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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 19 December 2013

Wed 18th Dec 2013 - Shide Quarry, Newport.

Carrie's Photographs.

Mark's Photographs.

Over the 10 years that the IoW GG has been running, it has become traditional that our "Christmas Bash" be held in the chalk quarry at Shide. This year was no exception so it was all available hands to help transport the food, tables and equipment from the roadside down the numerous steps to the area where we set the bonfire. Being GG, we didn't just go along for the party, it was incorporated with the usual work session that involved the chopping back of the plentiful undergrowth that had sprung up over the year. Part of the workforce cut down a few more substantial timbers to enable them to build a tented area covering the tables and food. This year the weather remained dry throughout the session and was perhaps a little milder than usual. All the cut material was soon piled onto the bonfire which was used to heat the jacket potatoes (and warm a few hands!)

Many thanks to Mark and the committee who work so hard to make this, and the sessions throughout the year, so enjoyable for the rest of us. Also, a big thank you to Nick the ranger for his help with the party and at many other GG venues.

As I logged in to do this blog, I noticed that we have just broken the 40,000 (yes - forty THOUSAND) barrier on the number of blog site visits. People worldwide are looking at what we achieve here on the Island - so we are all "celebrities" now.

All that is left now is to wish you all a VERY.......

and we look forward to seeing everyone at GG in 2014....!

Many thanks to Carrie and Mark for the photographs - My, don't we look festive!

Wednesday 11 December 2013

Wed 11th Dec 2013 - Munsley Bog, Godshill.

Approaching the GG work area this week was reminiscent of the Sherlock Holmes "The Hounds of the Baskervilles" film..... where they were on the misty moors. The vegetation was still covered with the overnight frost and the heat of the sun was burning it off in the form of  a low lying mist. We didn't get long to admire the vista as there was plenty of work to be done, so it was good that we had an excellent turnout. Previous GG visits to this site had successfully cut back the majority of the bracken and willow but time had taken it's toll and it was all hands to the tools to tackle the overgrown areas. One soon learns to keep moving while you work otherwise the chances are you will  sink into the marsh, perhaps even losing a wellie boot!
The whole area was looking much improved by the time the session finished so, all the GGmers that were off to the Christmas lunch, could justify having the plum pudding AND a mince pie...!

Please don't forget that next week's GG session is our Christmas Bash - so please bring along something  to help with the catering. Fancy dress and silly hats optional.... Ho...Ho....Ho.

Many thanks to Mark for the photographs this week.

Thursday 5 December 2013

Wed 4th Dec 2013 - One Horse Field, Totland.

Carrie's Photographs.

Mark's Photographs.

The GG session this week was out in the wilds of West Wight, One Reindeer Field (note the seasonal touch!) at Totland. This time we were working on the quadrant to the north west of the site and.... as you might have guessed, it was grass raking time. The area concerned had been mechanically cut before our arrival so it was all hands to the rakes and material transport bags, gather up as much as possible and then dump it at collection points. We also tackled a rather overgrown area on the perimeter, cutting back brambles and blackthorn bushes to open up the grassland meadow.
The predicted rain held off until around 11:00 then the damp mist rolled in, eventually turning to drizzle which was heavy enough to get the Needles fog horn whistling away! Perhaps not the most exciting job on the GG work schedule but rewarding to see the area cleared at the end of the session.

Carrie's "Nature Natter" (something new!)

December - what to see in the countryside

December is the month when winter finally arrives, the countryside is gripped by frost and the trees are bare.  Until the Spring animals will battle to survive, as food sources are scarce and temperatures low.  Some of our wildlife migrates to warmer climes; some use their stored food reserves and what is still available; others sleep it out, although only hedgehogs, dormice and bats truly hibernate.

This month is, perhaps more than any other, the time we bring plants from the countryside into   our homes.  Evergreens such as holly, with its rosy berries (only on the female plants) are used in wreaths, along with ivy and fir cones.  However, holly berries form an important food source  for many small mammals and birds, so make sure you leave them some.  It is also vital to feed garden birds and supply them with fresh water, maintaining the food supply until spring once you start the process.  In order to entice a variety of species, ensure you feed a variety of food (e.g. sunflower hearts, suet fat, seeds, fruit and peanuts). The robin, so often associated with the festive season, can be particularly tame during the colder months, and are one of the few birds that can be heard singing during winter.  Both males and females maintain territories for feeding during this period, and around Christmas-time begin exploring other robins' territories looking for a mate.

In the wider countryside and woodlands tawny owls may be heard staking out their territory, and occasional flocks of small birds will travel through otherwise quiet woods on a search for food.  This moving together gives them more chance of disturbing insects that would otherwise be unnoticed.  In fields where winter wheat has not been sown, you may find arable weeds such as shepherd’s purse, scented mayweed and scarlet pimpernel, whose red flowers only open on bright mornings.
Estuaries and inland lakes now have more waders and wildfowl, while ducks such as wigeon, teal, tufted, pintail and shoveler are particularly abundant. Both badgers and foxes can be seen at any time, although the population of smaller mammals such as rabbits, shrews and mice drops considerably, so food availability is the restricting factor to survival. All our amphibian and reptile species are hidden away underground until spring, sometimes in mixed groups.  Only the common frog chooses the different approach of hiding at the bottom of a pond.  Very few insects can be found flying around during December, the exception probably being clouds of male gnats dancing in the hope of attracting a passing female.  If you look into your shed or attic at this time of year, you may find adult small tortoiseshell or peacock butterflies waiting out the winter.

Many thanks to Carrie for her photographs and new editorial and to Mark for his photographs this week.

Thursday 28 November 2013

Wed 27th Nov 2013 - All Saints' Church, Freshwater.

Today's Green Gym was held at All Saints' Church in Freshwater in what is one of the most beautiful church yards on the Island.  The task of keeping this up together rests with Cemetery Wardens, these volunteers hold regular work parties but today we descended to aid them in their tasks.  We were scrub bashing an area in the meadow as part of its management and have created some wonderful views in the bargain.

Carrie's Nature Note

Freshwater Church backs on to the Yar Estuary, and the adult and juvenile mute swans were looking hopefully for some food.  Mute swans are well known in the British Isles and are the our largest bird, with adult females weighing around 9kg, and males around 11kg, although weights of up to 15kg have been recorded.  For many centuries in Britain they were domesticated for food, with individuals being marked by nicks on their webs (feet) or beak to indicate ownership. These marks were registered with the Crown and a Royal Swanherd was appointed. Any birds not so marked became Crown property, hence the swan becoming known as the "Royal Bird".  They were rounded up at a swan-upping, and this tradition is still practised by The Worshipful Companies of the Vintners and Dyers on the River Thames in London.  As well as being a source of food other parts of the bird were used; feathers as quills for writing; the leathery web for making purses and wing bones for making whistles.

They normally start to breed at three years old, and a huge nest is constructed between March and May, in which the pen (female) lays a clutch of normally between 3 and 7 eggs.   When hatched the cygnets are grey and downy, but this is soon replaced by brown feathers, which gradually turn white during the next 12 months. The parent birds strongly protect their offspring for the first few months but will drive them away by the following breeding season.  It is a popular misconception that mute swans pair for life and that a bird will pine to death when its partner dies. This is far from true, with some birds having as many as 4 mates in a lifetime, however research does show that well established pairs tend to be more successful at raising their young.

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

Friday 22 November 2013

Wed 20th Nov 2013 - The Old Railway Station, Merstone.

This week saw us at one of our regular sites, which have visited several times over the last few years - Merstone station.  Our main job was to grab our rakes, unpack the giant carry bags and spread out over the whole site raking off the grass which had recently been cut.  We then filled the carry bags (and boy are they heavy when full!) with the cut grass and tipped them all into a pile in the hedge.  This task allows everything to regenerate ready for the wildflowers in the spring, so hopefully there will be a spectacular show for next year.  Other GG folk were busy tidying up the edge of the platform, which was rather overgrown, and making sure the maze we re-did on our last visit was nice and visible.  Luckily for us the forecast persistent rain held off for most of the morning session.

Carrie's Nature Lesson.

Near the end of the session at the edge of the car park, a hovering kestrel was spotted only about twenty feet off the ground (how it kept still in the strong wind I don't know) - although Mark made a dash for his camera he didn't quite make it, so I borrowed one from the RSPB.  Kestrels are the most common bird of prey in Europe, although their numbers have declined in Britain over the last few years. Their habit of hovering, particularly near motorways, means they are also one of the easiest to spot. Whilst hovering they have the extraordinary ability to keep their head totally still, even in strong winds. This allows them to pinpoint and catch small mammals by sight alone. If prey is abundant, kestrels sometimes kill more than they need and cache what they don’t eat.

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

Thursday 14 November 2013

Wed 13th Nov 2013 - Yarmouth green.

It was back to Yarmouth green on Wednesday morning this week, to tackle phase II of the hedge maintenance  project. It was just over a month ago that we started this job so everyone was aware what was needed to continue the task. With a huge skip in place, we were soon filling it with the brambles and hedge trimmings taken from this somewhat neglected hedge. As per usual with this type of session, for every person you have cutting back, two or three "clearers" are needed to drag everything away to the disposal area. A good job then that we had plenty of GGmers on hand, no doubt encouraged to attend by the lovely warm sun and light airs...!
Although there are still some areas that could do with further attention, both the northern and southern aspects the hedge are now looking much better for the work we have completed.
Many thanks to the tractor driver from the Harbour Commission who helped us load the skip.

Photographs will be posted when they arrive.

Thursday 7 November 2013

Wed 6th Nov 2013 - RSPCA IoW HQ, Bohemia Corner, Godshill.

This week at GG we had the additional excitement of having a new venue to work at... the RSPCA HQ near Godshill. Although Wednesday dawned overcast and windy, that certainly didn't stop Team GG turning out, the car park was full to overflowing! As it was a new site to us, we were shown around the area by one of the management staff. It soon became apparent that the work for the day fell into two categories - clear out a rather large pond area and to "tidy up" the undergrowth along the dog walking pathways.
The whole of the area around the pond had become VERY overgrown so it was all hands to the slashers, loppers, waders etc to try and hack our way around the edges. To make the whole theme somewhat jungle like, we even had a couple of bamboo thickets to deal with....! By the end of the session we had managed to clear a pathway, allowing access to the banks, and good progress was made at pulling the weed from out of the water. There is still an island in the middle to tackle at a later date...
The second team made an excellent job of cutting back anything that was overhanging the dog exercise pathways which has to make things easier for the staff to get around.
We would like to say thank you to the staff who made us so feel so welcome, showed us around and allowed us to use their facilities for our tea break.

Many thanks to Carrie for the photographs this week.

Thursday 31 October 2013

Wed 30th Oct 2013 - Millennium Green, Ryde.

The Meadow area "before".....

and "After".

The "Water Babies" in the pond!

Another old favourite for Team GG this week, that wonderful nature reserve, the Millennium Green at Ryde. We have been here many times over the years and this time was our autumn clean-up session. The meadow was in need of a serious "haircut" and the pond had become very overgrown. Carrie's photographs above show exactly what we were tasked to do, particularly the "before and after" shots of the meadow area. We were a little down on numbers this week, due to the half term holiday, but the site wardens that came along seemed very happy with the progress we made during the session. The weather remained dry - much better than what we had experienced on Monday this week when the storm (named St Jude)  hit the Island. I think even GG would have called it off in that sort of weather with 100mph winds and torrential rain....but then again.....

Many thanks to Carrie for the photographs this week.

Thursday 24 October 2013

Wed 23rd Oct 2013 - Pan Mill Meadows, Connie’s Way, Newport.

Pat's Photographs.

Carrie's Photograph.

Yet another visit to this wonderful meadow site, hidden away on the outskirts of Newport. In an attempt to give the wildflowers a good start next year, before the weeds crowd them out, this whole area was cut back with a tractor prior to our session. Our main task was to rake up all the cuttings (this deprives the weeds of the nutrients) and pile them into a huge compost heap. Other teams were cutting back the overgrown areas and tackling the ongoing job of litter picking. Talking of litter picks, GG was presented with a framed certificate and generous cheque for our litter picking exploits. Mark accepted them from Pat Almond, the area representative from the Campaign for the Protection of Rural England - so a "Well Done" to all those who work so hard throughout the year at cleaning up the sites that we visit.
This was an exceptionally well attended session with just a light sprinkling of rain to spoil a dry, bright morning. So different to last week's session.......!

Many thanks to Carrie for the photograph of the presentation and to Pat for the group shots.

Thursday 17 October 2013

Wed 16th Oct 2013 - Afton Marsh (North), Freshwater.

The times we've said "oh we've been lucky with the weather" or "It's always nice on Green Gym day" well you can tell from the photos that this week it wasn't!  The heavens opened, raining constantly from before loading the van at 9.00 a.m. through until on the dot of 1.00 p.m. when miraculously the clouds parted and as we dragged ourselves, dripping and steaming back to our vehicles, we were bathed in bright sunlight!  A strange morning indeed.

But we are a hardy bunch and the session went well, and our spirits were high, as always, as the willow was being cleared.  These trees, if left, would eventually encroach further into the marsh and change the valuable and on the Island, rare marshland habitat.  Important then that the area is managed.  The willow is cut high to enable the stumps to be treated.

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

Thursday 10 October 2013

Wed 9th Oct 2013 - Yarmouth green.

This week a new location for the group, but one we've all past by many times over the years I'm sure.

 The hedge here is made up of primarily ornamental species of evergreen shrubs such as Euonymus and Arbutus unedo or Strawberry Tree.  They form a useful salt tolerant hedgerow, used as habitat cover by roosting birds one would imagine.  We've been asked today to keep the rampaging bramble in check, especially adjacent to where the Disease Resistant Elms have been recently planted by the Wildlife Warriors group.

Across the car park a further group of us trimmed back more bramble which had been threatening a willow bench seat, installed a couple of years ago along the Yarmouth Harbour Sensory Trail.

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