Friday, 28 May 2010

Concrete Jungle: biodiversity through school gardens

Concrete Jungle is a new initiative to encourage schools to plant flowers and grow vegetables to create wildlife havens in their grounds. I’ve blogged before about the International Year of Biodiversity of which this campaign is a part. Concrete Jungle has been developed by Cool It Schools, a global programme for young people, encouraging them to do something about climate change. There’s a downloadable teacher’s pack with suggestions for developing a garden, and lesson plans and ideas to interest students.
I was particularly interested in this, since I’ve been developing a wildlife garden with a school which has now made real progress. After I set out the plot a group of volunteers set to with enthusiasm, and its hoped that the project will be completed this year.

Once schools have signed up with the Concrete Jungle campaign they can register the dimensions of their garden and use the site to show the progress they are making.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Birds in the garden

We've been having fun watching the birds on our feeders lately. One blackbird took a while learning how to get to the fat ball: approaching it from various angles he failed to get a grip; then he hovered alongside it, grabbing a bite before he fell back onto the ground; finally he learnt to land on the fat ball itself, and was able to nibble away easily.

The collared doves and blue tits have also been avid feeders.

If you feed the birds, don't forget to clean the feeders regularly to prevent disease. See the RSPB website for more information.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

A great day out...Blashford Lakes

Sadly unable to get away on holiday, due to volcanic ash, we had the opportunity to explore some places closer to home, and discovered Blashford Lakes, near Ringwood. The weather that week was lovely – a real taste of summer.

The lakes are flooded gravel pits, managed by The Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust for the benefit of people and wildlife. There are 8 km of pathways round the reserve, most of them wheelchair-accessible, with hides for viewing the wildlife on and around the lakes (ramps also make the hides accessible). We had a wonderful time wandering through the woodland, and sitting in a couple of the hides, trying to identify the water fowl from the useful posters displayed on the walls. We saw goldeneye, coots, Canada geese, and swans, as well as a couple of scuttling rabbits on the bank. We also enjoyed watching the whirling house and sand martins nesting in the man-made walls alongside one of the hides. Diaries are left for visitors to record what they saw on particular days, and it’s fascinating to look through and discover what was seen at different times of the year.

I recommend taking a picnic – there are benches at frequent intervals along the trails, and picnic tables outside one of the education centres. We omitted to do that at first. Having arrived in the morning and liking it so much, we went off to buy food, and then came back for the afternoon. There are guided walks, talks and family events throughout the year, and courses for adults, including topics such as wild flowers and photography.

You can visit the lakes free-of-charge, although we were so delighted, we left a donation, since it’s a charitable concern. Although there are car parks, the Trust recommends walking or cycling. Blashford Lakes can be found two miles north of Ringwood on the A338 Ringwood-Salisbury Road, New Forest OS Map Grid Ref. SU 151 079.