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

Monday 21st December 2009

It was the Volunteer Rangers Christmas buffet and lunch this afternoon, held in the refurbished building in Heaton Park. Sarah, the Ranger arranged this for us. It was lovely to see everybody there and a very enjoyable event.

Saturday 5th December 2009

Today is National Tree Planting Day, and the Volunteer Rangers planted several native English types, including rowan, and hazel on the far side of the river opposite Pets Corner. Hopefully they will all ‘take’ and add to the diversity of fauna in the Dene. Photographs of the volunteers busy planting were taken and sent to the co-ordinators of the day as proof. It was good to take part in such a worthwhile national venture.

Sunday 26th October 2009

Lots of leaves falling now, so some sweeping of paths carried out. The rest of the day was spent in and around the Nature Area. The Ranger used a chain saw to cut through the trunks of felled trees so we could lift these up and remove them. More profiling and levelling of the pond was carried out and this is looking much improved, although there is still more work to be done here. The trickiest job was positioning the uprights to hold the dipping platform. This proved to be a frustrating job because we needed to get them into the correct position. When digging holes with the auger for positioning the other supports we kept hitting stones which made progress slow and arduous. Good progress made though which made us feel more cheerful!

Wednesday 13th October 2009

Autumn leaves had covered the riverside path, so these were brushed away. Some of us worked on landscaping the meadowland in the nature area, another group cleared the bird feeding area in preparation for the erection of willow screen hides. One member vigorously cut down new growth around the pond.

Three posts are now in place and work on the pond dipping platform is progressing well. Before leaving the Ranger sampled the water in the small pond and found :- dragonfly larva, efts, tadpoles with hind legs, cyclops, a diving water beetle and water fleas, it was a lovely way to end the session.

Wednesday 30th September and Thursday 1st October 2009

Ruth Thompson of Sylvan Skills was very encouraging and helped us to make screens for the Nature Area. We planned for 6 screens which surprisingly are built upside down. We put upright posts into holes in a wooden base and she showed us how to make a 'locking' first layer which was repeated halfway, and again to finish. Using a different weight of willow gives a striped effect and we allowed peepholes at different heights for viewing birds. The weather was fine, and as we did the weaving in front of the pavilion passers-by got interested too.

Sunday 2nd August 2009

Some of us helped the Ranger to cut down some lower branches from certain trees in Colemans Field. Some of the trees will have bat boxes placed on them and bats need to be able to ‘drop’ straight from their roost without being impeded by branches underneath. Then we worked in the Nature Area. The pool has been filling up with water which means we can’t work and put the posts in ready for the dipping platform. With this in mind we have purchased a generator and pond pump so that we can empty the water out whilst we work. Today was the first time we have used this and we were very pleased to see that it worked!

Saturday 25th July 2009

A lovely morning just right for working outside. Some of the volunteers cut back tree branches overhanging some of the paths on the further side of the river opposite to Pets Corner. Some dug soil away from the trunks of trees so that the roots wouldn’t be encouraged to grow upwards, and other volunteers repaired fencing which had been pulled off leaving a large hole in the fence.

Wednesday 22nd July 2009

A lot of cutting back today behind the nature Area i.e. brambles and cow parsley. This will let light onto the other plants i.e. foxgloves and ferns so that they will have a chance to grow for next year.

Friday 17th July 2009

This is the first day volunteers have not done anything outside because of the heavy rain. We relabelled all the Volunteer and Ranger tools and made an inventory to have a record before anything is moved (when Millfield House is closed temporarily). In the afternoon we took an enormous box of nails, screws and staples and sorted them into types!!!

Sunday 12th July 2009

After a quick litter sweep around the garden to the rear of Millfield house and repair to the fence at the far end we moved on to repairs of the handrail on the very steep path leading up from Red Walk. One post was rotted through and had to be dug out (which was very hard work!) and replaced with a new post.

Saturday 4th July 2009

First we replaced some of the metal strips protecting the fence posts going towards Fishermans lodge. Then we dealt with more Japanese knotweed which was getting very near to the paths, at the same time as collecting debris and rubbish from the river. Finally, some more paths were cleared and tidied up – hard work but very satisfying.

Friday 26th June 2009

It was very wet today but the volunteers enjoyed it anyway. We pushed back Japanese Knotweed from some fences and paths by the Old Mill so that the spread could be limited. Some of us laid wood chippings around the foot of a couple of oak trees, while the rest cleared mud, leaves and debris from some of the paths, and cut back encroaching greenery. On the way back we fished out a heavy litter bin which (for some unfathomable reason) had been hurled into the river.

The afternoon was spent working in the Nature Area. The hibernaculum has been almost completed by people from the Prince’s Trust and we appreciate the care they took with this. The hibernaculum ensures a safe place for small creatures e.g. newts, frogs and toads as well as insects to hibernate over winter. The Ranger examined the pond in preparation for school visits and pond dipping events. Since the area has been protected by the fence the water creatures have become more prevalent. We saw three dragonflies newly emerged from their cases which was lovely.

Friday 12th June 2009

We completed the machine digging for the new pond in the Nature Area today. Again we hired the mini-digger plus two 250Kg mini-dumpers which all arrived prompt at 8am - we are very grateful to John the driver for his skill and time. Volunteers were arranged to be available throughout the day to barrow the spoil from the pond area. The last dig was for the section adjacent to the riverside path, this had to be levelled and the retaining trench dug out until it matched up with the rest of the perimeter trench. The digger had to span the trench to dig the join and it had some difficulty getting clear when finished due to soil slippage! We also had to set supporting posts and planks along the length of this trench because of its depth and proximity to the fence. A long hard day again, but the weather was superb!

Wednesday 13th May 2009

We started work on digging the new pond in the Nature Area today. We hired a mini-digger and driver plus two 250Kg mini-dumpers which all arrived prompt at 8am. A large contingent of volunteers were arranged to be available throughout the day to barrow the spoil from the pond area. Some of the topsoil was taken for a project at the Havannah nature reserve and the rest was dumped outside the Nature Area, subsoil was spread within the Nature Area for the meadow which needs this less fertile soil. During digging we unexepectedly hit a large layer of sandstone, we hope to clear this next week with a "breaker" attachment for the digger. We finished at 5pm having shifted about 50 tonnes - a long hard day, but the weather kept fine!

Friday 10th April 2009

Ranger and two volunteers supervised a 'pond-dipping' session in the Nature Area from 14:00 - 16:00, this was attended by 44 adults with 40 children. The variety of 'bugs' was limited but will increase as we move further into spring.

Monday 6th April 2009

We worked in the Nature Area today, digging out old tree stumps, moving fallen branches and taking huge stones from the area for our new dipping pond. Then we ‘filled in’ all of the holes made by these endeavours to prepare the area for a ‘pond dipping’ session to be held on Good Friday.

Friday 3rd April 2009

Much better weather today. Two old mattresses had been flung into the river and these were removed. When the mattresses are sodden with water they are extremely heavy and difficult to pull out of the river, so several of the volunteers were needed for this task. Once this was completed some of us cleared the other rubbish from the river i.e. parts from bicycles, plastic bottles, beer cans and bits of car i.e. wheel trims – as well as ordinary rubbish such as cloth, paper etc. The rest of the volunteers carried and removed parts of fallen trees, which lay near the river bank.

Saturday 28th March 2009

Two of the volunteers went into the Nature Area and using the surveying plan put in posts marking out the levels of the dipping pond. It was extremely wet and blustery today – not a good day to be outside.

Saturday 21st March 2009

A lovely day, cool at first but bright sunshine until late afternoon brought many hundreds of visitors to the displays on Colman's Field in Jesmond Dene. The Volunteer Rangers had a gazebo with a small quernstone for visitors to grind wheat corns down to flour and with photo displays of the Old Mill and Dene.

At 12:00, 13:00 and 14:00 the Ranger supervised "Pond Dipping" sessions in the new Nature Area. This was the first time visitors had been allowed to use this area and they were rewarded by the sight of a group of frogs spawning in the warm spring sunshine.

The Big Lottery activity has started and this includes the removal of some trees that have outgrown their location. These are being cut into planks using a large bandsaw and we intend to use some of these to construct walkways and embankment support in the Nature Area.

Friday 20th March 2009

First job was to go up to the waterfall and picnic area and clear away rubbish and debris both in the river and lying on the ground. A particular tricky bit was to remove a bright orange plastic bag which had caught on the rocks right in the middle of the waterfall! We did succeed and the waterfall looks so much better for it. After this we worked our way downstream clearing away litter and rubbish. At the pond very near to the Fishermans lodge we attempted to clear out the leaves from the pool. This has to be done on a regular basis as the decaying leaves turn the water white and very smelly. About 6 wheelbarrow loads of rotting matter was lifted from the bed of the pond and removed. Once the pond has settled again we hope the water will be much clearer. The afternoon is dedicated to repairing fences.

Wednesday 18th March 2009

Lots of river work today. This means cutting back the overhanging greenery along the riverbank and removing all of the rubbish from the river. We have to take a lot of care at this time of year not to disturb any nesting sites.

A lovely day though to be working outside in the bright sunshine. There were a larger number of visitors to the Dene who are always interested in the work we are doing. Many of the older visitors have fascinating stories to tell of how they remember the Dene in the past.

Friday 6th March 2009

A lovely bright day. We split into two groups and one group worked on a fallen tree in the river just down from Fisherman's Lodge. The other group went up just passed the quarry and worked in the river and on the river bank removing trees and debris some left by the tree felling operation but some left by the wind and river. We piled these carefully in the quarry and left them ready for chipping. One of our group, Jo, saw a kingfisher as we worked but it was too fast for the rest of us to see. Both groups joined together to haul the fallen tree from the river using ropes. It is surprising how easily huge trees can be moved if there are a lot of people pulling!

Thursday 5th March 2009

This morning we were again in the Nature Area. Tidying up the path to the small pool and clearing away all of the loose twigs and small bits of branch left over from the chipping. We want to make it tidy and accessible in preparation for the NERAG (North East Reptile and Amphibian Group) who are coming tonight to look at the small pond. At one point one of us saw a frog disappear into the pond.

The NERAG meeting began at 7.00pm. There were a lot of people present and one of the members gave a very thorough presentation on sand lizards and the differences between grass snakes, slow worms and adders. After that everyone went across to the Nature Area and a torch light survey was carried out. To our delight NERAG showed us several newts in the pond. This is very good news and we expect the colony will grow when we provide the new larger pond.
Wednesday 25th February 2009

Three of us were invited to the University of Northumbria to review the first year architecture student projects. We were delighted to be asked and the presentations were very interesting. The student brief was to design a ‘virtual pavilion’ to be sited on the picnic field by the waterfall and opposite the Old Mill. There was a fabulous array of models which took into account environmental and educational issues. As you can see from the photographs some of these were very good indeed.

Monday 23rd February 2009

Today we worked in the Nature Area. The Park Ranger had arranged for a large ‘chipper’ to be brought in and we helped move the large pile of trees and branches gathered and accumulated when clearing the area . The ‘chips’ went straight onto a wagon and will be used in the Ouseburn Parks where necessary. The area looked much larger once all the trees had been removed. We noticed several clumps of snowdrops and crocus among the trees and going up the bank behind the Nature Area. We are looking forward to seeing the daffodils come out too.

Wednesday 18th February 2009

Clearing out the river today, lots of debris becomes stuck by the remains of the weirs and sluice gates. This can look very untidy so we remove the cans, bottles, clothes, mattresses and ‘wheelie bins’ . It looks so much better when we have finished.

Saturday 14th February 2009

There are a lot of trees in the Dene, so, again we carried on cutting (and sawing) the thick ivy branches from the trees.

Tuesday 3rd February 2009

We spent the morning stripping ivy off the base of yet more of the trees identified in the survey for the big lottery.

Saturday 31st January 2009

Two volunteers spent six hours today assisting Martin and Tom from Newcastle University School of Civil Engineering and Geosciences conduct a detailed survey of Jesmond Dene Nature Area: every fence post and a mesh of ground points, the area for the pond was surveyed in much more detail (about 100 survey points) plus some exterior reference points (bridge, path). We also surveyed the area up the valley side to the West of the Nature Area so we can lay out a grid for a plant and wildlife diversity survey.

Friday 30th January 2009

More work today in the Nature Area: we managed to get out the big roots causing a problem near the small gate so have now adjusted the pond shape / size to take advantage of the extra room we have available. The pond boundary has been adjusted to allow a narrower 'trench' and we have put a bit more of a radius on at the corners to improve its shape. This is the area indicated by the red tape. The approximate position of the dipping platform (sized at about 4m x 3m) has been marked more clearly, again using red tape.

Tuesday 28th January 2009

The Ranger and four volunteers visited Rainton Meadows Nature Reserve to examine the construction of "dipping" platform at Joe's Pond. On the way back we visited the Whickam Community Garden which has a clay lined pond similar in size to the one planned for the Jesmond Dene Nature Area.

Sunday 26th January 2009

We spent the morning stripping ivy off the base of trees identified in the survey for the big lottery. This was tough work at times as some of the trees were on steep slopes and some of the ivy had grown over 6cm in diameter!

Thursday 23rd January 2009
A Large group of about 10 volunteers worked today. In the Nature Area two of us erected a large Heritage Lottery poster, to let people know that we have been given a grant provided by funds from the national lottery. Some of us tackled the tree roots in the area designated for the new larger pond and got quite a lot out. The rest of us started digging out a trench behind the fence to deter people from climbing over and wilfully damaging the new venture – it was very muddy. We also did some continuing work of clearing out the river.

Monday 5th January 2009
An interesting morning. We are levelling the ground in the nature area in preparation for the erection of a security fence which is scheduled to start tomorrow.
We also need to remove one of the trees. One of the volunteers who is a qualified chain saw operator worked with the Park Ranger whilst the rest of us pulled ropes to direct the tree fall and to stop any members of the public from using the paths until the tree was safely felled. After tidying away all of the loose branches and debris there was no time left to do anything else!

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