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Friday, 22 February 2013

Wed 20th Feb 2013 - Fort Victoria, Yarmouth.

Our venue this week was Fort Victoria, where Nick the ranger had several tasks for us to tackle.  The severe wet weather over the last several months has meant that there has been considerable land movement along the cliffs, with large cracks appearing near one of the footpaths down to the beach. This has meant that the path has to be re-routed further inland, and our main task was to clear the area of scrub and cut back the trees and shrubs to open up a new pathway.  We then had to build some steps to improve the access to this new route, and also replace some existing steps which had rotted away badly in the wet weather.  Our final task was to shovel a large pile of limestone chippings into plastic buckets, cart these up and down the steps and fill in several muddy areas along the top part of the existing pathway.

Carrie's Nature Lesson.

This beautiful red trunk (the colour will fade fairly quickly) is that of the common alder (Alnus Glutinosa).  This water-loving deciduous native tree is most at home by rivers and streams, although this example was next to a pond.  Its reddish wood linked it to evil spirits in ancient folklore, as they considered the tree to be a natural embodiment of evil, because the cut wood turns a reddish colour as if bleeding.  In Ireland the tree was so revered that cutting one down was a criminal offence, while in Norse mythology the first people were said to be made from ash and alder.

It is a strong underwater timber, and has been used for boats, jetties and underwater structures; even the supports of the Rialto Bridge in Venice are made of alder.  It also lends wildlife a helping hand as in secluded areas, female otters build their holts in the roots of these trees protecting their cubs from danger. Its conical shape can make it look like a deciduous conifer, and its pine cone shaped catkins only add to this illusion.  Small and green in summer, they ripen to become large and brown and some stay on the tree throughout the winter.  Its leaves, however, are oval shaped and look nothing like any conifer.

A big thanks to Carrie for all of the above this week...!

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