perfectly suited for hands-on investigations such as these. We can’t wait to see what discoveries are made by our next cohort of students!
At the end of February three major storms, Dudley, Eunice and Franklin battered the UK in the space of one week. The most ferocious of these was Storm Eunice, which resulted in a new UK record for the highest ever recorded gust of wind, a staggering 122mph on the Isle of Wight. Eunice absolutely hammered the south coast of the UK, closing schools, rail networks and motorways, tearing off roofs and bringing down power lines. Dozens of flights were cancelled and hundreds delayed at airports across the UK, while ferry companies stopped all services between Dover and Calais.
An estimated 1.4 million homes across the UK were left without electricity and running water for days, while engineers worked around the clock to restore power. Here at the Castle, we were without water and electricity for three consecutive days. Somewhat fortuitously, the storm coincided with the Mid-Term Trip to Liverpool, so our students at least were unaffected. The first point of call on their trip, some might say rather ironically given what was occurring above ground at the time, was Hack Green Nuclear Bunker in Cheshire.
One news agency referred to Storm Eunice as a ‘weatherbomb’. The Met Office even added London to the red weather warning amid danger to life, something that has never happened before. The Estate was closed to the public for their own safety, and once it was safe to do so, our Estate Team worked tirelessly to clear a number of fallen and irreparably damaged trees in our ancient woodlands. In all, we estimate that around thirty trees across our estate fell afoul of Storm Eunice one way or the other, so it was quite a mammoth task.
The Estate Team has a comprehensive Tree Risk Management Plan in place for monitoring the condition of our trees, allowing them to act quickly to pre-empt danger and prevent treefalls before they occur. Once Storm Eunice had passed, they redoubled their efforts to report and take swift action after any changes they noticed to the condition, structural stability, or integrity of the trees on the Estate. It was an outstanding effort!
As you may already know, from 1957 to1988 Herstmonceux Castle Estate was home to the Royal Greenwich Observatory. In February this year we were delighted to announce that the Estate is once again a hub for stargazers of all ages when Herstmonceux Castle became the new home of local astronomy group, Wealden Astronomers. Their monthly member meetings are held in our seminar rooms and on clear nights, they will also be taking advantage of the excellent observation and imaging opportunities offered by our remote, dark location, far from sources of light pollution one might find in the larger towns nearby.
Members of the group, led by their Chair, John Fox, have already captured some stunning images of the night sky above the Castle using spectacular time-lapse videos.
John commented, “As regular volunteers on stargazing evenings at the adjacent Observatory Science Centre, we already knew how good the viewing can be but to be based on the estate and have the magnificent castle as a backdrop was too good an opportunity to miss. It is also rather fitting that the former home of the Royal Greenwich Observatory will have astronomers inside its walls once again.”
John’s amazing "all sky" fisheye composite image showing star trails was shot at the Castle on Saturday 26 February from the Courtyard Garden and the Elizabethan Garden.
The picture covers an image circle of 210 degrees angle, hence this lens sees behind itself. This makes daylight hand-held images almost impossible because when the camera is level and pointing straight ahead, you get the top of your head, your feet and both hands in the frame! John told us that the only way to guarantee not to be in the picture was to be completely behind the camera when shooting. “To get the Courtyard time exposure I had to trigger the camera from below its vertical field of view and then lay on the ground underneath the tripod.” said John.
In March, John used his talent for photography again to help edit this stunning picture of the Castle, which was created by one of our students, Jack Thompson, to show both his and our solidarity with Ukraine. What we are seeing happen in Ukraine is devastating, and no doubt will have a deep and lasting effect on each one of us. Queen’s Principal, Patrick Deane, commented on the situation recently saying. “As an institution of higher learning dedicated to humanity’s free pursuit of knowledge and truth, Queen’s stands in opposition to this act of aggression, and we are committed to assisting, in whatever ways we can, those who have been affected by these tragic events.”
Jack’s picture attracted a huge amount of attention and support on our social channels. With John’s help, the image combines two photos, one of the Castle lit in yellow and one in blue. Our sincere thanks go to Jack, and John, for creating such an iconic and moving image.