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Thursday 28 April 2011

Wed 27th April 2011 - Binstead Woods.

As you can see from the pictures above, team GG were back pathway building again this week. Two large piles of stone chippings had been pre-delivered to each end of Binstead Woods and it was all hands to the barrows, shovels and rakes for building up the boggy areas of the footpaths. Although the piles were of a considerable size (6 tons total?) we made short work of them and by tea break we had completed that part of our tasks. Other team members walked the numerous pathways - trimming back any overhanging brambles etc and doing a litter pick as they went. As we were close to the Millennium Gardens, it was decide that we would do a bit more work clearing the brambles along the butterfly walk (we have worked there before). We were careful that there were no nesting birds and also when walking around as common newts, toads, slow worms etc were all seen in this area. Seeing such a wide diversity of creatures and plants in an area we have helped with makes it all worthwhile.....!

Carrie’s Nature Lesson

Among our many finds this week, the only one we could get on camera was a Common Toad (Bufo Bufo), which is widespread throughout Europe with the exception of Iceland,Ireland and some Mediterranean islands. Its easterly range extends to Irkutsk in Siberia and its southerly range includes parts of northwestern Africa. Adult males usually grow to 8 cm and adult females around 13 cm, while their skin has a warty appearance in colours from green to brown.

Toads generally hunt at night, and are most active in wet weather. As a defense against predators they secrete a toxic, foul tasting substance called bufagin, which is usually enough to deter many predators although grass snakes and hedgehogs are immune. Although the adults spend most of their time on land, the females enter ponds and other still waters to lay their eggs as toadspawn, which can be distinguished from the spawn of the common frog as it forms strings rather than a large mass of eggs. These are laid in the spring, with the females attempting to return to the water in which they were born. The young tadpoles resemble other tadpoles in their appearance, except that toadpoles have a larger, rounder blacker head and shorter tail. Young common toads eat ants and some small flies, while the adults eat invertebrates such as insects, insect larvae, spiders, slug and worms, which they catch on their sticky tongues. Larger toads may also take small reptiles and rodents, which are swallowed alive.

Many thanks to Carrie for the pictures and Nature lesson.

Thursday 21 April 2011

Wed 20th April 2011 - Dimbola Lodge, Freshwater.

This week saw about 40 of us at Dimbola Lodge in Freshwater on what proved to be a very hot day. Last time we worked here we gave a very severe haircut to the hedge in front of the tea rooms, which did look rather thin when we had finished. What a different we made - it is now thick and bushy, perfect for nesting birds and they have had lots of comments from visitors to the Lodge saying how wonderful it is to now be able to see the beautiful view - so gold stars all round for us then! The gardens in and around the Lodge needed a really good clear out, so there was lots of hedge trimming (checking for nesting birds first of course), weeding, clearing out bramble, general pruning of the large shrubs, sweeping up all the debris and putting it into large bags for later disposal. It certainly looked much better when we had finished.

Many thanks to Carrie for the editorial and photographs this week.

Thursday 14 April 2011

Wed 13th April 2011 - Fort Victoria, Yarmouth.

Team GG were back at one of our favourite sites this week, Fort Victoria. We have been here many times before but the rangers always find something else for us to do. This time the tasks fell into 4 main areas, three of which involved wheelbarrows and large piles of materials (again!). Apparently there were some 7 tons of chippings plus 3 tons of top soil for us to deal with...! Two pathways were laid in the wooded area using the well tested method of crushed limestone on a prepared surface. One path had to go over a very boggy area so a drainage system had to be built in. The turfed area to the seaward side of the fort had been damaged during recent mechanical work so this was levelled, filled with top soil, and then reseeded - so should look as good as new in a few weeks time. The 4th task involved a team working along the footpath towards Norton - to give it a good de-litter and spruce up. The forecasted rain held off and the session was VERY well attended - well done everyone!

Many thanks to Carrie for the photographs.

Friday 8 April 2011

Wed 6th April 2011 - Haylands Plantation.

GG visited this site way back in June 2007 so it was nice to see how it has developed. For our readers who are unaware of it's location, it is behind the allotments on the Ryde / Upton Cross road. There is a small play area with swings etc and some lovely circular walks through the plantation area. This GG meeting seemed to be particularly well attended - a rough headcount was around 40 people there. The sun was shining.....the birds were singing.....and we were wheelbarrowing stone chippings from a huge pile ( just had an e-mail from Colin telling me it was 6 tonnes...!) down to the bottom of the site to form a mud free pathway. Other GG members were giving the site a general makeover - trimming back bramble and branches - opening up a clearing and generally making the whole area walker friendly. Most of our tasks were completed and the whole area looked more cared for by the time we came to leave.

“Carrie’s Nature Lesson”

This week we found some lovely Wild Cherry trees (Prunus Avium), which is a species of Cherry native to Europe and western Asia. It is the species from which most sweet cherry cultivars are derived, and is a deciduous tree growing up to 15m tall, and can attain an age of up to 200 years. It prefers a sunny position and is found in woods and hedgerows throughout the British Isles except Northern Scotland. The bark is shiny brown and peels away in horizontal strips, and it is sometimes grown for its reddish brown timber which is used for turnery products, furniture, veneers, decorative panelling and pipes; it also makes good firewood and you can smell the fragrance of the blossom as it burns. The mid-green leaves are elliptical in shape tapering to a point, and in autumn they turn a mosaic of vivid reds and yellows, orange, crimson and purple. The masses of snow white blossom appear before the leaves in March or April, and the flowers are usually white to pink with five petals and five sepals. Clusters of fleshy small cherries are produced in July, which provide food for a variety of birds including the rare and elusive hawfinch, which can actually crush the cherry stones with its massive bill.

At the time of publishing, I haven't received any photographs. If they arrive later I will attach them - watch this space...! They thanks to Carrie for sending them (again!) and for her nature lesson.

Friday 1 April 2011

Wed 30th March 2011 - Golden Hill Fort, Freshwater.

Eddie's Photographs.

Carrie's Photographs.

This week the GG Team were back out at Golden Hill Fort, Freshwater. We were there a few weeks ago hacking our way through a very overgrown area to create a new footpath. This visit was to put down chipped stone on the muddy path thereby making it more accessible to walkers. The weather on Wednesday started poor and got steadily worse...! The mist turned to gentle rain and eventually into a steady downpour - certainly not what the GG Team expects on a Wednesday morning. Even with the deteriorating weather we had a good turnout so it was all hands to the shovels and wheelbarrows. The Rangers had pre-dumped two huge piles of chippings, so it was clear the pathway of any remaining undergrowth, put down weed control matting then, using the wheelbarrows, tip them out to form the path. As can be seen from the above pictures, it doesn't take long to convert a huge pile of chippings into a "yellow brick road" through the woodland. We worked in two teams - each starting at the ends of the new path - working towards each other. We didn't have enough materials (or time) to meet up in the middle but I am sure the Rangers will have future plans for us with respect to that...! Watch this space....

Carrie’s Nature Lesson.

A strange-looking object this week - looks more like a piece of old polystyrene but is actually Slime Mould - a comparatively less well-known group of fungi which are in fact not strictly fungi at all but share some of the characteristics of protozoa, a group of animals of the simplest type, each consisting of a single cell. They might better be termed "honorary fungi" and exhibit characteristics of both animals and fungi. However they do not share the roles and functions of fungi, and physiologically they are both different from and similar to fungi at various stages of their development. The acellular, creeping, phase of the slime moulds is definitely animal-like, while the reproductive structures are plantlike, producing spores covered by definite walls. They are found in forested areas, where they appear in great profusion on dead and decaying wood, or wood litter, and on dead leaves.

In their feeding or trophic stage, they move about as a mass of protoplasm (plasmodium) devouring bacteria, spores and other organic matter. Research has discovered that the largest living entity is a slime mould measuring many miles across. The individual 'amoebae' live as a multi cellular mass communicating by chemical signals, and are classified in a separate Kingdom - the Protoctista. They can often be found as a white or yellow film (the plasmodium) under stones and logs, but the most striking occurrence is on grass or other low-growing plants during wet periods.

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