It wasn’t all bad: eight good things that happened in Britain this year
From a resurgence of wild beavers to the ‘Borrowdale Banksy’
A thousand beavers are now living in the wild across Scotland’s southern Highlands, more than double the number three years ago. According to NatureScot, the creatures are inhabiting more stretches of river, too: surveyors on canoes found one northern population close to the edge of the Cairngorms National Park, and signs of beavers not far from Loch Lomond. NatureScot was criticised by some conservationists for allowing 115 beavers to be culled last year; but the managed reintroduction has won over the support of the National Farmers Union Scotland.
Around 250 volunteers from around the country answered the call in November when an experienced caver suffered multiple injuries while exploring the labyrinthine tunnels of Ogof Ffynnon Ddu – the UK’s deepest cave system. The rescuers, who included cavers and doctors, gathered on the hillside in the Brecon Beacons, and toiled in shifts to carry the man to safety, with up to 70 of them underground at a time, forming a human chain. After 54 hours, George Linnane, 38, was finally brought out. He was said to be doing “remarkably well”.
Camping for charity
A 12-year-old boy who has been sleeping in a tent in his garden in Devon for 21 months has raised more than £680,000 for charity. In January last year, Max Woosey was given a tent by his neighbour, Rick Abbott, who was dying of cancer. A keen wild camper, Abbott urged him to “have an adventure” in it. He died soon after, and when the lockdown started, Max resolved to sleep in the tent, to raise money for the hospice where Abbott had spent his last days. His parents expected him to manage it for a week or so, but he kept going; last month, he marked his 600th night out.
Coronavirus Tutoring Initiative
Some 4,000 university students across the UK volunteered to tutor children from disadvantaged backgrounds free of charge during the pandemic. Although they had also missed part of their education as a result of the lockdowns, students collectively gave around 50,000 hours of their time to the Coronavirus Tutoring Initiative, between its launch in March 2020 and its closure in June 2021, when the pandemic seemed to be coming under control. The scheme was thought up by Jacob Kelly, a student at Oxford University, who launched a call for tutors on social media last year as soon as schools closed.
An unknown artist, whom locals have dubbed the “Borrowdale Banksy”, has been using local stones to create striking artworks at locations around the Lake District. Pictures of the structures were shared online by the Borrowdale Institute – a local community centre – after walkers sent them in. Carl Halliday, who runs a mountaineering business in the area, said that although he is normally sceptical about man-made structures in nature, “this was different. It seemed sensitive to the existing environment and complemented the already stunning views.”
A 70-year-old from Oldham became the oldest person to row solo and unassisted across the Atlantic this year. In a boat named “Never Too Old”, Frank Rothwell set off from La Gomera in the Canary Islands on 12 December 2020 and crossed the finish line in Antigua on 6 February. In the process, he raised more than £1.1m for Alzheimer’s Research UK in memory of his brother-in-law, Roger, who suffered from the disease and died with it while Rothwell was making his 3,000-mile crossing
Britain looked set to experience a lido revival this year, as towns from Brighton to Salford and Hull announced plans to build new outdoor pools or refurbish old ones that have been closed for decades. While most UK towns once had lidos, the majority had shut by the 1990s, as cheaper overseas holidays took off. However, there has been a resurgence of interest in outdoor swimming since the start of the first lockdown. One of the pools being revamped is Hull’s Albert Avenue lido, which is in one of the UK’s most deprived areas. It is due to reopen next year.
Minor joins Mensa
A four-year-old from Birmingham who’d learnt the alphabet by the time she was 14 months old became one of the youngest members of Mensa this year. Dayaal Kaur took the test to join the society when she was three, and was accepted on her fourth birthday, with an IQ of 145. “She says things all the time that I have to Google,” said her mother, Rajvinder Kaur, a solicitor. “She is fascinated by space, so she is always asking me things like ‘Why does the Moon orbit the Earth?’” Her father, Sarb Singh, says she makes them laugh all the time too.