Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group

07-12-2013 : Festive Rhodo bash at Kingston Hill

Our last biodiversity event of the year proved overwhelmingly popular as lots of students, local residents and Environment Trust volunteers turned out to help rid our grassland of invasive rhododendron. 'tis the season of goodwill and this lot certainly did their good deed for the day at Kingston Hill.

Getting into the festive spirit, the gang posed with santa hats on before they set to work!

The patch of rhododendron near the Kingston Hill pond was thick with intertwined branches and dense evergreen foliage, congesting an easily missed stand of birch trees on the edge of the Coombehurst lawn. The lawn is an important habitat in its own right - acid grassland - a rare habitat in the south east of England so it is important to prevent this rhododendron encroaching any further.
Enjoying the merriment, Marlon was reluctant to take his hat off!
Enough silliness! Hats off and on with the serious task at hand - Rhodo Bashing!!
Becca and Sam go straight for the tough stuff!
We had made a good start at the previous pond maintenance session, but there was still plenty to tackle. We were grateful for the help of our grounds maintenance team in removing our cuttings and chipping them. I say 'cuttings' - many were substantial branches that certainly gave us all a good workout!

Muscle power was the order of the day

The piles grew high as volunteers soon got the hang of using the bow saws, hand saws, loppers and shears to remove all sizes of branch the overgrown shrubs presented us with. Bramble slowed the pace a little in one area as branches were well tangled among the other trees, but not for long!

In among the tangle, Marcus stands triumphant over the Rhodo
Naailah and Layla enjoyed the feel-good factor of Rhodo Bashing
In small teams, the gang worked to expose new branches, cut them down and drag them from the thicket.

Bit by bit we cleared the area to reveal...nothing! By removing this plant we will let in more light and allow other plants to grow and support more wildlife.

Others checked on the adjacent patch of woodland worked on in February and ensured any regrowth was promptly removed. A couple of elusive shrubs that were missed the first time were also swiftly dealt with. And as we cleared the area, inevitably litter was uncovered. This was collected up and disposed of at the end of the day - we managed to fill two big black sacks!

Lunch came quickly and a festive spread of turkey and cranberry, and brie and chutney sandwiches was keenly devoured followed by tasty mince pies. Suitably fuelled for the rest of the afternoon, volunteers moved on to phase two of the clearance - digging out the rhododendron roots. Not a simple or quick task, but not to be put off, volunteers grabbed all available implements to start digging them out. Mattocks were the favoured tool as the added weight proved effective, but forks too helped dig around the buried roots.

Daljeet puts his mattock into action
 One big stump became the focus of attention for many of the group as they took it in turns to have a go.

All hands to the stump!
 Unlike Joe's fork, volunteers didn't buckle under the pressure and were eventually victorious!

Standing back from the rhodo root 'crater', Joe, Daljeet, George, Chris and Guy grin proudly!

A fitting end to a productive day's work...and work out! We were all weary by the end but very satisfied with our efforts. Thank you to all 16 volunteers who helped snip, saw, chop, dig and drag today!

There will be more physical fun in the new year as we work to restore ditches on January 11th and continue with the rhodo clearance on 26th - what better way to start 2014 than by doing your bit for the environment and having some laughs to boot?! Sign up with KUBAG now to book your place!

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