Monday, 11 July 2011

Outreach in Berwick upon Tweed

A year ago, Jenny and I discovered some really interesting fossils in the borders region of Scotland, and in March returned to look for more.  Rather to our surprise, we were accosted by a couple of beligerant Scots, who accused us of plundering their heritage.  They took us for commercial collectors, and they didn't like it one bit.

After a rather awkward conversation, they departed, taking details of Jenny's email address and website, and we curtailed our trip with a distinctly nasty taste in our mouths.

However, over subsequent months, the senior Scot established our bona fides and he and Jenny exchanged a series of emails, which culminated in our returning north at the start of last week, for Jenny to give a talk to the local villagers about the major project for which she's shortly to apply for funding, its scientific significance and the importance of the fossils from the area in terms of our understanding of evolution of land vertebrates at that time.

We were a bit apprehensive, and no-one had any idea how many people she might have in her audience, not even the senior Scot who had done all the organising.  He'd advertised the talk quite widely, but until the day, you can't tell.

To our amazement and delight, the village hall was packed with over 70 locals, and they had to ship in extra chairs to accommodate everyone.   One local said he'd never seen the hall so full in all the time he'd been living there.  Jenny's talk was very well received and not only do we know now that we're welcome up there, but we've had offers of help should we need it.  The audience included a local girl who is about to start an MSc at Glasgow University, and who'd made the trip home especially to come to the talk.

This is all particularly good, as the funding body to whom Jenny is applying, is strong on outreach, so we've already got a good example in the bag.  There are several other sites in the area where good fossils have been retrieved, so we're anticipating repeating the talk to other communities once things get going.

Another thing we needed to address was making contact with the owners of the cliff we've been collecting from.  We had been under the mistaken impression that the cliffs were Crown property, but in fact, that is just everything below the high water level.  The cliffs belong to the farm above.

Jenny had exchanged letters with the farmer's secretary, but wanted to meet up so as to know who she was talking to when she phoned to say we'd be on-site.  She had had an email from a Scottish Heritage person who'd made the initial contact, apparently with one Pete Davidson, so we turned up and asked to speak to him.

A confused look crossed the secretary's face.  No Pete Davidson here.  After much backwards and forwards, and to great hilarity, it turned out that the farm owners are David and Peter Allen.  Peter is David's son.  So the man we wanted was Pete, David's son, not Pete Davidson.  Ho ho ho!  Anyhow, even though we didn't get to meet Pete, his father was there, but in reality, it was the secretary we needed to meet, as she's the one who will answer the phone.

So that was all very satisfactory, too.

And to round off the trip, I was playing 'how many miles can I get out of a gallon of diesel?' all the way there and back.  I drove slightly slower than usual, 80 instead of 90, very easy on the acceleration, try to reduce braking as much as possible, coast down hills and if you need to accelerate, try to do so when going downhill.  Avoid accelerating while going uphill.  Of course, you can't do too much of that without being antisocial, but I just did my best.

And the result?  Normally, the car does about 45mpg.  On this trip, 56mpg.  I was quite astonished.

No comments: