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Isle of Wight Green Gym - Official Blog.

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IoW GG links

To look at the Isle of Wight Green Gym web page (contains details of sessions etc) please use the following link :- www.iwgreengym.org.uk.

The link to Twitter is https://twitter.com/iwgreengym

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wed 24th Sept 2014 - Birchmore Pond, Blackwater.

Mark's Photographs.



The congested pond.


Steve, Trevor and Jeff were best dressed for the weather
as they had waders on!


A cleared area.


The "neigh"bours were friendly!



Cleared accesses.




The reason we do all this work....the wildlife.
Believed to be a young Bank Vole.


Carrie's Photographs.



It all started so well.....


and then the rain came down!

The excitement of a new venue was somewhat "dampened" by torrential rain during our GG session this week. About half an hour into the session, the heavens opened and it just poured down.... to the extent that, at tea break, you had to drink your tea double quick before it topped up with rain! In spite of the weather, we made excellent  progress at clearing the overgrown undergrowth from around the pond area. Half the team set about cutting a new access to the south side of the pond with the remainder tackling the overgrown areas around the original access path. Needless to say, with this being a pond, the willow has taken hold and the dense bramble thickets were well over head height. Although completely drenched to the skin, we carried on after tea break but eventually even the bravest souls had to call it a day. By the time we came to leave, the access lane was starting to resemble a white water rafting river, such was the intensity of the downpour. Typically, as I drove back into Newport, the clouds parted and the sun came out. Birchmore Pond is a delightful area to hold a GG session at but please can someone book better weather if we are to work here again...!
Considering the weather forecast, there was a good turnout with two new members joining us. Due to the this site being adjacent to the cycle track, a good few GGmers arrived on their bikes, so well done to them!

And finally.... a couple of extra photographs from Mark.


 Common Darter (Sympetrum striolatum)



 Migrant Hawker (Aeshna mixta) in cop

Photographs courtesy of Carrie and Mark, many thanks. Hope the cameras have dried out!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wed 17th Sept 2014 - Quarr Abbey, Binstead.

Carrie's Photographs.



Team "A" meets Team "B".

Sue's Photographs.




Team "A"



A few of the "Locals".


Spindle Tree.
Spindle (euonymus europaeus) with bright pink fruits and orange seeds.

Helen's Photograph.

Team "B".

Remember that saying "Be careful what you wish for"? Back at the start of August, after our previous visit to Quarr Abbey, I wrote in the blog - Unfortunately we did not make that "Channel Tunnel digging breakthrough moment" so perhaps we could have a future session to complete it? Well, this week's GG session gave us that opportunity and with the whole team split into two, we started attacking the jungle from either end. After the first hour we heard voices, then saw movement, followed by the glorious moment when the two teams finally met in the middle! After a quick tea break, it was time to try and trim back the edges of the pathway we had created so there would be better access. By the end of the session the majority of the ditch had been cleared of undergrowth and all ready to be dredged out. This had been a particularly hard work package, spread over two sessions, so a big WELL DONE to all those who took part. The warm, dry September weather continues, will it last over until next week? Watch this space......

Carrie's Nature Lesson.

This week's find for all discerning nature readers of the world famous Green Gym blog, is the oak apple or oak gall, which is the common name for a large, round, vaguely apple-like gall commonly found on many species of oak. They range in size from 2-5 cm in diameter, and are made by chemicals injected by the larva of certain kinds of gall wasp in the Cynipidae family. The adult female lays her single eggs in developing leaf buds, and the larvae feed on the tissue of the gall resulting from their secretions.  They have been used to produce ink since at least the time of the Roman Empire, and from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century iron gall ink was the main writing medium in the western world.

According to folklore if a worm is found inside the gall on Michaelmas Day, the year will be pleasant and unexceptional.  If a spider is found a bad year will follow with ruined crops and shortages.  If a fly is found the season will be moderate and if nothing is found then serious diseases will occur all year.  Oak Apple Day (or Royal Oak Day) is a former English public holiday on 29 May, which commemorated the Restoration of Charles II in 1660, and refers to an event during the English Civil War, when Charles hid in an oak tree.


Thanks for the photographs Helen, Sue and to Carrie for her photographs and Nature Lesson.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Wed 10th Sept 2014 - Fort Victoria, Yarmouth.

Carrie's Photographs.




Sue's Photographs.









Once again, it was head west for our GG session this week and back to one of our old favourites, Fort Vic. After a bit of a trek through the woods we were directed to a "clearing" that had become somewhat overgrown during the summer months. This area had previously been planted with hazel saplings but they had become outgrown by numerous sycamore offshoots, brambles, bind weed etc. Team GG were soon spread out attacking the overgrowth with lopers and shears and by tea break the area was looking a whole lot better. Refreshed by a cuppa and a biscuit, we were tasked to tackle another area of overgrown woodland, clear brambles from the seaward side of the fort and to dig up a redundant BBQ post. Whoever installed that post had certainly done a good job.... we had to dig down around 2 foot before the post could be wrestled from the ground!
With the end of the summer approaching, it was decided that we should take advantage of the good weather and have a BBQ after this session. The picnic tables were soon weighed down with all sorts of yummy treats and with both the fire griddles full to bursting, everyone was soon tucking into an excellent lunch. Well done to Steve and Tony for being "chefs of the day" and big thank you to everyone who brought along the food and drink.



Carrie's Nature Lesson.

This week’s find - courtesy of Geoff and Tony - is Bryony (scientific name Bryonia Alba).  Its stems climb by means of long tendrils springing from the side of the leaf stalks, and extend among trees and shrubs often to the length of several yards during the summer, dying away after ripening their fruit. They are angular and brittle, branched mostly at the base, while the somewhat vine-shaped leaves are very rough to the touch, with short, pricklelike hairs.

The flowers, which bloom in May, are small, greenish, and generally produced three or four together in small bunches springing from the axils of the leaves.  The berries, which hang about the bushes after the stem and leaves are withered, are almost the size of peas when ripe, and coloured a pale scarlet. They are filled with juice of an unpleasant foetid odour and contain three to six large seeds, greyish-yellow, mottled with black, and are unwholesome to eat.

The name of the genus, Bryonia is derived from the Greek bryo, meaning one shoot or sprout, and appears to refer to the vigorous and active growth of its annual stems.  These grow from the perennial roots, and rapidly cover other shrubs by adhering to them with their tendrils.
Historically under the name of Wild Nepit, this plant was known in the fourteenth century as an antidote to leprosy, while in Norfolk the plant is still called Mandrake.  Its fleshy root contains a milky juice, which is very nauseous and bitter to the taste and of a violently purgative and carthartic nature.  It was a favourite medicine with herbalists, and also much used by the Greeks and Romans.

Thanks to Sue for her photographs and to Carrie for her photographs and Nature Lesson.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Wed 3rd Sept 2014 - Golden Hill Fort, Freshwater.

Carrie's Photographs.



Sue's Photographs.








It's the "Limestone Cowboys"..!




An Elephant Hawk Moth Caterpillar (found in the car park).


Although the weather was warm and summer like, this week's tasking had a certain autumnal feel about it. With summer drawing to a close, it is time to start on those pre-winter prep jobs and this week it involved repairing paths with limestone chippings, cutting back the summer growth and clearing out the ditches. Our friendly rangers had pre-dumped three piles of chippings all ready to be wheelbarrowed to the areas needing attention so it was "Shovel, Shove and Tip" for around half the team. A smaller group set about the clogged ditches with the mattocks and shovels with the remainder  using the loppers and saws to trim back anything overhanging the paths. Busy...busy....busy....!
With the school holidays finished and most GGmers back from their annual vacations, we had a very good turnout for this popular venue.
Next week's session is out at West Wight again, this time at Fort Vic. Please don't forget to bring along items for the BBQ that will be held after the work is done.

Carrie's Nature Lesson.


This week’s find was the very pretty flower of the Common Kanpweed (Centaurea Nigra).  It is also known as hardheads or black knapweed, and is one of our toughest meadow plants.  An excellent source of good quality nectar, it is a real favourite of our pollinating insects as well as bees, butterflies and beetles, while the seeds provide food for many birds.  It can be identified by its slightly spherical black or brown flower head complete with its lovely purple, pink or, more rarely, white blooms.  It is found throughout the UK in meadows and other grassland habitats, as well as roadsides where wildlife is allowed to thrive, flowering from June to September.

Carrie's Nature Natter.

September sees the season turning into Autumn, and lately the mornings have definitely taken on an autumnal feel.  Mists cover low steep sided valleys, and spiders webs laden with pearly droplets can look spectacular.  Many of our plants die back to their underground roots, while deciduous trees are losing their leaves in order to protect them from winter frosts and scarce water supplies.  Animals start to put on weight for their winter hibernation, insect numbers enter a steep decline and summer breeding birds fly off to overwinter in Africa where food supplies are plentiful.

Horse chestnut trees are yielding up their seeds in the form of conkers, which fall to the ground contained in their spiky cases, while other trees such as ash, beech and sweet chestnut are also changing their colours to yellow and orange.  The hedgerows are plentiful with the ripening berries of hawthorn haws and shiny red rose hips, while sloes, blackberries and elderberries are a dark midnight black.  Acorns fall to the ground, and their seeds are spread far from the parent tree as they are collected by jays and grey squirrels, who hide them away underground as food for the forthcoming winter.  Some of these are never found again, and grow into new oak trees which bear their own fruit.

On sunny days on riverbanks and in areas of wetland, a highlight of early September are the large dragonflies.  They hunt for insects while moving with great speed and agility, darting this way and that and defending territories.  The beautiful darter dragonfly, the red common sympetrum is not so restless, while the huge hawker type dragonflies, such as the common aeshna, are always on the move and more wary.

Birds have now ceased moulting, and are dressed in their winter plumage. Family groups are often still together, and certainly in our garden we have seen families of chaffinches, greenfinches, blue and great tits, while starling numbers are the highest we have seen for some years.  Many small birds such as chiffchaffs and tits often move through the countryside helping each other to find food.  There are still many insects to be found, and by travelling together prey is disturbed from its hiding place and anything missed by one bird, will be found by another.

Many butterflies are still on the wing, but can sometimes look a bit ragged around the edges, as this is their last month as adults.  The browns and skipper species that feed on grass are still in flight, whilst caterpillars can be found in hedgerows, field edges and grasslands.  The male gatekeeper sets up its territory along hedges, where nectar bearing plants such as mint, wood sage, bramble and marjoram are very attractive. Wall butterflies can also be found basking in the sun on rocks and stones, actually flying ahead along a path settling then flying again, which makes its seem you are chasing it along.


Many thanks to Carrie and Sue for their contributions this week - Wow....what a bumper bundle of a blog for you all to read!