Green Army Update - from Bees to Borthwood

The Green Army is a volunteer group for young adults aged 16-25 and part of Vectis Housing’s new 3 year Wild about Wight project for the Heritage-Lottery funded Down to the Coast programme.  It offers all sorts of opportunities for young people to learn more about nature, habitat restoration and general conservation management skills.  As well as some definite wins for conservation, the Green Army are learning more about the built and natural heritage and landscapes of East Wight and the sessions provide a fresh air forum for people to make new friends, get fitter and transform their CVs!  It’s hands-on stuff and Green Army volunteers have been out in all weathers working with the indomitable team from the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust on reserves across East Wight, come rain or shine!   Here are a couple of highlights from this season…

Bees Please!
In June, Green Army joined the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust in one of their newest Island reserves, Martin's Wood in Newchurch.  While part of the reserve is managed for its relatively new woodland and so the related species such as red squirrel and woodland birds, the really special thing about much of this site is that it's an absolute magnet for bees and wasps!
It's a former sweetcorn field and its sandy soil is perfect for unsung pollinator heroes, the solitary mining bees, who drill their nests into it and who, in summer, fill the place with buzz and movement. 112 species of bees and wasps have been discovered in the open glades between the woodland here, making this patch of land at the back of Newchurch, East Wight, internationally significant!! The reserve needs regular management for the bees - making sure that the turf is turned over in patches and the bees can nest more easily is one job and keeping the trees and scrub in check in the glades or bee hot spots is another (winter) job.
A massive Green Army gang turned out for the task of digging bee 'scrapes', tipping up the turf into various shapes and sizes, creating cliffs, dunes and bare patches as potential nest sites. Jamie Marsh and Steve Egerton-Read from the Wildlife Trust explained the significance of the site and the ecologist Ian Boyd from Arc, came to help identify some of the species we spotted. And this East Wight wonder is not just important for bees and wasps but all sorts of other invertebrates too. Dung beetles love it here too apparently… although we didn’t look too closely for them!

Celebrating summer at Branstone & Borthwood
As a bit of a change from our usual conservation work, Green Army joined Kelly Wetherick and Rich from the Isle of Wight Council's Branstone Farm for a walk, talk and farm tour. Branstone Farm Study Centre is just on the rural outer fringes of Sandown Bay between Apse Heath and Arreton and on the doorstep of some of East Wight's most special spots and Kelly led a fantastic walk from the farm across the fields and into one of them… the atmospheric and historic Borthwood Copse. The Copse is managed by the National Trust and is an absolute cathedral of birdsong, lofty green and ancient oaks and beeches, glades and greenways. The Trust still coppice hazel and chestnut here just as our ancestors would have around 6000 years ago!  Then it was back to Branstone to learn about farm management and celebratory picnic under Branstone’s oaks.  Perfect East Wight afternoon!  

If you're aged 16-25 and would like to join us on a Green Army taster session, contact Claire in the Vectis Communities Team on