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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 :-

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Thursday 29 March 2012

Wed 28th March 2012 - Oakfield Primary School, Ryde.

And yet another new venue for Green Gym, this time it was at the "new" Oakfield Primary School at Ryde. (This school is what we all previously knew as Bishop Lovett.) The school has wonderful grounds with playing fields that have excellent views across the Solent. Mark informs us that this is the 22nd school that GG have visited over the years....!

The western boundary to these ground is woodland, which where the majority of our tasks were based. To enable the children to get an understanding of nature, they have established a "Woodland School" and we were to help out with the expansion of previous work. One team set about cutting back the overgrowth to make a new clearing whilst others enlarged existing clearings and paths. The emphasis was on making the areas both safe and interesting for the children and judging by the group that were there on Wednesday morning, the Woodland School is a real success! One team spent sometime cutting back a very overgrown area (lots of brambles!) to allow wheelchair access from the playing field into part of the woodland.

Separate to the work in the wooded area, some of the GG team were working closer to the school preparing the ground for raised beds (to be fitted later). This will give the younger children somewhere to plant up and watch things growing.

During this work session, the County Press arrived so keep your eyes peeled for yet another CP mention of Team GG.....!

Many thanks for the photograph Carrie.

Thursday 22 March 2012

Wed 21st March 2012 - Christ the King College, Newport.

"Pond" - before. Pond - after.

If you have been attending recent GG sessions then the purchase of an O/S map or a GPS would be a great asset, such is the number of new venues we have visited....! This week was no exception when we all arrived in Wellington Road, Newport looking for this new College. Fortunately, everyone seemed to find their way there and we had an excellent attendance to go with the wonderful weather (most were working in shirt sleeves!). The team were split into two main groups - one group tackling various jobs around the site - and the other concentrating on a "wildlife area" adjacent to some of the school buildings. This had previously had a pond (but subsequently filled in) and had become very overgrown and a little neglected. The ground was soon cleared of litter, hedges trimmed back, brambles and undergrowth cleared away so that the pond area could be examined. Careful digging exposed the old PVC liner and the original shape was eventually established. It was then a hard slog to dig out all the infill, using the excess to build up the area thereby levelling the surrounding soil. Some of the overhanging tree branches were trimmed back to reduce the shaded areas. To make the pond as wildlife and plant friendly as possible, various water levels are needed with shallows, gently sloping banks and a deep central area , all this was incorporated into the design. By the end of the session, the site looked well prepared for our return visit in a couple of weeks time. Congratulations to those members of the team who were involved in building the bird table, you passed your CDT (Craft, Design & Technology) course with grade A's...!

Many thanks to Carrie for the photographs.

Thursday 15 March 2012

Wed 14th March 2012 - Bembridge Fort, Culver Down.

Carrie's Photographs.

Alison's Photographs.

Colin's Photographs. (Before & after shots of the step area)

Regular readers of this blog will know by now that Team GG are always up for a challenge and our session this week was certainly one of the more unusual ones... working in a Victorian land fort...! Bembridge Fort was acquired by the National Trust back in 1967 and our session this week was to help them in clearing the bottom of the "dry moat" and the surrounding areas. The workforce was split into two teams with the more adventurous tackling getting the tools and barrows down the steep steps at the western end of the site. We were soon gathering up pre-cut material and burning it on bonfires spaced at regular intervals around the fort. A total of six fires were started so we were kept very busy trying to keep them all going at the same time. Particular care was taken to ensure that all wildlife was removed from the fire areas before burning took place. The other team were working hard trimming back and litter picking around the periphery fence. A considerable amount of glass, metal and general rubbish was collected during the session which has improved the looks of the area and will be of benefit when the livestock is turned out to graze later in the year.
The volunteers who help run the fort arranged several tours for the GG members to be shown around this Scheduled Ancient Monument. Many thanks to them for giving us the background history and making the facts so interesting.

Carrie's Nature Lesson.

This week's find was snoozing happily underneath some roofing felt which was going on the fire, but was carefully relocated somewhere else in the moat of Bembridge Fort. The Slow-worm is a legless lizard which looks like a snake in some respects but the fact that it has eyelids, a flat forked tongue and can drop its tail to escape from a predator gives its true identity away. It is probably the most commonly encountered British reptile, often found in gardens and is widespread throughout the British Isles. It is naturally absent from Ireland (those found there in the area of the Burren are thought to be introduced). Its appearance is always shiny, the males are a greyish brown, the females brown with dark sides and a thin line down the back. They give birth to live young in September which are very thin, about 4cm long with black bellies and gold or silver backs with a thin black line down the middle. They can be found in almost any open or semi-open habitat and likes warmth, but instead of basking in the open sun it prefers to hide under a stone, log or piece of discarded rubbish such as a sheet of corrugated iron or plank of wood exposed to the sun. They are also keen on compost heaps where they find warmth and plenty of food, feeding on slow moving prey, particularly small slugs.

Carrie's History Lesson.

Bembridge is a Victorian fort built between 1862 and 1867 at a cost of £48,000, which based on average earnings would be £28,600,000 today. It formed part of a ring of defences protecting the island and the naval dockyards at Portsmouth from the threat of a French invasion. They became known as Palmerston's Follies after Lord Palmerston who was Prime Minister at the time and commissioned their construction. The Fort is an elongated hexagon situated on the highest point of Bembridge Down and the Yarbrough monument, which was previously on the site, was moved so the fort could be built. It underwent many alterations from its early days through both World Wars, resulting in a building with multiple layers of history and the spigot mortar (see picture) was part of the extensive defences. It is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument, so any repairs or renovations require the permission of English Heritage. Volunteers have been working hard for seven years to restore the fort, and tours can be booked via the National Trust.

And finally.........A big THANK YOU to all those who contributed to the blog page this week.

Friday 9 March 2012

Wed 7th March 2012 - Afton Marsh, Freshwater.

Well after a forecast of wind and driving rain, it took a very hardy group of Green Gymmers to turn up at Afton Marsh to help Nick the Ranger, all suitable attired in wet coats and wellies. We were somewhat fortunate with the weather, it remaining fairly dry most of the time only raining very hard at teatime! As it was too wet for a fire our tasks were to cut up some large branches of willow which had already been felled, drag it into piles facing inwards ready for a fire in the future and also to fell and stack some smaller willows - now this might sound fairly easy stuff for us but all this had to be undertaken in thick, black, deep, squelchy mud!! Care was definitely needed not to leave our wellies behind while moving around the site.

Carrie's Nature Lesson

It seems a long time since we found something for our Nature Lesson, but this week we have two finds. The first is Butterbur, a member of the daisy family Asteraceae in the genus Petasites; another common name of many species of this genus is Sweet Coltsfoot. The pale purple flowers are popular with early bumble bees, with male and female flowers growing on separate plants. They prefer moist environments such as riverbanks, marshes and ditches, flowering from March to May and grow to a height of 70cm. Its leaves can grow to 100cm across, and years ago people used to wrap butter in them to keep it fresh, hence their common name. In the Middle Ages the roots were used to remove skin blemishes, and native Americans used them as a headache remedy.

Our second find was Sweet Violet (Viola odorata) - this is one of our most valued flowers of spring with heart shaped dark green leaves which have scalloped or slightly serrated edges and are smooth or sometimes downy underneath. Depending on soil and light the flowers, which all have five petals, may be any colour from deep purple or blue to pinkish or even yellow whitish and bloom from March to June.

Many thanks to Carrie for the photographs, editorial AND the nature lesson this week.....!

Thursday 1 March 2012

Wed 29th Feb 2012 - Golden Hill Fort, Freshwater.

Mark's Photographs.

Carrie's Photographs.

Team GG were determined to make the best of the "extra" day this year (leap year) so it was off Golden Hill Fort. Although a little overcast, the weather was unseasonably warm which encouraged a really good attendance. The first thing we noticed was that the hedge areas had been treated to an "extreme haircut" - the overgrown areas that had encroached onto the grass and walkways had been mechanically trimmed. This looks a bit drastic but we were assured that it will soon grow back and will encourage growth lower in the hedges. As per usual, Nick the Ranger had plenty of work planned for our visit. This time the task,s included, post hole digging (some two and a half feet deep), path laying (the dreaded stone chippings), collecting up and burning the hedge trimmings, collecting and putting into piles larger branches, new tree planting, hedge trimming, pond clearance....etc...etc...never a dull moment when you are working with GG...! The hedge trimming work will soon be coming to a close as it will be time for the birds to start nesting again. Well done to all those who turned up and achieved so much in just 3 hours.
Many thanks to Carrie & Mark for the photographs.