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Poor Old Ivy

Ivy has a bad name. Many folk believe that it is a damaging parasite that should be removed from our trees. Unfortunately, this is mostly incorrect. Poor Old Ivy is not a parasite. It has its own root system penetrating the soil, from which it gains all its water and nutrients. To help it climb, it also has adventitious roots equipped with small suckers that it uses to cling to its host tree but they do not penetrate the bark. Ivy is just using the tree as a ladder to climb up from the forest floor towards the light and it does not strangle the tree in the process.

For the tree there are some downsides: the extra weight of the ivy on the branches of the tree and the windage of its foliage, which can act like a sail. A healthy tree can normally accommodate these extra loads but in exceptionally fierce weather, or in the case of a diseased tree, damage may occur. In addition, vigorous ivy growth around the tree trunk can produce a localised damp microclimate in which fungal growth can thrive. Tree Inspections become difficult with possible hazards being hidden from sight.
Ivy can grow extremely rapidly, especially on buildings where there is no competing foliage. In a three-year project carried out by English Heritage in conjunction with Oxford University, to determine the true effects of ivy on buildings, the findings were positive. The study showed that ivy covered walls kept the inside of the building 15% warmer in the winter compared to other parts of the structure. In summer, the reverse was the case. The walls were recorded to be 36% cooler!
Ivy also helps to protect and preserve walls from frost, salt and pollution. The only time ivy is not beneficial and should be removed is on buildings that have existing structural damage or crumbling lime mortar because the ivy will creep into cracks and crevices, expanding with growth and increasing the damage and instability.
Value to wildlife
The plant also provides nest sites and shelter for insects, birds, bats and other small mammals. It is an important food plant for some butterfly and moth larvae such as holly blue, small dusty wave, angle shades and swallow-tailed moth.

Due to its autumn flowering, the ivy provides one of the latest sources of pollen, nectar and berries for insects and birds when little else is available.  Many insects including, but not limited to, honey bees, wasps, hornets, hoverflies, bumblebees, small tortoiseshells, peacock butterflies and red admirals rely on ivy’s nectar source to survive the late Autumn season. The nectar is an essential part of the ecosystem, providing the reserves needed by the adult red admiral butterfly to hibernate over-winter whilst the high fat content of the berries provides a nutritious food resource for redwings, fieldfares and our resident thrushes as well as blackcaps, blackbirds and wood pigeons. In total the plant can support at least 50 different species of wildlife throughout the year.

Human Health and Welfare
Ivy is known for its many health benefits, as it reduces mould and improves air quality.  This is a well-recognised topic at the moment due to a rise in people having respiratory problems. According to NASA, ivy is one of the top air purifying plants, removing toxins like
•        Benzene
•        Formaldehyde
•        Xylene
•        Toulene
Mythology and Symbolism
Ivy is commonly associated with Christmas, along with its counterpart Holly. As evergreen species, both plants were used to ‘ward off evil spirits’, with sprigs being picked and brought inside to keep house goblins at bay. It has also been a tradition to place a sprig of ivy within a bride’s bouquet, as it is thought that ivy symbolises fidelity, loyalty and support within a marriage.

Wearing a wreath of ivy leaves around the head was once said to prevent one from getting drunk. The Roman god Bacchus, the god of intoxication, was often depicted wearing a wreath of ivy and grapevines. Ivy was also a symbol of intellectual achievement in ancient Rome and wreaths were used to crown winners of poetry contests. Wreaths were also given to winning athletes in ancient Greece.
Think very, very carefully about the benefits of ivy before you decide whether to remove it.
Glynn Jones,

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Looking at National Landscapes

The Glover Review promoted a shared Landscapes Service to give a bigger voice to the National Landscapes – designated National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs). In case this becomes a reality, we are looking at other National Parks and AONBs in the UK in order to build links with them and their ‘Friends of’ groups. Join us as we begin this series by looking at Chichester Harbour.

Photo by Jeremy Bacon

Chichester Harbour AONB is a large natural harbour to the southwest of the city of Chichester on the river Solent. It is one of the few remaining undeveloped coastal areas in Southern England and remains relatively wild. Its wide expanses and intricate creeks are a major wildlife haven and among some of Britain’s most popular boating waters.

The harbour and surrounding land is managed by Chichester Harbour Conservancy. Its duty is the conservancy, maintenance and improvement of the Harbour and the Amenity Area for recreation and leisure, nature conservation and natural beauty. It is the statutory Harbour Authority and is responsible for the safety of navigation, the regulation of moorings, works and dredging, enforcement of harbour byelaws and the collection of dues and charges.

Harbour Dues paid by yachtsmen meet the cost of running the harbour, maintaining the navigation marks, controlling works and dredging and enforcing the byelaws.  Mooring charges meet the cost of maintaining and administering Conservancy moorings and mooring sites and contribute to the cost of running the Harbour.  Other income pays for environmental work such as tree planting, recording and surveying wildlife, footpath maintenance, providing information about the area and running the Education Centre.

Chichester Harbour is of national and international importance for landscape and nature conservation and is a special place for wildlife. A wide variety of animals, birds and other creatures live in and around the Harbour – some are very easy to spot, whereas others may be hidden in the intertidal mud or in the water, making them less obvious. 

Supporting the Conservancy, the Friends of Chichester Harbour was founded in 1987 as a focus for voluntary effort in the harbour, and to try to involve more people. The objectives of the new group were simple, “to provide a focus for and to encourage the development of voluntary activities in Chichester Harbour and its amenity area”. Initially, the emphasis was on practical work with the occasional social activity, such as boat trips and walks – a long way from the high-profile fund-raising organisation that now exists.

For example, the Friends of Chichester Harbour’s ‘Return of the Tern: Nature Recovery on the Southern Coastal Plain’ project has been awarded a grant of £182,300 from the Government’s £40 million second round of the Green Recovery Challenge Fund.

The project will focus on nature recovery along the south coast. It will also head inland west and east along wildlife corridors, to the foot of the South Downs. Placement of nine new tern rafts with remote-operated CCTV cameras at strategic harbour points is included in the project as well as conducting a small fish survey and reshingling Stakes Island and Ella Nore Spit and the appointment of a nature recovery officer.

Photo by Jeremy Bacon