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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wed 14th March 2012 - Bembridge Fort, Culver Down.

Carrie's Photographs.

Alison's Photographs.

Colin's Photographs. (Before & after shots of the step area)

Regular readers of this blog will know by now that Team GG are always up for a challenge and our session this week was certainly one of the more unusual ones... working in a Victorian land fort...! Bembridge Fort was acquired by the National Trust back in 1967 and our session this week was to help them in clearing the bottom of the "dry moat" and the surrounding areas. The workforce was split into two teams with the more adventurous tackling getting the tools and barrows down the steep steps at the western end of the site. We were soon gathering up pre-cut material and burning it on bonfires spaced at regular intervals around the fort. A total of six fires were started so we were kept very busy trying to keep them all going at the same time. Particular care was taken to ensure that all wildlife was removed from the fire areas before burning took place. The other team were working hard trimming back and litter picking around the periphery fence. A considerable amount of glass, metal and general rubbish was collected during the session which has improved the looks of the area and will be of benefit when the livestock is turned out to graze later in the year.
The volunteers who help run the fort arranged several tours for the GG members to be shown around this Scheduled Ancient Monument. Many thanks to them for giving us the background history and making the facts so interesting.

Carrie's Nature Lesson.

This week's find was snoozing happily underneath some roofing felt which was going on the fire, but was carefully relocated somewhere else in the moat of Bembridge Fort. The Slow-worm is a legless lizard which looks like a snake in some respects but the fact that it has eyelids, a flat forked tongue and can drop its tail to escape from a predator gives its true identity away. It is probably the most commonly encountered British reptile, often found in gardens and is widespread throughout the British Isles. It is naturally absent from Ireland (those found there in the area of the Burren are thought to be introduced). Its appearance is always shiny, the males are a greyish brown, the females brown with dark sides and a thin line down the back. They give birth to live young in September which are very thin, about 4cm long with black bellies and gold or silver backs with a thin black line down the middle. They can be found in almost any open or semi-open habitat and likes warmth, but instead of basking in the open sun it prefers to hide under a stone, log or piece of discarded rubbish such as a sheet of corrugated iron or plank of wood exposed to the sun. They are also keen on compost heaps where they find warmth and plenty of food, feeding on slow moving prey, particularly small slugs.

Carrie's History Lesson.

Bembridge is a Victorian fort built between 1862 and 1867 at a cost of £48,000, which based on average earnings would be £28,600,000 today. It formed part of a ring of defences protecting the island and the naval dockyards at Portsmouth from the threat of a French invasion. They became known as Palmerston's Follies after Lord Palmerston who was Prime Minister at the time and commissioned their construction. The Fort is an elongated hexagon situated on the highest point of Bembridge Down and the Yarbrough monument, which was previously on the site, was moved so the fort could be built. It underwent many alterations from its early days through both World Wars, resulting in a building with multiple layers of history and the spigot mortar (see picture) was part of the extensive defences. It is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument, so any repairs or renovations require the permission of English Heritage. Volunteers have been working hard for seven years to restore the fort, and tours can be booked via the National Trust.

And finally.........A big THANK YOU to all those who contributed to the blog page this week.

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