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Thursday 16 December 2010

Wed 15th Dec 2010 - Shide Quarry, Newport.

This week Team GG were back at Shide Quarry for the Christmas "Bash". Over the years that GG has been running, it has been a tradition that the final GG meeting of the year is held at the quarry - so that once the work is completed - the party can begin....!!! Although the forecast was for rain, it held off for us and good time was had by all. The work this week was to continue the scrub clearance at the south end of the quarry, collect up all the cut material, then burn it on the controlled fires that were set by our friendly rangers. One of the fires was used to heat the various pots and pans containing all the vegetables that the team had donated. Once the work tasks were deemed complete, the veg soup was doled out to the assembled group. The scene may have resembled a soup kitchen but that hot soup and veg tasted absolutely wonderful....!!! This was followed up with home made cakes, mince pies, biscuits etc, etc - truly a banquet fit for a King. A huge thank you to June & Colin for the organisation and "pot stirring", to our friendly rangers for the heat source and to everyone who contributed to the vittles.

As blog master, I would like to thank (on behalf of the GG Team) all those who organise our Wednesday meetings. Without Mark and his team of "Santa's little helpers" it would be difficult to see how anything would ever get done.

As 2010 for the GG team draws to a close all that is left to do is wish you all a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS and we look forward to seeing you all in the New Year.

Friday 10 December 2010

Wed 8th Dec 2010 - Mundsley Bog, Godshill.

"The cold winds blew in over the frost covered bracken....." No - not the start of some Sherlock Holmes mystery novel but what the GG Team were presented with last Wednesday morning! With the daytime temperature on (or below) freezing, walking around with your feet in freezing water takes some doing.... but do it we did. Considering the poor weather conditions we had a good turn out to attack the ever growing willow plantation. Frequent viewers of this blog will be well aware of how overgrown it was when we first visited here and the progress we have made in trying to clear the area on our many visits. This time the work focused around chopping out the new growth willow, gathering the dead bracken into piles and the modification of some of the drainage ditches. The tea break was particularly welcome this week, a cup of hot fluid has never tasted so good and also helped to thaw frozen hands..!! Well done to all those who turned out - the site looked a lot better when we left it.

Many thanks to Carrie for the photographs this week.

Thursday 2 December 2010

Wed 1st Dec2010 - Red Squirrel Dell, Ryde.

The bitterly cold weather conditions this week meant that it was quite an achievement even to get to the location. Ice and a little snow were one factor (one of the padlocks on the tool shed was frozen!) and a piercingly cold wind another. This understandably meant that numbers were reduced. Never-the-less a very good number, considering the elements, turned out to the 'Red Squirrel Dell', an important piece of wooded boundary for the recreation ground in Pell Lane, Ryde. This is a wildlife corridor linking gardens here to Play Street Lane and one of our favourites, The Millennium Green. We cleared a good area ready for the planting of native trees later in the season.

The site itself was thankfully, as the name suggests, in a dip in the landscape and we escaped the worst of the wind chill factor while we worked. I thought I would investigate, as this week I am the stand-in reporter, this phenomenon of 'wind chill' so often quoted in forecasts. It seems the rate that a surface looses heat depends upon the wind speed above it, so the faster the wind speed the more readily it cools. So if you take an inanimate object, it will reach the ambient temperature quicker if there is wind passing over it. However for biological organisms, like us, our physiological response is to try and maintain our surface temperature in an acceptable range so as to avoid adverse effects (frostbite etc). So that attempt to maintain the surface temperature when there is a faster heat loss from wind chill gives a perception of a lower temperature and a very real accelerated rate of heat loss from the body.

Many thanks to Mark for the pictures and editorial this week.

Thursday 25 November 2010

Wed 24th Nov 2010 - One Horse Field, Totland.

Mark's Photographs.

Carrie's Photographs.

One Horse Field, at Totland is a meadow of around two hectares, including semi-improved and herb-rich grassland with mature hedgerows and scrub, and was the venue for this weeks Green Gym. When the nearby housing development was planned at Hurst View, there was a condition that the field should be kept at an open space. Part of the site is designated as a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, adjacent to a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and was part of a larger farm which has grazing history back to the eighteenth century. Over the last few days a large section at the southernend of the site has been mowed by machinery, and our task was to rake the cut grass into piles, put it in large bags, and pile the cuttings onto the hibernaculum (the Latin meaning is ‘”tent for winter quarters" and can refer to the location chosen by an animal for hibernation). Taking the grass away will encourage the growth of wildflowers, and the using the cuttings will be good for slow worms and other invertebrates. A supplementary task was to remove a large sycamore and stack the branches onto the pile with the grass cuttings.
Conservation of the area is important as the soil types, changes in agricultural practice and nature succession, have brought about the current habitats found here. If the dynamic process of natural succession is left unchecked, it will allow the grassland to become scrub-dominated and eventually woodland. It is imperative for the grassland to retain its current interest and enhance its potential, management of the site is undertaken to retain the features of interest. This field is particularly important for biodiversity, because of the proximity of semi-improved grassland to wetland. The situation benefits species such as dragonflies, which need meadows for feeding and ponds for breeding. If unchecked, these open habitats would be lost and in addition, the site will act as a buffer to the proposed geological SSSI on the soft cliff to the west of the meadow.
Many thanks to Carrie & Mark for the text and photographs this week.

Friday 19 November 2010

Wed 17th Nov 2010 - Afton Marsh, Freshwater.

This week’s visit was to Afton Marsh helping out Richard the Ranger. Unfortunately the predicted weather forecast was correct for once, so it was a bit wet and windy, but the usual large hardy group came along suitably togged up in wet suits and wellies to get stuck into the task ahead. There is a circular path around Afton Marsh, the right hand side of which has received grant funding for a programme of improvements. However, the path to the left is extremely muddy, and in one or two places it was waterlogged almost to the top of our welly boots. So our task was to create a new path on the top of a raised ridge, which was made up of spoil taken from other areas of the Marsh some time ago, but which was very overgrown with small trees, bramble and general scrub. So we started at one end and spread out in a long column along the ridge to clear away everything for the space of about three or four feet, to create a new passage to join up with the drier end of the pathway further along. As we got to the end, we found that a VERY large tree over a foot wide had fallen across our route; having picked up our bowsaws Richard the Ranger said “you’re never going to cut that with those are you”? Now - that was definitely throwing out a challenge, so about twelve of us set to sawing, cutting and removing the tree to finish the morning’s task.

A big thanks to Carrie for the text and photographs this week.

Thursday 11 November 2010

Wed 10th Nov 2010 - Adgestone Wetland Walk, Sandown.

We should have taken more notice of the location name for the GG venue this week.....Wetland Walk..!!! We arrived at the picnic area and strolled down to the woodland paths, only to be confronted with a huge lake. Yesterday's downpours had caused the stream to burst it's banks and the whole area was flooded to a depth of around 2 foot or more. Nobody seemed brave enough to see just how deep it was so plan B swung into action. The perimeter of the picnic site had become very overgrown and needed a bit of a trim - thereby opening up the views and letting more sunlight in. One team decided to tackle a particularly large sycamore tree and cries of "Timber" was soon heard...! The timbers were cut down, logged and the branches stripped before being reused to build a new boundary fence. Other teams tackled the brambles and overgrown areas with the offcuts being heaped up to hopefully encourage more wildlife. Bags full of cans and bottles were collected - so the whole area was looking much better by the time we left. The weather was bright and cool but we had a really good turnout of GGmers - well done everyone.

Many thanks to Carrie for the photographs this week.

Friday 5 November 2010

Wed 3rd Nov 2010 - All Saints Church, Freshwater.

Eddie's Photographs.

Carrie's Photographs.

This week the GG team were working in one of the oldest churchyards on the Island (it was listed in the Domesday Book of 1086). Our task was to assist the church's cemetery warden group in their ongoing task to keep the grounds in good order and where possible, encourage wildlife. The GG team split into three groups, working to clear vegetation from the stone wall shared with the adjacent footpath, clearing the gardens at the base of the church walls and cutting back a very overgrown area down towards the marsh. The weather was unseasonably warm which undoubtedly helped to swell the numbers for a very well attended session! Good progress was made towards completing all the given tasks - please see some of the photographs above which show some "before and after" shots. Many thanks to all who attended and to June & Colin for the excellent cake at tea break (goodness me, cake on two consecutive weeks....!!!)

Carrie’s Nature Lesson.

Growing on some dead elder, this week we found some Jew’s Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae). This fungi grows up to 60mm across, is found throughout the UK all year round on elder and beech trees, and the name comes from the story that Judas Iscariot hung himself from an elder tree. The fungi is pale brown in colour, and really does resemble a human ear in both size, shape and texture; as it gets older it turns black and hard. It is one of the few fungi which have the ability to withstand freezing temperatures. This is a useful attribute, since it develops new growths in January (normally the coldest month of the year in the UK), can actually freeze solid, but when thawed out shows no ill effects. In Chinathey are commercially grown and gathered young, whilst still soft and moist, they make excellent eating; even old Jew’s Ear fungus can be dried and ground for use as a flavouring and thickener for soups and stews. Even young versions of this fungus need long-term cooking, and have to be boiled for 45 minutes or more in stock or milk before being eaten, but the flavour is almost beyond compare, hence their value in Chinese soups.

Many thanks to Carrie & Eddie for the above.

Friday 29 October 2010

Wed 27th Oct 2010 - Kitbridge Farm Trust, Newport.

Eddie's Photographs.

Carrie's Photographs.

This week the GG Team were back at one of our most favourite sites - Kitbridge Farm. In spite of forecasted rain there was an amazing turnout of GGmers, including some "visitors" from the North Island! Our task was to dam off a ditch and divert the field runoff water to sequentially top up three ponds. These had been drying out durning the summer months so it is hoped that they will now stay as ponds all the year around. The work was labour intensive but can only be done manually as a mechanical digger may destroy the wildlife that lives in the ponds and surrounding areas. We had only just started work when Mark found a Great Crested Newt (see photograph somewhere below) - it was soon re-housed in a safe place.

When coffee time came around, Mark produced several yummy cream and chocolate cakes - the grand occasion being the 35th anniversary of the Kitbridge Trust. Many thanks Mark....they were delicious....Please can we have the same for each of our visits to you?

Tea break over and it was back to the ditch digging, dam building, pipe laying etc with a short break for when the IWCP photographer arrived to take a few photos. There were several group shots and ones of people working - so keep you eyes peeled for them in future editions of the paper.

The highlight of the day was when the last spade full of clay was removed and the waters flowed along the new drainage channels and into the top pond - a big cheer from all concerned accompanied this event!

Mark’s Nature Lesson

Newts have been recorded on the Kitbridge site since at least the 1860s and in recent years it has emerged after extensive research that the Island Great Crested Newts have developed unique characteristics and differ from their mainland counterparts in a number of subtle ways. The most pronounced difference is that they have a distinct yellow stripe that goes along the whole length of the spine. They even have their own name which is Tritarus Cristatus Vectis.

The Great Crested Newt has only been recorded at two further sites on the Island in recent years. This is due to loss of habitat, agro chemicals and climate change, which have had a devastating effect on the fragile meta populations of this unique species.

Many thanks to Eddie & Carrie for the photographs and to Mark for the Nature lesson (and cakes!)

Saturday 23 October 2010

Wed 20th Oct 2010 - Ventnor Botanical Gardens.

So here we are again at Ventnor Botanic Gardens, on a beautiful sunny day if a bit nippy in the shade. An excellent crowd of Green Gymmers turned up and Trish certainly had a full list of tasks for us to do. First was to continue the clearance work started last time in the hydrangea bed; secondly there was a lot of cutting back of overhanging branches on a good stretch of the coastal path situated at the top of the gardens. Our final task was to clear a back of ferns (leaving these in place) which had become infested with ivy, sycamore and bramble. It was certainly a challenge to keep our footing on the steep bank, but we certainly improved it enormously (see images above), with Trish carting away about six trailers full of stuff.

Many thanks to Carrie for the text and photographs.