On a dull, cold and misty day on the moors at the end of October, the Y13 Biologists spent a day in the Peak District (White moss path near Stanage Edge) collecting data for one of their biology required practicals (RP12).
They were investigating the effect of an abiotic factor on the distribution of heather and measured several biotic factors including pH, soil depth, gradient and vegetation height. They used an interrupted belt transect and estimated % cover of heather with a quadrat.
No-one got lost in the mist or fell in the bog and everyone was very cheerful carrying out their data collection even when they realised that Sheffield had spent the day basking in autumnal sunshine!
Well done to everyone for being so fantastic – you were a pleasure to work with!
Our Y13 Hispanists had a marvellous four day, four night trip to the Spanish capital over the October break. The streets of Madrid and in some cases the madrileños themselves were adorned with Spanish flags in response to the ongoing catalan “uprising”. Pride, tinged with a hint of worry, was the predominant feeling amongst the locals. When asked about this eloquently by Charlotte, our waitress in a restaurant spoke of her “tristeza” at the desire amongst “some” to break up their country. Clearly the feeling associated with the independence movement in Madrid is not the same as it is in Catalonia.
Having managed to arrive in Madrid on Sunday afternoon (which seemed unlikely at one point given both our original Ryanair flight and our subsequent Monarch flight was cancelled), we headed to El Prado, one of the most visited art museums in Europe. With famous works by Goya and Velazquez on show, it was awe-inspiring. Even our least enthusiastic art aficionado (Amelia) described it as “all right”, so by that metric it really was special. Once everyone had had their artistic fix (which for some took less time than others), the evening rolled in and we let Harry take control of finding somewhere to eat. The brief was “Spanish” and “affordable”. After having to explain that we couldn’t dine in one of Madrid’s 5* hotels because it wasn’t affordable, we eventually settled on a mid-range Italian, which although didn’t meet the former criterion, served its purpose.
Monday was an opportunity to explore the city, see the sights and “dar un paseo en bici”! After a brief debate about whether sticking to the beautiful Parque el Retiro or exploring the city’s streets by bike would be better given levels of biking proficiency (and Harry and Emily’s bizarre tandem) we decided it would be safer for all if we stuck to the park. We asked the locals all manner of questions about the location of random spots within the park, and after our LIDL picnic in the glorious sunshine it was time for “el remo”. To the lake we took, and although most (particularly Ali) were unquestionably terrible, Emily defied the odds, in being unexpectedly skilled on the boat.
Then, following a surprisingly aggressive period of haggling with a street vendor by Harry (for Amelia’s fashionable sunglasses) we headed to the “Guerra y Conflicto” exhibition in the Museo Reina Sofia. There we saw perhaps the most famous piece of art ever by a Spanish artist, Picasso’s Guernica, depicting the atrocities of the Spanish Civil War. So impressive it was that Antje couldn’t help taking surreptitious (albeit ultimately clandestine) photographs. She tried to lose herself amongst the crowd, unsuccessfully, and was appropriately rebuked by security! Harry, on the other hand, did lose himself, completely, in the museum and didn’t emerge until closing time. In fact, we had to go in and find him, several hours after everyone else had finished! On return to the hostel, again Harry took the culinary lead and prepared a marvellous Mexican meal for the group.
Tuesday (road trip day) involved a splendid jaunt to Segovia. With the marvellous Pablo Alborán (Lucy’s favourite) providing appropriate sing-a-long material the drive through the Parque Regional Cuenca Alta was breath-taking. Appropriately attired, the mid-morning activity was climbing the La Najarra (a small mountain in the Sierra Guadarrama). Sadly, we ended up going the wrong way, but the neighbouring mountain was equally spectacular. It is fair to say that some were more at home than others on the mountain, and although the climb itself was arduous, the rewards of vista and picnic at the top were very much worth it.
The afternoon saw us reach Segovia, a marvellous provincial town, about 100km to the northwest of Madrid. There, the striking roman aqueduct, the quaint Jewish quarter and the relief-inducing McDonalds (sigh!) were among the highlights. The evening’s meal was taken in an even smaller neighbouring town called El Escorial, where the group had ample opportunity to practise their Spanish discussing everything from Catalan independence to bullfighting with our lovely waiter and waitress.
Wednesday, our penultimate day was also a public holiday with it being “El Día de los Muertos” and it was fitting to see some of the city’s religious sights, along with the magnificent “Palacio Real”. Other than shopping, the undoubted highlight of the day, was the opportunity to watch Lorca’s Bodas de Sangre (a Romeo and Juliet style romantic tragedy) at the theatre which was produced with such conviction and beauty (and artistic flair) that it was thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Our last day involved the group spending time working on their independence research projects in a university style library in the edgy Lavapies district of Madrid. In addition, however, there was the unique opportunity to see the famous Plaza de Toros at Las Ventas and to learn of its history at the museum. Although still deeply controversial, and probably still cruel, we now have a much more convincing understanding of the respect and honour afforded to the bull in any fight in Spain.
Many thanks to all of our Y13 Spanish students, whose Spanglish and Spanish are both coming on very well and who were an absolute pleasure to travel with through Madrid and its environs.