Godshill Model Village

by Richard Jones

We've been going to the Isle of Wight for several years now and it's a great place for the kids. It's also a great place for gardens and one of all our favourites is at the Godshill Model Village.

Moleshill Model VillageWe've been going to the Isle of Wight for several years now and it's a great place for the kids. It's also a great place for gardens and one of all our favourites is at the Godshill Model Village.

I remember being fascinated by the place when I was first taken as a small child, back in the 1960s. Whilst my own children are now marvelling at the wonders of microscopic creation revealed in the row of tiny shops or the working model railway, my attention has moved on and I'm entranced by the 2500 or so semi-bonsai topiary trees. Many are sculpted into bobble 'cloud' shapes or manicured to form miniature hedges and climbers around the intricate buildings. They really make the place a magical world and produce a series of spectacular vistas to complement the models.

 Marble galls, caused by gall wasp Andricus kollariAs I wander through this remarkable Lilliput my attention is caught by what seem huge wooden orbs in the tiny oaks surrounding the football pitch. Of course, regular cutting keeps the trees small, and the twisted branches tight; even the leaves are dwarfed. However, the marble galls, the smooth round growths caused by tiny gall 'wasps' Andricus kollari, are exactly the same size as usual, no matter that the trees are only one metre rather than 30 metres high. Against the backdrop of miniaturized people, buildings and landscape, they seem overly large, but this is just an optical illusion.

There is a stark contrast between the Model Village garden and my own. The former is intensively managed - weeded, clipped, tidied, mulched and tilled virtually every day - while mine is downright messy. My garden will never be opened to the public, but there are a lot more hidey places for wildlife. I've just checked through my homepage at the RSPB Homes for Wildlife (HFW) site and I've now managed to chalk up 15 of my 124 target actions. These are mostly by the simple expedient of not cutting the grass, not winter deadheading, clearing out the pond when I repaired it and by having more than my fair share of thickets.

The thickets are obviously paying off. The densest is our tree of Oven's wattle, Acacia pravissima, now a huge impenetrable cushion of yellow flowers dominating the end of the garden. Part of the HFW scheme is a series of garden surveys and I've had more luck with April birds than during the one-off survey earlier in the year. House sparrows, blackbirds and starlings regularly hide in it and the foliage and flowers are dense enough to hide them from the prying cats. There are still two more weeks to run, but I've already had double figures (just) for sparrows.

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Gardeners' World Web User 21/05/2008 at 11:21

The marble galls undoubtedly distract some nutrients away from the plant. There is an argument that galls are some form of damage limitation on the part of the plants. Better to contain the herbivore rather than let it rampage all over the place doing damage to the much more important growing tips and developing stems. The larger soft pinkish galls also found on oak are the true 'oak apples', caused by a similar tiny gall wasp Biorhiza pallida. They will eventually harden and turn brown after their occupants have fed and left.

Gardeners' World Web User 28/11/2011 at 18:31

I often wondered what these knobs on my oaks trees were? Are they causing any damage? What about the squidgy pink ones I can find at the moment?