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New - Nature Area web page: http://www.jesmonddenenaturearea.org.uk/

Tuesday 27th August 2013 at 19.00 – 22.00

Four of the Volunteer Rangers set up the Moth Trap in the Nature Area this evening at the same time the Rangers took a party of children and parents through the Dene on a ‘Batty evening’. At the end of the evening the moth trap was taken across to the visitors centre and the contents examined, logged and released. 8 species as shown below were in the trap.

Agonopterix heracliana
Epiphyas postvittana - Light Brown Apple Moth
Agriphila straminella
Noctua pronuba - Large Yellow Underwing
Noctua comes - Lesser Yellow Underwing
Noctua janthe - Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing
Diarsia mendica - Ingrailed Clay
Mormo maura - Old Lady

Friday 9th August 2013 at 13.00 – 15.00

The Nature Area is maturing really well and today it was open for a ‘pond dipping event’ plus, ‘mini beast hunt’. The weather was lovely which helped to make our afternoon an enjoyable event. Several of the children scooped up some of the eftlings or baby newts from the pond as well as a whole range of interesting water creatures which were gently returned to the water after study.

The mini beast hunt led through part of the Nature area and out into the Wild Wood illustrating the different habitats in which a variety of creatures live.

Wednesday 16 January 2013

17th May 2012 The Nature Area was officially opened today by Mr. John Grundy, historian and television presenter, we are most grateful to John for all his time and expertise so freely and generously given. Several councillors and representatives from local schools attended this successful event, and it was a pleasure to see so many people. The Nature Area Project undertaken by the Volunteer Rangers with a grant from The Heritage Lottery Fund is now finished. We are proud to say that all six of our aims have been achieved, that is: - To provide a new, larger Nature Area with security protection, Provide a new large pond and wetland habitat with good access, Provide a sheltered outdoor teaching/assembly area, Improve information and resources, and, to Improve both plant species and wildlife species diversity. In July 2008 when the City Ecologist Derek Hilton-Brown and the Jesmond Dene Rangers helped us to make an initial survey of the area, we discovered that 90% of the plants were of 3 species, bramble, nettles and ground elder. Now in 2012 we can see that our plantings which include daffodil, snowdrop, Celandine, Ramson, and Wood anemones have had a major effect and have contributed to a wider variety of insects, hence the higher numbers of frogs and newts. The latter two species have also been helped by the larger pond and the hibernaculum which helps them to hibernate safely through the winter months. Although The Nature Area was officially opened by John Grundy today, it has, in fact been in use by various educational groups led by the Jesmond Dene Rangers and the Educational Officer throughout our project. We have managed to work around educational visits so that from the very start visitors have been able to see for themselves the myriad of creatures living in the natural habitat, and have taken part in activities such as pond dipping. We hope that as the Nature Area matures it will continue to be the focus of many other such visits over the years to come.

Friday 26th October 2012

Today we continued work on riverbank protection in Armstrong Park using "willow spiling". We extended the spiling further down the riverbank and raised the willow weave higher to strengthen the defences. This is a good time to "root" the willow and it will hopefully spring into new growth early next year.

Monday 8th October 2012

Large volumes of water flowing down the Ouseburn are causing erosion of the riverbank. Today under supervision from Wildlife Trusts (Northumberland) we constructed some additional defences in the Armstrong Park using "willow spiling". This involved embedding willow posts into the riverbank then weaving thinner, more flexible, willow between these posts. Over time these will grow into a very strong natural defence against riverbank erosion.

Sunday 29th July 2012

The public opening of our new Nature Area, created by our Volunteer Rangers - pond dipping, minibeast hunts and bird watching in the Nature Area. Lovely day, lots of visitors and the weather kept fine! The Visitor Centre and Classroom were also open with displays, information and footage from our bird box cameras.

Tuesday 13th March 2012

We were working along at the Mill today. Taking rubbish away from the inside and the surrounding environment. We also cleared out the pool by the waterfall, and finally gave the steps and inside of the mill a good brushing out.

Sunday 27th February 2012

We carried on with completing the path started earlier in the week. This is on the Jesmond Vale side of Armstrong Bridge and leads into Armstrong Park. Some of the volunteers cleared and dug out the existing path whilst some of the others filled this in with wood chippings and then tamped it down. One group of volunteers cleared rubbish out of the river and filled 2 bags as well as pulling out large sheets of plastic and a plastic ‘barrier’. Several members of the public stopped to chat and say how appreciative they are of the work undertaken by the Volunteers under the supervision of the Park Rangers.

Sunday 15th January 2012

A bit frosty this morning, the grass and paths are covered with a white hoar and it is pretty cold. There were 8 of us as well as the 2 Rangers. We moved tree trunks and branches from the top of the hillside above the Nature Area and pulled them down to be ‘chipped’. This meant that first, some of the very large trunks had to be cut using a chain saw which made them small enough for us to roll or lift down the hill. We stacked the larger sections of trunk ready for removal and piled all the branches small enough to be ‘chipped’ in readiness for the chipper machine in the next few days.

Tuesday 20th December 2011

The Rangers held a Christmas lunch to thank the volunteers for their work over the last year. There was a special ceremony to thank Dennis Small (a volunteer and exceptional photographer) who made and sold a calendar for 2011 in order to raise £1000 for the volunteer fund. The official thank you was made by Volunteers Maggie and Barry. With the money raised by Dennis We were able to purchase a special camera which works a little like an endoscopy – this is so the Rangers can see inside e.g. bat and bird boxes without disturbing the inhabitants. Very well done Dennis!

Sunday 18th December 2011

The Festive Fun Day attracted lots of people and there were plenty of visitors who tried out the Tombola stall run by the Volunteers. Other stalls included recycling materials into paper bags and making bead bracelets. One of the most popular stalls was the making of Christmas table decorations run by the Rangers. The Jesmond Carol Singers visited the Visitor Centre too and sang several Christmas carols greatly appreciated by all the visitors.

Friday 16th December 2011

The Volunteers cleared out the pond in the Nature Area this morning, the weather was horrible, wet and cold. We were pleased to go into the Visitor Centre to prepare some timber in readiness for the Festive Fun Day coming up this Sunday.

Thursday 15th December

The Rangers held a ‘Christmas wreath making event’ this was very well attended and everyone left with a fantastic wreath to hang on the door over the Christmas and new Year period. These were made by forming a frame using straw and binding the shape in place with florist wire. The shapes were then decorated with greenery including decorations of holly and red ribbon.

December 2011

Over the last weeks of November and December we have been keeping the paths, ponds, and gutters clear of all the fallen leaves. Our pond management has meant reducing the amount of reeds in the old pond so they don't choke the water – approximately one third need to be removed each year. We have been cutting back the hedge to encourage new growth on the lower stems and provide a better habitat, for wildlife. In addition we have been trying out some new anti rat bird feeders – as the rats were eating more than the birds so far so good! (but not for the rats). Over the next few weeks we expect to:
Carry out more woodland management around the Nature Area
Improve the drainage around the Nature Area
Improve the surface of the path that runs parallel to the Ouseburn, just outside the NA.

Friday 28th October Halloween 2011

The Rangers held a ‘Halloween’ Event and several of the Volunteers helped. Everyone started off at the Visitor Centre and the children (all accompanied by parents) made a pumpkin lantern. When these were finished the Ranger, Sarah led everyone through the Dene on a walk. In the darkness the pumpkins made a tremendous display and all the children should be congratulated on turning out such fantastic lanterns. By the light of the lanterns and a few torches we were amazed to spot animals such as a fox, badger, rabbit and, especially a Gruffalo! – all hiding in the trees. As we neared the Pavillion we could see a hunched up witch in a pointed hat sitting beside a candle lit log. Everyone squeezed into the Pavillion and the witch told us a story of a terrible monster in the Dene the ‘Bogus Boo’, after we had shouted a special chant to keep him away we then learned the story of the Gruffalo. When we got back to the Visitor Centre most of us drank hot chocolate with marshmallows and cream and, Maggie one of the Volunteers had roasted some pumpkin seeds and made a pot of delicious soup so we could all see how to use up the seeds and vegetable from the pumpkin lanterns. It was a really good night.

Sunday 23rd October 2011

Lots of autumn leaves had blown down again so we spent some time sweeping and clearing these up. Several of us erected the bird boxes and fixed them securely in place. The Ranger, Michael used a strimmer to cut down the growth in the meadow area and we then removed all the detritus outside. This means that new growth of seeds can more easily take place to encourage greater diversity of fauna and therefore wildlife. One of the volunteers put on wellies and went into the river to pull out some rubbish which had floated downstream.

Sunday 9th October 2011

We planted several shrubs in the Nature Area – there are clusters of berries already and they make a colourful show of orange and red. In addition we cleared the pathway around the old pond of weeds and water lilies which have begun to encroach a little bit too much. Preparation was also made in readiness for putting up more bird boxes and choosing the trees in which to site them. Sarah, The Ranger used a ‘blower’ to move some of the fallen leaves from the path.

Saturday 27th August 2011

As below, a busy day working in and around the Nature Area. Putting up birdboxes, making sure the ponds are tidy and the paths clear of weeds.

Thursday 25th August 2011

A very muddy morning which meant most people wore overtrousers and waterproofs. Work was mainly in the Nature Area – carrying on with the planting and clearing away of weeds and debris.

Sunday 21st August 2011

The stalls in Colemans Field proved to be very popular, and the Volunteers made almost £100 on the tombola. All the proceeds go towards the ‘tool fund’ which we use in our volunteer ranger role within the Ouseburn Parks.

Saturday 20th August 2011

The Volunteers cleared litter from Colemans field in readiness for a’Fun Event’ day tomorrow. Then we worked in the Nature Area, strimming away weeds from the pond and meadow area, laying down wood chipping on the paths, and, planting a border area with sweet smelling plants such as lavender, sage and thyme. Some of the Volunteers donned wellingtons and went upstream to clear out debris from the Ouseburn – this included an old mattress.

Monday 15th August 2011

We completed the last bit of path laying - a woodchip path linking the main gate with the existing woodchip path going along the side of the meadowland habitat. This completes all the path building jobs in the Nature Area. We also began installing the birdboxes ready for the spring season when we hope some of the birds visiting our feeding station will choose to build their nests with us.

Sunday 3rd July 2011

A beautiful sunny morning. We used the short session this morning to plant 60 wildflower specimens in the meadow area around the old smaller pond. The new pond is rapidly being colonised by frogs, newts and a wide range of insects.

Wednesday 22nd June 2011

Today we have almost finished the bench in the shelter. The 'fruit bed' is also completed – Sarah, the Ranger got some more raspberries and wild strawberries and these are all planted out so it looks quite full now. We also made a 'final decision' about the size of the mural designated for the shelter. The Artist (Karen) has been in contact and will soon be ready to start work, so we will buy some plywood and cut to size in the next week or so.

Sunday 19th June 2011

The Volunteer Rangers worked both in the Nature Area and along the river bank – where we needed to retrieve wooden posts these having been flung into the water by vandals. In the Nature Area we continued with the work of digging and planting in several species of fruit bearing plants, these include raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries and blackberries. The fruit provides a good habitat for insects and food for birds too.

Monday 23rd May 2011

Two of our Volunteers, Keith & Dave have almost finished the floor of the shelter, and placed heavy rubber mats down on surface. It looks really good. While they were doing this some of us did weeding around our newly planted hedges by the old pond, then put down more chippings on the path. Another two volunteers Barry and Richard dug out cable tracks, which is exceptionally hard going!

Sunday, 22nd May 2011

We barrowed about 4 tonnes of topsoil from Colemans Field over the bridge to be used for levelling off the ground in the Nature Area. This is hard going but necessary to even up the meadowland areas before putting in plants.

Friday 20th May 2011

Tonight between the hours of 20.00 and 02.00am the Rangers and Volunteers will be helping Tina Wiffen a local consultant ecologist primarily focusing on bats. She is coming to the Dene to do some survey work on our local bat populations. There will be several similar evenings and it is hoped that Tina will be able to discover the numbers and variety of bats found in the dene.

Jesmond Dene bat survey: The bat population of Jesmond Dene is not fully understood and there is no current data on the species of bats present within the dene. Bat survey work has been undertaken within Jesmond Dene on an informal basis over a number of years and pipistrelle species bats, myotis species bats and noctule have been recorded foraging in the reserve. Bats are difficult to identify with certainty in flight; even with the most sophisticated bat detectors it is not possible to distinguish the different myotis species with certainty. This project proposes to undertake a more formal bat survey within the dene to try to confirm which bat species are present.

The proposal is to catch bats whilst foraging and identify which species of bats are present. The project will use a harp trap and mist nets, under licence from Natural England, to catch bats foraging along known flight lines. A pre-visit will be made one night to identify possible locations to set the traps. It is proposed to trap bats on five occasions throughout the bat activity season, starting in early May and continuing until September. The trapping will avoid the main bat breeding season to prevent unnecessary disturbance to breeding bats. The bat use of the dene is likely to change during the bat activity season and this project aims to provide a basic understanding of which bat species are present in different areas at different times of the year.

Saturday 14th May 2011

Today we worked in the Nature area, two of us cleared the path around the old pond of weeds (again!), whilst another started clearing the inside of the fence of weeds. We started digging trenches to take the cabling from the birdcams, this will be run inside thick wall pipe to protect it from accidental damage. We spotted a newt in the new pond and after some sweeps with a net managed to catch it and take a photograph before releasing it back into the pond.

Saturday 23th April 2011

Today we worked in the Nature area, two of us cleared the path around the old pond of weeds, whilst others removed invasive weeds from the meadow area. Another team continued to work on the paths which are nearly complete now.

Sunday 10th April 2011

More work on the paths again today - levelling the surface and laying Marmax strips along the edges to retain the path materials. Then we had to firm down the surface as flat as possible before laying weed control matting. Finally we filled with aggregate, then a layer of graded aggregate, firming into place with a vibrator plate.

Sunday 27th March 2011

The Volunteers split up into two working parties. The first group accompanied sarah, the Ranger and went to the waterfall just by the Old Mill and the Picnic Field. We removed a lot of rubbish including, litter, tin cans and bottles and carried out general tidying up of the area. The second group went with Ranger Mike to the Nature Area and continued laying out the new paths. Mike used the chain saw to thin out more of the trees on the hillside adjoining the Nature Area.

Sunday 20th March 2011

The volunteers split into two groups this morning and worked on laying the new path in the Nature area and, cutting up and removing some of the felled trees on the hillside. The Volunteers levelled the path, laid down weed suppressing material to stop new growth and then covered the area with aggregate.

Saturday 19th March 2011

Today is ‘Water world day’ and to celebrate there were several stalls and activities held at the Information Centre. The Volunteer Rangers held a tombola stall and raised £64 – which will go to the volunteer ranger tool fund. Other stalls were run by the Wildlife Trust, there was a Nature Trail around the garden and, a recycling stall to advise on using discarded materials.

Sunday 20th February 2011

Some of us carried on cutting up the left over Marmax posts and shaping them into stakes for the new paths. The rest of the group went to the Nature Area and generally ‘tidied up’ but also laid chicken wire over the dipping platform to stop it being slippy in wet weather.

Saturday 5th February 2011

Our first job was to cut up lengths of left-over Marmax posts so that they could be shaped into ‘stakes’ for use in laying the new pathways inside the Nature area. This was hard work, but we managed to finish a respectable number. Our next task was to remove and pull away ivy which had grown up around several trees. If we don’t do this the Ivy can become so dense in the canopy that the tree can become top heavy and is then more susceptible to blowing over in strong winds.

Friday 4th February 2011

The wind has blown several trees down, and some have fallen into the river. If we don’t remove these they form a ‘dam’ so that debris, litter and other rubbish build up against the tree and can obstruct the water flow. So, this morning the Volunteers pulled one of the trees from the river using lots of ropes and manpower. First we sawed off as many branches as possible to make the trunk easier to deal with, then we tied the rope around the tree trunk, finally manoeuvring the tree alongside the bank so that we can haul it up and out of the water.

26th January 2011

Lots of new Volunteers joined the group today; it was nice to see so many people. We all went to the ‘Old Quarry’ just past the Stepping Stones. A lot of the trees in the quarry had fallen over during the winter because of the weight of snow on the branches. Some of the trees were half snapped and obstructed the paths. The volunteers sawed and pruned the broken branches so these could be removed and stacked ready for chipping. .

16th January 2011

This morning was a bit damp and rainy but the weather never puts off the volunteers! We went to St. Mary’s Well and swept up all the fallen leaves from the path, cleared the steps of soil, and, made sure the outlet pipe was draining freely. This gets blocked up very easily with debris from the trees and plants. Next, we walked across to the Chapel and cleared up litter and leaves which had gathered there.

There were several ‘shrines’ today which is good to see, it is nice to think that the Chapel is still used as a place of worship even though it has long since become a ruin. Our next task was to clear away some debris from the pond by Fishermans Lodge. As before the drainage outlet had become clogged with leaves, when this had been cleared we tidied up the path edges by shovelling away mud and soil and brushing up the leaves.

9th January 2011

A few of the volunteers met up with Sarah the Park Ranger today so we could discuss the layout of the new paths in the Nature Area. We took measurements and mapped out the possible location of the pathways.

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