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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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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.