Wood Habitats on Campus

We love to create wood habitats on campus as they are essential for wildlife and provide food and shelter for countless tiny invertebrates.

The habitat piles in these photos are made from the dead branches of the trees they surround, so any fungi or minibeasts are still near their habitat.

So if you see log piles on our grounds, we haven’t forgotten to clear away debris following tree works …………………… we are doing our bit for nature and the environment!

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.

 

More Wow Wildflowers!

The wildflower areas at St Luke’s Campus are looking fantastic.

Wow Wildflowers!

The wildflowers at the Reed Hall beds are in flower and looking glorious.

Last year we trialled having wildflowers instead of the customary formal planting in these beds and they proved so popular with everyone and the bees, butterflies and insects that we’ve done it again!

Sustainable Practices – seed propagation and plants grown in-house

We have been busy with seed propagation this week in our Estate Services Centre Nursery.

The cuttings are soft-wood material using the techniques of nodal, heel and mallet cuttings.

This important work, of growing plants in-house and planting them on campus and by residences, means that we are reducing our carbon footprint, working within our sustainability practices and reducing costs.

  

Hedgehog Awareness Week – 3rd to 9th May 2020

It’s Hedgehog Awareness Week, so we thought it would be a good time to highlight the problems hedgehogs face and how you can help them, especially as we are spending more time in our gardens at the moment.

There are many simple things we can all do to help hedgehogs:

  • Create a log pile that will offer shelter and food.
  • Cover drains or deep holes.
  • Avoid using pesticides and slug pellets in your garden, not only can these harm hedgehogs but also damage their food chain. Use organic methods instead.
  • Make sure hedgehogs have easy access to your garden. Ensure boundary fences or walls have a 13cm x 13cm gap in the bottom to allow hedgehogs to pass through.
  • Keep a corner of your garden wild to offer shelter, protection and natural food for hedgehogs and other wildlife.
  • Encourage hedgehogs into your garden, but you should never just move one in from another area, as it may well have a nest of dependent young that you would be condemning to death.
  • Provide a shallow dish of fresh water for all wildlife, and food such as hedgehog food, meaty cat or dog food or cat biscuits for hedgehogs, especially during long dry spells.
  • Make or buy a hedgehog home (see plans), this offers a hibernation site safe from predators in the winter. It may also be used as a nesting box for a mother and her hoglets in the warmer months.
  • Check areas thoroughly for hedgehogs and other wildlife before strimming or mowing.
  • Keep pea netting 22-30cms (9 – 12”) off the ground so hedgehogs can pass under
    and plants will grow to the netting.
  • Dispose of litter responsibly. Every year hedgehogs are injured by litter and starve to death by getting trapped in discarded rubbish.
  • Bonfires offer a tempting home for a hedgehog. Ideally collected materials should be re-sited just before the fire is to be lit, if this is not possible, the base should be lifted up with poles or broom handles (not a fork!) and a torch shone in to look for any wildlife or pets in need of rescue before lighting.
  • Hedgehogs are good swimmers but can become trapped in ponds or pools with
    sheer sides. Keep water levels topped up, provide a gently sloping edge if possible or place half submerged rocks in the water as an escape for them.
  • Finally, take care on the roads, hedgehogs are nocturnal so are often seen out at
    night. A hedgehog’s natural defence mechanism is to roll into a ball – this is no
    match for a motor vehicle.

British Hedgehog Preservation Society Chief Executive, Fay Vass, said 
“Our gardens take up such a lot of habitat, and by getting together with neighbours to ensure hedgehogs have access points and hedgehog friendly features in the garden, we can open up a really useful amount of habitat for them.  You could become a Hedgehog Champion for your area at Hedgehog Street – a project run by BHPS and our partners People’s Trust for Endangered Species.  Join 70,000 Champions by signing up at www.hedgehogstreet.org – there’s even a Hedgehog Street app you can download from The App Store or Google Play!”

 

New Environmental Foamstream System

The University’s Grounds Team have purchased a new piece of equipment with the environment in mind. The water based foamstream system deals with moss, algae and weeds without the use of chemicals.

It is proving particularly useful in the historic listed landscape of Reed Hall as there is no risk of damaging the stonework.

The photos below show some of our staff using the new foamstream equipment and the difference achieved in the treated areas.

Grounds staff using the new foamstream equipment

Reed Hall gardens – before the foamstream application

Reed Hall gardens – after the foamstream application

Reed Hall stonework – before the foamstream application

Reed Hall stonework – after the foamstream application

 

Creative Upcycling – Bird Boxes, Bat Boxes and Bug Hotels

Our Grounds Sports Team based at Topsham Sports Ground have been busy making bird boxes and bat boxes from spare wooden palettes. These have been put up around the grounds in time for the bird nesting season and the excess ones will be sold at our plant sales.

Bird and bat boxes upcycled from wooden pallets

If that wasn’t impressive enough, the Grounds Sports Team have also created a bug hotel upcycled from a tree that fell during the recent storms.

Bug hotel upcycled from a fallen tree

What fantastic sustainability initiatives, well done to all our creative Grounds Sports Team.

Pumpkins!

Wow what beauties………………

We are very proud of these pumpkins we have grown on campus as a green initiative trial to help with weed control at our green waste site.

Not only has the trial been successful, but we can now have a pumpkin carving competition for Halloween!

 

 

Successful initiative; growing our own cut flowers for bouquets and floral displays

We are delighted to announce that the Grounds team are now successfully growing our own cut flowers at the Estate Services Centre Nursery, which are used for the fabulous bouquets and beautiful floral displays on campus.

This initiative from our talented Nursery and Floristry staff means that we are reducing our carbon footprint, working within our sustainability practices and reducing costs.

We have received excellent positive feedback from our customers, who really embrace the unique personal touch that the displays and bouquets now give as the flowers are grown in-house on our estate.

Photos below show the journey for this initiative; starting from the newly built raised bed right through to a beautiful floral display created with our in-house grown cut flowers.

Newly built raised bed for the cut flowers

Raised bed planted

Wow look at the raised bed now!

Some of the cut flowers which will be used in our bouquets and floral displays

Some of the cut flowers which will be used in our bouquets and floral displays

 

Floral display with our in-house grown cut flowers

 

The end result! A beautiful floral display with our in-house grown cut flowers