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Wildlife Garden blog

2 Posts tagged with the brighter_kensington_and_chelsea_scheme tag

As autumn approaches and the new academic year begins so we lose Thomas Fieldsend, or Tommy as we know him, who enters the final year of his studies for a BSc in Animal Conservation & Biodiversity at Hadlow College. In common with many students, Tommy came to volunteer with us for work experience while studying for the first two years of his degree course. He covered a wide variety of practical and survey work as (hopefully) the images below will show! We will greatly miss his input, and his company. Here he describes his time in the Wildlife Garden:


"As a young boy growing up outside of London, a trip to the Museum was a rare treat. So, as I began the first day of my two-year work placement here in November 2011, I couldn’t help but wonder what my younger self would have made of it all. I’m sure he would have been excited; I know my 22 year old self was! I was about to become initiated into the world of the ‘Wildlife Garden Volunteer’, and I wasn’t sure quite what to expect. As it turns out, the only thing I ever came to expect in the Garden was the unexpected.


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November 2011 in the Wildlife Garden



Although a ‘can do’ attitude may be considered a prerequisite for a Wildlife Garden Volunteer, an ‘I’ll give it a go’ attitude is probably more beneficial, because when your day’s work might include tree felling, sheep corralling, or calculating the Garden’s amphibian population to the nearest hundred, just ‘giving it a go’ often becomes your best course of action.


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Amphibian survey April 2013


So I was very pleased - and somewhat baffled - when I realised that somewhere along the line I had actually become proficient at performing many of the tasks I had once regarded as exercises in damage limitation.


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Tommy and Alex learning to navigate while reducing reeds and great willowherb on the moorhen island

Not only that: I realised I had acquired the vocabulary of the Wildlife Garden natives as well as their skills. I found myself using words such as ‘coppicing’, ‘pedunculate’, and ‘pinnate’, without realising I had even learnt them. I had become, unbeknownst to me, a wildlife gardener!


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Newly coppiced hazel


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Hedge planting with Alex and Naomi


This came as quite a shock, as when I started in the Garden I was a first year Animal Conservation student at Hadlow College who was of the firm belief that he was an 'animal person', not a 'plant person'; that animals and the environment they inhabit could be treated as somehow discrete from one another, even in the context of conservation.


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Tommy inspires another young person: making insect hotels during our Spring Wildlife event earlier this year


In actuality, most of the work undertaken in the Wildlife Garden consists of facilitating natural ecosystem functioning through habitat management; in this sense, the Garden can be considered an example of effective conservation in a microcosm. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the importance of approaching habitat management and wildlife conservation holistically is the single most valuable lesson I learnt during my time as a Wildlife Garden Volunteer. But whatever I learnt along the way, I know this much: I had a lot of fun, and I won’t be forgetting the time I was part of the Wildlife Garden Team any time soon!


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Tommy, Nadia and Alex at the Brighter Kensington and Chelsea Scheme collecting an award in November 2012

Let me finish by thanking Caroline, Larissa, Naomi, and the whole Wildlife Garden Team for all their help and kindness during my time as a volunteer. Special thanks must go to Alex Lynch for the comic relief."


Hopefully we'll hear or see more of Tommy Fieldsend ...


One of our first tasks of autumn is spent around the ponds thinning out reeds from the pond margins, removing decaying vegetation and covering the top pond with netting to keep it free of plane tree leaves. Of course, some less invasive pond management takes place throughout the year...


Here in July, Nadia enjoyed cooling off in the coracle whilst pruning willow on the floating moorhen island. The island was at risk of blowing over - the thick growth of willow acting as a sail:


1. Nadia tending to the moorhen island (Custom).JPGNadia tending to the moorhen island

This summer we had a build up of least duck weed (Lemna minuta) that threatened to block out light to the submerged aquatic plants in one of the ponds.


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Veolia Environmental Services’ volunteers take a break from skimming duck weed off the top pond to reduce its cover



Common reed (Phragmites australis) is a beautiful plant in all seasons but given half a chance it’ll romp away across the pond reducing the area of open water and shading out less robust marginal pond plants such as marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), water mint (Mentha aquatica) and ragged robin (Lychnis flos-cuculi).


A little surreptitious reed weeding happens in summer...


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Sophia has just dropped her secateurs...



...but in October we get into more serious reed-pulling along with thinning of other tall marginals such as great willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum) and hemp agrimony (Eupatorium cannabinum).


Most insect larvae will have hatched and left the pond but there is still plenty of life in the ponds and in the mud and so plant thinning is confined to one short section of the pond to minimise disturbance.


4, Nicky and Sean reed pulling (Custom).JPGNicky and Sean are working hard pulling reeds and willowherb from margins along the eastern edge of the main pond


The moorhens kept away but they surprised a few frogs:


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Common frog (Rana temporaria)


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Nicky and Sean's work complete!


Finally, the least popular autumn pond task is covering the top pond with netting to protect it from the falling plane tree leaves. The net is placed over a pyramidal structure in the centre of the pond.


Alex and I drew the short straws and had to wade into the water on one of the coldest days so far this month, but unfortunately (for him) Alex got the really short straw - leaky waders! The longest straw went to Sophia, who got to stand on the dry bank to take these photographs.


7. placing thepyramid (Custom).JPGPlacing the ‘pyramid’ in the pond to hold the net


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Struggling to place the 'pyramid' into the centre of the pond


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Pegging down the net to hold it in place to catch the falling leaves


The ‘pyramid’ was designed and constructed by the Saturday volunteer team 3 years ago using coppiced alder, cherry and hazel, and is now a little fragile.


More about leaves to follow next week but i,n the meantime, something that happened back in October:


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Tommy, Nadia and Alex collecting the Brighter Kensington and Chelsea Scheme’s Wildlife Garden Award from the Mayor in Kensington and Chelsea Town Hall


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Damian, Rama and Pam collecting the President’s Trophy for the best overall prize winner in the Brighter Kensington and Chelsea Scheme this year

Thank you to ALL our volunteers for helping us to win these awards!