Nature Sanctuary in Barbados forced to Close - Lapwings and other migratory birds now at risk

Thursday, October 30, 2008

For the last 18 months, Barbados Free Press staged an uphill battle against the destruction of the Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary, with this News-Blog adding its voice where appropriate. I have even gone so far as to e-mail Dr Karl Watson and get his view on some of the international visitors of the feathered kind that grace the Graeme Hall Swamp...

But now it appears as though it is too late, despite Barbados Underground joining in the fray -

Environmental philanthropist Peter Allard announced that the 35-acre Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary in Barbados will close on December 15, 2008.

Saying that “no one individual can stand longer than a generation in the wilderness of environmental preservation,” Allard despaired that to preserve the environmental heritage at Graeme Hall for future generations of Barbadians would require “a government-led consciousness.”

“I thank the the citizens of Barbados who came to the Sanctuary to visit, and thank those who signed the petition with the Friends of Graeme Hall for a National Park,” said Allard. “I believe the Sanctuary would not have been possible without the support of the many eco-visitors, school children and the hard-working employees who put their heart and soul into making the Sanctuary a first class visitor experience.”

Allard went on to say that the Sanctuary would not exist if it had not been for special individuals who helped make it happen such as Dame Billie Miller and her kind and capable Permanent Secretary, the late Brie St. John, Dr. Lorna Inniss, Dr. Trevor Carmichael, Dr. Karl Watson and many, many others.

Approximately 85 employees and contractors will be negatively affected by the closing. It is expected that tour companies, taxis and local businesses will lose bookings as well.

In 2007, over 6,000 Barbadians signed a Friends of Graeme Hall petition in favor of preserving the approximately 240 acre green area at Graeme Hall as a National Park. As the largest green space on the South Coast between the Airport and Bridgetown, the proposed National Park would include the designated 91-acre RAMSAR wetland approved under the international Convention on Wetlands, the 35-acre Sanctuary, and recreational lands.

Saying that that the future of the Sanctuary and the National Park is in the hands of the people of Barbados, Allard believes that the Friends of Graeme Hall and the citizens of Barbados must decide what their priorities are.

“We have great affection and regard for the people of Barbados, and the Sanctuary effort has always been a philanthropic mission. This has been an incredibly painful and saddening decision, but ultimately it is not for us to initiate or set national goals and long term legacies for the nation.”

Measured by the foot

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Pure air, pristine beaches, and miles of byways make hiking eye-opening

By Patricia Borns

Globe Correspondent / October 19, 2008

belair-barbados Belair is where Barbados's tourist industry got its start. Codrington College in St. John Parish opened in 1745 and is the oldest Anglican theological school in the hemisphere. (Patricia Born for The Boston Globe)

The young British fencing coach had left her friends on the beach to go hiking. It was her first time in the Caribbean.

"Hot weather doesn't normally agree with me," she said, nor, she admitted, had hiking. "At home it's an older person's sport."

We met in the East Coast village of Bathsheba, where some 50 outdoors lovers had materialized like a scene from "Field of Dreams." We hiked for four hours, fumbling through light woods and lianas (woody tropical vines); crowding reverently into a former slave chapel smothered in bush; laboring up Melvin Hill to a fisheye-lens view of the green Chimborazo valley below; and over coral promontories where Atlantic waves exploded in furies of spray.

Our guides, George Medford and Carl Fenty, reminded us that the wind washing over us travels some 2,600 miles across the ocean to this coast from The Gambia in West Africa and is some of the purest air in the world.

"This track was part of the Barbados Railway built to transport sugar cane and tourists," said Fenty. "It went bust five times before ceasing operation under its last owner, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts. A first-class seat with champagne cost 48 cents; when the train stalled, the third class got out and pushed."

As we spilled down a heathered slope to the seascape of Cattlewash, raw and romantic in the Byronic sense, the fencer turned to me with shining eyes. "I'm definitely coming back here," she said.

While Barbados can be enjoyed without ever leaving West Coast Highway 1, which is fringed with beaches and hotels, a local passion for walking has created opportunities to explore more than 800 miles of roads at little or no cost. Our trek was one of 45 rambles offered free by Hike Barbados, a program of the Barbados National Trust. No reservations are necessary: Simply meet Sunday morning or afternoon at the designated location, break into groups according to pace, and experience a 6-to-14-mile slice of the island that you might not otherwise see.

"Everything we encounter has a reason in history. Our early settlers planted those palms around their plantations so insect-eating birds could nest in safety," said Victor Cooke, a professional guide and National Trust volunteer, on a hike in rural St. Lucy Parish. "Those mahogany trees were planted near the driveway to shade workers waiting to begin the day. You always see these peas planted at the edges of fields. They were used to make jug-jug, a Christmas stew."

It seemed to my fiance, Ron, and me, that at least half of our company were Bajans (or Barbadians), not visitors like us. Richard Goddard, a program founder, explained, "Hike Barbados started not as a tourist attraction but as a way to connect our own people with their environment and heritage."

We noticed several hikers wearing T-shirts inscribed "the Colin Hudson Hike," commemorating a Hike Barbados leader who died a national hero for his advocacy of sustainable development.

If the turnout for the St. Lucy hike was a good indicator, more Bajans than ever are hitting the trails. When we passed through villages (and increasingly, subdivisions), children and grandparents greeted us with a "Good morning" or "All right," as if the sight of 60 backpackers strung out in twos and threes was an everyday occurrence.

Hiking changed our vacation from the lazy idyll we had planned. We began buying rock cakes of dense Bajan coconut bread for carb fuel and saving empty water bottles to fill at the ubiquitous roadside stand pipes, the island's first water supply fed by underground springs. Our pockets bulged with chips of 18th-century blue and white porcelain, clay pipe stems, and wisps of Sea Island cotton. The best prize, an Amerindian adze made of conch shell, was found and given to us by a local insurance agent who placed its age at 500 to 1,000 years.

Members of smaller groups invited us to join their hikes. One, a Wednesday trek in St. John Parish, climbed to soaring views of Consett Bay and Ragged Point; crossed the gold-grained sand of Bath beach; slogged up Society Hill; and lingered beside the lily pond at Codrington College, where young West Indians study theology in the hush of majestic coral stone buildings.

An ambassador's wife told us about BH3, the Barbados Hash House Harriers, part of an international network whose free outings are modeled on the English schoolboy game Hares and Hounds. The group meets at locations across the island every Saturday at 4 p.m. and welcomes walkers as well as runners.

We tried them all.

Who would have guessed that a 21-by-14-mile island could seem so large and varied? The meandering quality of the roads contributes to a perennial sense of discovery - and to the frequent experience of getting lost.

"Every road in Barbados leads to your destination - eventually," Thomas Loftfield, an assistant director at the Barbados Museum, said reassuringly. The museum's collection of early maps clarifies why this is so. By 1645, English settlers had almost completely deforested Barbados and replanted it with sugarcane, which would drive the economy for the next 350 years. Today's roads and public rights of way are a web of those 17th-century cart paths and cane field intervals.

If there is a successor to Colin Hudson as the articulator of Barbadian byways, Adrian Loveridge might be it. "It's almost painful to reveal the spectacular beaches encountered on this hike," said Loveridge as we picked our way along five miles of the East Coast from Bottom Bay to Crane Beach in St. Philip Parish. Together with his wife, Margaret, Loveridge has packaged six hikes with a stay at the couple's hotel Peach and Quiet, in Christ Church Parish, located near one of Barbados's best unpublicized beaches.

We were seeing the others now: Ginger Bay, Harry Smith Beach, Sam Lord's Beach, and Belair. From a tourist map, you might never know they existed or were accessible by car or bus.

"Barbados was born when the original [tectonic] plate fragmented and the Caribbean portion slid beneath the Atlantic one," Loveridge said as we wound among fossilized crags. "Corals thrived in the shallow water this created, and with a final tectonic push, up came our coral-capped island - you're walking on the ancient, submerged plate now."

A staircased ruin appeared weirdly at the shore's edge. "Three guesses as to what this is," Loveridge challenged us.

"The remains of a health spa," he said. "Picture ladies in Victorian bathing costumes being carried to the beach in litters hoisted by Bajan men."

Invariably the hikes ended with some of us removing to a restaurant or rum shop, where we didn't hesitate to try a full-sugar-strength Plus or caloric staple like macaroni and cheese pie. Moving slowly and poetically through beautiful scenery is one of the pleasures of a walking vacation, but guiltless enjoyment of food shouldn't be overlooked.

We ate our hearts out and returned home tanned and toned, having lost a total of six pounds.

Patricia Borns can be reached at

Barbados wins top awards at craft show

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Barbados wins top awards at craft show
Published on: 10/5/08.

Minister of Trade, Industry and Commerce George Hutson (left) dancing to Soca Junkie by Mr Dale (backing) as his wife Isabel (second from left) and Carl Lewis, corporate banking director of FirstCaribbean International, look on.

BARBADOS walked away with the top prize Friday night at the Best Of Show Awards Ceremony of the 15th Caribbean Gift And Craft Show 2008.

An ecstatic Angela Went, designer of Angelique Custom Creations, won the coveted Best Of Show Award for her unique copper jewellery, beating out more than 200 exhibitors, who showcased their products over the last four days at Sherbourne Conference Centre, Two Mile Hill, St Michael.

Barbados also won Best Booth through Exclusive Cottons of the Caribbean Inc. and Best Design School (Graphics & Communication) via Barbados Community College (BCC).

Minister of Trade, Industry and Commerce George Hutson congratulated winners, noting the high quality of craftsmanship and their contributions to gross domestic product (GDP).

"When we consider gift and craft as a business sector, we think of small and micro business persons. Nevertheless, there is substantial contribution to the GDP that is made by this sector, both in terms of employment and in terms of foreign exchange earnings," the minister said.

He called for greater support from all sectors "to aid in the sustainable development of our craft industry". (TM)