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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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Wednesday 25 March 2015

Wed 25th March 2015 - Riverside Centre, Newport.

Mark's Photographs.

Carrie's Photographs.

The television interpretation of "working" on an allotment always shows you someone sitting in a deckchair, drinking tea and chatting with the person on the plot next door..! For some reason, when Green Gym turn up to work on one, it involves three hours of back breaking toil - how do we always get things so wrong? Our task for this week's session was to prepare the Riverside allotment in readiness for the various groups that use the centre to do their summer planting. If one was being kind, then the plot could be described as being "a little neglected" but, in reality, the brambles and couch grass had really taken hold. The allotment is very long and thin, set out in terraces on the side of a rather steep hill. One job was to clear the lowest area of brambles before constructing a composing area from corrugated iron, this gave us somewhere to deposit all the material we were removing from the upper  levels. Care had to be taken as some areas were planted up with various berry trees and shrubs that were to be retained and several people found frogs and toads that had to be rehoused locally. One GGmer was overheard saying "I have dug over the same plot three times now and I am STILL getting roots out...!" The staff at the Riverside Centre must have decided that we were in need of a mid-morning sugar rush as they supplied lots of yummy cakes and biscuits for our tea-break.... Many thanks ladies! Come the end of the session we had really made some real progress, with far more freshly turned soil being visible rather than the huge areas of grass that we started with. Well done to all those who attended.

Carrie's Nature Finds.

Our first find this week was a common toad (Bufo Bufo) – this amphibian is widespread throughout Britain, but are not found in Ireland. They prefer deeper bodies of water for breeding including ponds, reservoirs, fish ponds or village duck ponds, however, such types of freshwater bodies are threatened in many parts of the U.K.  These toads can grow up to 8cm, and are generally brown or olive brown with warty skin which often appears dry. As they have glands in their skin containing powerful toxins, many potential predators learn to avoid eating them.
They have strong migratory instincts, and will follow the same route back to ancestral breeding ponds each spring, usually congregating a couple of week after the common frogs complete their breeding cycle.  After a short time they migrate away from ponds, being more tolerant of dry conditions than the common frog.

They are most active at night, when hunting invertebrates including slugs, spiders, ants and snails.  If they find good food sources, they can become quite sedentary and may often remain in gardens for long periods in the summer months.  Unlike common frogs their spawn is laid in strings, their tadpoles are black and form shoals, with toadlets emerging from ponds in large numbers during early summer.

Our second find was the blossom of the blackthorn (Prunus Spinosa) also known as “sloe”, a small deciduous tree native to the UK and most of Europe. It grows naturally in scrub, woodlands and copses, is commonly used as a hedging plant, and its fruit or sloes are used to make sloe gin.
Its mature trees are spiny and densely branched, growing to a height of around 6-7 metres and living for up to 100 years.  Their dark brown bark is smooth and twigs form straight side shoots which develop into thorns, while the slightly wrinkled leaves are oval, toothed pointed at the tip and tapered at the base.

It is a hermaphrodite, which means both male and female reproductive parts are found in one flower, which is white and appears on short stalks before the leaves in  March and April either singly or in pairs.  Once insects have pollinated the plant, its flowers develop into the blue-black fruits.

Blackthorn provides a valuable source of nectar and pollen for bees in spring, while its foliage is a food plant for the caterpillars of many moths, including the magpie, small eggar, swallow-tailed and yellow-tailed, lackey and magpie.  Birds nest among the dense thorny thickets, eat caterpillars and other insects from the leaves, and feast on the berries in the autumn.

A couple of other interesting facts are that blackthorn wood has been used to make walking or riding sticks, and was the traditional wood for Irish shillelaghs – it has long been associated with witchcraft, it being said that their wands and staffs were made of its wood – its timber is tough and hardwearing, light yellow with a brown heartwood, often being used as firewood as it burns very well.

Many thanks to Carrie and Mark for their photographs this week and to Carrie for her Nature Natter.

Wednesday 18 March 2015

Wed 18th March 2015 - Castle Copse, East Cowes.

Mark's Photographs.

This is the site where 200 trees were planted in 2013.

Carrie's Photographs.

It is almost one year, to the day, since we last visited this site so nice to go back and see what has been happening. Initial impressions were good with the hedge we planted last time starting to show signs of this years growth. As we investigated further, it became apparent that there were more than enough jobs to keep us occupied for at least one GG session...! Mark pointed out some of the areas for us to concentrate on which meant lots of smaller groups working across the full extent of the copse. The work involved dealing with muddy areas on the pathways, weeding out where we had planted up before, rebuilding some dead hedging, litter picking and, of course, the usual cutting back the bramble. Perhaps the numbers were down by a few this week but it was great to see that two GG members were back from "sick leave".
With the Spring Equinox due in a couple of days time, the weather reflected this - bright sunshine and light breezes - wonderful after the long winter spell.

For those of you who have wondered why it is called Castle Copse, then please have a look at the following link (supplied by Mark)

Carrie's Nature Find.

This week’s find, sunning itself on a log at teabreak, was a Red Admiral (Vanessa Atalanta).  These beautiful butterflies have dark black-brown wings, each with an orange-red band, forewing tips are black with white spots, while the underside is orange, blue and white and hindwings camouflaged dark brown.

After hibernation, adults have a strong urge to fly northwards, bringing immigrants from the Continent throughout the summer. By mid-August they begin to return south, leading to a build-up in southern England in autumn. During the summer females lay single eggs on the growing tips of nettles, and after about a week the caterpillars hatch with each one spinning a tent around itself by fastening a young leaf double with silk. Four weeks later these caterpillars, which are bristly and dark with a pale yellow stripe running down each side, pupate in a similar ‘tent’. Adults may hibernate in England, usually choosing an exposed site such as a tree trunk, but many perish in our cooler climate.

The adults drink nectar from flowers: buddleia is a favourite, while in autumn they feed on rotting fruit, and the caterpillars eat stinging nettles. You will be able to see the adults and caterpillars between May and October in most flowery places at urban and rural locations, feeding on a variety of flowers and basking in the sunshine.

A note from Mark...
"Apart from the Red Admiral some of us spotted a Brimstone too, which would also have emerged after a winter hibernating. We also saw evidence that hedgehogs had been using the copse recently."

Many thanks to Carrie for her photographs, Nature Find and to Mark for his photographs, information.

Wednesday 11 March 2015

Finally..... an answer to Munsley...!

In a recent blog I asked if anyone had any ideas why Munsley Bog was so called. The reference books that I have failed to answer the question as did talking to Godshill locals.

Tonight I had the following email from Mark....

Many thanks to John Margham for researching our query, and he has emailed me the following...

According to Kokeritz's The Place-Names of the Isle of Wight Munsley means either 'Mul's leah' with Mul being a personal name, or 'the leah at the muzzle-like hill' (1940, p. 17-18). I suggest that you look for a muzzle-shaped hill in the vicinity on your next visit! Leah is an Old English term best translated as wood-pasture, but at Munsley it could very well refer to more open pasture, i.e. the area of the bog itself being used for rough grazing. Munsley was first recorded as Mollesleghe in 1287-90 according to Kokeritz. 

So...we finally have an answer - although we will have to look for the "muzzle-like hill" on our next visit. Many thanks to Mark and John for the research.

Wed 11th March 2015 - Afton Marsh South, Freshwater.

Carrie's Photographs.

Sue's Photographs.

The dreaded MUD....!

Although Carrie's monthly article about March claims otherwise, I am firmly convinced that the word March is just a corruption of the word MARSH. With the first two GG sessions of this month being at two marshy venues, then it has to be true..??? Yes, once again we found ourselves in ankle deep mud which can make getting around quite "interesting" and after a couple of hours work, energy sapping.
With two fire sites established, it was slash, cut and burn anything that wasn't marsh reeds - this opens up the area allowing it to return to it's natural state. As can be seen from the photographs above, the larger cut material is sawn into shorter lengths then piled up to form protective areas for an wildlife. The weather was forecasting rain showers and although it did cloud over, we all went home dry (except for the muddy clothes!) With a good turnout of GGmers, we made excellent progress clearing the designated area.

Carrie's Nature Finds.

Two finds this week, the first being spotted by Gill is Trametes Versicolor, which means several colours, and the common name of turkey tail (as you can see from the photograph), and grows in tiled layers with a rust or dark brown cap, sometimes with blackish zones.  It is a common bracket fungus which grows on the side of logs or trees, is leathery to the touch, and has a spoon or cup shape up to four inches wide.

It is very colourful, and ranges from brown, white, tan, orange, red and purple or all these colours at once.  Like other fungi, the turkey tail part you see is like the flower of the fungus, with the rest being inside the log it is growing on.  They grow from May to December, and can last for several years growing in dead or dying wood especially oaks, and are also known to grow from wounds in a tree.  It can harm a sick tree, but often helps to break down old dead logs and tree branches, allowing the nutrients to be returned to the soil and used again.

The second find was the male catkins of the pussy willow which, before they come into full flower, are covered in fine, greyish fur leading to a fancied likeness to tiny cats. The catkins appear long before the leaves, and are one of the earliest signs of spring.

Pussy willow is used as a decoration for the Chinese New Year, as the fluffy white blossoms resemble silk, giving forth to young shoots the colour of green jade.   The stalks are frequently decorated with gold and red ornaments that signify prosperity and happiness, while felt pieces of red, pink and yellow are also a common decoration in Southeast Asia.

Photographs contributed by Sue and Carrie, many thanks.

Monday 9 March 2015

Carrie's March History and Nature Natter.

Carrie's March History and Nature Natter.

The name March comes from Mars, the Roman god of war, as this was the time when campaigning began again after the winter.  It was also the start of spring and the New Year, with Britain using 25th March as the beginning of the New Year until 1752.  Its historical names are Martius (Roman), Hrethmonath (Saxon) and Lenze-mond – Springtime month (Germanic).

In nature, this month is famous for mad-March hares, which are actually the females resisting the optimistic advances of amorous males. With short arable crops, they can often be seen feeding and this is an excellent time of year to spot these beautiful and charismatic native animals.

The earliest of our summer bird migrants start to arrive, with the wheatear among the first, and also the chiff-chaff with its repetitive and distinctive song.  As more birds arrive the dawn chorus will begin to swell, although resident birds such as song thrushes, blackbirds, greenfinches, great tits and robins are already in full song to proclaim their territories to all comers. Towards the month end you may be lucky enough to see a swallow swooping over the fields, but beware the old saying of “one swallow does not a summer make” as the weather can easily turn cold again.

Our woodland plants are starting to flower, such as wood anemone, town hall clock and the sweet violet with it small purple flowers. You may also find the extravagant looking stinking hellebore, with its smelly green and red flowers, while a sure sign of spring are the furry looking catkins of the pussy willow (or goat willow), found in damp areas.

Elsewhere the frogs are mating vigorously having risen from the bottom of the ponds where they have spent the winter.  As the amorous males cling to the females in large numbers, it is surprising they survive at all, as they are all trying to ensure the eggs laid are fertilised. The first butterfly of the year to emerge is the beautiful lemon yellow male and greenish white female brimstone. The adults are important pollinators of the yellow primroses, whereas its caterpillars feed only on buckthorn.  Bumblebees are also starting to emerge, buzzing round on the warmer days, while ladybirds start to appear from their communal hibernation nooks and crannies -we have already seen several of these in our own garden.

Many thanks Carrie...!

A Frog from the Bog...!

While we were busy working at Munsley Bog, we came across this little fellow....

Carrie's Nature Natter.

This weeks's find is one of our most well-known amphibians – the common frog (Rana Temporaria (see pictures).  This was kindly identified by the lovely people at "Froglife", a fascinating website that is well worth a view. These frogs are typically brown or greyish in colour, while some may be yellow or reddish.  The flanks are usually yellow, the underside white and the upper surfaces feature variable blackish markings.  Their large hind legs feature webbed feet, to power their strong jumps and excellent swimming ability, and are covered with dark bands to provide camouflage.  The males tend on average to be slightly smaller than the females, and can be identified by whitish swellings on the inner digits of the front feet.

They hibernate through the winter, either at the bottom of ponds (breathing through their skin) or on land under such refuges as compost heaps.  During the remainder of the year they hunt on land on damp nights, feeding on snails, slugs, worms and a range of insects.  In spring the males arrive at the breeding area first, with lots of competition for the attention of the females.  All the frogs in a pond tend to spawn roughly within a few days of each other, with the female releasing 1,000 – 2,000 eggs which the males cover in jelly, giving us “frogspawn”.  After 10-14 days the tadpoles hatch out, becoming free-swimming a few days later, and undergoing metamorphosis into adults 10-15 weeks after hatching.

Many thanks to Carrie for doing the research and for the photographs.

Friday 6 March 2015

Stop Press..... Friday 6th Mar 2015.

Have a look at the County Press - Farming and Countryside, page 32. There is a write up about Birchmore Pond where GG gets a mention plus they have used a couple of our blog photographs. Nice to see all your hard work being recognised - well done!

Wednesday 4 March 2015

Wed 4th March 2015 - Munsley Bog, Godshill.

Mark's Photographs.

Carrie's Photograph.

 Sue's Photographs.

Repairing the board-walk.

Building the dams.

Raking-up the cuttings

One of the cleared areas - looking good...!

A quick glance through the "back issues" of this blog will show that we have visited Munsley Bog many times in past years. The first visit recorded on the blog was back in October 2007 although we had visited the site previously. It is interesting to note that, at that time, I had written "It will need at least another two or three visits to cut back the whole area" - just how wrong could I be....! I estimate that we have returned once or twice a year ever since then and there is still plenty to be getting on with! Below is a photograph taken back then, notice how overgrown everywhere is compared with those above.

During this week's visit we tackled a multitude of tasks, bramble bashing, raking cuttings, repairing the board-walk and building dams to help retain the water. Although a little chilly at the start, it was almost a spring day with hardly a cloud in the sky. There were a few regular faces absent for this session (get well soon!) but it was still very well attended.

One thing that has puzzled me over all the years we have been working here is..... where does the name Munsley originate from? I have looked in books for the IoW place names and local dialect plus internet searches but all to no avail. Anyone out there got any ideas...?

For those wanting to know more about this site, click on the following link - Munsley Bog :: Gift to Nature

If you have ever wondered what all the cars and dogs are doing in the Scout Hut car park during our GG sessions here, Mark has sent me this link...

Many thanks to Sue, Carrie and Mark for the photographs.