Amazing Amazon talk at the Temple Hotel

Evening wash in the Amazon at San Martin

Evening wash in the Amazon at San Martin

Many thanks to all our Grand Pavilion Friends who turned up to my talk at the Temple Hotel on the Amazon Expedition I did this summer (sounds like a September school essay title – what did you do this summer…well…). To the sounds and lighting of the Amazon rainforest I took the audience on a journey of discovery, a fact finding tour of the Pacaya-Samiria Rainforest Reserve in deepest, darkest Peru near to Iquitos.

With imagery and sounds that amazed and often scared people out of their skin, many found the journey insightful, inspiring or even inscrutable, but all were entralled by the beauty, scale and research that was carried out by a group of students on a BSES expedition this summer.

Most recently, one of the leaders, Lucy Grewcock won the Guardian Travel Writing Competition for this piece about her experiences – well done Lucy and hope you enjoy the Antarctic as much as the rainforest!

Before taking the measurements, I Sellotaped the crocodile’s mouth shut. But as I placed a ruler across its brow and dangled its inflated belly from the hanging scales, sharpened canines protruded over its lower jaw, and marble-like eyes glowered back at me in the moonlight.

Caiman Amazon

Caiman counting in the Amazon

As soon as I removed the Sellotape, the juvenile darted back into the inky water and we resumed our navigation of the lagoon, or cocha. “Too big,” José informed me when the prehistoric head of an adult motored past us. Later, when a smaller pair of eyes reflected in his flashlight, he whispered “ready?” and reached out to grapple another scaly torso into our dugout canoe.

After three hours of crocodile surveys, José steered us back towards camp. I sat in silence, listening to the plop and pull of the hand-carved paddle and watching the sputtering remains of an electric storm light up our jungle home like a flickering cinema screen.

I hadn’t wanted to visit the Amazon as “just another tourist”, and so, deep within the Pacaya Samiria national reserve, I had joined a team of Peruvian scientists to help monitor key species in a protected segment of the world’s biggest rainforest.

Home was wherever we made it; levelling the shrub layer with machetes, stringing up hammocks and building a campfire each evening was all part of the routine. Every night I would lie in my hammock watching fireflies dance through the sinuous trunks, allowing the clicks and burps, hums and screeches, whistles and whoops of a billion jungle beasts to sing me to sleep.

Local Cocama tribesmen with caught fish on the Amazon

Local Cocama tribesmen with caught fish on the Amazon

Each morning, we’d awake before sunrise to cook porridge, pull on sweat-drenched clothes and pickle ourselves in Deet before setting out to search for flame-red snakes, pink-toed tarantulas and neon butterflies. As the sun’s heat warmed the undergrowth, the forest would come alive with the smells of candyfloss and burnt toffee, freshly mown grass and warm hay, fried onions, wet dogs, crushed garlic and Turkish delight.

During the afternoon river surveys, we’d steer our canoes down unmarked tributaries, track giant river otters as they chased down the waterways, disturb flocks of white egrets as we emerged around meanders and, where the river bed widened, watch pink river dolphins leap through the piranha-filled waters.
It wasn’t until I left Peru that I realised just how remote my adventure had been. As the aeroplane rose out of the jungle-locked city of Iquitos and levelled out over the reserve, I pressed my nose to the window and scanned the rainforest for a dent in the trees where our hammocks had been, or a whisper of smoke from an evening campfire.

Paddling the Yanayaquillo in Canadian and traditional dugout canoes

Paddling the Yanayaquillo in Canadian and traditional dugout canoes

Five million acres of impenetrable green stared back. Unbroken, it reached out to the horizon, touched the sun and then dropped off the edge of the earth. Nothing, not even the cocha, was visible. Beneath this mass, my jungle home lay concealed, the teeming life of the reserve masked from the world above. The realisation of how utterly isolated I had been was incredible.

Lucy Grewcock – Fire Leader for the Amazon 2011, won the Guardian Travel Writing Competition.

The prize: A 20-day Spirit of Shackleton Antarctica trip for one person, worth £11,339

Science Camp butterfly

Science Camp Butterfly courtesy of James Borrell

I, like Lucy, had had the most amazing experience and I look forward to taking another 60 students in 2012, to return to our friends, the Cocama tribe in the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve for more science and adventure in this incredible place….and tell the rest of you all about it all over again!

For those that missed my talk this time, I am intending to do another one soon, this time on both the Amazon and Mongolia…

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Kylie Pentelow helps preserve our historic building

Kylie Pentelow of the BBC

Kylie Pentelow at the Grand Pavilion

The Grand Pavilion Group was set up in February 2010 and we have already made good progress towards saving this iconic building. The future use includes a theatre, live performance, arts and exhibition space, cinema, community room, cafe and much more.

Kylie Pentelow came to film a peice for East Midlands Today, about lost heritage and in particular the part that the local community are playing in supporting and developing this project to save the Grand Pavilion and develop an arts and entertainment centre. Our supporting group, the Friends of the Grand Pavilion now number over 800, and it is growing from strength to strength every week. The committee look to our Friends Group for ideas of future use for the building and spaces, fundraising and general help in putting on events that depict its future use at local supportive venues such as the Temple and Fishpond Hotels.

Kylie interviewed many of the key people in the project including Charles Beresford, Ken Smith, India Davies, Gregor Macgregor, Cllr Geoff Stevens and myself, to get a good idea as to how this project was going to come to fruition.

Ken Smith interviewed by Kylie Pentelow

Ken Smith interviewed by Kylie Pentelow

Grand Pavilion Theatre

Grand Pavilion Theatre - artists impression

Should anyone from around the world wish to support or even have memories of this iconic building, please send them to
Further information can be found at

Here is the link for Kylie’s piece about the Pavilion (it starts at about 14’30” mins in)

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Chirstmas Carols and Choirs at the Boat Inn, Scarthin, Cromford on December 10th 2011 at 2pm (Carols start at 4pm)

Christmas Concert at the Boat Inn, Scarthin, Cromford

Christmas Concert at the Boat Inn, Scarthin, Cromford

Santa is on his way to Scarthin….Christmas Carols and Choirs at the Boat Inn will be a lovely afternoon and evening of music, christmas stalls, Santa’s Grotto, roasting chestnuts, mulled wine and more…

Another Dimension, Bonsall Methodist Church Choir and Wirksworth Community Orchestra will all be playing or singing on the Boat Inn, in the garden between 4pm and 8pm – do get your voices ready to join in!

There will be stalls selling christmas fayre, a steam engine roasting chestnuts, mulled wine, pork and stuffing cobs, the Christmas Tree and mince pies aplenty.

Come and join us on Facebook:

The Boat Inn, Scarthin, Cromford

The Boat Inn, Scarthin, Cromford

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Bonfire Night Special at the Rock Face, Wirksworth

The Rock Face Bar

The Rock Face Bar

Flying Tomato Music are doing a Bonfire Night special with the Lime Kiln in Wirksworth. There will be a superb firework display, a bar, barbecue and live performance by the Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican.
Bands website:

Join us on Facebook:!/event.php?eid=180564445356489

Saturday 5th November 2011, and the fun starts at 7pm
Should be another entertaining evening!

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The Rock Face Gig

The Rock Face Bar

The Rock Face Bar

As a fundraiser for the local young sports clubs, Flying Tomato Music put on 10 bands from around the region to play from 2pm to 11pm at the Rock Face, behind the Lime Kiln Pub, Wirsworth. With a great turnout and some excellent acts, we seriously rocked the place with performances from:
The Nightwires, The Bar Steward Sons of Val Doonican, Ann Duggan, Damned Torpedoes, Whiskey Bob Shaker, Scutty Neighbours, Blackhands, Mortdelemar, Scrim and Tastebuds. Great fun was had by all on such a beautiful day. Thanks to all the bands, the stage crew and those that helped make it so =(;-)=
Thanks to Dave Thorburn from for the pictures and memories!

Damned Torpedoes

Damned Torpedoes

Scutty Neighbours on the PA stack!

Scutty Neighbours on the PA stack!

Mortdelemar on the Rock Face stage

Mortdelemar on the Rock Face stage



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BSES Amazon Expedition 2011

Sunset over the Maranon

Sunset over the Amazon from San Martin

Arriving in Iquitos on the Amazon River on the 24th July 2011, we soon adapted to the tropical pace and climate. This bustling city, only accessible by river or plane, has built up over the centuries as a major marketing, business and regional centre for Loreto in north-eastern Peru. After doing some final preparations for our five week expedition, our two day journey upriver on board the ‘Eduardo’ ferry gently got us use to the jungle life; sleeping in hammocks, eating local food and getting a feel for the river.
living in hammocks on the eduardo

Sleeping quarters on the upper deck of 'Eduardo'

We were heading for the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve in Loreto region of Peru. The Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is located between the river Marañon and the Ucayali in the Department of Loreto. It is the second largest natural protected area in Peru, consisting of 2,080.000 hectares. Inhabiting the reserve are (at last count!) 449 species of birds, 102 of mammals, 69 of reptiles, 58 of amphibians, 256 of fish and 1024 of wild plants. Our arrival at 4am in San Martin village two days later was exciting and full of expectation, collecting science data for the Reserve and the Wildlife and Conservation Society back here in the UK.

Four teams then seperated to start their first phase of this momentous expedition. My first phase was the canoe trip, to follow the Yanayaquillo River (a tributary of the Maranon) as far as we could get in six days. Using traditional dugout canoes, we wild camped in the jungle, taking in the incredible scenery, the night-time sounds, cooking on open fires and living from a rucksack. During this part of the expedition, we saw dolphins almost every day, caught fish from the river to add protein to our diet, did night time paddles under moonlight and made it upstream to a cocha (small lake) by day four.

River Yanayaquillo

Traditional canoeing on the Yanayaquillo

A major part of this expedition was the link we had with the Pacaya-Samiria Reserve and the local Cocama tribe, at Sam Martin de Tapischa village. The community life revolves around fishing, including commercial fishing. Whilst they also sell rice, manioc, bananas and high qulaity timber from their reserve. Ecotourism is fast becoming a funding resource for the community, helping them to exist without damaging their ancestral home. It is documented that the Cocama were first ‘discovered’ by Europeans during the expedition of Juan Salinas de Loyala in 1557. Whilst we were there, teams visited an ancient Aztec village site on the other side of the river, where many pot shards were found in abundance.

San Martin village on the Maranon

Our return to the village at the end of the canoe phase was the start of the project work with the local people through the ‘Asiendes’ organisation (Indigenous Association in Defense of Samiria Ecology). All other visitors to this amazing reserve usually only get a day to visit and our five weeks was a real privilege. It gave us all an opportunity to understand the part the Cocama play in preserving the reserve and the life that they lead within the rainforest. Our projects included traditional canoe repairing, working with the local school, helping with a village herb garden, the building of a chapel and community toilets amongst many others. It was a joy to work and share experiences with such happy and incredible people. I spent an unforgettable two weeks with these people, living, sharing and working within and around the village.

Traditional dugout canoe making

I then completed a secong canoe phase, heading up the Samiria River this time. A very different experience to the Yanayaquillo, much wider and more diverse forest. Again, wild camping and catching fish with a spear were some of the major highlights, as well as the roar of the Howler Monkeys. A pod of dolphins followed us for much of this phase, playing with our boat as we entered the now much lower (10m drop) Maranon at San Martin.

The other two phases that I was not involved in included a weeks jungle trek from the Samiria River to the Cocha wa Wiuri where the team would spend another week collecting data for the reserve.

Our journey back to Iquitos back down the Amazon was a fitting end to a superb Expedition.

Further images of this expedition can be found here:

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John Jones of Oysterband

Flying Tomato Promotions were pleased to work with John Jones and Twisted Folk to put on two gigs of his Spine of Derbyshire tour in May, before Headlining ‘Off the Tracks’ Festival at Donnington. John walked around Derbyshire over 10 days doing a gig every night as he went, culminating in two showcase gigs at the Rutland Arms in Bakewell and the Fishpond in Matlock Bath.

I walked with John and his Reluctant Ramblers to the final gig, with an impromptu rendition of a traditional Winster song by John in the Miners Standard.

Many thanks to all who supported these gigs and we look forward to next year…

John Jones of Oysterband plays the Fishpond

John Jones of Oysterband plays the Fishpond, May 26th 2011

17-27 May 2011
John Jones of folk rock legends Oysterband will be walking with his group the Reluctant Ramblers across the Spine of England, in and around the Peak District, this May and playing a number of shows en route.
The tour will take in some of the most iconic walking destinations in the country, such as Derbyshire’s Kinder Scout, the Hope Valley, and Saddleworth Moor.

Joining John along the way will be a changing company of well-known folk musicians and friends, and John will also be accompanied by some excellent young folk and acoustic musicians local to various areas.
John also invites you to join for as little or as much of the walking tour as you would like. The route has been carefully constructed to include walks of varying lengths from a couple of hours upwards.

Twisted Folk have also teamed up with Ordnance Survey to bring you detailed maps of the tour and its various walks and help you plan your journey, these will be available from the Twisted Folk site soon.
Please see our Listings Page for ticketing details and information on the various shows, and watch this space for John’s regular walking blogs.

John Jones at the Fishpond, Matlock Bath - May 26th 2011

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