Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Abraham Wood, Boars Hill, 19th January 2019

We met on Boars Hill for our meeting today,
Donning scarves, hats and gloves for it was cold, wet and grey.
Perfect weather, in fact, to be a green gym dodger
Yet 16 of us turned out, including new member, Roger.

Loaded up with equipment we went to Abraham Wood,
The dreaming spires shrouded in mist – the view wasn’t too good.
Today was Margaret’s turn to lead our session
Along with OPT’s Rachel, keen to make some progression.

The woodland had been transformed, with the laurel nearly beat
Thanks to a grant from Network Rail on the Trust’s balance sheet.
On reaching our base Rachel stood before an old oak tree
To give us our tasks, of which there were three:

The first was the paths: to rake and make them clear
So on either side bluebells and garlic can germinate without fear.
This should make for a pleasant wander through the bowers
And walkers won’t inadvertently stray, trampling precious wildflowers.

The second – the most strenuous – was to dig up pesky bamboo
If we keep at it, bit by bit, we’ll surely break through.
Those brave of us to participate in this backbreaking task
Most deserved their biscuits at break time, and tea from the flask.

The third involved 'copparding' the many stands of hazel
This was something we'd done before, but it required a re-appriasal.
The purpose is to promote new growth but deter the nibbling of muntjac deer
Thus weaving donuts around the stems was the aim of each volunteer.

As usual, everyone worked diligently right throughout the wood
The clear instructions ensured that the importance of each job was well understood.
That the weather was lousy hardly seemed to matter
We were happy to make progress here and have a good natter.

By 12:30pm we downed tools and back to our cars we retreated,
Our first session of the year, successfully completed.
Jarn mound will be the venue as we gather again next time
Another week, another blog, but perhaps not in rhyme!
-Joanna and Andrew





We met on Boars Hill for our meeting today,
Donning scarves, hats and gloves for it was cold, wet and grey.


Loaded up with equipment we went to Abraham Wood,
The dreaming spires shrouded in mist – the view wasn’t too good.

On reaching our base Rachel stood before an old oak tree
To give us our tasks, of which there were three.

The woodland had been transformed, with the laurel nearly beat
Thanks to a grant from Network Rail on the Trust’s balance sheet.

The first task was the paths: to rake and make them clear
So on either side bluebells and garlic can germinate without fear.



Those brave of us to participate in the bamboo task
Most deserved their biscuits at break time, and tea from the flask.


'Copparding' one of the many stands of hazel. This was something we'd done before, but it required a re-appriasal.


Copparding will promote hazel re-growth but deter the nibbling of muntjac deer
Thus weaving donuts around the stems was the aim of each volunteer.

The most strenuous task was to dig up pesky bamboo
If we keep at it, bit by bit, we’ll surely break through.







By 12:30pm we downed tools and back to our cars we retreated,
Our first session of the year, successfully completed.


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

AGM, 12th January 2019

In advance of our outdoor sessions for 2019, The Green Gym AGM was held in the Perry Room of the All Saints Church on Appleford Drive.  We assembled here as we have at the beginning of January for the past couple of years, with current chairman Kevin overseeing proceedings.

On the agenda were the usual discussions relating to our activities over the past year, our intended sessions for the coming year, as well as the financial report (comprehensively compiled by treasurer Sally again) plus any new tools and equipment required.

The only change to the committee from 2018 was the appointment of James as programme co-ordinator, taking over from Eleanor who had held the post for many years. Later, we presented Eleanor with a card and some flowers to thank her for her hard work for over a decade. She confessed that the role had worn her down eventually, so James can't complain that he hasn't been warned!

The meeting continued for just shy of two hours, with the usual mix of keen discussion and mild controversy. The perennial issue of the glove bag and its contents was left unresolved, but otherwise it appeared that everyone was largely happy with the various outcomes. 

Afterwards we sauntered across the street to Kevin and Carolyn's house and  assembled our buffet lunch with all members contributing food. There we met our newest recruit - springer spaniel, Jim!

After Eleanor's presentation and the raising of a toast to the year ahead, we tucked in to a veritable smorgasbord of delights. One particular highlight (Eleanor's meringues aside) was Ursula's super grain salad - based on a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe. This went down very well indeed. Considerable interest was registered in the dish, and the recipe was therefore supplied and has been reproduced below.

This Saturday we will be meeting up on Boars Hill to work off all the calories.
-Andrew




On the agenda.

Luncheon is served!

Jim and Kevin.

The recipe that Ursula provided for her super grains salad.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Christmas Meal, 15th December 2018

In recent years we have enjoyed our Christmas meal at the Merry Miller pub in Cothill.  This year was no exception, the difference being that there was no session at the nearby fen beforehand.  Instead we assembled in our clean clothes, a week later than the same occasion last year. The idea was to take a leisurely stroll around another local nature reserve, Dry Sandford pit in advance of lunch.

Upon meeting in the pub car park, the day took rather a soggy turn. As the rain lashed down, anoraks and wellies were donned and umbrellas brandished. While a minority took refuge in their cars, the hardy remainder began their stroll up the road to the pit. We were lucky to have an expert on hand - Alison Muldal of Natural England and supervisor of many a Green Gym session over the years. Alison imparted her broad knowledge of the fenland environment and a little of the wider habitat upon the group as we took our tour around this former quarry. 

We have worked at this site before - under the direction of the Oxfordshire Geology Trust. During this occasion, back in 2013, we carefully removed vegetation from the old quarry faces in order to expose the sedimentary rock formations. The whole area was once a tropical sea - hard to believe during the cold winter weather, but the evidence is there with shells and many fossil remains from this era. Nowadays, solitary bees and wasps along with rabbits are more likely to be resident than coral and exotic crustaceans.

The walk lasted an hour or so, before we made our way to the pub to commence festivities. There we met with our rain-dodging comrades and a few other latecomers. The first drink was provided courtesy of the group's coffers, thus an orderly queue was formed at the bar before taking our seats. Kevin and Carolyn arrived last of all, bringing the headcount up to sixteen. They also brought some crackers, which injected a sense of seasonal jollity. Kevin then gave his chairman's speech, thanking everyone for their hard work throughout the year. The food arrived a little later and was of the usual high quality that we have come to expect from this establishment.

We wended our merry way home from the Merry Miller in the early afternoon and will reconvene back in Abingdon for the AGM on 12th January 2019.
-Andrew



A soggy start to the walk.

At the pit.

Information board.

Alison talks about the fen habitat from an appropriate spot.

Burrowing into the past.

Homes for solitary bees.

A scene from a wintry walk.

Candle snuff fungus.

A tangle of mossy branches.

Our chairman gives his pre-lunch speech.

Alison complete with novelty Christmas cracker 'tache.

Time to tuck in!


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!
-Joanna



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.

Teamwork.

On it like a Clustered Bonnet fungi.

Lesley with some Christmas wreath-making materials.

The gogglebox.