Reporter 463, 12 March 2001
Following the recent letters about gardening decisions on the University campus and their impact on wildlife, I feel compelled, at risk of over-emphasising this subject, to add my own point.
I have recently commented to various people about the care which Estate Services have apparently taken to preserve the trees and hedges around the Union, despite the intensive building work that has been going on.
I have particularly appreciated the retention of the cotoneaster hedges in front of the Union building which, despite their small size, were especially favoured by the local sparrows. Unfortunately, my appreciation was misguided: walking past the Union this morning, I found that they had been removed.
I realise that the majority of staff and students at the University of Leeds may not be concerned about campus wildlife. Indeed, many may be happy to see ‘untidy and unsafe’ but species-rich, bushes replaced by a swathe of grass and daffodils with little biodiversity value.
However, the plight of much of our nation’s wildlife, and particularly the rapid decline in many bird species has received much recent attention in the national media. (Note, for example, recent features on the Today programme and in the Independent newspaper about the problems facing the once ubiquitous house sparrow, and the recent positive publicity the University has received about research being undertaken within the Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation.)
In the light of this national concern, I personally feel that the University has a duty to manage its estates with wildlife in mind. I would very much like to hear from Estate Services exactly what their policy is about this matter and how many of my other favourite wildlife haunts I can look forward to being torn up in the future.
It’s a pity Claire Ryan didn’t have a word with Paul Tordoff, Catering Manager in the Senior Common Room, before rushing into print. In my experience, Paul listens sympathetically to (the rare) complaints about SCR food and makes every effort to remedy any faults.
With regard to the choice for vegetarians, as well as pasta and jacket potato, the home-made soups are excellent and more often vegetarian than not; last week’s carrot and lentil soup with lemon and coriander (Monday) was very good and the fish soup with fresh salmon (Thursday) was superb (some vegetarians eat fish). At about £1.25 for a large bowl with roll and butter this has to be the SCR dining-room best-buy. There are also hot toasties served at the bar, with cheese and onion, cheese and tomato (and other vegetarian) fillings, and a wide selection of sandwiches (admittedly, these are not hot).
As Chairman of the SCR Club I am independent from the catering service but I talk regularly to dining-room users and visitors. Most praise the quality of the food, especially the pasta dishes which, at £2.99 for the pasta of the day, green salad and orange juice, are the choice of about 60% of the customers.
After the trauma of the Sutcliffe experience (if you don’t know, don’t ask), the SCR dining-room has recovered to a position where it serves good food at reasonable prices. And the fish and chips, every Friday, are beyond reproach.
So, contrary to Claire Ryan’s dire warnings, I would strongly recommend anyone to come to the SCR dining-room. With luck, you might coincide with one of our famous classical music record sales or meet interesting colleagues from other departments in the pleasant surroundings of the coffee lounge. And, if you join the SCR Club, you could read the newspapers and magazines or borrow CDs weekly for free from the record library.
I fully agree with Claire Ryan’s comments about the Senior Common Room, but would like to add that it is not just the SCR at fault. The standard of vegetarian food on campus is atrocious – the refectory offers sub-school dinner fare, with often just one vegetarian choice, and the coffee bars have often run out of vegetarian sandwiches by 1pm.
I am not a vegetarian myself but attempt to eat healthily, and I often find myself having to trek over to the sandwich shop opposite the Parkinson Building or even into town to obtain a reasonable lunchtime meal.
Surely on a campus of this size it must be possible (and economically sensible) to offer good, healthy food that does not contain meat?
I was amused to read Des McLernon’s letter ("Our views proved more hit than myth") in Reporter 462, where he rails against activity audits.
Immediately my mind went back to a discussion I had over 40 years ago with a very capable NHS research scientist who had previously held a post in the Scientific Class of the Civil Service. He described to me his response to a similar request from eager civil servant analysts scenting an opportunity for advancement.
His daily report went somewhat like this:
9.15am – 11am: Thinking
11.00 – 11.15: Coffee break
11.15 - 12.30: Thinking
12.30 – 13.30: Lunch
13.30 – 15.30: Thinking
15.30 - 15.45: Tea break
15.45 – 16.30: Thinking
I suspect his meticulous record of conscientious devotion to what he was paid for had contributed to his leaving the Civil Service for biochemical research at the then famous psychiatric hospital in Dumfries, the Crichton Royal.
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