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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 :-

The link to Twitter is

If you would like to leave us any comments then please use this link

Thursday 25 March 2010

Wed 24th March 2010 - Community Orchard, Adgestone.

Our second visit this month to the Island 2000 site next to the golf course in Sandown, continuing our work on improving the pathways following the somewhat wet winter. We finished the path started last week, and made a new pathway from the small wooden platform near the pond to connect with the one on the other side. More willow was cut to make edges and also a base, then we cut lots of reeds for the top to even everything out. We also cleared trees and bramble from around the small wooden platform, to allow the planks to dry off better as they had become very slippery.

Carrie’s Nature Lesson

Reed mace is generally found in very eutrophic conditions. It grows best in shallow water, usually up to 0.5m in depth, or occasionally as deep as 1 metre. It occurs on exposed mud by the side of lakes, canals, ponds and ditches and less frequently by streams and rivers. It may often occur in pure stands, excluding most other species. It is a shallow-rooted perennial whose vegetative shoots die in the Autumn, but persist throughout the winter along with the old flowering heads, with re-growth taking place in the spring from rhizomes. Flowers are wind pollinated and a single inflorescence may produce as many as 200,000 seeds! In dry weather the hairs on the pedicels spread and the inflorescence bursts, and the fruits drift away still attached to the hairy pedicels; if they land on dry ground they remain spread so there is the chance they may be blown to a more suitable habitat. If they land on water the hairs remain spread for a short time, but then the hairs fold back which brings the fruits into contact with the water. This allows the fruit wall to spring open releasing the seed, which immediately sinks. Birds have been known to use the fluffy down produced to line their nests.

Carrie wrote the editorial and supplied some of the pictures......the others were from Eddie. A big thank you to both!

Friday 19 March 2010

Wed 17th March 2010 - Medina Valley Centre, Newport.

Not a new venue for us this week, but one we have not visited for some time, Medina Valley Centre in Newport. They have several tasks for us, the first being to rake over a previously dug area near the front entrance, and scattering it with grass seed. Alongside the footpath round the back the area had been cleared of bramble, but as it is an area of unimproved grassland they actually wanted the bramble roots dug out, so they do not take over this area again. Task three involved some hole digging (a fairly regular task for the Green Gym) - one of their large conifers at the front of the building had suffered badly in the extreme winter weather, and had to be felled. However, all the tree has been recycled by making it into logs for their wood burners, using some to make woodchips to spread on pathways, and making some pieces into supports for information boards, which was the bit that required the hole digging. Our final task was to clear bramble from a hedge near one of their footpaths, then level off the pathway in preparation for the laying of a membrane.

Carrie’s Nature Lesson

Our find this week was Common Snowflake (Leucojum Aestivum). It is also called the Loddon Lilly and Summer Snowflake which is rather ironic, as this beautiful delicate flower actually blooms in early spring, generally around late February or early March. Snowflakes are members of the amaryllis family, and are native to central and southern Europe. They have narrow, strap-like dark green leaves, a light fragrance, and small bell-shaped white flowers, with green or occasionally yellow spots at the end of each tepal. Although they do grow in the wild, some plants manage to make their escape from our gardens into the wider countryside.

Once again Carrie was behind the camera and notepad - many thanks to her.

Thursday 11 March 2010

Wed 10th March 2010 - Community Orchard, Adgestone.

Our visit this week was to the community orchard at Adgestone, which is owned by Island 2000. Our first task was to plant eight mature fruit trees in the open space behind the picnic benches, to extend the orchard further into the site. Our second task was to work on improving the access for walkers, as the recent very wet weather has made some of the pathways impassable due to being completely under water. We used some larger trees to make the edges of a new path next to the very muddy one, then cut lots of one metre pieces of willow to make the base and covered this with soft grass from elsewhere on the site. We finished one pathway, and will be back here again in two weeks to work on the one that is currently still under water.

Carrie’s Nature Lesson

Our find this week was an unusual fungus known as Scarlet Elf Cup (Sarcoscypha Coccinea) (see picture), which appears in winter on dead wood in damp, shady places. The caps, which are edible when cooked, are usually 2 or 3 cm in diameter, but can be as large as 5 cm. The irregularly shaped cups have a smooth, red inner surface, and a much paler felty outer surface. The very short stipe, often buried in leaf litter, is the same colour as the outer surface of the cup. Due to the wet weather, they are appearing slightly later than usual, and here on the Island they have the local name of “Dungeon Lamps”. This is connected with the custom of bringing the fungi still attached to pieces of wood into the house, as a form of decoration in the dark winter months.

Once again it is a big thank you to Carrie for the editorial and photographs.

Thursday 4 March 2010

Wed 3rd March 2010 - Quarr Abbey, Binstead.

This week saw us again at Quarr Abbey, continuing with the hedge work we started a few weeks ago. The weather was a big improvement on the heavy rains of last week, with a bright sunny day blue sky, but a rather chill wind blowing off the Solent. We were busy taking the hedge line down to about 3.5 feet, and clearing away all the very think brambles between the hedge and the fence into the field, and several large loads of brash were packed into the trailer for transporting to the compost heap. Bearing in mind the time of year, a quick check was done to ensure no birds had started to set up home, but we did find a nest, probably from last year, which we think was a blackbird - see picture.

Carrie’s Nature Lesson

The blackbird breeding season lasts from early March to late July, and chicks are often found in a nest well into August. During this period blackbirds rear 2-3 broods, and in a good year a fourth brood may be attempted. Weather determines the timing of the breeding season, and warm or cold spells in spring can bring the breeding season forward or delay it by several days. Dry weather in June can shorten the season and even cause starvation of late broods, with the nesting season starting up to two weeks earlier in gardens than in woodland.

The nest, built by the female, is low down in any suitable cover. Trees, shrubs and climbers are preferred, but nests can be found inside buildings and occasionally even on the ground. The nest is a substantial cup of grass, straw, small twigs and other plant material, and plastered inside with mud and lined with fine grass. It can take two weeks to complete, and sometimes the same nest is used for successive broods. The normal clutch size is 3-5, with larger clutches laid in woodland than in gardens, and the female incubates alone, with the chicks hatching 13-14 days later. Only the female broods the chicks, but they are fed by both parents; the food varies, with chicks in gardens fed on earthworms when available, while chicks in woodland are fed mainly on caterpillars.

Many thanks to Carrie and Eddie for the text and pics.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Sat 27th Feb 2010 - Hedge Laying Competition, Freshwater.

Eddie sent me in the above pictures of the hedge laying competition. At the moment I don't have any details but I will republish this blog once I do get them. Thanks for the pics Eddie!

The following has just come in from Carrie........

The weather was kind to us, but the two pitches the Green Gym teams picked out (14 and 15) were certainly a challenge. They happened to be at the deep end of the (water filled) ditch, so you were standing on a bank only about a foot wide trying to pleach it! Also we both had several trees over 20' tall (if thin) and about five inches across at the base. Team 1 (Mark, Viv, Eddie and me) only had about an hour and a half left at the end to do the stakes and heathers, as the rest of the time was spent pleaching! We finished in ninth place and Green Gym 2 (Kevin, Gill, Geoff and Maria) were eighth, but we all thoroughly enjoyed it, which is what counts. It was certainly a fantastic turnout of visitors coming to watch, and they had 25 pitches which is more than ever before, so the event is obviously going from strength to strength.

Many thanks Carrie - Looking at the water in the ditch, perhaps they could have the pond wardens course at the same time as the hedge laying......?????