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Status Update - 1st September 2021

Our first consideration is the safety and well-being of our visitors and volunteers.

All libraries are required to carry out health & safety risk assessments, and some have been able to lift Covid-19 restrictions because the size and lay out of their buildings make it safe to do so. But Stannington Library is a small indoor space, and we are therefore keeping some safeguards in place, so that all our customers can feel confident about coming in.

We have screens to separate incoming and outgoing customers, a Track & Trace and hand sanitiser station, lots of signage to help you follow the one-way routes around the bookcases and our front desk area has a safety screen. We are still managing the numbers allowed into the library, so that the space doesn't become overcrowded, as well as making sure that we have lots of windows open so that the library is well ventilated.

From 1 September 2021, we still require you to wear a face covering when you are in the library, and to maintain social distancing. Please continue to use the hand sanitiser before you handle books.

Thanks for helping us to keep the library a safe place for everyone.

Hallam'89 Theatre Club presents

The Railway Children at Knowle Top Chapel

on Saturday 11th September 2021 - 3pm

Hallam'89 Theatre Club present E. Nesbit's enduring favourite, 'The Railway Children', adapted for the stage by David Hague.

During lockdown, Hallam '89 has been very busy rehearsing this new production. This special performance has been facilitated by Stannington Library.

Tickets cost £5 and can be purchased via Eventbrite:

Tickets will also be available on the door - or in advance direct from Stannington Library - but please note we only take cheques or cash (exact money needed as no change can be given).

Date and Time: Saturday 11th September 2021 - 15.00 BST

Location: Knowle Top Methodist Church, Stannington Road, Sheffield S6 6AL

Cost: £5 in advance or on the door

What to expect at the event: Covid safety precautions will be in place, in line with theatre industry practice and to ensure the safety of all audience members. You are strongly recommended to wear a face-covering when inside the building, especially when moving around, to observe social distancing and use the signposted entry/exit doors. We will also ask you to provide Track & Trace details or scan the QR code on display. Thank you in advance for your co-operation.

Stannington Library presents

Between You & Me: words, songs, comedy

with Ian McMillan & Luke Carver-Goss

on Friday October 1st 2021

7.30pm at The Lomas Hall

Bard of Barnsley Ian McMillan returns to Stannington on Friday 1st October with Sheffield-based collaborator, acclaimed composer Luke Carver-Goss, to play a date promoted by Stannington Library in The Lomas Hall.

The pair played last played Stannington in 2017 and almost brought the house down. They were scheduled to return in 2020, but that event, like so many, fell victim to COVID-19 restrictions.

Tickets for the event cost £15.00 and are available from Eventbrite:

Or you can call into Stannington Library to purchase a ticket. We do not have a card reader in the library, but you can pay by cash, cheque or bank transfer.

What to expect at the event: Covid safety precautions will be in place, in line with theatre industry practice and to ensure the safety of all audience members. You are strongly recommended to wear a face-covering when inside the building, especially when moving around, to observe social distancing and use the signposted entry/exit doors. We will also ask you to provide Track & Trace details or scan the QR code on display. Thank you in advance for your co-operation.

Click here for more information

Public Computer now available to book

We are very pleased to announce that we now have one Public Computer available for public use. A one hour session on the computer can be booked either by calling in to the library in person or by telephoning 0114 234 8732 during opening hours.

Status Update - 5th May 2021

We are very pleased to announce that we will open our doors for book browsing from Monday 10th May 2021.  On that date we will also revert to our original opening times:

Mon: 1.30pm – 7.00pm

Wed: 10.00am – 12.30pm  &  1.30pm – 6.00pm

Fri: 1.30pm – 7.00pm

Sat: 9.30am – 12.30pm

We have been busy behind the scenes making our library ready for you.  We have several hand sanitising stations, screens to separate incoming and outgoing customers, a new front desk layout with safety screens and lots of signage to help you follow the one-way routes around the bookcases.

See our Book Browsing Guide for more information.

We will continue to offer our Order & Collect service for those customers are not yet ready to enter our building for book browsing.

Click here for our Order & Collect page.

Our People's Network computers will not be available when we open for visitors. However, we intend to offer one computer for use by the public soon. Keep checking the website for the latest information.

Greenhill Library are hosting

a VLiS (Volunteer Libraries in Sheffield)

FREE ZOOM TALK on 23rd April 2021

'Staying Safe Online - simple tips for ordinary people' with Dr. Chris Brown

Worried about scams, phishing and viruses when you're on-line? Join Chris on this free zoom talk to learn how to recognise bogus emails, texts and phone calls, and what not to do when you get one. Also find out how to keep your computer secure and manage your passwords safely. 

The event starts at 7.30pm, but the meeting room opens at 7.15pm. All the details for joining can be found on the Greenhill Library website -

Here are Jan Flamank's Nature Notes for April 2021. Click on each photo to see a larger photo on a new page. For a downloadable pdf version see the link below.

Wonderful Woodpeckers, brilliant beaks and a bit about birdsong

We have 3 native woodpeckers and one visitor: Great Spotted, Lesser Spotted and Green Woodpeckers and visiting Wryneck.

The Great Spotted is our most well known woodpecker, and will visit garden birdfeeders, although it is a woodland bird. About the same size as a blackbird at 23cms long, it is mainly black and white with marvellous red ‘trousers’ on its rear undercarriage. The male also has a splash of red on the nape of his neck. It feeds mainly on wood boring grubs and insects, which they excavate from under tree bark. They have a very long, thin tongue, covered in sticky mucus and with backward facing barbs on the tip which they use like a rake to gather up the grubs and insects. The tongue is much longer than their beak, and they have a complex, adapted structure in their head to enable them to retract and extend their tongue, and which also protects their brain when drumming.

All birds have a hyloid structure, comprised of thin bone and cartilage, which attaches the tongue to the floor of the beak, or mouth, with muscles by the ear openings. When the bird contracts these muscles, the hyloid system pushes the tongue forward. In woodpeckers, this system is much longer, and splits in two in front of the throat into two springy straps, called hyloid horns. These horns, attached to muscles behind the ear openings, support the tongue, as with all birds, but in woodpeckers, they extend much further, wrapping upwards behind the back of the skull, and then coming together over the top of the cranium through a groove in the skull. This extra long system of thin bone and cartilage means there is very little space in the cranium for the brain to move, and acts as a sort of seat belt to keep the brain steady and cushioned when drumming. It also means that when the woodpecker pulls the muscles tight near the ear openings, the extra long, springy hyloid structure can extend the sticky, barbed tongue a very long way to probe for food. Amazing!

Males can drum up to 600 times a day to attract a mate, using their beak to make noise on trees, and metal poles and weathervanes in urban settings. Their long, powerful beak is a self sharpening, chisel shape which penetrates wood easily, and they have extra strong neck muscles to withstand all the effort of drumming. Drumming uses lots of energy, as an unmated male can drum up to 600 times a day to attract a female at a rate of 10 drums a second.

The Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers is much smaller, about the same size as a greenfinch at 15cms long, and harder to see as it tends to stay near the tops of trees, feeding on wood boring insects and spiders. It has bold black and white barring across its back, but no red ‘trousers’. Males have a red crown and females a white crown. It is more abundant in the south, but there are local families in Yorkshire, and it has the same long thin tongue and adaptations as its larger relative. Despite its diminutive size, it drums even faster than the great spotted, at 15 drums per second. Phew. It has red conservation status.

The Green Woodpecker is the largest of our native species, about pigeon size at 33cms long. It is also the most colourful, with an olive green back, yellow green rump and a red crown and black eye mask. The male has a black and red moustache, while on the female it is all black. Unlike their relatives, this large woodpecker favours ants most of all for its dinner, and is seen mainly on the ground, probing under the soil for ants. Their tongue has intrinsic muscles, along with the usual thin bone and cartilage, which enables it to move the tip of the tongue easily from side to side, sweeping up a feast of ants and worms. It is also known for a distinctive laughing call, and is sometimes known as the Yaffingale. They don’t drum loudly, but are more vocal than their relatives.

The Wryneck Woodpecker is now extinct as a breeding bird here, but they can appear in gardens in April and May on their migration from Europe and Africa. It is small and discreet, 17cms long, with a mottled brown colour. It feeds mainly on ants, living mostly on the ground, using the long tongue to probe for ants and worms. If disturbed on their nest, the parent bird stretches out their head and neck, then rapidly withdraws it, hissing like a snake.

Brilliant Beaks – a multitude of uses

Beaks are a bony extension of the bird’s jaw, with the top, upper mandible fixed to the skull, but the lower half able to move much like a human jaw. Nostrils are usually found in the upper mandible, but some birds such as gannets have no nostrils, but breathe through their mouth instead. Clearly, beaks are primarily used for feeding, and as such, are a myriad of shapes and sizes, depending on the habitat and food supply for each species. This variety ensures different species can reduce unhelpful competition for food, e.g. Goldfinches pinching tiny seeds from teasels; the Curlew’s long, graceful curved beak to probe deeply into soft mud; Oystercatchers hammering and stabbing bivalve shellfish; Treecreepers with their long thin, down-curved bill searching cracks in tree bark; Falcons with the special notch in the side of their beak to snap the neck of their prey; Avocets with an upturned bill perfectly designed for the scything action they use to gather crustaceans and fish fry. These are just a few examples from so many more ..... beaks mean survival in many ways.

Essential tools also for preening, birds run their beak through feathers, removing parasites, distributing waterproofing oils, and used in mutual pair bonding preening rituals. Beaks are vital in nest building, skilfully collecting materials and making a safe place to rear their young, and are also used to make tools to retrieve food and explore habitat. So much more than a nose.

A brief note on birdsong

Early Spring is the key time for birdsong and the wonderful dawn chorus, but it doesn’t lend itself well to website notes! There are excellent recordings available on CD, apps and the RSPB website to help us identify different songbirds, but here is a reminder about how birds sing.

As we know, birds sing to establish territory and announce to rivals they are there, but springtime is when the song is used to attract females and show how healthy and strong the male bird it to a potential mate. Anyone who has sung in a choir knows it takes lots of energy and stamina to sing, and more so for small birds, outside on a cold early morning.

Birds have specialised vocal anatomy that enables them to have loud, complex songs. Put simply, when we sing, air from our lungs is squeezed through the larynx/voice box at the back our throat, which has two vibrating flaps made of folded mucus membrane which lines the larynx. This vibration is then shaped by our lips, mouth and tongue to make recognisable words and sounds. Birds have a very similar arrangement, but it is called the syrinx, and is lower down in their air canal, where the trachea splits into two to go into the lungs. The name syrinx comes from Greek, meaning panpipes. So, birds have two sets of flaps for the air to squeeze through, and can make different sounds with each set at the same time. Some birds also have air sacs around the syrinx, which amplify the sound, so even tiny birds like the wren can make a gorgeous loud sound.

Enjoy an early walk if you can, away from traffic, and listen to a lovely chorus. One of the very few benefits of lockdown has been a reduction in the cacophony of human noise, enhancing our opportunities to tune into nature.

Click here for a downloadable pdf version of Wonderful Woodpeckers, brilliant beaks and a bit about birdsong

© Jan Flamank 1st April 2021. All rights reserved. Images used in the document have been sourced free for use in this social, educational, non-commercial setting

Here are Jan Flamank's Nature Notes for March 2021. Click on each photo to see a larger photo on a new page. For a downloadable pdf version click the link below the text.

Our Weather

As I have done in some of our lovely nature sessions at the library, this month I am going to focus in a bit more detail on just one subject: our somewhat capricious but fascinating weather.

Satellite image of the UK

I love watching a decent BBC weather forecast, but often want the presenters to explain far more about the underlying global forces and conditions that drive the many changes we see through the seasons. So, I am giving myself a temporary meteorological role here, which will hopefully illuminate some of the complexities of our weather. We have had some glorious sunrises and sunsets recently, aided by dust blown across us from the Sahara on Southern winds.

Earth is blanketed by gases, ranging up to 600 miles above us, which we call the atmosphere. These gases literally allow life to flourish; protecting us from the searing heat and radiation of the sun and the icy blasts of night. There are 5 main layers of our atmosphere, most of which are calm and unchanging. But the lowest layer, the Troposphere, filling just 3 to 10 miles above sea level, and where we live and breathe, is the layer where all our turbulent weather occurs. This is because the troposphere contains the most water vapour, without which we would have no clouds, rain, snow, hail etc. and therefore no weather. Vast swirling clouds all across the earth are easily visible from space, showing the constant motion of gases in this layer, with the resulting changeable weather. I have included a satellite image, showing clear skies over the UK due to a high pressure anti cyclone, and the swirly clouds of a low pressure depression, over the Atlantic. Better than a wet finger in the air!

The atmosphere is on the move because of the wind, which is simply air in motion. Warm air is lighter than cool air, so warm air rises and cool air sinks. Winds blow wherever there is a difference in air temperature and pressure, and always flow from high to low pressure. We have both global and local wind systems. Global wind systems move warm air from the equator to the poles, with cold air sinking and moving towards the equator, thereby keeping world temperatures in balance. Nature likes to balance things as much as possible! Because the earth spins, winds north of the equator bend to the right, and winds south of the equator bend to the left, known as the Coriolis effect. The UK has a mainly southwesterly wind direction, which helps our temperate climate.

Most of us will have heard of the Jet Stream, which is sometimes helpfully added to the weather graphics we see on TV. The Jet stream is a well defined zone of very powerful, narrow belts of winds that develop where there are extreme temperature contrasts in the atmosphere. They are key to the development and movement of low pressure systems. They can blow in excess of 480 miles an hour, with this record speed recorded above South Uist in the Scottish Highlands in December 1967!  These winds occur at the junction between our troposphere and the next layer up, the stratosphere, and can be thousands of kilometres long, but just a few kilometres deep. Because they are so powerful, the position of the Jet Stream around the UK makes a huge difference to what weather we experience, also blocking warmer or cooler conditions depending on their position. If these strong winds get ‘stuck’ then we are stuck with whatever weather conditions we have, until they change direction. That makes me think about Mary Poppins.....

Oceans cover 71 % of the earths’ surface and ocean currents are hugely influential on global weather. As a small island we are especially affected by these forces. Our latitude means we should have a much colder climate than we have, but thanks to the ocean circulations, surface currents and winds that surround our shores we have a more temperate climate. The Gulf Stream is a lovely, strong and warm current of water, that starts in the Caribbean Sea, travels up the eastern coast of America and then crosses the Atlantic Sea to our shores. The maximum Atlantic Sea temperature occurs in September, so our land mass benefits from air blowing across these relatively warm seas in autumn and winter, making us much warmer than other countries, e.g. Siberia, who are on the same latitude as us.

As a sea faring little island, a good understanding of our weather is an essential aspect of safety at sea. I have included a nautical map, used in the past to note the state of the seas around our shores, and I still love listening to the daily shipping forecast on the radio. It sounds almost musical to me, and remains an important service.

Occasional but huge global phenomena also affect us here in the UK, such as volcanic eruptions and El Nino. Large volcanic eruptions have a huge impact on the weather, even across the globe. Vast quantities of dust, ash, gas and sulphur dioxide droplets combine together and reflect incoming radiation from the sun back into the atmosphere, which can reduce the temperature by as much as 5OF/ 3OC. Water vapour also reacts with sulphur dioxide to produce a dense haze which can last for years in the stratosphere, cooling the lower troposphere layer we live next to. We were affected by an eruption in Iceland I think, not too long ago.

El Nino is a period of unusually high sea surface temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, along the coasts of North and South America. El Nino usually grows slowly over several months and seasons, occurring every 3 to 11 years, with varied intensity. There is much better tracking of these changes, but the phenomenon is still not fully understood. It all relates to changes in the strength and direction of the trade winds, which then affect ocean currents and surface temperatures. Warm currents that usually travel towards the western Pacific reverse, and travel eastwards, causing huge disruption to weather in the tropics, but with far less effect here. We often have more wet and windy weather after a strong El Nino year.  

Spring starts, meteorologically, on March 1st, and we usually have turbulent weather through this month, as in the saying ‘In like a lion, and out like a lamb’. We have very changeable weather all year really, all down to where we sit geographically in the world.

Our small island sits between the Atlantic sea and the large landmass of Europe, with Iceland above us and Africa below. This means that we are sitting underneath 5 main air masses, all with their distinct weather features. A weather front is where those air masses meet, with resulting turbulence as they each try to dominate the weather. Each air mass brings us different conditions: Maritime refers to the sea, and Continental to land.

 The Arctic Maritime air mass brings cold, wet, snowy conditions.

The Polar Maritime brings cold and wet conditions.

The Polar Continental brings cold air in winter, hot air in summer

The Tropical Continental brings hot air in summer

The Tropical Maritime brings warm, moist air, rain and wind.

So, we have lots to contend with, which all makes for our famously mercurial weather, whatever the season!

As well as global influences, local topography affects our weather, and we all know what a bracing sea breeze feels like. I miss the sea.

Here are a few familiar words used in local forecasts, with a brief reminder of their meaning:

Cirrus – high, wispy clouds. Cold front – leading edge of cold air. Cumulonimbus – deep cumulus cloud that brings thunderstorms. Frontal depression – travelling low pressure disturbance with either warm or cold fronts. Isobar – contour of constant atmospheric pressure at sea level, and drawn as lines on weather maps that link two areas with equal pressure. When these lines are close together, they indicate strong windy weather. Ridge – an area of high pressure, formed from a larger anticyclone.  Thermal - a plume of relatively warm air that rises through a cooler environment. Trough – an elongated region of low pressure, often with associated wind shift. Warm front – the leading edge of the warm, moist air in a frontal depression. There are many more to learn.......

I for one am delighted to live where we do have seasons, even if they seem to be less distinct than in my childhood. That may be due to rosy memory, but it is also the very real effects of climate change and pollution. I hope you have enjoyed reading more about the underlying factors that help to determine our weather, and that you also enjoy this burgeoning spring season, whatever it chucks at us.

Click here for a downloadable pdf version of Our Weather

© Jan Flamank 1st March 2021. All rights reserved. Images used in the document have been sourced free for use in this social, educational, non-commercial setting

VLiS (Volunteer Libraries in Sheffield) Event on 26th March 2021

Greenhill Library are hosting this interesting free zoom event on Friday 26th March 2021 at 7.30pm.

Taking the Greener Path - Simple Steps to help Combat Climate Change by Lindy Stone of Sheffield Friends of the Earth.

See the Greenhill Library website for the link to join - .

The event meeting room will open at 7.15pm ready to start at 7.30pm and it will be restricted to 100 participants - so get there early!

Status Update

We are very pleased to announce that we will restart our Order & Collect service on Wednesday 10th March 2021.

We look forward to receiving your orders again! 

Click here for our Order & Collect page.

Any outstanding orders made through our Order & Collect service before we closed in January are still waiting to be collected.

We have a few items that were reserved through Sheffield Libraries Online Catalogue waiting to be collected too. Please call at the library to collect any reserved items from January.  We will check out your item/s while you wait in the foyer.

STAND (Stannington & District Library Group) was formed in 2013 after two public meetings that explored the issues raised by Sheffield City Council’s announced withdrawal of formal support for Stannington Library. Since then, the group has been formalised, a committee was formed and teams of volunteers were recruited