2017, Fieldwork, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

My time at Juniper Hall

By Rowena

Hello! My name is Rowena. I have been at Juniper Hall for two years now as a tutor. However, now is the end of my time here- I am moving on to new things in the frozen North, at Newcastle University!

Prepare For Game Of Thrones To Get Really, Really Dark | Space

It’s going to be so cold.

As part of the tutor team, Juniper Hall has been a fantastic experience. From waking up every morning to this view…

I’ve taught some very interesting groups in my time:

  • Students that have found the free U2 album on the ipads and played music while recording river measurements
  • A-level biologists from London that have played hide-and-seek after class because they’ve never been to the countryside
  • “Miss, can woodlice fly? I bet they can.”
  • “Miss, is that a cow?” [Points at black & white horse]
  • A KS2 group that had to almost run back to centre from Box Hill after a freak thunderstorm, getting drenched by the time we were back (It was actually in Reigate)
  • A KS2 student that decided to make “leaf angels” with me (You rock!)
  • Every single student that’s sung the Banana song the next morning after a campfire
  • My last group that cheered so hard, and climbed on each other’s shoulders (in Bebbington. I feared for their heads)
  • All the students that have tried to jump the River Tillingbourne at Crossways, especially those that have failed (especially the ones that failed on camera!)
  • The students that have gotten stuck in Pagham Harbour with big muddy smiles
  • The students that wanted to spray paint rocks to investigate longshore drift (always a good idea!)
  • The KS2 children that made themselves beards out of burrs and stickyweed
  • The children that have fallen in the River Mole at the Stepping Stones (or leapt)
  • The Real Family Holiday families and children who have all been so curious- those that have climbed the starfish (I fear for you), the amazing red-haired super-mum who pushed a double buggy all the way to the shelter building area, the sweet kids that sat and made apple bird-feeders for hours last year, the huge set of families that made the most incredible shelter I’ve ever seen, that sat about 10 and didn’t leak a drop!
  • All the lovely schools that have brightened my days with thank-you letters…

It’s been said never to work with children and animals, and yet I’ve spent most days working with both (for better and for worse!)

 

 

 

animals

  • Once I found a mole in the River Tillingbourne
  • I’ve been headbutted by the goats so many times
  • I’ve spray-painted a chicken purple
  • A student once just straight-up grabbed a lizard from underneath a log and it was awesome
  • The horses at Crossways Farm have chased me around the field about 10 times in the last 2 months
  • The students that, instead of picking up an invasive crayfish after they dropped it, jumped on it, then threw it in a tree
  • The teacher that allowed me to scare their entire class with a pet stick insect (they all left the room entirely for 10 minutes)
  • The school that drove me to Leatherhead Animal Rescue to rehabilitate an exhausted brown long-eared bat and got me in the newspaper!

 

I’ve had such a good time while I’ve been here (in all weathers- sun, rain, snow, thunderstorms), with so many incredible memories. Perhaps one day I’ll come back to teach again! After all, I haven’t yet had a pond named after me like Kate (one of our recent Education Assistants).

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This is definitely the best spot to teach from

Thanks for all the great memories, Juniper!

2017, Fieldwork, FSC, geography, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

A day at Juniper Hall

By Rowena

The other day I was talking to a friend and they asked me “I’d really like to know what you actually did at work every day”, because I’ve  got interesting new stories every week. Well, as I run the blog (as much as I can, inbetween teaching), I thought I’d write up a standard day at the River Tillingbourne, where I spend most of my time.

A day at the River with a (big) GCSE group

8.45am– Turn up to the tutor’s office for our morning meeting. Check where everyone’s going (100 at the river? Fantastic.) Listen to Jack crack out some amazing jokes and have everyone laugh.

9.00am– Set up classroom with whiteboards, booklets and check equipment. Put morning tunes on the SmartBoard. Check in with other tutors they’re happy with the day & plans.

9.25am– Check school have arrived in the main office. Photocopy nominal roll and check numbers.

9.30am– Meet teachers & group. Try and organise 100 GCSE kids into 4 class groups. They get distracted by the goats fighting. Finally get them sorted with waterproofs and wellies in the cellar.

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10.00am– Introduction to the river in the classroom, using ArcGIS and whiteboards and booklets. Give out equipment. Students get confused over hydroprops. Give out lots of pencils.

11.00am– Coach to the river. This is either 20 minutes of quiet, or utter raucous noise.

11.20am– Arrive at Crossways Farm. Give safety briefing and walk down road. Students scream at the muddy entrance. Horses sometimes try to escape. Give introduction to fieldwork and set students off.

11.45am– Stop horses from eating hydroprop. Watch student fall in river after attempting to jump across. Pick up 6 hydroprops from where they’ve been left discarded on the ground. Field sketches using SNOTT (Scale, Notes, Orientation, Time/Date, Title).

12.00pm– Coach to Abinger Hammer. Fieldwork first. Stand for 10 minutes watching last group mess around while rest of groups eat lunch.

12.30pm– Eat lunch now last group have finished. Hope nobody is dropping litter. Hope nobody has abandoned equipment in the river.

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River

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1.15pm– Fish tape measure out of river. Coach to Gomshall 2.

1.30pm– Fieldwork at Gomshall 2. Students get completely soaked as it’s the last (and deepest) river site.  Find lamprey. Students scream more.

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Mist on the river

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2.30pm– Return to Juniper Hall on coach. Students have break. Wrestle with data and printer. Also return waterproofs.

3.00pm– Methods game & methodologies in classroom. Give out more pencils. Students forget how they measured width. Remind them.

4.00pm– Cake break. Enjoy sunshine for 10 minutes.

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4.20pm– Teachers announce they want to leave early at 4.30. Quickly wrap up.

4.30pm– Put away equipment in cellar. Send through data to school on Dropbox. Answer emails. Print for tomorrow- another rivers’ day? Great! Perhaps get a cup of tea (finally).

5.45pm– HOMETIME! Perhaps drop by the kitchen for some dinner if it’s something good. Chocolate pudding? Don’t mind if I do…

 

And then we do it all again tomorrow!

 

2017, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Real Family Holidays

By Rowena

We had Real Family Holidays in on the 7th-10th April, one of my favourite times of year! The activities have been great fun, with some returning families from last year. Sunday morning was wild art around the grounds of Juniper Hall, and there were some excellent creations to be seen.

 

There were lots of inventive uses of natural materials collected from around the grounds. A mixture of stones, green leaves, a few flowers and sticks and twigs.

Gather round to enjoy everyone’s creations

There were all sorts of inspirations- the largest art of the day was a giant spider in it’s web on the Templeton lawn…

2017, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Spring on it’s way!

By Rowena

Spring is definitely on its way, with a delightfully warm weekend- barely even coat weather! We’ve been writing up our Spring Index here like last year to calculate when spring is starting. Last year the average index (which is across all the FSC centres) was the 26th April, which was the same as 2015. I think this year it might be earlier though, as we’ve already recorded quite a few early indicators!

Spring Has Sprung – Darcie Rian

We look primarily at 4 indicator species, although we’ve also been recording others as well- and important events such as first lunch outside (11th March), and first time wearing shorts (13th March). The 4 big ones though;

  • Swallow
  • Orange tip butterfly
  • Horse chestnut budding
  • Hawthorn flower

We’ve already recorded our first orange tip last week (27th March), a whole 18 days earlier than last year’s, which was on the 18th April.

Beyond the Human Eye: Orange-tip Butterflies - More Than Just a ...

Train ticket butterfly (Source: Beyond the Human Eye)

Last week brought the first house martin to Crossways Farm as well on the 31st March, an exciting spot by Jack on the coach back from the river. I got my first swallow yesterday on the 3rd April, although up in Hertfordshire, not in our area for the Spring Index, so the competition’s still going for the first spot for us in Surrey.

Barn Swallow in flight - Olympus UK E-System User Group

(Source: E-group.uk.net)

We’re still waiting for our horse chestnut and hawthorn, but no doubt they’ll be on their flowering way soon. The warm weather today rewarded a pair of slow worms under the reptile mats. No mammals, but the bees were flying from the apiary down in the meadow as well, despite the grey clouds.

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Slow worm

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Biology, Fieldwork, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Invasives Week

By Rowena

This week is invasive species week on Twitter, and I’ve been watching a lot of really interesting stuff come up on my feed all week. It’s been organised by the NNSS (Non-native Species Secretariat) and DEFRA to try and raise awareness of invasive species, and get people involved in recording schemes. Each day has a different theme:

Monday – Welcome to Invasive Species Week!
Tuesday – Biosecurity
Wednesday – Identification and recording
Thursday – Local Action Groups
Friday – Other projects

My favourite resource I’ve found so far this week (although it’s only Tuesday that I’m writing this…) has been the Journal of Ecology’s virtual issue, with over 20 different papers about different invasive species and up-to-date research in the area. I’ve downloaded them to my laptop, but haven’t yet had the time to read them… Soon.

On the NNSS website, there’s loads of free training on biosecurity and identification of non-native species. To be able to tackle invasive species effectively, it’s important to have the distribution and evidence of where species are found- NNSS have developed a set of apps to record different invasive species, and help identify individuals. I’m not familiar with all of them, although Juniper Hall do record a lot of our species on iRecord. We also have a fantastic species list from the University of Cambridge who visit each year, and record literally everything they see. I’m also on a mission to get my Birdtrack back up to date, as I’ve been birding a lot recently but actually have no count of what I’ve been seeing!

Introducing BirdTrack Home | BTO - British Trust for Ornithology

Wednesday is identification and recording day- So a quick list of invasives I’ve seen at our field sites before…

invasives

Himalayan balsam, Signal crayfish, Rhododendron, Ringed parakeet, Harlequin ladybird

I’ve not got time to update this again after today (which is still Wednesday, although I scheduled this for the end of the week) but it’s a cool initiative that seems to be educating a lot of people. I’ve definitely found a lot of interesting stuff I’m planning to read in the future this week!

Biology, Fieldwork, FSC, Juniper Hall

BENHS Conference & Saproxylic inverts

By Rowena

At the weekend I travelled over to Oxford to go to the annual BENHS (British Entomological and Natural History Society) AGM. It was, in a few words, pretty great. A day full of lectures about various British insects, including art, history and a tour around the stacks of the Oxford Natural History Museum afterwards to see some of the collections.

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Natural history

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One of the best days out I’ve had in ages- and you don’t actually have to be a member to attend the day either, which is great. The next couple of blog posts are going to be about what I learnt that are also pretty relevant to what we do over here at Juniper Hall.

Woodland ecosystems and saproxylic species

Saproxylic species are organisms that live in deadwood. The BENHS talk was focussed on woodlands, so I am going to as well- most of the research on saproxylic species focuses on woodlands. Saproxylic species make up 7% of all British fauna– there are over 800 beetles, 730 flies,  300 hymenoptera (bees, ants and wasps), and 50 moth species present within deadwood. Unfortunately many of these species are threatened by the need for “tidy woodlands“- the removal of deadwood. Over-management of parks and woodland gardens has a lot of fallen deadwood removed, to try and keep an area tidy. Standing deadwood and timber branches are also regularly removed, as it’s thought to be dangerous or a potential haven for diseases and pests.

Types of deadwood (Source: TVC)

At European scale, 11% of saproxylic beetles are threatened. It might be that part of the problem is due to woodland management, where modern harvesting practice does not allow trees to fully mature, cropping them before they can naturally produce deadwood. In areas that have been previously coppiced or pollarded, deadwood invertebrates are likely to persist in tree hollows, although the loss of this traditional woodland management causes saproxylic invertebrate numbers to decrease.

Image result for neglected coppice

Please help me! (Source: Greg Humphries)

So what’s better? To manage a woodland traditionally, using coppicing and pollarding, or to leave woodlands completely alone and prevent “tidying” of woodland, allowing a deadwood environment to emerge on the ground? Certainly it seems that either method is better than modern techniques of harvesting an area for trees, as this causes the total removal of material even before deadwood can form. It has been noticed that coppiced areas can produce special microclimates for deadwood fauna, however if an area is too-well managed, coppice reverts to being of little importance for deadwood conservation.

TM1497 : Lower Wood Nature Reserve - coppiced trees

To coppice, or not to coppice? (Image credit: geograph.org.uk)

Perhaps it’s too difficult to draw a conclusion on the best way to manage woodland for deadwood invertebrates when there’s little currently being researched on a large scale- more important, it seems, is to just try and create deadwood habitats to start off with, and worry about woodland management when our saproxylites are a little bit more stable in the future.

Image result for deadwood invertebrates

A happy home for many invertebrates (Source: Buglife.com)

2016, Biology, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Bioblitz 2016

By Rowena

For half term, we ran our annual Bioblitz to record all the birds, bugs, plants and anything else on Juniper Hall’s grounds. In the weeks leading up, Daniel’s been busy handing out tons of flyers around Dorking and Leatherhead…

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So many leaflets!

Thankfully when the big day came the weather was kind to us! It all kicked off with opening our moth traps, which we had put out the evening before. Unfortunately there were only a few moths inside, as it’s getting to the time when they’re all tucked up and hibernating, but happily a few extras were brought along by the AES to admire as well.

Next we had Lisa and Saoirse open mammal traps in Templeton Woods. There were a couple of successes, with a water shrew, and then some wood mice later on in the ha-ha.

 Drawing quite the crowd

Later on in the lineup we had woodland and meadow invertebrate hunting. We got out the sweep nets, pooters and keys to see what we could find, scooping up grasshoppers, shield bugs, leafhoppers and moths. In the woods we had some fun charming worms too, making them wiggle to the surface to be identified.

The reptile mats didn’t reward any reptiles, but Lisa and a few families did find some hiding mammals and lots of insects- the ants just love colonising underneath the felting we’ve put down in our meadow.

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What’s Lisa found?

While Saoirse manned the ponds, looking for underwater critters, Rowena and Helen made some nettle tea with the kelly kettles, that took a lot longer than it should have…

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Putting on a brew!

Also throughout the day we had arts and crafts in the students’ common room, colouring moths and glittering invertebrates, and local societies joining us in the Templeton Room to promote bats, birds and bugs!

A big thank you to everyone that visited and helped, and to the lovely charities that attended; the Bat Conservation Trust, Surrey Bird Club, the Amateur Entomological Society and others!

We haven’t got final totals for everything we recorded on the day yet, but we’ll be sure to update once we do know what we managed to find.

2016, Fieldwork, FSC, geography, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Coastal geography development

By Rowena

New specifications are coming for September, and we’ve been very busy putting together brand new days for them…

It’s a long way down to the coast from Juniper Hall, about an hour and a half to Newhaven or Pagham each, so we split it over a couple of days. Coasts is coming back in a big way to geography, so we headed down on Wednesday to update our fieldwork techniques and collect some secondary data (and some pokemon! Newhaven has loads!)

Newhaven is one of those places that seems to be always windy, but the beach is pretty nice when the sun finally comes out. The tide was really far out, so we explored down past a wooden groyne at the end of the beach, and the rockpools below the pebble beach. We also checked out a few information signs about the area for background information- along Seaford these were most helpful, showing a cross-section of the beach defences underneath the beach that’s been built up. Apparently there are 3 different sea walls hidden under there!

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Investigating information boards

While we were at Newhaven, we had a go at some beach and cliff profiling, collecting some secondary data for groups to use and compare their own data to in the future. Out with the clinometers and the ranging poles!

Cracking out the ranging poles

After Newhaven, we headed down to Seaford, for both chips on the beach (lunch!), and a look at the terminal groyne. This prevents longshore drift removing all the sediment from the beach (ie, the whole thing).  We measured the beach profile beyond the terminal groyne as well, to give a bit of a comparison to Newhaven- which is in front of the harbour arm, so a little different. Did a spot of bird watching as well- lovely fulmars flying round the cliffs, and cormorants drying their wings on Seaford’s stack.

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360 view from Seaford’s terminal groyne

Next we headed off to Birling Gap, famous for its slowly-diminishing number of houses. There are only four left now after they knocked the fifth down a couple of years ago, and it’s a really good example of what happens when there’s no coastal management along a piece of coastline.

We had a quick stop off at Cuckmere Haven on the way back to look at the meanders, before hitting the road to get back to JH for the weekly Stepping Stones quiz!

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Juniper Hall’s education team (Missing Denham D:)

2016, FSC, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

An orchestra on the lawn

By Rowena

It’s been a busy couple of months for JH, which is why I’ve not had a chance to write any blog posts! Lots of excitement has been happening, although one of the biggest things to round off the term was a visit from Dutch orchestra Showorchestra Fortissimo. Staying the weekend at Juniper Hall, they kindly agreed to put on a concert on the front lawn to raise money for the ponds.

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Fortissimo are made up of 150 players from Venlo, Netherlands. They’re an amateur orchestra, but play in professional theatre productions- and certainly sound amazing! During their UK tour they also played at Battersea Park in London, the Royal Pavillion in Brighton, and Claremont Landscape Gardens, Surrey.

After a bit of a grey day, the evening brought clear skies for the orchestra to perform under and the spectators enjoy a bit of sunshine. Everyone bought a picnic to eat on the hay bales and under the gazebos.

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There was a wide mixture of music, from a couple of classical pieces, The Beatles, samba from Fortissimo’s accompanying percussion band, and a compilation of Michael Jackson. An interval found everyone flocking towards the bar for a refill of Pimms (including the orchestra!) before settling down for the second half as the sun started to set.

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View of the percussion section from the orchestra

A lovely evening was had by all, and hopefully a lot of money was raised for our ponds! Although Fortissimo only tour every few years, and visit different countries each time, with such a success we might look forward to more orchestral visits in the future…

2016, Biology, FSC, geography, Juniper Hall, Uncategorized

Real Family Holidays – Nature Walk

On Thursday afternoon, Ruth and Zoe led a Nature Walk on Box Hill as part of our Real Family Holidays program. Fortunately I was luck enough to ‘tag’ along and learn all about the nature that exists on the door step of Juniper Hall!

Zoe making a good point

The route we took passed through Charlottes wood, up to Broadwood’s Tower, across Lodge Hill, up Juniper Top, across to Salomons Memorial and down the Burford Spur…and breathe! Overall the walk took 2 1/2 hours, over timed on the 1:30-3:30 Real Family Holiday afternoon activity slot, but we weren’t too concerned about spending an extra half an hour in the great outdoors.

First up, Ruth introduced the families to the Holy Leaf Miner, which is a type of fly whose larvae burrow into holly leaves. The leaves turn brown in colour thus the process of photosynthesis in the leaf is restricted.

Holy Leaf Miner larvae have turned a patch in this holy leaf, brown.

Next, we came across the Box Tree. Now, the the small leaves on a Box Tree smell like Cat Urine to around 50% of people, depending on genetics. So on smelling the leaves we got some funny looks from a young girl who actually claimed that the leaves smelt of rotten shoes! I hadn’t heard that one before…To me, the Box Tree smells fresh and leafy. Back to the facts, interestingly, 40% of Box Trees live on Box Hill – hence the name!

Box Tree!

 

“What is this tree called?…It sounds like you, and you, and YOU!” The Yew Tree also lives on Box Hill and is 1/5 of Britain’s evergreen tree species. They can grow up to a height of 40m. Yew wood is said to be very springy, and was used in Medieval times to craft bows. Mysteriously often found in church yards, Yew trees are poisonous except for the berries that they produce. This is perfect for their reproduction as it means birds eat the berries, but dispose of the poisonous seed allowing for seed dispersal.

 

Mixed into the fun facts were also tribal calls conjured up by Ruth and facial markings from the the wet mud on Box Hill. We really looked the part and the kids loved it!

A new look!

When walking up Juniper Top, not only were the views stunning (despite the cloud), but we got the pleasure of being introduced to a Yellow Meadow Ants’ mound. These mounds are constructed by ants to live in and to also attract shelter seeking caterpillars. In exchange for their ‘hospitality’ the ants collect the nutritious syrup deposited by these caterpillars. The mounds also provide an excellent resting spot for rabbits. Rabbits poo on these mounds providing them with a vantage point meaning that they are more aware of their predators and less susceptible to attack. I found that to be the most interesting fun fact of a really enjoyable afternoon.

As Real Family Holidays have come to an end today, I consider myself lucky that I get to call afternoons such as these as work.

Dorking looking great – Currently my favorite view in the Surrey

Thank you to Ruth and Zoe for their facts, and thank you to the families for being so infectiously enthusiast!

Rory