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.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Cothill Fen, 21st July 2018

We were a team of 11 for this sunny morning at Cothill Fen. We made our way from the meet point to site which is about a 10 minute walk in woodland.  After making base and having our intro talk from Judy Webb on what we were to be doing, most of the crew began by raking up and relocating cut material from the edge of the fen bordering parsonage moor, some started the task of moving logs from the south end of the fen up to the north east end to prepare for damming the ditch.  

While we raked and moved logs, local pond expert Rod D’Ayala arrived and started on the task of damming up the ditch that runs along the from north east to south east of the fen. This is to aid in filtering the water of contaminants from local farmland and redistributing cleaner water to dryer places in the fen that need to be made wetter. All this activity lasted until tea break – a welcome break where we were treated to cake!

After tea the next activity was to cut down growth on stumps from previously felled trees which fulfils a number of benefits – the main reason is to stop the stumps re-growing, it also allows easier strimming of the area later in the season.  The cut growth from the stumps was used to fill the ditch being dammed.

Ditch Damming was a big job and continued after our GG time was up although good progress was made. At 12:30pm we gathered our tools and made our way back to the meet point to disperse homeward for a well earned rest!

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Mill Road, Marcham, 28th July 2018

This Saturday was a return visit to Marcham for further efforts to clear the himalayan balsam. This was not originally on the programme, but instead down as TBA with arrangements made in the interim.

We met by the barn where we used to enjoy our coffee breaks and watch the house martins nesting in the spring. Unfortunately the barn has had an upgrade, with new doors and windows - to be put to a more useful purpose that we can only guess at.  This means we now take our kit with us to where a kind person has dedicated a bench to a chap who died a few years ago.  He must have enjoyed the spot next to the stream.  A good choice, and it is here that we have to cross to get at the balsam.

The stream water level was low which hadn't been the case a few month ago when waders would have been required!  But now it easy to paddle across in wellies, while being careful of the silt that had gathered at the edge - as some of the first to go across found out.  It could easily seep over the top of the wellies, much to our amusement when this happened.

The dry weather had hardened the ground, needing extra effort to pluck the balsam out with roots and all. This meant that there was enough to keep us going for the session.  It was a cooler day than the last few weeks, with a gusty wind and this made for more pleasant working conditions.

Break time saw us eagerly heading for the bench.  Once convened, James informed us that a branch had fallen down very near his head caused by the wind!  Furthermore, heading our way we noticed some ominous dark clouds! With the wind getting up and the imminent prospect of getting soaked, a decision was made to have a quick break and head home. But before we could achieve this we had to scurry to the shelter of some trees to keep dry, carrying our precious coffee and biscuits.

By the time we had finished our break the storm had passed, so changing our mind we continued until our usual deadline, meaning we could work off that extra biscuit(s) we shouldn't have had!

There was a great turn out of eighteen and we left some good-sized piles of plucked balsam.

The balsam with seeds ready to burst and be carried downstream.

Janet commencing to do battle with the Balsam!

Eleanor relishing the prospect of a good workout on the Balsam!

Carolyn thinking she might enter her prize balsam plant at the next flower show!

We tried to ignore it, but it wouldn't go away!

The storm tried to spoil our party, but the need for coffee and biscuits was too strong.

Satisfaction piling!

Michele leaving no prisoner?

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Update to Programme - 28th July

The venue for the Green Gym session scheduled for Saturday 28th July has now been confirmed as Manor Farm, Marcham. The main task of the day will be to continue the Himalayan Balsam pulling.  

The meeting place for this site is the car park outside Cumber's Farm Shop, Mill Road, Marcham at 9:30am.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Ock Valley Walk, Tesco End, 14th July 2018

The green gym was at the Tesco end of Ock path today for litter picking and Himalayan balsam pulling. The session leader was Sally, who briefed us on our tasks before we got to work. A small group went to fish a trolley out of the stream as well.

It was another hot and sunny day, so we tried to stick to the shade. We returned to the field we visited on June 23rd - first to try and get the Himalayan balsam removed. The litter picking team also had their work cut out for them and collected two full bags of rubbish! We discovered that the Ock Valley Flood Group was doing a spot of litter picking too and had already managed to get the trolley recovered.

Refreshments this week were provided by Kevin and Carolyn, including some lovely chocolate biscuits. The break in the shade was well deserved; and needed.

After break the focus was on Himalayan balsam pulling. We managed to get the ditch, most of the farmers field and other small patches cleared, and the heat means that it is not coming back as much. We didn’t manage to clear all of it, so we’ve got something to look forward to next time!