Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group

20-03-2015: February and March’s mega blog

February and much of March has been a busy month with events changing dates, new joint events with the Environmental Working Group and the change of seasons from winter to spring making for a fun and hectic schedule for biodiversity volunteering.

This is a bit of a bumper blog to catch you all up on the goings on over the KU campuses – and from the number of photos that will follow, I’m going with the old adage – a photo is worth a 1000 words!

On the Monday of Student volunteering week, we administered first aid to the compost heap in Kingston Hill’s community garden
An over-abundance of orange and banana peelings had resulted in a big wet mess and the composting system had slowed down. 

A few loads of vegetable peelings donated by volunteers at the LRC, shredded paper and some existing compost from our green cuttings compost near car park A had to be mixed into the pile to get the system restarted but the work was worth it to keep the worms in the compost heap happy.

Keeping on the theme of spring cleans during the volunteering week; we spent a lovely sunny day in the Hogsmill on the Wednesday. 
Wild findings on the Hogsmill
We renewed the signage in the embankment, picked up litter and removed dead vegetation from the fencing around the bank. 
By the end of the afternoon we had removed 2 black bags worth of litter from the embankment. 

We ended February with the Ditch Day at Tolwoth Court – we had a brilliant day (the weather held - just) !
We desilted the worst areas of the ditch. This resulted in flowing water by the end of the day without negatively affecting the bank profile of the ditch allowing more nimble animals like bank voles to climb in and out while they use the ditch and hedge system as a covered wildlife highway across the site.
Still smiling after a long, cold and fun day
Don't know how she does it! one of our volunteers has the ability to stay clean while doing the same work that everyone else does - her jeans hardly had a speck of dirt on them!
Are you going my way?
During the beginning of March KUBAG joined forces with the Environmental Working Group for two of the events that they organised for the first Go Green Week in recent history at KU. During the Recording Ramble which we embarked on during walk it Wednesday, we walked the route along the Hogsmill and then the Thames, recording different animals and plants seen on route.
Pied wagtail flitting around the Hogsmill
bridge with a view
The beauty parade - don't think the judges were that impressed
End of the recording ramble with our results
On Friday we worked on the community garden at Penrhyn Road – the group will be running the garden as a pop up garden for as long as we are able to access the site, in advance of any works that may be taking place on the site.

Clearing older plants from the community garden at Penrhyn Road

fixing the small raised beds
The students were very positive about being able to access the site as it’s easy to visit between lectures to manage the growing space. 
Wildlife in the garden with students mesmerised by a little bolshie robin who went in and out of the garden as we worked grabbing grubs

Gardening is great exercise, especially when the newly raked soil beds need a little bit of tamping before we started planting  
They were keen to ensure that there is a long term legacy of food growing at Penrhyn Road as many of them do not have access to an area that they can grow food in in their halls or their rented accommodation.

A radish found in the old beds

This event fed nicely into the orchard day at Dorich House. 

The Orchard team before we donned our hard hats
The orchard day was fantastic, we were shown how to manage our fruit trees in an organic way which is sympathetic to wildlife and fruit growing.

Lewis talked about the reasons and methods for managing fruit trees

Wooley aphids on one of our trees - a bit of a clean with an old toothbrush took care of those.
Lewis from the Urban Orchard Project was a mine of information throughout the day – far too much information to list here but here were some of the interesting facts from the day – if you are keen to find out more, let me know as we will endeavour to organise another training course on the site for next year.
  • Fruit trees and orchards are some of the most sustainable ways of growing food in temperate climates
  • As fossil fuels become more expensive and it becomes more expensive to import fruit, locally grown produce  becomes more important
  • Fruit trees have a characteristic where they appear older than they are – premature ageing. The character of older trees including twisted limbs, wrinkly bark and hollowing of their limbs – which allows these trees to play host to lots of different species
  • Some of the trees that we have at Dorich House are nearly 100 years old, which, while close to the end of their fruiting life, allows them to still play an important role in biodiversity as the trees are a host to a plethora of fungi’s and lichens.
  • At the height of the fruit growing era, gardeners in the UK had cultivated so many different times of apples that you could have eaten six different types of apples on every day of the year – which makes a staggering total of over 2000 varieties!!
  • The original apple from which our varieties originate comes from the mountains of Central Asia in southern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Xinjiang, China.
  • Nearly all apple species grown today are clones from only a few plants. With propagation of a new plant occurring when a branch from an existing tree is grafted onto the root stock of another plant.  
  • Alexander the Great had his own army of grafters whose sole purpose was to graft different fruit and grow it for the army.

Working on the long cut to shorten an old overextended branch

Perspective is an odd thing - you wouldn't guess that Rachel is not actually under Amy's saw!

How to shape young fruit trees plus extra uses for bananas

Amy getting hands on with the compost for the comfrey roots planted to add extra nutrients to the mulch around the trees

A quick lesson in grafting ended the day with a new tree sapling which was donated to the Hogsmill Community Garden which is next to the eel trap at Middle Mill

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