Kingston University Biodiversity Action Group

27-04-16: April’s Mega Blog – Honey tastings, river habitat TLC and woodland workshops

As I’ve been a bit lax on blogging after events recently, this week’s blog is one of my famous mega blogs, four events, lots of photos and only one post to tell you all about it …

At the start of April, we held two first time honey tasting sessions at at Knights Park and Roehampton Vale. As well as supplying honey from local producers (including Kingston University) for the blind taste testing, we also provided plenty of information on:
  • How to identify different pollinators (there are lots of other species apart from bees that pollinate plants)
  • Case studies on how different organisations and created habitats, landscape features and buildings that incorporate pollinator habitats into their design
  • What you can do in terms of volunteering to help improve your local wildlife areas to gardening to create more habitats for bees and other pollinators

Honey tasting at Knights Park
This year we had a mixture of set and runny honey, as people often (mistakenly) think that set honey has gone off.  The responses were very varied as each of the honey jars (all produced in Kingston Upon Thames) all had very different tastes. The most memorable one for me, was someone finding one of our honeys tasted minty to her!

Roehampton Vale indulges its sweet tooth

This year the winners of the tasting both are members of the Kingston Beekeepers  – with Coombe Wood Honey produced by N.M Peto being the favourite of the Knights Park tasters and Clive’s honey produced in New Malden (kindly donated by Clive during our last honey tasting at Penrhyn Road in 2015) winning over the taste buds of RV’s students, staff and visitors. 

Event 3 took place at Knights park, where we found ourselves in the river for our hunt for the invasive Himalayan balsam, while also taking the opportunity to pick up litter so that it doesn’t affect wildlife.

The team pulled balsam, added new signs to the embankment and litter picked in the bank and river channel
We really need your help with this in terms of tackling the biggest problem of litter at the source…us!
Each morning, before the terrace can be cleaned by KUSCO, it is littered with cigarette butts and plastic wrappers from filter packs from the evening and day before. 

A small section of the littered butts, a swan feeding in the river and new posters added to raise awareness of the problem

The ones that are not cleared in time, all end up in the river as they get blown around and picked up by the wind. Worse, are the people who throw their spent cigarette butts directly into the river …I’ve seen it happen, as they do it on reflex without even thinking about it. 

Please help us help wildlife in this area by putting your butts in the bins that line the walls a few meters away from where you’re sitting, and more importantly, ask your friends to do the same. 

Together we can reduce the impacts of litter on the Hogsmill wildlife.

The filters don’t just disappear. They often end up in the stomach of water birds and chicks as well as lining their nests at this time of year. If you think that tobacco and nicotine is bad for us, imagine what it does in the stomachs of young ducklings that have been conditioned to try to grab floating white bits of stuff off of rivers by people feeding them bread?

The last event in April was the Spring Woodland Workshop at Kingston Hill. 

This workshop built on similar skills from last November.  Our objective this time around being spoons rather than forks. Mark showed us a selection of spoons made previously, from different types of wood, and how you can get all sorts of grain effects just by choosing a hard or soft wood. Some of us used lime and ash that had come off of trees damaged during storm Kate, to produce spoons which were grown at KU from start to finish!

We also used young nettles to make nettle pakoras to go with our baked potatoes at lunch time – they were hands down the best pakora’s that I’ve had.


The only new tool used on this workshop from last years, was the crook knife – the curved blade allows us to shape the bowl of the spoon. 

Towards the end of the session, we also learned how to make charcoal and used the charcoal that we created to make pencils using elder, fashioned in the same way as our whistles last year, to create the outside bit of our pencil. 

We’ll be running our next workshop in October/November this year. 
As always, spaces are limited to 10 people (over 18s only). 
Sign up now by emailing if you want to add your name to our reservation list, to be emailed closer to the time with details of dates. 

So that’s it for April!

May is a little quieter with a bat walk (spaces limited to 20 people and we’re already half full!) our next eel training at Knights Park (we’ve had our first eel of the season last Friday) and some more river TLC as we continue to do battle against invasive plants at Knights Park and Middle Mill...hmm, on reflection, its not that much quieter :)

We always need help with our events. If you are free and would like to come along, please email and let me know which event you would like to attend – all of our events count towards the Kingston Award.

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