Monday, September 17, 2018

Sunningwell Green, 15th September 2018

For this session we paid another visit to Sunningwell, where we had done some work in the early Summer. The tasks arranged by Bob Evans were to do some more clearing of the pond, to weed the hedge we had planted on the Green and to clear the wildflower meadow.

James was eager to don waders and get stuck into the pond. This task was overseen by another James from Sunningwell (James Pond?) There was also a huge stack of cut willow by the pond, which needed cutting into manageable pieces and moving to the bonfire site on the Green. Graham, Margaret and I set to work on this task while the others went off to do the hedge weeding.

Gradually, the willow pile grew smaller and more weed and green gunge was pulled from the pond. The hedge weeders also had a daunting task where a lot of nettles had grown among the young hedging plants.

We were very lucky to have our tea break in Bob’s lovely garden, with delicious sausage rolls supplied by Bob’s wife Koty.
Some people had to leave after the break, including both Jameses. The remaining hedge weeders went to work on the wildflower meadow, Meanwhile, there was the remains of the willow to be cleared and piles of pond gunge to be barrowed to the Green and dumped by the boundary fence, where it would rot down.

Then it was time to pack up and we found that one of our larger rakes was missing. At last we spotted it – abandoned on the pond island, so even though we couldn’t get at it, at least we know where it is!

James wades in.

James Pond and Graham.

Margaret cuts up willow.

Working on the hedge.

Dieuwke with a barrow load.

Ursula slashes nettles.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Abbey Meadows Wild Flower Maze, 8th September 2018

The task this session was to rake up the cut vegetation from the wild flower maze in the Abbey Meadows. The maze is an initiative of Abingdon Carbon Cutters and is cared for by Lucille Savin.

Despite some early rain, the weather turned out to be dry with some sunny intervals. The wildflowers in the maze had done pretty well, considering the heat and drought of the Summer. The time for cutting and raking up had arrived and Lucille had already done and initial strim. It is important to rake the cut material off as quickly as possible so nutrients do not leach into the soil and enrich it too much. Wildflowers flourish on poor soil.

We worked hard raking and stacking, while Lucille did a second strim of the raked areas. There was also quite a bit of litter revealed, which had to be cleared. During our break, Lucille sketched out a plan for an interpretation board which would appeal to children. This might encourage them to come over from the nearby playground and search for the flora and fauna in the maze.

We carried on with the work and got most of it raked up. In all, it was a very satisfying morning and we look forward to visiting the maze next Spring and Summer.

Raking and stacking.

Lucille strimming.

Grim reaper Adrian.

Kevin depositing a load.

Tea break.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Southern Town Park, 1st September 2018

Margaret had the honour of leading this weekend's session at Southern Town Park. Our instruction was to clear the wildflower bed which we established a couple of years ago. The weather was good, starting out warm and rising to 25°C by lunchtime!

We began by collecting any wildflowers that were left and distributing them amongst us (see photos). After that, we plucked any nettles that had infiltrated into the bed. Finally we slashed back the rest of the plants and raked them into a pile away from the area. This was all pretty much achieved by break time.

After the much-needed break (we had the luxury of a solid iron park bench to serve the refreshment on and enough seating for most of us to rest and take the weight off), we were back to the usual routine of slashing and lopping down nettles and brambles that were starting to encroach upon the paths and tracks.

Then of course litter picking, filling half a dozen bags - this is about the average for this location, with no unusual items of interest!

There was one minor casualty during the session when Graham disturbed a wasps' nest in a bunch of nettles and sustained a sting to the forehead.  Treatment was administered by Carolyn with some magic ointment from our First Aid box.

Margaret detailing the jobs to do.

The flowers of our labours.

We disturbed a few of these tiny frogs and placed them well away from the work area.

Clearing the patch.

Hops. Where did they come from?

Carolyn with the prickly job of removing the brambles, hence the dainty welders gloves that we use for this purpose.

Refreshments with wide ranging conversation.

Photo by Michele.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Barton Fields, 25th August 2018

This session saw our annual visit to Barton Fields following the cutting of the wildflower meadow. It’s important to rake the cut vegetation off as quickly as possible so the nutrients don’t leach into the soil and make it too rich. Wild flowers thrive on poor soil. 

There was a big turnout, including a new recruit. A group of Scouts and their leaders from 2nd Abingdon also came along to help David Guyoncourt and the Abingdon Naturalists Green Team, who look after this site.

The weather was fine and sunny but fortunately, fairly cool. The cut vegetation had been raked into piles by the Green Team earlier in the week and our task was to transport it to the heaps at either end of the meadow, either with pitchforks, drag bags or on large sheets of plastic. 

The task looked really daunting at the start, especially as we knew there was a smaller meadow beyond, but we set to work and by break time we had achieved a lot. We found a few small toads, which had had a lucky escape and you can see a photo of one of them. The children enjoyed climbing on the heaps and jumping to squash them down. They worked very hard and willingly.

We stopped for our tea break and David had provided buns and apples to keep us going. We were surprised at how much we had cleared and we were very soon able to move on to the smaller meadow. By the end of the morning we had cleared all the piles in the meadows and met some young, potential volunteers so it was a very worthwhile morning.

Photos by Eleanor unless otherwise stated:

Young helpers from 2nd Abingdon Scouts.

Joan and Rosemary add to the heap.

New member Charles.

James at work.

Kevin and Carolyn fill a drag bag.

A loaded pitchfork.

Toadlet. Photo by Sally.

Margaret. Photo by Petra.

Photo by Michael Bloom.

Photo by David Guyoncourt.

Photo by David Guyoncourt.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Autumn 2018 Programme

Our new programme for Autumn 2018 has been published.  View below or click HERE to view/download a pdf version (opens in a new window).

Summer Picnic, Jarn Mound and Wild Garden, Boars Hill, 11th August 2018

We had our Green Gym summer picnic on Saturday with not a pair of loppers, saws or rakes in sight, although we were tempted to have a go at pulling the odd shoot of himalayan balsam!

As per the last few years we chose Jarn Mound as the venue. It is an Oxford Preservation Trust site at Boars Hill, one of our favourite work locations.

There were eighteen members attending, bringing with them a delicious selection of their mouth-watering home-cooked food. Definitely an excuse to have second or third helpings!

It seems to have become a tradition for us to build up an appetite by going for a short walk, to a well known spot looking out over the "Dreaming Spires of Oxford" made famous from a poem by Matthew Arnold. On this clear, fresh, sunny morning the view didn't disappoint.

We were well into our meal when we had the added enjoyment of the arrival of Kate with her daughter and her 6 month old twins Frankie and Eddie. They became the centre of attention, being passed around by everyone for a cuddle.

Our thanks to Carolyn for her efforts in organising the event. The great weather was an added bonus, ensuring that it was a most enjoyable picnic.

Rosie and Joan make a spirited lead.

Shady, sunken path, with glimpses of golden meadows beyond.

Cowboy Colin heading for the roundup!

Overlooking Oxford. Sign language by courtesy of Colin's hands!

The Signal Oak, which should have been the Signal Elm from the poem.
Colin manages to roundup and corralled the GG'ers for the album!

Heading back with an appetite!

The best part!

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Caldecott School, 4th August 2018

This week we were at Caldecott Forest School to rake the cut grass and add it to the compost bins, under the direction of Marion Owen from Carbon Cutters, who looks after the site. We have been here in August for several years now.

There were sixteen of us, more than expected. Marion told us the tasks – raking up the cut grass and transporting it to the compost bins, pulling up the grass from around the young trees and shrubs and raking it from under the hedge.

We had to be careful as there was clearly a wasps’ nest in one of the bins. With sixteen of us working, the grass was raked up and stacked and the areas under the trees and bushes cleared by tea break time.

Marion had brought a delicious home baked courgette and walnut cake, which we all enjoyed. The work was finished, so we packed up early. This was probably a good thing as the temperature was creeping up above 30°C.

Trying to prop up a young tree.

Pulling up grass from around the trees.

Graham raking.

Tea break – Marion cuts up the cake.