Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Winter 2019 Programme

Our new programme for Winter 2019 has now been published. See below or click HERE to open a larger pdf version (opens in a separate window).

Cothill Fen, 8th December 2018

For our last session of the year, we met at the car park opposite the Merry Miller pub – the venue for our Christmas lunch next weekend – and made our way down the path armed with hard hats, bow saws and loppers to Cothill Fen. The session was led by Kevin, with Judy Webb from Natural England instructing us with the morning’s tasks.

As we came upon the fen, it was quickly apparent what a change had taken place since the last time we were here at the end of September. Natural England volunteers had done a huge amount of scything of brambles and general clearing and Adrian had built two reed causeways across the fen, which had filled out nicely with water. The original National Trust post from 1916 had also been rediscovered and placed next to the gate onto the fen.

In a change from our usual fen-work, there was no raking today. Instead we were to stick to the boundaries on both sides of the wet area continuing to cut back the hazel coppices, holly and other growth. It was also discovered there was a spindle tree which might be allowed to flower given enough light.

It turned out to be quite a hair-raising first half, with tall growths of hazel being cut down, and ‘timber!’ shouted at regular intervals. Thank goodness for our hard hats! But then: disaster. When chopping down a coppice next to the spindle tree, the spindle itself fell sideways and it was discovered it was rotten at its base. With a half cut tree next to a precariously balanced spindle, Judy stood guard to warn walkers of the impending danger until help could arrive in the form of Judy’s colleague, Steph.

We had a lovely tea break, where Kevin presented recently engaged Andrew and Joanna with a card. Very touching! After some considerable wedding talk, we then set to work, mainly on the other side of the fen, to further clear coppices and undergrowth to make way for wild flowers. There we discovered King Alfred’s Cake, yellow stagshorn and clustered bonnet fungi, plus a medium-sized frog was spotted in the leaf litter. Judy was pleased we’d piled together the dead wood as it provides vital habitats to insects, which means more birds. She pointed out that in any woodland about half the wood should be dead, as 90% of the biodiversity lives in that wood.

Sunshine broke out intermittently through the clouds during the course of the morning, and it was only as we arrived back at our cars that a gentle patter of rain started up. All in all, a great last session to the year!

Meeting in the car park.

Joanna completes her membership form.

The recovered National Trust post.

Judy makes a point.

Lesley cuts the coppiced trees into sections.

Graham fells.

Disaster strikes!!

The ever more open fen.

What a drag! Kevin rearranges base camp in order to remain a safe distance from the dangerous tree.

The precariously balanced trees.

Tea, coffee and grapes.

Carolyn coordinates January's AGM buffet contributors at break time.

The medium-sized frog makes a cameo appearance.

Bare trees and ivy.

King Alfred's Cakes.

Yellow Stagshorn fungi.

Dieuwke has stacks to do.

Not loud but brash.


On it like a Clustered Bonnet fungi.

Lesley with some Christmas wreath-making materials.

The gogglebox.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Frilford Heath Golf Course, 1st December 2018

There was barely a golfer in sight this rainy morning, proving the 15 green gymmers that turned out for today’s session back at the fen within Frilford Heath Golf Course are a much hardier species! James led the session along with the project manager, Rod d’Ayala and Alison Muldal and Judy Webb from Natural England. We made our way from the meeting point laden with rakes, pitchforks and other equipment where Rod was already to be found raking.

The morning’s task was to continue the good work from the last session - raking the cut reeds and sedge that had been taking over in the calcium rich ground of the calcareous fen into the stream that runs through the site. The purpose of this is twofold: to raise the stream bed, enabling the water to spread out over the fen, and also to rot down in the water, the bacteria from this process converting the nitrate to nitrogen. Clearing the reeds and sedge makes way for rare species such as Grass of Parnassus, Devil's-bit Scabious, Narrow-leaved Marsh Orchid and Marsh Helleborine to thrive in this unique habitat.

There’s always the risk of ‘soggy foot’ when working at the fenland sites, and on this occasion it was Andrew who went in over his boot in the first half of the session. There’s always one!

By tea break we had made considerable progress and Rod was very pleased, saying with all the work that’s been done over the last few years we’ve taken the site back to how it would have looked eighty years ago before trees started encroaching. He gave a rallying cry, encouraging us to keep up the good work.

The second half of the session was mostly spent tidying up twigs and branches from the fenland, to make it easier for raking next time in the spring, and also consolidating the piles of branches from previous sessions. We’d made such good progress that we were able to finish half an hour early. There was no sighting of the medium-sized frog on this occasion but we found a cluster of earth star fungi and made our way back to the car park happy with our work.

Photos by Andrew and Joanna:

Car boots and wellie boots.

More Green Gymmers than golfers out on the course.

Instructions are issued.

Carolyn gets stuck in.

The Goblet.

Piles of cut reeds awaiting the rake.

Preparing to work or perhaps rehearsing some dance moves?

A proliferation of Collared Earth Stars.

Andrew and the soggy wellie incident.

Water spilling out onto the fen now that the stream has been dammed and filled with cut reeds.

Velvet Shank.

Rod issues his rallying cry.

Carolyn and Kevin had the most important detail of the session.

A pile of cut vegetation shuffles across the fen.

Joanna taking her responsibilities very seriously.

Is it home time yet?

Pink is the new green.

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 24th November 2018

It was drizzling when we met in the car park at the Town End of Ock Path, thirteen green gymmers ready to work a session led by Sally. Thankfully, by the time we’d carried the tools and equipment to our usual spot on the river bank, the rain had cleared and Sally split us into three groups: the planters, the prospectors and the progressives.

The planters were to clear areas between the pathways using the mattocks for wild bulb planting. Eleanor had brought along a variety of native English bulbs, including wood anemones, wild garlic and bluebells.

The prospectors were the litter pickers. They set off with recycling and bin bags towards the Drayton Road end of the path, where most litter seems to be thrown. And if we had been prospecting for gold we’d have been millionaires after the first half of the session as there were rich pickings indeed: a large plastic paddling pool, road traffic cone that had to be hauled out of the river, shopping basket on wheels (nearly new), a whole bike (in a sorry state), a push chair, bits of clothing, and a small mountain of cans and bottles, plus the usual sweet wrappers, fast food containers and other bits and pieces, including someone’s bank card which had expired in 2002!

In the meantime, the progressives set to clearing leaves and other debris from the paths along the Ock river, making sure they’re nicely delineated and easy to walk along.

After a busy first half of the session it was back to our spot for refreshments with a delicious coffee cake made by Eleanor and biscuits. Notices were given and Margaret brought to our attention a concert her choir were giving the following day.

In the second half of the session, we continued with our various tasks. At the town end of the Ock Path we found a whole fake plastic Christmas tree in the undergrowth, replete with baubles and ho-ho-ing santa which must have been dumped there last winter. We bagged it up and took it to Drayton Road, ready for collection by the council with the rest of the rubbish.

By the end of the session much progress had been made and we set off for home, happy and with thanks from many appreciative passers by.

Photos by Andrew and Joanna (and Petra - last two photos):

The pre-session gathering.

Sally proposes her three P's.

Evidence of the planters.

Graham the progressive in action!

A pair of planters.

Andrew prospects.

Eleanor's coffee cake.

Eleanor addresses the Green Gym public at the break.

Ho ho ho? Littering ought to be a definite NO NO NO!

A pair of shrooms.

Further along the path.

A trio of progressives.

A millionaires' litter pick.

A discarded push chair.

...and an owl motif shopping trolley!