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!

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!

The Mighty Oak Award!

All members of the Grounds Team took part in a new Mighty Oak Award knock-out competition in 2021 which ran for eight months until the winner was declared. The competition included questions on health and safety, horticulture, arboriculture and some unusual statistics in the industry!

The competition helped improve working relationships, highlighted the combined horticultural and arboricultural knowledge and expertise of the team and also showed the competitive nature of some of the team members!

The award trophy was created in-house from felled timber on campus, which not only made it sustainable, personal but also free!

Mighty Oak Award 2021 trophy

Marcus, the proud winner of the Mighty Oak Award 2021

 

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!

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!”