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Isle of Wight Green Gym - Official Blog.

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Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Wed 20th May - The Duver, St Helens.

Sue's Photographs.

Mark's Photographs.

Carrie's Photographs.

Off to the coast this week for a return to The Duver at St Helens for our 8th year of a large scale litter pick there.  We collect litter each week of course, wherever we are working, but some weeks the site and potential are large enough to devote our whole attention to the subject.  Today 30 of us searched high and low across St Helen's Duver, Priory Bay and Gaggan Edge.    We collected 26 bags plus many assorted larger items of detritus - including the inevitable car tyre.

Intrigued by the unfamiliar Gaggan Edge I searched for more information.  Here are some nuggets of background history I came across...
  • In 1925 Sir Edward and Lady Poulton donated the Common land between Duver Road and the Mill Pond (including Gaggan Edge) to the National Trust. 
  •  In 1961 the Royal Isle of Wight Golf Club presented the Duver Golf Links, which had not been used since before the war, to the National Trust. 
Source: Bembridge & St Helens Harbour Association website

As to the name.  Gaggan Edge was apparently so named because press gangs from nearby ships, who used to lie in wait to gag their victims, did so here.  

Sand dunes on the Isle of Wight are far and few between so we are proud of the National Trust's  dune system here at The Duver in St Helens.  It is home to many species which are specialists in this habitat.  If you would like to know more about exactly which species are there and get involved in finding out then you are in luck as next week's Bioblitz will inform you of just that along with much much more.  A Bioblitz is the recording of all possible identifiable species over a 24 hour period.  Click here for more information from the IW AONB.

If you'd like to go to other coastal Bioblitz (what's the plural for Bioblitz!?) in the UK click here.

Carrie's Nature Natter.

This week’s find was some very pretty thrift or sea-pink (genus Armeria), which is a familiar coastal plant forming compact cushions, and attractive deep pink or occasionally white flowers.  These have five petals occurring in groups at the top of a flower spike (this is called an inflorescence), surrounded by the narrow leaves.  These have just a single vein together with hairs along the edges arising from a visible woody rootstock forming the cushions.  Its name is thought to refer to the leaves, which are tightly packed together and conserve water in the salty air.

It is a perennial species, flowering each year between April and October, and the fragrant flowers are visited by a range of flying insects for nectar and pollen.  An old belief exists that thrift can cure lead poisoning, which is reflected by the family name of Plumbaginaceae.

It is found around all the coasts of Britain, and often planted in gardens, which then escape into the surrounding areas.  It inhabits sea-cliffs, salt marshes, shingle and stone walls near the coast, while inland it can be found up to heights of 1280m on rocky mountain ledges, shingle by rivers, old lead workings and moss-heaths.  It has also been known to occur alongside roads which have been treated by salt.

Many thanks to Sue, Carrie and Mark for the photographs, to Mark for this week's editorial and to Carrie for her Nature Natter. ( many credits this week...!)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Wed 13th May 2015 - Millennium Green, Ryde.

Our group gathered on the Green in the warm May sunshine, eager as ever to hear my words of encouragement (that's what I tell myself anyhow).  As we waited the boys and girls from the Isle of Wight Military Preparation College trooped by in camo fatigues!
We took off on a tour around this site, one we have worked at on many occasions over the years. As we went around so people latched on to suggested tasks and we dropped back to the van for the specific tool for the job. These included the removal of a small Hawthorn which was leaning across the bridle-path - the branches of which were used to top up the dead hedge. Others worked under the dappled shade of the woodland canopy selectively pruning back bramble and thinning some of the more abundant tree saplings which are growing away in what is a beautifully bio-diverse and evolving natural woodland under-story.  Among the tree species growing (interestingly all these are self sown) are Ash, Hazel, Spindle, Oak, Field Maple, Holly, Elm, Hawthorn, Bay and Blackthorn.
Back in 2008 we helped create the little clearing we now know as the butterfly meadow by clearing bramble and the regular work ever since to maintain this area has meant that the little area's wildflowers are very popular with invertebrates.  The Greens' regular volunteers have expanded this area over the Winter and so also we've today been helping with the glade's perimeter maintenance.  Thanks to Ian for joining us from the Play Lane Millennium Green

Many thanks to Sue for the photographs and Mark for the editorial.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Wed 6th May 2015 - Parkhurst Forest, Newport.

Mark's Photographs.

The "dreaded" crushed limestone arrives... all 3.5 tonnes of it.

The muddy pathway, before we started work.

Barrow Boys to the rescue!

Thank goodness...nearly at the end of yet another load.

Carrie's Photographs.

Working on the pathway.

The completed path.

Cutting back around the Squirrel Hide.

A cleared area in front of the hide.
Sue's Photographs.

The guardian of the squirrel hide.

Working on the pathway.

A rather grown-in hide....

work in progress...

and, almost completed!

And finally, Team GG with the end of the path and the hide.

Having had a torrential downpour earlier in the morning and winds at the Needles in excess of 70mph, numbers attending this week's GG session might be expected to be less than normal but that was before you take into account the determination of the Team GG...! One by one, the cars arrived in the car park and there was soon a long conga-line heading off up through the forest to the Red Squirrel Hide area. Our task was to resurface the hide approach path with crushed limestone chippings, having first removed the leaves and twigs from the rather muddy original substrate. While half the team set about wheelbarrowing 3.5 tonnes of limestone into position, the remainder gave the hide area a complete make-over. The view of the forest (and the squirrels) had become somewhat obscured by undergrowth, so, it true GG tradition, it was all hands to the lopers and bow saws! Care was taken to ensure that any area we were working in was free of nesting birds or any other wildlife. With the new surface for the path in position, the bordering vegetation trimmed back and the hide vista opened up, it was a remarkable improvement to this wonderful woodland setting (see before and after photographs above). To top it all, the forecasted heavy showers held off so the whole session was accomplished in the dry even if the taller trees were nodding furiously in the high winds!

Carrie’s Nature and History Natter for May.

This is an amazing month to see our spectacular wildlife, with the songs of the summer migrants mingling with our resident bird species, and specialities such as nightingale, cuckoo, swallows and swifts making wildlife watching very exciting.  Warblers fill the hedgerows and woodlands while the birds of our sea cliffs are clamouring and squabbling for their own small space.  In gardens and parks great tits, robins, blackbirds, song thrushes and blue tits are frantically seeking food to satisfy the insatiable appetite of their young.  After one or two broods the blue tits look particularly frazzled.

Many of our trees and hedgerow shrubs are now festooned with bright, fresh, almost iridescent young leaves, with the hawthorn flowers providing beautiful white ribbons crisscrossing the countryside and lining even the most uninspiring roads.  Towards the end of the month the elder also comes into flower with big, odorous saucers of tiny flowers, while young oak leaves start off brown and then turn light green.  The ash is one of the last to break into leaf, with its black hard casings splitting to show the new growth below.
This is the month when insects being to make a big impact, and if you should hear a bang on your window it could be a cockchafer beetle, which appears this month heading towards window and street lights in search of a mate. Its pupae live for two years as plump 'c' shaped larva in the soil, forming an important food source for rooks and crows.

By the middle of the month damselflies and dragonflies start breeding, with some dragonflies so fiercely territorial you can sometimes witness spectacular aerial clashes between one male and another.  They do, however, need to be careful as hobbys, now in Britain, with their lightning fast flight can easily hunt down these impressive insects. Also as their name suggests the important groups of insects known as mayflies start to emerge. They only live in clean fast flowing steams where water crow-foot can be found, and for this reason they are a good biological indicator of a clean environment.

The month of May was named for the Greek goddess Maia, who was the goddess of fertility, while the Romans similar goddess was named Bona Dea, holding a festival for her during the month of May.  They called the month Maius, and while the name changed over the years it was first called May in the 1400s near the end of the Middle Ages.

It is the third and last month of the season of spring, with its birthstone of the emerald symbolising success and love.  It was once considered bad luck to marry in May, with a poem that says "Marry in May and you'll rue the day", while in Old English it is called the  "month of three milkings" referring to a time when the cows could be milked three times a day.

A note from Bob the Blog.

Good Luck to all the GGmers who are doing Walk the Wight on Sunday - the weather is looking dry and warm. For those doing the Flat Walk, I hope to see you there. Remember to bring your sponsor sheets along to next Wednesday's session, I am sure everyone will be VERY generous? 

Many thanks to Sue, Carrie and Mark for taking the photographs and to Carrie for her editorial contribution.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wed 29th April 2015 - Pan Mill Meadows, Shide.

Sue's Photographs.

Carrie's Photographs.

Pathway building.

Closing off a pathway.

Extreme wheelbarrowing!
Mark's Photographs.


Common Toad.

As somebody famous once said...."A picture paints a thousand words" and the picture below is a rain radar plot taken at 11:30 on Wednesday morning - it explains everything about the weather at that time!

Needless to say, Team GG got VERY wet during the session even though we started, and ended, work in the dry. The mown area of the meadow is looking wonderful but we were tasked to concentrate on the pathway that runs along the eastern boundary of the site. Most of the work this week involved a certain amount of re-cycling.... wood chips to build paths, gravel (from the dry stream bed) to fill in the areas that flood, the cuttings taken from the overhanging foliage was either replanted or used to fill in gaps and all the litter was sent off to be re-cycled at the tip. Green Gym really has become GREEN...!

A big "Thank You" to the staff and parking attendant at Matalan for allowing us to park there free of charge (perhaps the IoW Council could learn from this?)

Carrie's Nature Natter.

Two finds this week, the first just at the start of the session by Terri (who is holding the slow worm (Anguis Fragilis) in the picture).  With their long, smooth, shiny grey or brown bodies these look very similar to tiny snakes, but in fact they are harmless legless lizards.  Although found throughout mainland Britain, they are most common in Wales and south-west England, but absent from Ireland.

They like humid conditions and creep out from their hiding places at dusk or after rain, hunting for food, while spending the winter hibernating under piles of leaves or within tree roots.  If attacked by a predator they can shed their tails to escape, although they never fully grow back.
They eat slugs, snails, insects, earthworms and spiders, and you can see them in meadow and woodland areas, or hiding under rocks or logs in grassy meadows, farmland, woodland margins and open fields, usually from March to October.

Our second find was wild garlic (see picture) which smelt lovely during the morning session, especially when the rain started.  This native British plant is also known as Bear leek, Bear’s garlic, Buckrams, Ramsons, and Broad-leaved garlic.  It can grow to heights of between 45 and 50 cm with edible leaves and flowers.  The young leaves are delicious added to soups, sauces and pesto, best picked when young and appear in March.  The flowers emerge from April to June, and can add a potent garlic punch to salads and sandwiches.

The Latin name “Allium Ursinum” refers to the brown bear’s taste for the bulbs, and they are also a favourite with wild boar, although you don’t see many of either species in the Britain of today.  It is used traditionally throughout Europe as a spring tonic due to its blood-purifying properties, and is also thought to lower cholesterol.

The smell is said to repel cats, so may be a useful inclusion for a keen ornithologist’s garden, but despite its strong scent, it has a much mellower taste than conventional garlic.

Many thanks to Sue, Carrie and Mark for the photographs this week and to Carrie for the Nature Natter.