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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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Friday 21 December 2012

Wed 19th Dec 2012 - Shide Quarry, Newport.

Tony's Photographs.

Carrie's Photograph.

This was our last session of Green Gym for 2012, and unfortunately the weather was not terribly kind to us.  Our venue was Shide Quarry, which is always our last visit of the year.  Our main task was to cut back the cotoneaster, some of which is extremely close to the ground.  This will prevent it crowding out the wildflowers on the floor of the quarry, which in turn provide nectar rich food for the Chalkhill Blue butterfly found here. About 30 hardy souls dressed top to toe in wet gear were soon beavering away, and Nick the ranger also managed to start a fire to burn off the cut pieces.  We also managed to have a lovely cook-up of a delicious vegetable stew, which was very welcome at tea break, along with all the other festive goodies everyone had kindly brought along.

Carrie's Nature Lesson.

As its name suggests, the Chalkhill Blue is found on chalk downland, although limestone downland is also used.  The adult butterfly is most often seen in bright sunshine (if any of us can remember what this looks like!!), where the ground may appear to shimmer with the activity of hundreds, if not thousands, of males searching for a mate just a few inches above the ground. It lives in discrete colonies where its foodplant, Horseshoe Vetch, is found in abundance.  It is also a warmth-loving butterfly, and is typically found on sheltered, south-facing hillsides.  At good sites, these lovely butterflies can be found roosting communally on grass stems at the lower slopes of a hillside, occasionally with several individuals on the same stem.

Many thanks to Carrie for the photographs, editorial and nature lesson this week and to Tony for his photographs.

All that is left is for me, Bob the Blog to wish you all a VERY........

and we look forward to seeing you all at Green Gym in 2013...!

Saturday 15 December 2012

Wed 12th Dec 2012 - Munsley Bog, Godshill.

This was the ninth consecutive year of The IW Green Gym working at Munsley Bog our first session there being held back in the October of 2004.  Each year we have gradually reduced the willow and managed the bracken by cutting it back, endeavouring to improve the bog mire habitat. If anyone has any photos of the early days please send them in but this blog entry in 2007 (use link below) shows the extent the site has changed since that time when the willow was encroaching so, while also having a bad effect on the water table.

The bracken now is hopefully gradually thinning in areas where we have enabled the water table to rise, slowly being replaced here and there by rush, moss and other flora.  

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

Don't forget your blanched vegetables, flasks of HOT water, mince pies, cakes etc for the next GG at Shide Quarry.....which is the Christmas Bash and the last GG of 2012....! Hats and fancy dress optional (but desirable!) The weather on Wednesday looks less than perfect - so check details on the GG web site.

Thursday 6 December 2012

Wed 5th Dec 2012 - One Horse Field, Totland.

It is always a bad sign on a Wednesday morning if you have to de-frost the car prior to leaving for GG....! This week was definately time to dig out those extra layers of clothing, gloves, thick socks for the boots and most important of all, a warm hat. Although the car thermometer was showing just above freezing as we arrived, the stiff northerly wind was dragging the temperature sub zero. It was a good thing that Mark had an energetic work package for us and we were soon spread around the field beavering away in an attempt to stay warm. The central area of this meadow had been mechanically flailed earlier, so our task was to rake up as much as possible and transport it to the edges. This site is basically split into three different areas - each one receiving particular attention on a three year "crop cycle". As with other meadow sites we have worked on recently, the idea of raking up the cut grass is to deny the ground the nutrients that would be added by letting the material compost. This allows the wild flowers to grow quicker than the surrounding grass thereby giving them a head start come the growing season. Although numbers were down a little, good progress was made with the task in hand and it will be interesting to see how well our efforts pay off during next year's visits.

Many thanks to Mark for the photographs this week.

Thursday 29 November 2012

Wed 28th Nov 2012 - Afton Marsh, Freshwater.

As can been seen from the pictures above, warm clothing was the order of the day for this week's GG session (plus a good pair of wellington boots and WARM socks!). Our tasks were at the far south end of the marsh, close to boundary with Freshwater Bay car park. The recent rain has finally given way to a dry, but much colder, spell of weather - so the idea of a big fire to keep us warm was an appealing one. Nick the ranger soon had the fire going but it took some time to get it really established, well done Nick! Team GG were soon attacking the overgrown areas with lopers and bow saws, dragging the material back to the fire area where it was chopped up prior to burning. The problem is with marsh areas is that, as you transit to and from an area, the ground becomes increasingly boggy and you end up standing in water half way up your boots, brrrrrrr...! The brisk northerly wind was a good reason to keep yourself active and warm - or find a job in the area of the bonfire! A quick head count showed that we had around 30 people at the session and excellent progress was made at clearing areas of the marsh so a big WELL DONE to all those who braved the cold.

Carrie's Nature Lesson.

This week’s find by Martin (and again kindly identified by Dr Colin Pope) is a Blushing Bracket (Daedaleopsis Confragosa) as there are often shades of pink or mauve in the upper surface. The maze-like network of pores on the underside is striking and bruises reddish when rubbed, hence the name Blushing Bracket.  This tough slow growing fungus can be seen on riverside willows in midwinter, when very few other fungi are in evidence. The bright brackets catch any sunlight, and stand out starkly from the dark background of the branches or trunks to which they are attached.
They are most commonly seen in tiers on dead or dying willow trunks and branches, but have also been found, although less frequently, on alder and just occasionally on hazel birch and poplar.

Many thanks to Carrie for the nature lesson and photographs this week.

Thursday 22 November 2012

Wed 21st Nov 2012 - Merstone Station.

Carrie's Photographs.

Colin's Photographs.

Mark's Photographs.

Please note the position of the rainbow in the photographs above and below, not only does the sun shine on the righteous, but so does the rainbow....! (Well captured Mark)

It was back to one of GG's favourite locations this week, the old railway station at Merstone. This is a very popular site with members of the public - with walkers, dog exercisers, cyclists, horse riders, picnickers etc all enjoying the open meadow area. Since the area has been cleared and managed, it has also become a haven for wild flowers, insects, birds and animals.

So, to keep this site in top condition, GG were tasked to give the platform area and the land to the west an autumn cleanup....! As this is a meadow site, the cut grass needs to be raked up, thereby denying the soil of additional nutrients. This will give the wild flower a fighting chance at the start of the growing season next year. The team were soon seen to be raking away and removing the cuttings to a remote area. Particular attention was given to the maze pathway area which had become very overgrown. One of the seating areas needed the bench supports renewing, so the rotten posts were dug out, new oak posts cut to length and then buried prior to the bench top being reattached. As per usual when we visit such sites, there was a general litter pick and tidy-up of any needy items.

The session started well weatherise, with cloud but just a little light rain. By tea time the winds had picked up considerably and squally weather became the order of the day! You can see from the photographs above just how dark the sky became which highlighted the rainbow beautifully. Very well done to those who stayed in spite of the inclement weather...!!!!

Many thanks to Carrie, Colin and Mark for the photographs this week.

Thursday 15 November 2012

Wed 14th Nov 2012 - Medina Valley Centre, Dodnor.

The first 4 photographs were taken by Frank Cope of the Medina Valley Centre.
(many thanks Frank!)

Carrie's Photographs.

This GG session was a follow-up to one we had back in the summer. The first session was for us to clear an area of ground alongside a boundary fence and this week we went back to plant up a new hedge along the fence line. In between these sessions, contractors had been in to erect new posts and wire - utilizing as much of the original as possible - thereby retaining some of the railway industrial archeology. This boundry divides the MVC land from the Newport / Cowes cycle track which was originally the railway line.

In total, some 110 tree and shrub "whips" of assorted varieties were planted in a double row, some 40 metres in length. Each was staked with a cane and fitted with a plastic rabbit guard to give them the best possible start in life. We look forward to returning to the Centre in future years to see how the hedge grows.

Other tasks undertaken were to gather up cut grass and general work around the site.

 Carrie's Nature Lesson.

Two finds this week, the first being some beautiful sloes (Prunus spinosa), a large deciduous shrub or small tree with blackish bark and dense, stiff, spiny branches.  The leaves are oval with serrated margins and the flowers have five creamy white petals.  They are produced shortly before the leaves in early spring, and the fruit called a sloe is black with a purple-blue waxy bloom, ripening in auturmn and harvested in the UK during October or November after the first frosts.  Sloes are thin fleshed and have a very strong astringent flavour when fresh.

Our second find was a very spectacular fungi, kindly identified by Dr Colin Pope, as a Velvent Shank (Flammulina Velutipes).  This is quite a common mushroom, whose fruitng season is mainly from September to March, which can resist winter frosts, emerging totally unscathed when thawed.  They are usually found in medium to large tufted clusters of dead or decaying wood, favouring elm and oak.  The caps are a striking orange-brown colour, with a distinctly sticky surface texture.

Many thanks to Carrie for the photographs and nature lesson.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Wed 7th Nov 2012 - Millennium Green, Binstead.

Carrie's Photographs. (before and after shots of the butterfly meadow)

Mark's Photographs.

Our GG session this week was held at a site we have visited many times in the past - the Millennium Green at Binstead. It was back in 2010 that we had our last visit here and it was nice to see how much it has developed since then. The hard work put in by the wardens and volunteers for this area has been acknowledged by a Green Flag Community Award - so a big "well done" to everyone concerned.

Our tasks this week involved two main jobs. The first was to clear away an area known as the butterfly meadow and the second to prepare the land, near the main entrance, for the planting of wild flower seeds. As can been seen from Mark's photographs above, we have to be very careful when we are working in such areas, to ensure that we do not disturb any of the wildlife there!

With some 37 GGymers attending and good weather, excellent progress was made and the main tasks were completed within the session.

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

Friday 2 November 2012

Wed 31st Oct 2012 - Fort Victoria, Yarmouth.

Mark's Photographs.

Carrie's Photographs.

This week we were back to one of our regular haunts, Fort Victoria Country Park, and it was a great relief to many of us that we couldn't see any barrows or limestone chippings!  Our task this week was up at the viewpoint which looks out over the Solent; this area was cleared of sycamore and other trees about three years ago, but they have now grown so much that it is obscuring this fantastic view.  So everyone grabbed saws and loppers and got stuck into removing all the trees and vegetation.  Then they were all carried along to the fire, which Anita did very well to get going, given the damp conditions; however, it was soon burning merrily, and we managed to clear a really decent sized area.  We were also fortunate with the rain, which very kindly held off until we had finished the session.

Many thanks to Carrie for both the editorial and her photographs this week and to Mark for the other photographs.

Thursday 25 October 2012

Wed 24th Oct 2012 - Pan Mill Meadows, Newport.

Mark's Photographs.

Carrie's Photographs.

Green Gym returned to a site that we haven't visited in a long time for the session this week, the meadow area along the cycle track between Newport and Shide. On previous visits, we had to deal with a very overgrown area but, because of improved access, this time it had been possible to mechanically flail the whole area prior to our arrival (phew!) Normally the cut material is left to rot into the ground which will enhance the soil - but not the case for meadows. Wild flowers are happy to grow in poor soil so the rotting material would only encourage weeds and bramble, which stops the wild flowers coming up through. Team GG were soon scattered across the whole area busily raking up into piles which were then bagged up and taken to the edges of the meadow. At the same time, other members were off along the banks of the river and surrounding areas doing the usual litter pick.

At the start of the session Team GG were presented, by Patricia Almond of the CPRE (Isle of Wight branch), with an  award for our litter picking efforts across the Island and also a donation to help with the group's expenses. See top photograph.

This was a well attended session (perhaps because it was so central?) and the weather held good for us. It would be nice to return next summer and see how all our efforts paid off.

Photographs were supplied by Carrie & Mark.....many thanks!