Covid Testing Sheds Upcycled to Community Gardens

Throughout the pandemic the University sited an outdoor covid testing centre on Streatham Campus and now that this centre has been disbanded, one of the Covid Testing Co-ordinators, Deborah Custance-Baker, contacted the Grounds Team and kindly offered two of the testing sheds to be re-housed.

Our Horticultural and Operations Manager, Anthony Cockell, made some enquiries within the local communities and found two new homes for these sheds – Exeter St Thomas Community Garden and the Refugee Support Devon Community Allotment.

Anthony, along with two members of the Grounds Team – Sam Whitehorne and Leo Brooke, used their University annual volunteering community day to work together and deliver these sheds to their new horticultural homes.

This is a great sustainable and community initiative and we are delighted to be able to support these local communities.

The pandemic highlighted the importance of outdoor space, the benefits of nature and gardening and how it increases wellbeing and mental and physical health. So it seems fitting that equipment used for the pandemic can now be used for community allotments and gardens.

Thank you to everyone involved with this project; your generosity and hard work will benefit many!

Loading the sheds

Loading the sheds

Loading the sheds

Delivering the shed to the Refugee Support Devon Community Allotment

Shed delivered – great job everyone!

Bird Survey Highlights Winter 2021-22

The results of the winter bird surveys carried out by an independent consultant on our campuses during two visits between November 2021 and January 2022 have been received and we wanted to share the highlights.

Streatham Campus

A total of 1,126 birds (34 species) were recorded during the visits, with the top five species recorded as:

  1. Wood Pigeon
  2. Blackbird
  3. Robin
  4. Carrion Crow
  5. Great Tit

Great Tit

A total of 373 (13 species) Birds of Conservation Concern (BOCC) red listed and amber listed birds were recorded:

  • Greenfinch (red listed)
  • Herring Gull (red listed)
  • House Sparrow (red listed)
  • Mistle Thrush (red listed)
  • Bullfinch (amber listed)
  • Dunnock (amber listed)
  • Mallard (amber listed)
  • Moorhen (amber listed)
  • Redwing (amber listed)
  • Song Thrush (amber listed)
  • Stock Dove (amber listed)
  • Wren (amber listed)
  • Wood Pigeon (amber listed)

Greenfinch

Interesting Observation

A Kingfisher was recorded flying across one of the ponds in Taddiforde Valley in January 2022; this is the first Kingfisher recorded during one of the bird surveys which have been running for the last 14 years.

Kingfisher

St Luke’s Campus

A total of 275 birds (18 species) were recorded during the visits, with the top three species recorded as:

  1. Wood Pigeon
  2. Starling
  3. Herring Gull

Starling

A total of 185 (8 species) Birds of Conservation Concern (BOCC) red listed and amber listed birds were recorded:

  • Herring Gull (red listed)
  • House Sparrow (red listed)
  • Mistle Thrush (red listed)
  • Starling (red listed)
  • Dunnock (amber listed)
  • Redwing (amber listed)
  • Wren (amber listed)
  • Wood Pigeon (amber listed)

Mistle Thrush

Stormy Times but Tree-rific Arborists!

Unfortunately Storms Eunice and Franklin caused havoc on our grounds last week damaging trees on our campuses and on our off-campus sports grounds.

Our in-house arborists worked tirelessly around the clock on Friday and over the weekend to deal with the high priority fallen trees, branches and debris to keep us and our grounds safe. They will also be kept busy for the next few weeks checking trees and clearing tree branches and debris over our 378 acres of grounds.

We have a small team of three arborists who do a fantastic job managing and safeguarding the 10,000 trees on our campuses and our off-campus residences and sports grounds.

Their dedication, hard work, knowledge and skilled expertise keeps everyone safe on campus and allows us to enjoy and benefit from the many different species of trees. We would like to thank them and let them know that they are our arb heroes!

 

Tree-mendous News – more than £16,000 raised for local charity Hospiscare!

We are delighted to announce that we have helped raise more than £16,000 (with gift aid still to be added) for the local charity Hospiscare by supporting their Christmas Tree Recycling Campaign.

1,200 trees were collected by volunteers from homes across Exeter, Exmouth and Honiton and brought to the green waste site on our Streatham Campus.

The trees were then chipped by our Grounds Team and agricultural students from Bicton College.

A Jensen chipper was kindly lent to us by Elm Star, a local company in Newton Abbot, who also instructed the students on how to operate the chipper.

The chippings will be applied on the grounds around campus and also used to improve a local public right of way path.

We would like to say a BIG THANK YOU to everyone who was involved in the collaborative community campaign raising funds for the very worthwhile local charity Hospiscare. You are absolute stars!

Laura Robertson, Hospiscare Fundraising Projects Manager said “the money raised could fund 22 in-patient beds for a whole 24 hours. During what is a particularly difficult time for Hospiscare financially, this total really will help considerably and will contribute to ensuring we are here for local people living with terminal illness and their families long into the future”.

Just some of the 1,200 trees to be shredded!

Getting ready to start

Here we go!

Jensen chipper kindly lent by local company Elm Star

Working hard

Chipping in action

Operating the chipper

Bicton College students doing a fantastic job

Nearly finished!

Recycle your Christmas Tree and raise funds for Hospiscare (its a win win!)

We are delighted to be supporting Hospiscare’s Christmas Tree Recycling scheme again this year.

In return for a donation to Hospiscare, volunteers will collect your Christmas tree from your home on 7th or 8th January. The trees will be brought to the University’s Streatham Campus where our Grounds Team staff and Bicton College students will shred them. It is hoped the clippings will be used to improve public right of way footpaths.

Trees can be collected from postcodes EX1, EX2, EX3, EX4, EX8, EX14 1, EX14 2 and EX14 3.

Registration closes on 3rd January. For more information and to register visit https://www.hospiscare.co.uk/events/christmas-tree-recycling/.

Please note this service is for real Christmas trees only; artificial trees cannot be accepted.

Please sign up for this scheme and leave the effort of getting rid of your Christmas trees to Hospiscare. You will also be raising vital funds for this very worthwhile local charity.

Happy Christmas everyone!

Bird Survey Highlights Spring & Summer 2021

The results of the spring and summer bird surveys carried out by an independent consultant on our campuses have been received and we wanted to share the highlights.

St Luke’s Campus

Over the five year period 2016-2021, there has been a steady increase in the population of birds recorded during the breeding season across the campus. 2021 saw the highest number of total birds ever recorded – 295 – which eclipses the last record of 286 in 2019.

Once again, the Wood Pigeon remains the number one species recorded across the campus, the Blackbird makes a welcome return at number two at the expense of the Starling who drops to number five, whilst the House Sparrow and Herring Gull remain at number three and four respectively.

No new species were recorded across the campus, so the total remains at 29 different species of birds recorded over the period 2013-2021.

Streatham Campus

The top four species recorded across the campus – Wood Pigeon, Blackbird, Robin and Wren – remain the same as was found in the previous surveys in 2019. The Blue Tit makes a welcome return at number five, replacing the Jackdaw in this position.

The total number of birds recorded this year was 1,435 which represents a net fall of 137 birds from the last bird surveys in 2019; a decrease of 8.7%. However, this is still well above the all time low of 1,284 birds recorded in 2017, and very much returning to the number of birds recorded in 2016.

174 birds on the red and amber listed species were recorded this year, showing that the campus has a relatively stable and healthy population of red and amber listed birds.

Interesting Observation – Blackcap

This year the Blackcap was recorded in all survey areas across the campus, with a likely breeding population of 26 which is well above the yearly average for the period 2008 to 2021, which currently stands at 18.

The Blackcap is one of the more common Sylvia warblers, identified by its rather stocky body with dirty grey plumage above and olive grey below. The male of the species has a small black cap, whilst the female sports a very distinct reddish brown cap. A summer migrant, arriving in early spring, the Blackcap is widely distributed throughout Devon during the breeding season, and is easily identified by its rich warbling song. Choice of habitat for nesting, is woodlands, parks and gardens that have areas of dense undergrowth. The Blackcap builds a nest low down in a bush and lays 4-5 eggs, having two broods between April and July.

Blackcap

Interesting Observation – Stock Dove

This breeding season, Stock Doves were recorded in small numbers in all survey areas across the campus. An amber listed species, the Stock Dove is very similar in shape and size to a Feral Pigeon, but smaller than its close relative the Wood Pigeon (of which there are many to be found on campus). The Stock Dove has blue grey plumage with a very distinct iridescent green neck patch and a pink chest. It can be confused with the Wood Pigeon, but apart from being smaller, also lacks the prominent white neck patch and broad white wing bands of the Wood Pigeon.

The Stock Dove breeds in open woodland, farmland with hedges and scattered trees and larger parks with mature deciduous trees such as oak.  Unlike the Wood Pigeon that builds a platform of twigs for a nest on a branch of a tree, the Stock Dove prefers to use a hole in a tree or a farm building.

Stock Dove

 

Challenging times but what a transformation!

Our wonderful team of gardeners work very hard looking after and maintaining the 247 acres of diverse and beautiful grounds on Streatham Campus.

This has proved even more challenging over the last 18 months as staff were furloughed and unable to work on campus. They have spent the last few months tackling all the overgrown vegetation to bring the campus back to its glorious best.

The latest project was clearing the hidden overgrown areas by Reed Pond and the Reed Sunken Garden – what a transformation!

Area 1 – BEFORE

Area 1 – AFTER

Area 2 – BEFORE

Area 2 – AFTER

Area 3 – BEFORE

Area 3 – AFTER

 

Green Flag Award 2021-22 Winner!

We are delighted to announce that we have again successfully achieved the prestigious Green Flag Award for both our Streatham Campus and our St Luke’s Campus!

The Award is the mark of a quality park or green space which has achieved the international standards for open space excellence.

The Grounds team work hard throughout the year using their extensive skills and experience to nurture our beautiful grounds and we are extremely proud of this achievement and the wonderful grounds that we have the privilege to work in and enjoy.

Dealing with Ash Dieback at the University

Ash Dieback (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) is a fungal disease first recorded by the Forestry Commision in 2006 becoming prominent in the South East of England in 2012.

We have confirmations on Ash (Fraxinus excelsior) specimens within our University since 2018, as has been the case for other well monitored sites in Devon and Cornwall.

The infection is permanent with no control and, although mostly terminal, there is a high degree of variability with respect to the seriousness and speed of the symptoms. We are gifted with a high number of people exploring, enjoying and being amongst our grounds and any sign of symptom is considered with great caution so physical management of these trees today and in the future is a certainty.

The dilemma amongst the Grounds team is that we know how valuable Ash is to biodiversity as a habitat. It hosts Woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major), Tawny Owls (Strix aluco), Redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) and the team favourite the Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), all for nesting. The lichens and moss which grow freely are a food source for caterpillars.

We are able to balance these interests and find opportunity where people are safe, and friends of other species can continue to share the space together.

The solution we have employed, which you can see in the photo below, is to carry out a veteranisation process on a tree. The major limbs are completely removed until the crown has gone and there is only a trunk left standing. The tree is then ringbarked which involves removing the living tissue from around the trunk. With the xylem and phloem severing the plants’ ability to transport water and nutrients, the tree will die and decay and this breaking down process will become host to insect species.

Importantly as the trunk is short and wide with developed buttress roots, there is no expectation that this tree will fall.

The top of the trunk can now be coronet pruned. This describes a technique that aims to replicate the natural fracturing effect seen after a limb failure, where insect species can easily reside within and rainfall can sit and gather amongst the dead wood.

Trunk segmentations have been cut out, hollowed and an entrance point made. These have been re-attached to the trunk around all four compass points as a future bird nesting habitat.

For anyone that would like to visit this work its location can be found here – http://ex.ac.uk/veteran-ash-specimen

For the future, the best course of action is regularly monitoring the species we care for. After all a minority will also be genetically tolerant and that stock of trees amongst our collection will be vital for the long-term future of the woodlands and specimens here when we begin to repopulate.

 

Diseased tree upcycled into wildlife habitat tree stump and bird boxes

Unfortunately a diseased Ash tree behind the IAIS Building on Streatham Campus has had to be removed, but our Arb Team were keen to use this as an opportunity to help wildlife and increase wildlife habitats on campus, in keeping with our biodiversity and sustainability work practices.

It is now a wildlife habitat high stump which will harbour and benefit insects and wildlife for years to come and the team have also carved bird boxes into the trunk.

Great job team!