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Friday 7 August 2009

Wed 5th Aug 2009 - Afton Nature Reserve, Freshwater.

Our first visit to Afton Nature Reserve in Freshwater for some time, helping Bob the Countryside Officer. As usual there were several tasks, the main one being clearance and widening of the footpaths to provide access for a mini digger which will be removing the old damaged boardwalk so they can replace it with a new one, and also to improve access to the footpaths for walkers. This involved a lot of cutting back shrubs, nettles and marsh plants, as well as removing overhanging trees. We also completed a section of path by spreading two piles of limestone chippings, and also removed a section of wall and loaded all the concrete blocks into the trailer. Previous work on the marsh is starting to bear fruit, with lots of plants and flowers re-generating, including the fairly uncommon species marsh fern and marsh marigold.

Carrie’s Nature Lesson - two for the price of one this week, the first being Great Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum), a tall plant covered in soft downy hair, having deep purple-pink flowers with creamy, arched stigma standing proudly from the top of the stems. The opposite, lance-shaped leaves clasp the stem, and in the wild it is found along river banks and in marshy areas. It is an ideal plant for a large bog garden, although it needs keeping in careful check, and is a rich provider of pollen and nectar for bees. Next we have Hemp Agrimony (Eupatorium Cannabinum), a plant which grows in pond margins, damp woodlands, marshes, fens, ditches and disturbed ground throughout England. It is a tall erect herb growing up to 1.2m, and from July onwards the stems terminate in large flowerheads of tiny, soft pink flowers which are extremely attractive to insects, including many colourful butterflies such as the small tortoiseshell. The leaves are deeply divided into three leaflets in opposite pairs on the stem, and this plant will tolerate most soils that are not to acidic or dry.
Many thanks to Cub Reporter Carrie for this week's pics and text.

Monday 3 August 2009

Wed 29th July 2009 - Watershoot Bay.

This week’s venue was beach clearing at Watershoot Bay, where we log all the items found for research and action by the Marine Conservation Trust. It is truly amazing how many bags of rubbish 25 people can fill up in such a short time, and the Rangers’ truck was piled high. The items found are many and varied, including large and small pieces of plastic, rope, nets, polystyrene, abandoned footwear and even a large laundry basket filled with other plastic rubbish. We also found a syringe and a live flare, which the Coastguard had to come and remove before it exploded.

Carrie’s Nature Lesson

Slightly different this week, as while picking up some old plastic I nudged a large cracked rock with my foot and the end fell off to reveal an amazing fossil. The rock was grey chalk, and Trevor from Dinosaur Isle said it was about 100 million years old. The fossil itself was of the genus Pecten, which are Lamellibranch molluscs known variously as scallops and clams. These are remarkable for the beauty of their shells, which are generally brightly coloured and have the surface ornamented with radiating ribs. The two valves of the shell are unequal, usually almost circular, and have the hinge line prolonged into two ears. Bivalves have inhabited the Earth for over 500 million years, and first appeared in the Middle Cambrian about 300 million years before the dinosaurs. Fossil bivalves were formed when the sediment in which they were buried hardened into rock, which it was appears to have happened to the one in the pictures. Many closely resemble living forms, which help to understand how they must have lived.
Many thanks to Carrie & Eddie for the pics and Carrie for the text. Sorry the blog is a bit late this week - the house building and broken wrist are slowing things down a bit.....!