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

20th December 2010

All the volunteer Rangers were invited to a Christmas Lunch hosted by the Park Rangers. This was well attended and as always, it was good to see everyone together.

19th December 2010

This afternoon the Park Rangers held a ‘festive fun’ event open to all visitors. The Volunteers set up one of the stalls for Tombola to raise money for the Volunteer Fund, which was very successful. In spite of the snowy, icy weather there were lots of people who came out to take part.

16th December 2010

The Rangers held a ‘wreath making’ event today. This is always popular and places have to be booked. Wreaths are made with material from the Dene. We use holly, laurel and fir amongst other plants. Everyone had a really good time and the finished wreaths look very professional.

5th November 2010

Bonfire Night! ...and a busy day for us. The Volunteers split into two groups, one group went to lay chicken wire over the wooden bridge to prevent it being so slippy when wet. The other group went to The Nature Area and put in 270 water plants in and around the pond. This was a very muddy and wet process but all the plants were safely dug in and should flourish next spring.

30th October 2010

The Rangers arranged a ‘Halloween Event’ this evening which was very well attended by children and their parents. First, the children carved out pumpkin lanterns, and then we went for a walk through the Dene using torches and the lanterns to guide our path. Along the way we spotted many ‘creatures of the night’ including badgers, bats, foxes and an owl. Finally, as we approached The Pavilion a magical person in a pointed hat crouched beside a candle covered log and told us all about the sad tale of ‘the monster in the Dene’.

October 2010

With help and guidance from Kara Jackson from North East Wildlife Trusts Wildplaces Project, the Volunteer Rangers and Rangers constructed and placed an Otter Holt along the River Ouseburn. We have been finding numerous places with otter spraint - otter poo! So its is hoped that an Otter will use the holt as a resting place as it moves up and down the Ouseburn.

Sunday 24th October 2010

We split up into several groups today which meant lots of different jobs got done. The dipping platform was finished in the Nature Area and now looks fantastic. The small pond was partly cleared of lilies and tidied up ready for springtime. Some of the volunteers worked with Mike the Ranger and cleared several small saplings away. Plus, we planted several more hazel trees alongside the fence beside the path. Last week the volunteers planted 900 bulbs by the fence in the Nature Area in readiness for Spring.

October 2010

With the help of Tina, a local licensed bat handler, the Volunteer Rangers checked most of the 32 bat boxes that we have in the Dene. These bat boxes have been up just over a year. As with bird boxes, there is no guarantee that bats will use them and it often takes bats a bit longer to find them than birds. Although we didn't find any bats in any of the boxes, we were very pleased then, to find evidence of bats using 4 of the boxes. Plus there were empty birds nests in two of them. Hopefully next year the bats will use a few more of them.

Sunday 5th September 2010

We split into two groups today and one group went to continue cutting back, clearing and general tidying up on the quarry area. The other group went to work in the Nature Area and began preparing the foundation area for the shelter/outdoor classroom..

Sunday 29th August 2010

We worked today around the grotto area in Jesmond Dene. Ovehanging branches and vegetation obscuring paths was cleared away and a group of us worked in the grotto clearing mud which has accumulated there. Two of us inspected the Nature Area, we were concerned about the flexibilibity of the handrails on the new dipping platform so we will be replacing them with much stronger material.

Saturday 14th and Friday 20th August 2010

The Volunteer Rangers have been spending time working in the garden behind the cafe at Millfield House. We have been tidying up the paths and clearing away the overgrown plants in readiness for the opening next month. The new outside seating area looks very good and we hope visitors enjoy being in the garden again.

Thursday 8th July 2010

We did a another half day today on the pond in the Nature Area with the new sub soil delivery of 20 tonnes. There were just 4 of us (Dennis, Matthew, Sarah, and Keith) and we got about 7 tonnes down. It was MUCH easier to handle than the clay so we think we were going 50-100% faster than with clay. So in total we now have all centre of the pond (the gravel part) plus a metre all the way around that's fully covered. Sarah, the Jesmond Dene Ranger, has ordered another 20 tonnes which should be the same quality of soil and there is a full session planned for next Tuesday so we ought to make good progress (if weather holds).

Wednesday 7th July 2010

Our wonderful volunteer group were hard at work again today on the pond in the Nature Area. The bottom level of gravel was taken up and more subsoil barrowed in and placed on top of the liner before replacing the gravel. We need to get the covering of subsoil to a depth of 12” as soon as possible. Sarah, the Jesmond Dene Ranger has arranged for another delivery of subsoil to come tomorrow, this will ensure we can complete the pond lining and prepare to fill it with water.

Monday 5th July 2010

One of the volunteers spoke to the people who make the liner and we became concerned in case we hadn't covered it to the appropriate depth. This evening 3 of the volunteers went to the Nature Area and measured the depth of subsoil covering the pond area. The measurements showed that the pond wasn't evenly covered to a depth of 12". Therefore we will now need to buy in more subsoil estimated at yet another 30 tonnes which will be required to add to the shallower parts.

Sunday 4th July 2010

We agreed a slightly later start this morning i.e. not before 9.30 (even so some volunteers were down before this). We checked some of the depth of subsoil and in some areas this was too shallow so wheelbarrow loads of subsoil and then clay were deposited into the pond area all day. One team of volunteers fashioned 'shelves' within the pond to make differing habitat levels for plants and pond creatures; whilst the others barrowed the soil for the liner as well as heavy rocks and clay for the trenches. By early evening we could see the shaped sides and the profile of the pond. Most of the trench had been filled in up to path height and the volunteers felt some satisfaction in the progress being made.

Saturday 3rd July 2010

Another early start and the volunteers set straight to work. 'Soil sifting' took longer than we expected and so more people helped with this task - going through 30 tonnes is not a task to be completed quickly!. Another team of volunteers prepared chunks of stone and clay which will be needed to fill in the trenches around the pond perimeter to hold the lining in place. The pond lining team set to work with cutting and placing the clay liner in position. As heavy rain has been forecast for tomorrow we need to finish getting the liner down and covered today. Everyone who was able agreed to continue working until the job was finished which took well into the evening. As one volunteer commented a 'gruellingly enjoyable' day. But we finished the lining and every part of it has at least some covering of subsoil. Tarpaulins were again used to cover the pond.

Friday 2nd July 2010

Everyone was here very early in preparation for the next 3 days dedicated to lining the pond in the Nature Area. The volunteers split up and some went to work in 'soil sifting'. This meant that some of the 30 tonnes of subsoil required to top the liner had first to be roughly sieved through a wire rack - heavy work done by two volunteers shovelling the soil onto and through the rack, this fell into buckets placed underneath. The next stage was to tip the soil into wheelbarrows were it was further sifted by hand to remove any stones or objects which might pierce the liner. The rolls of clay liner are tightly wrapped and carefully covered to protect them from the rain, they are very heavy and 2 people are needed to carry them.

Whilst this was going on, other volunteers pumped out the bottom of the pond area and removed plant growth and uneven surfaces from the pond profile. When this was ready the volunteers began to line the pond area. One team lined the sides whilst another team worked under the dipping platform area and cut and shaped the liner around the posts. There is some urgency here as once the liner goes down it must be covered with 1 foot of subsoil to weigh down the liner and keep it in place. If it gets wet at this point it will swell to 16 times the original size and become porous which means the pond won't keep the water in. The subsoil has to be compacted down hard, another labour intensive task. Only about one third of the pond was covered by early evening. Tarpaulins were laid over the area to protect the liner.

Wednesday 12th May 2010

After the Bat Walk this evening, the Jesmond Dene Rangers went along to the Nature Area and after a little bit of time spotted a couple of newts in the pond. Using the net in 1 sweep they caught 6 male palmate newts and then saw at least another 4. It is very likely that there are far more in there, as this was taking account of only one bit of the pond in front of the dipping platform. Sarah reported that ‘We are not sure how many more there are, but that is definitely the most that have been seen’ in such a short space of time. In addition a young tawny owl was heard calling just behind the Nature Area - all in all, it was a lovely evening.

Friday 30th April 2010

Today one of the volunteers did a great job on the dipping platform, and we now have 4 of the 5 posts at the ponds edge cemented in place. We hope, weather permitting, that we'll get the last one positioned and cemented in next Thursday - so that will be one more thing completed ahead of us being able to look at starting the lining of the pond.

Sunday 25th April 2010

As always, we worked hard and accomplished a fair number of jobs. The bird feeders were refilled and hung up again in the Nature Area. This is proving to be a very popular feeding station with a variety of small birds including robins, blue tits, greenfinch and bullfinch eating the seeds, nuts and fat balls. Some of the volunteer rangers worked on the dipping platform in the Nature Area and we put in 2 more of the posts using concrete to keep them in place. Other volunteers had to move all the tools and equipment from the store room to one of the containers currently in use on the site whilst building and landscaping takes place. The move took a lot of time because the tools etc. need to be carefully placed and stored so we can easily access them and need to be always ready for use.

Friday 2nd April 2010

Pond Dipping Event
The above event took place in The Nature Area today with Sarah the Ranger and four of the Volunteer Rangers. We were very pleased with the amount of participants who came to walk through Jesmond Dene even though it was a cold and windy day. In total, 92 people (adults and children) visited the Nature Area and we had a lovely time. One visitor commentated that it ‘had made her day’.

A variety of water creatures were observed including, water beetles, dragonfly larvae, freshwater shrimps, frogspawn and a newt. Visitors used the nets to ‘dip’ into the pond and then transfer the contents into shallow trays. Microscopes and magnifying glasses were then used to observe and identify the specimens. All creatures were returned to the pond unharmed.

Saturday 13th March 2010

Today the ‘Living Waterways’ Event was held in Heaton Park. Some of the Volunteer Rangers dressed in Victorian clothes to represent the Freeman Family who lived at The Old Watermill in Jesmond Dene. Other Volunteer Rangers helped Sarah the Park Ranger with a pond dipping session by the white bridge. The weather was bright and blustery which meant lots of people visited the various stalls, such as the Wildlife Trust, Recycling bikes, face painting and jewellery making using recycled materials. The Jesmond Singers attended the event and entertained the visitors with a wide variety of songs.

Tuesday 9th March 2010

This morning in the Nature Area we completed another section of fence and tidied up some of the woodland area behind. This included branch lopping and scrub clearing. The Volunteers then removed weed from out of the small pond and in the process we spotted two frogs. Our final task was to replant several daffodils that had been disturbed.
This afternoon was spent working at the Fisherman's Lodge pond. We cleared out the drain again to make sure the overflow remains clear. In the river we recovered, a bike and pushchair alongside general debris and rubbish.

Saturday 30th January 2010

Today we were working in the ‘managed woodland’ area of the Nature Area. Some of the volunteers carried on putting up the fence (started on Tuesday 26th January) along the edge of the Woodland, whilst some planted native English hedge trees alongside of the protective fence, these include rowan and hawthorn. The fence will ensure that the plants have a chance to thrive and should become home to a variety of insect life in the coming years.

Tuesday 26th January 2010

A bright day but cold. Some of the Volunteers started putting up a small fence near the nature area which will be the boundary for our Nature Area and outside classroom. We also dug over the soil alongside the fence in preparation for planting a hedge. Some of us cleared the ‘woodland’ area of scrub, overgrown tree branches and debris in order to allow more sun to penetrate the centre. The fence looks very good and blends into the background very well.

Saturday 9th January 2010

A very snowy day – everything in the Dene looks magical. The snow was so thick that we couldn’t do any physical work. Instead we walked across to the Nature Area and planned what to do for the next stages. Everything is covered in deep snow and the landscape looks entirely different. There were still several visitors walking through the Dene though which proves that it is a popular retreat even in the depths of winter.

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