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To look at the Isle of Wight Green Gym web page (contains details of sessions etc) please use the following link :-

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Monday 28 February 2011

Sat 26th Feb 2011 -Hedge Laying Contest, 2011.

Each year the last Saturday of February heralds the return of the IW Hedgelaying Contest. For 2011 it was held at Calbourne Mill along a stretch of their hedgerow bordering the Newbridge Road. (If you are in the area take a look) For what is now the third time in the contest's history the IW Green Gym entered a couple of teams. The competition is to lay a length of hedge, to certain judged criteria, in a traditional style. Twelve teams entered, a record, as well as many individual participants in the open and novice categories.
Both of our teams worked with only hand tools, such as billhooks and bowsaws, this means that progress is slow; five hours sounds a long time but let me tell you it is the quickest five hours of the year! Both of our teams finished our sections in time however and contributed to what is now a great looking length of layed hedge. The process comprises the pleaching (the laying bit) which is then staked and topped with heatherings or bindings (the top finishing to the stakes). I was in 'Green Gym 2' along with Gill and Alison and we worked constantly to create a length of hedge to which we could be proud. We came 9th in the rankings. 'Green Gym 1' did even better and finished in 7th position, they were Viv, Kevin, Mick and Mark E a very fine result, especially considering the extremely wet conditions they were working in along their section.

A very big well done to everyone! Mark R

Many thanks to Mark for the editorial and to all who sent in the photographs.

Thursday 24 February 2011

Wed 23rd Feb 2011 - Great Combley Wood, Havenstreet.

Carrie's Photographs.

Eddie's Photograph.

Considering the atrocious weather lately, we had an excellent turnout for a completely new site for the GG, at Great Combley Wood near Havenstreet, helping the Wildlife Trust with their pond project to create 25 new ponds over two years. This is part of their commitment to the International Year of Biodiversity, which has been funded in part by the IW Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty Partnership, via their Sustainable Development Fund. Our job was to clear all the trees and shrubs in a marked out area where the pond will be, many of which were quite big and very tall (about 25-30 ft), cut them up and stack them around the perimeter, while using some of the small bushy trees to make some habitat piles. Cries of “Timber” and even “Geronimo” were soon to be heard, as our hardy crew got stuck in. There was also the chance for some hedgelaying practice, as the Green Gym will have teams competing in this Saturday’s competition at Newbridge Road, near Calbourne.

Carrie’s Nature Lesson

Not too much in the way of finds this time of year, but some delightful catkins (see image) certainly brightened up a very wet and murky day. Many trees bear these elegant hanging cylinders of flowers, and a catkin (or ament) is a strand of tiny and inconspicuous unisexual flowers. Trees with catkins include those of the Beech family (such as oaks and chestnuts), the Willow family (such as willows, aspens, poplars and cottonwoods), the Birch family (such as birches, alders and hornbeams), the Mulberry family and the Walnut family (such as walnuts and hickories). The ones in the picture are actually on hazel, which are pale yellow in colour and up to 5cm long. They open in February, when hazel and its companion deciduous trees are all leafless, so they are one of the first obvious signs of Spring in the forest. The female flowers are tiny red tufts growing out of what look like swollen buds, and are visible on the same branches as the male catkins. Pollination is by wind, and hazel is self-incompatible - successful pollination only occurs between different trees, as a single tree cannot pollinate itself.

Mant thanks to Carrie & Eddie for the pics and text.

Friday 18 February 2011

Wed 16th Feb 2011 - Mill Copse, Yarmouth.

Carrie's Pictures.

Eddie's Pictures.

This week saw us at Mill Copse in Yarmouth, helping the rangers Nick and Richard. The route from the car park up to the entrance of the copse was exceptionally muddy, especially following the amount of rain we have had recently. This led us nicely into the first task, which was to spread some limestone chippings on the worst parts of the pathway. The copse was originally ancient woodland, mostly oak and ash with hazel understorey, and the rangers have done a lot of woodland management over the years, involving removal of the conifers planted back in the sixties to allow in more light. This has made the resident ash and oak much healthier, and also encouraged wood anemones and bluebells to grow in the open spaces on the ground. Our second task was to remove some ash trees, and coppice a section of hazel in an area already cleared, which has now regenerated. We also cut up the ash for stakes and used the hazel for heathers (tied up in stacks of 10), to assist with the Hedgelaying Competition being held at Calbourne Mill on Saturday 26 February - a great event for keeping this ancient art alive in the countryside, which is free to attend and well worth a visit! We also made some tree stakes for future planting and, following a request to the rangers, also provided a batch of sticks to be used for Morris Dancing!

Carrie’s Nature Lesson

A plant called “Iris Foetidissima” was found this week, also known as Stinking Iris, one of the two iris species native to Britain. It is found in dry woodlands, hedge banks and scrubby sea-cliffs, mainly on lime-rich soils in southern England. The mauve flowers appear from May to July, and its long strap-like leaves, which form dense evergreen clumps, have an unusual smell when crushed, leading to one alternative name of ‘roast-beef plant’. After flowering the seed pods swell, bursting open in the autumn to reveal spectacular brilliant orange-red seeds, which often stay on the plant throughout winter. It is an excellent plant for a dry,shaded part of the garden, but plant it in free-draining soil that is not too acidic.

Many thanks to Carrie & Eddie for the photographs and text this week.

Thursday 10 February 2011

Wed 09th Feb 2011 - Quarr Abbey, Binstead.

Eddie's Pictures.

Carrie' Pictures.

The GG workout this week was at Quarr Abbey - and what a workout it turned out to be! It was a good job that we had a excellent turnout of around 40 GGmers as the planned work was considerable. If you have a look at the "before" pictures above, you see a 20 foot high wall of solid hedge interwoven with brambles as thick as broom handles..! A quick glance at the "after" shots will show exactly what the work package involved - reduce the 20' hedge down to around 3' and take out all the brambles. This will encourage the lower parts of the hedge to thicken up and also allow the walkers on the adjacent footpath to see stunning views of the creek (see Carrie's last picture above). We had two of the Abbey's ground staff working with us, manning the tractor driven wood chipper which made short work of the branches that we were cutting down. The chips are being used on the footpaths around the abbey and for composting/top dressing.
Our tea break was taken in the adjacent Tea Room (thanks for the drinks!) where many were seen to be enjoying the optional sticky buns & cakes...!!!
Good progress was made with the hedging (we left them with huge piles to chip at a later date) and various other jobs were tackled. If you fancy having a go at this sort of work, we will be back at the Abbey in two weeks time - come along and give us a hand.

Carrie’s Nature Lesson.

This week Charlie discovered a very interesting bracket fungi (see picture), but despite extensive trawling of the internet and picking the brains of my resident expert, I could not put a name to it. However bracket fungi or shelf fungi are among many groups in the phylum Basidiomycota. Characteristically they produce shelf or bracket shaped fruiting bodes called conks, that lie in a close planar grouping of separate or interconnected horizontal rows. These can range from only a single row of a few caps, to dozens of rows that can weigh several hundred pounds. They are mainly found on trees, and some form annual fruiting bodies while others are perennial and grow larger year after year. They are typically tough and study and produce their spores, called basidiospores, within the pores that typically make up the undersurface, and some species are cultivated for human consumption or medicinal use. They come in all shapes and sizes including the hard ‘cup fungi’ and the ‘shell’, ‘plate’ and bracket commonly found growing off logs and still standing dead trees. One of the more common species - Ganoderma, can grow large thick shelves that may contribute to the death of the tree, and then feed off the wood for years after.

Many thanks to Carrie & Eddie for the photographs and Nature Lesson.

Thursday 3 February 2011

Wed 2nd Feb 2011 - One Horse Field, Totland.

Team GG were back at an old favourite this week......One Horse Field in Totland. As someone pointed out, we have been here many times but nobody has ever seen this elusive "One Horse"!
This was a particularly well attended session and once again the weather was kind to us. The main task this week was to rake up all the cuttings that had generated by prior mechanical trimming. We split into teams, some raking the cuttings into piles and others using Maxi bags to carry it away to composting piles. Other GG members tackled some trees that needed heavy pruning and others were cutting back the new shooting shrubs. The whole area looked much improved at the end of visit and hopefully the wild flowers & plants will have a fighting chance to grow this year.

Many thanks to Carrie for this week's photographs.