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Wednesday 26 May 2010

Wed 26th May 2010 - Carisbrooke Priory.

Yet another re-visit to a site we have not been to for about four years, Carisbrooke Priory. An excellent turnout of some 35-40 people on a dry (forecast said rain, but us Green Gymmers are a lucky lot!) and sunny morning. There were several tasks - cutting down some quite tall sycamores which had grown up against the outside wall of the Priory, and stacking them into pyramid shapes so they are easier to dispose of (apparently); cutting back some low level ivy in their lovely wildflower garden; clearing a bank of ivy which has invaded and swamped the wildflowers; and finally, using a VERY long saw, to cut back some branches of a yew tree in the grounds which are touching the outside wall of the Priory itself.

Carrie's Nature Lesson

This week it is Ivy-leaved Toadflax (Cymbalaria Muralis), also known as "Mother of Thousands, Kenilworth Ivy and Pennywort". It is quite charming when it drapes from an old wall, but if allowed to grow in a rockery it can overwhelm more delicate specimens. It was introduced from Southern Europe in the 17 century, but is now widespread in the British Isles. The dark green leaves are held on long, redddish stalks and have five rounded lobes giving them their ivy-like character. In flavour they are acrid and pungent in a similar way to cress, and have been used in salads in their native regions. A poultice can be used to stem bleeding, and an extract may have a use in treating diabetes. The slender stems are the same colour as the leaf and flower stalks, and can be up to 90cm long with roots at intervals along their length. The single flowers appear from April to November and are lilac with a yellow centre. They are usually fertilized by bees, and the mature seed pod is bent inwards to be pushed into a crevice. Using this method of seed dispersal, the plant can colonise a whole wall, and is able to climb to the top of a building.

A big thanks to Carrie for the text and photographs.

Thursday 20 May 2010

Wed 19th May 2010 - Riverside Park, Newport.

This week we were helping the Rangers Nick and Richard at Riverside Park, a site we have not visited since 2005. As usual they like to keep us busy, so lots of tasks to undertake. There was the usual litter pick and cutting back overhanging branches, followed by that old favourite! limestone chippings, so it was out with the barrows and rakes to improve several path areas. There had also been pallets burnt in one of the areas by the river, so these were cleared away and the area swept clear of debris - mostly nails. Our final tasks was to put in some planks and stakes to improve an area of the path prone to flooding, then lay a membrane and cover this with limestone chippings on the path to raise the level.

Carrie’s Nature Lesson

This week’s find was a Sea Slater (Ligia Oceanica) - sorry the image is not wonderful, but it ran about everywhere. Looking like a large woodlouse, the flattened body has seven pairs of legs, two large antennae, protective plates along the back, and are limited to damp environments because they have gills. They do not, however, live in the water but on the shore above the high tide mark, and can be found running across rocks on groynes and in the strandline. The best time to see them is in the evening when they are most active; during the day they hide under stones and seaweed and in cracks in the rock. They are members of the woodlouse family, and help to keep the shore tidy by eating dead plant and animal material that has been washed up. Sea Slaters are members of a group of crustaceans called Isopods (iso meaning “same” and pod meaning “foot”). They live for up to three years, breeding only in their third year”.

Many thanks to Carrie for the text and pics.

Friday 14 May 2010

Wed 12th May 2010 Merstone Station.

This week saw some 30 of us turn up on a beautiful (if slightly chilly) morning at Merstone Station. We have not visited this site for five years, and unfortunately the sofa we made out of soil and turfed over on our last visit, has succumbed to the ravages of the weather and had to be removed. This area is part of the Troll Trail which stretches from Shide to Merstone along the existing cycle track, and the site is managed by Gift to Nature, who have made a number of improvements to the wildlife meadow with new wildflowers and specialist management along with hand-carved picnic benches. There were two tasks for the group, the first of which was to put teak oil on the picnic benches and interpretation board to help preserve the structures. Our second task was to re-establish the maze, which was extremely overgrown and has almost disappeared. Using the diagram which had been provided for us we put a line of paint to show what the maze should look like, and set to with spades and picks to restore the shape. Once this was done we collected a lot of the original chalk used to mark the maze, and also barrowed (from the other end of the site!) some new chalk. We did not actually manage to put the chalk down as the job took quite a while and we just ran out of time - looks like it will be a return visit to the finish the job.

Carrie’s History Lesson

The station was known as Merstone Junction until 1911, and although the station originally had a single platform, with the opening of the Newport, Godshill and St Lawrence Railway in 1897, the station was rebuilt with an island platform. Its isolated position meant the station never generated much passenger traffic, and was at its busiest when passengers used the station to interchange between trains on the Sandown and Ventnor lines. The station was originally provided with a pedestrian subway for access but this was prone to flooding, so the Southern Railway replaced the subway with an access ramp. There was also a small goods yard to one side of the island platform, with the booking office located within the station house facing out onto the level crossing.

The Newport, Godshill and St Lawrence Railway was opened form Merstone to St Lawrence in 1897 and to Ventnor Town in 1900. This line was operated until 1913, and all the Island’s railways were absorbed into the Southern Railway in 1923. The service was upgraded with the introduction of new rolling stock and a revised timetable, and after nationalisation in 1948 Southern Railway became part of the Southern Region of British Railways. However, improved bus services and the popularity of the motor car led to dwindling passenger numbers, and the Merstone to Ventnor line was the first to close in 1952. The station was snowed under during the harsh winter of 1947 and the station itself was demolished after closure (see old picture of station).

Is there no end to Carrie's talents....? Cub reporter, photographer, nature expert and now a local historian..! Many thanks Carrie.:)

Thursday 6 May 2010

Wed 5th May 2010 - Fort Victoria, Yarmouth.

Another visit to West Wight for us this week, helping the rangers Richard and Nick at Fort Victoria Country Park. As the slipway can be a bit difficult for access on occasions, a flail had been brought in to provide a second access to the beach. Our task was to spread a thicker amount of limestone along the path, and at the end nearest the beach to widen the drainage ditch, fill with chippings then back fill with soil to improve the draining and run off along the path. There was further work on some of the paths to improve access, a litter pick and finally some step building. Some way along the beach the original footpath has fallen away leaving a dangerous drop on one side. Two barrows containing stakes, wood, drills and other tools were carried around 200 yards along the beach, and a new route identified for us to build some more steps, and the images show before and after views. This will not only improve the access, but also when the rangers do their circular walks with schools and younger visitors, it will bypass the steep drop and improve the safety of the route.

A big thank you to Carrie for the above text and photographs.