Sunday, November 3, 2019

Southern Town Park, 2nd November 2019

Several green gymmers gathered at Cothill on Saturday morning, ready for our scheduled session at the fen. However, upon arrival we discovered that both Judy and Steph from Natural England had safety concerns due to high winds and rain that had been battering the site overnight and into the morning. There was a risk of trees coming down, particularly diseased ash, and therefore the decision was made to cancel.

While obviously disappointed, we prepared to head back home and begun to let our members know - including those that were still en route. The weather did look like it was set to improve though, and just before we retreated, leader Eleanor suggested that we might instead head to Southern Town Park to tend to our wildflower patch. There might be enough work to keep a smaller group busy for a while. 

Five hardy souls thus reconvened at the Lambrick Way car park back in Abingdon to ensure that the morning was not a total write-off. Additional tools had to be fetched on the way and the tea kit had to be collected from elsewhere, but shortly after 10am we were on site and ready to go.

A couple of years ago we created and continue to tend a wildflower patch in Southern Town Park, down beyond the sports pitches. It has proved to be a big success with a spectacular display again this summer. We haven't had a session here since July though, so the vegetation was in need of cutting back and raking. Armed with slashers and rakes, we got this done fairly quickly despite our limited numbers and took great care not to disturb the local wildlife as the raked the cuttings into habitat piles around the edge.

The tea break was then enjoyed, before sowing some more seeds for next year and then moving across to the wooded area of the park to focus on some jobs there.

We split into two tiny groups, with myself, Sally and Graham cutting back brambles around the edges of the paths and while Eleanor and Margaret went off litter picking. In the space of about an hour, we succeeded in tidying up the area with brambles lopped and a worryingly large amount of litter collected and bagged up!

Hopefully the weather will be kinder next week and we can enjoy a return to our advertised autumn schedule!

Reduced in number and setting up at Southern Town Park in blustery conditions.

The wildflower patch 'before' photo.

Graham, mid-slash.

Raking havoc.

And the 'after' photo!

Sally came armed with wildflower seeds.

The rakers deserve a break.

Graham reaches for an extra biscuit.

A vole!

Sally sows the seeds.

Sally and Graham clear brambles from the edges of the paths.

Someone has been enjoying the wet weather!

Looking better for our visit.

We downed tools at 12:30pm.

Packing up.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Kennington Memorial Field, 26th October 2019

We returned to the Kennington Memorial Field on Saturday for our bi-annual session here, working with the Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT). Upon arrival, the car park by the pavilion was already full since some sporting activities on the adjacent pitches had already commenced.

Once alternative parking arrangements had been sought and found, we assembled and made our way through the gate to the field itself, ready for instruction by Lindsay Priddle from the OPT. The task of the day was to clear brambles and scrub from an area on the western edge of the site before transporting the cuttings down the hill to a bonfire. This is an ongoing process here to ensure that the encroachment upon the grassland areas is kept in check and therefore preserving this valued community asset.

A pair of OPT volunteers and several locals gathered alongside us, adding up to a total workforce of 25 or so. Armed with bow saws and loppers, most of us found a spot to begin the scrub clearance, while others got ready to load the cuttings onto tarpaulins to drag down to the site of the bonfire or alternatively to pitchfork away for burning. Adrian had come armed with his scythe again, and proved to be very efficient.

As usual, Graham was the assigned fire-starter and with the help of some seasoned logs, he had a good blaze going in no time.

Our large team of volunteers made remarkable progress during the first half and certainly earned their half-time refreshments. There had been plans to take cover in the pavilion, but the rain that had been forecast barely materialised, therefore we stayed put.  

There was some good news regarding our finances at this point - a cheque for £266 was unveiled! This was from the Abingdon branch of Waitrose as a share of the supermarket's latest 'green token' community scheme for good causes.   

We continued where we left off during the second half, with more scrub-bashing. The decision was made shortly after midday not to cut any more so that the bonfire could be wound-down towards the end of the session. The effort was then concentrated into moving the remainder of the cut material to the fire.

Another successful morning here was thus complete and we look forward to returning during the first half of next year.


Lindsay instructs the group.

Let lopping begin.

Carolyn and Margaret prepare to transport cuttings to the bonfire.

Kevin and pitchfork.

The bonfire.

The fuel to get the fire started.

Teatime conversation.

Carolyn and Rosie at the hot beverage station.

The half-time progress.

A good turnout!

The Waitrose cheque!

The second half begins.

Spindle fruit.

Graham stands guard over the bonfire.

A team effort.

A section of scrub clearance.

The little helpers (photo by Michele)

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Farmoor Reservoir, 19th October 2019

It was a stunning October day for our second visit to Farmoor Reservoir. Seventeen of us turned out for a session led by James under the aegis of warden Hanna Jenkins. As with last time, we met in the car park then drove in convoy around the reservoir itself, parking up and unloading our tools for a visit to a different meadow to last time.

Shrike meadow – so called because a shrike was once spotted here many moons ago, although never to be seen again – has been looked after by Thames Water since 2000. Our task was to chop back all the scrub and weeds to create more pasture in preparation for the five cows, currently on neighbouring Pinkhill Nature Reserve, to come over onto this field next year.

The scrub comprised mainly alder and willow of one or two years’ growth, and some very tall reeds. We had brought bow saws, loppers and scythes and started to raze them to the ground. It was definitely welly work, as quite often the water was inches deep in places.

Adrian gave those who wanted tutorials on how to use the scythes which, once you got going, was a very satisfying activity.

Before long we had lots of brash which we gathered up and moved to small piles at the end of the field. We didn’t want to make the piles too big, in case they attracted wildlife to create habitats in them as a new community group, the Friends of Farmoor Reservoir, are planning a bonfire here for Bonfire Night and would be using the scrub for burning.

The sun shone down on us for practically the whole session, and we ended up in t-shirts, despite being in the latter half of October. It was a most enjoyable session and by the end we’d made considerable progress.

Assembling at the reservoir car park.

Rosie takes a ride with Hanna.

Hanna provides instruction.

The 'before' photo.

Scything master-class.

Adrian sharpens a scythe.

Break time.

Tea, coffee and conversation.

Bird feeders in the tree.

Mushrooms underfoot.

Rosie in the bird hide.

Reflections in the pond.

Andrew in the undergrowth.

Kevin and Hanna.

Kevin raking some reeds.

Joanna wields a scythe during the second half.

Margaret partially camouflaged.

Brash ready for a bonfire.
The reservoir.

A welcome on-site toilet!