Are spiders afraid of conkers?

I doubt there’s a spider enthusiast who is not familiar with enquiries about how to keep spiders out of the house. It hardly needs to be pointed out that spider-lovers are the last people who should be asked such a question – indeed, many would probably be interested in how to make spiders come into a house, if such a thing were possible. House spiders can be every bit as interesting as those outside, and a lot easier to observe. I shall not deny the excitement I experienced when I rediscovered the spitting spider, Scytodes thoracica in my house, nearly twenty years after I had last seen one. With such fascinating creatures willing to share one’s home, how anyone could want to have fewer spiders indoors is sometimes hard for me to appreciate. But to pass as a responsible member of society it is sometimes necessary to maintain a certain abstraction, and thus to entertain queries from those who don’t have the same enthusiasm for spiders. Continue reading Are spiders afraid of conkers?

Review: Hi-Tec Trek Plus Activity Tracker

These days I’m out and about a bit, so I got myself a fitness tracker from Hi Tec to see how that worked. I had a rival tracker last year for a while (Misfit Shine), but eventually gave up with it, as it wouldn’t communicate with my phone in any meaningful way. So with a new year, I decided to make a new start – and strapped on the Hi-Tec Trek Plus Activity Tracker.

The wearables market is a crowded one, with a whole load of different companies vying for the attention – and the money – of those comfortable, techie middle-class folk who like to imagine exercise is downloadable. Now I’m not a great one for exercise for its own sake – but I do sometimes get to do some exercise in the course of my work. And I don’t just mean pushing that heavy, heavy mouse around. I was interested to see how the Activity Tracker dealt with that.

It’s now been two months, so it’s time for me to report back.

Continue reading Review: Hi-Tec Trek Plus Activity Tracker

The Ranger re-booted

I’m hoping to spend a lot more time out patrolling the countryside this year, and so I have been on the lookout for a new pair of boots. And given the wet winter we have had, I’ve been looking quite hard at the Hi-Tec waterproof range. So these last few weeks I’ve been testing out a nice new pair of Hi-Tec Altitude Pro walking boots. Are they just stylish weekend hiker-clogs; or reliable workhorses? My old plates have been finding out. Continue reading The Ranger re-booted

Back to rangering for me: joining Gift to Nature

I’m being outsourced. The Isle of Wight Council can’t pay for a full countryside service any more, so some time early in 2016, I’m taking a load of the council’s countryside sites, one of my colleagues, and a lot of optimism off to work for a small Island charity called Gift to Nature. Yes, it’s finally happening, I’m going back to countryside management.

During my time at the Isle of Wight Council I’ve always been countryside manager, but I’ve also variously managed (as well as countryside) parks, beaches, allotments, rights of way, estuaries, AONB, protected trees, ecology, village greens and more. All of these have taught me a lot and – on the whole –  been great to do. But actually, I started as a ranger and that’s what I like best. So I’m very pleased to be going back to it.

Rangers and volunteer working on Brading Down LNR, Isle of Wight
Ranger and volunteer working on Brading Down LNR, Isle of Wight

Continue reading Back to rangering for me: joining Gift to Nature

Angry acid-spitting creatures in Parkhurst Forest

The refurbished red squirrel hide at Parkhurst Forest was launched this weekend by Gift to Nature. I was there to take a guided walk and also a group of children from Hunnyhill Primary School round and show them the hide, plus a few other things!

I promised that I’d show the visitors angry acid-spitting animals – and I did! Parkhurst has some suitably irate wood ants, and by teasing them with a bit of litmus paper on a stick we could demonstrate that they genuinely do spit acid.  Continue reading Angry acid-spitting creatures in Parkhurst Forest

Save living wildlife from the Natural History Museum

by Rowan Adams, the Climate-friendly Gardener

Yes, you read that right. Please help to save living wildlife not just at the Natural History Museum, but from the Natural History Museum

Well, to be more precise, living wildlife at the museum needs saving from some plans proposed by people at the top of the museum. I took this photo on Midsummer Day, 24 June, when I was there for the Wildlife Gardening Forum’s conference on soil biodiversity in the garden. How sad that on the autumn equinox I would be signing a petition to save the garden. Continue reading Save living wildlife from the Natural History Museum

Unemployed will have to do community work under Tories, says Cameron

All 18- to 21-year-olds who have failed to find a job or a place in training would no longer be able to claim jobseeker’s allowance under a Tory government, but would instead be forced to undertake community work, says David Cameron

Every single time I’ve been working during a change of government of any party, the idea of “putting the unemployed to work” in the countryside or parks has come along. And almost every time it has gone wrong. There are two reasons why, and they are always the same:

1) Politicians assume that work in the countryside or parks is unskilled and generic and so anyone can do it. They can’t. Most outdoor work requires a certain level of skill and ability. So when wholly unskilled people turn up to do such work, they soon run out of things they can usefully do. This is the case with quite a lot of other types of job, too.

2) To deliver this kind of project in any sector requires lots of input from people who actually know what they are doing; e.g. trainers, supervisors and managers. If you don’t provide them, the workers – who in this scenario might not even want to be there – won’t do anything useful, or might even cause more harm than good. You can’t just roll up in a van and work will magically appear in front of you. Someone has to plan it, get tools, and make sure it’s safe; before explaining what to do and making sure it’s done right.

Unfortunately many of the very people who could organise and supervise this kind of work in the outdoor industries – the rangers, the park keepers and the youth workers have either been laid off or contracted out. So I guess that work will be going to private firms. So if this does go ahead, maybe we should take the money that would be paid to those firms, and pay it to local councils to support the work with their existing staff. That’s another way to keep people away from unemployment!

The benefits of peat-free compost

The UK currently uses three million cubic metres of peat per annum for horticulture.  69% of this is used by amateur gardeners and 30% by professional growers.  As peat is effectively a non-renewable resource, the extraction of peat for horticulture is unsustainable, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and damage to rare habitats and archaeology. (DEFRA source)

So, what to do? For a start, you can choose peat-free for your own garden. Read on to see how – and why.
The benefits of Peat Free Compost - Compost Direct