Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Manor Farm, Marcham, 8th June 2019

Fourteen of us turned out for today’s session at Manor Farm, Marcham. We parked up, gathered our tools and made our way along the edge of the barley field to set up base in the usual spot. It was extremely windy, with the water rippling across the lake and trees creaking overhead. Initially we thought it might start raining too until we were reassured that the weather was actually forecast to improve throughout the morning.

We’d been here a couple of weeks previously, so knew where the Himalayan Balsam was hiding – or not! It had sprung to great heights, and was widespread around the edges of the lake, all of which made for a very satisfying first half of the session pulling up this invasive plant. To get to these patches we had to cross the stream, and Dan managed to slip up and give himself a soaking!

After the tea break, we split up with Adrian and a few others going back along the field to pull balsam he’d found there, and the rest of us spreading out along the other side of the lake. It was harder going this time, with the main patches now having been pulled, and the remaining balsam further and fewer between and in amongst tall nettles and goosegrass or right at the water’s edge – easier to pull by standing in the stream itself.

A significant amount of balsam was later discovered towards the end of the session by Eleanor. This was along Mill Road, in the stream bed and pulling this will be the focus of our next session here.

Kevin spotted some water vole droppings – a sign of a healthy waterway – and we watched some lovely horses grazing in the field over the lane. By the end of the session the sun was out and we went home happy with our work.

Photos by Andrew (except last photo by Kevin):

Gathering in the farmyard.

Off to work we go.

Eleanor's opening speech.

The very makeshift bridge!

Rich pickings for Joanna.

Lesley and Joan on the pull.

An alder tree and the lake.

Poppies in the adjacent field.

Mug shot.

Beverages decanted.

More colourful than just a green gym.

Kevin takes to the stream.

The second half was harder going.

Some lovely horses.

Eleanor makes a late discovery.

It takes five green gymmers to fold a tarpaulin in the wind!

A damselfly in distress?

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Abbey Fishponds, 1st June 2019

It was probably the hottest day of the year for our session at Abbey Fish Ponds today, led by James, with the Earth Trust’s Lucy Duerdoth. We made our way to our spot overlooking the Abbey Fish Ponds reserve and set up camp.

Lucy gave us our tasks which were predominantly – you guessed it – Himalayan Balsam pulling, which has been being eradicated from the site for many years now. Yet there are still some patches where shoots have been missed and seeds are brought in from brooks that run through the reserve. The other main task was to dig ‘scrapes’ coming off the streams to hold water in a mosaic of pools across the site for dragon and damsel flies – all good for the ecology. There was also the job of scything reeds and raking them back from the footpath if anyone fancied that.

Lucy explained that in time the fen, which has an alkali base, will become a bog as the pH increases as mosses and other plants rot down to form layers of peat. This happens over many years, but for now it is a fen with several springs providing water to it. Dragonflies love this habitat and Andrew spent a good proportion of the session standing at the water’s edge trying (and failing!) to capture the perfect photograph of one! As well as the dragonflies and electric blue damselflies we saw butterflies, a frog and there were some beautiful orchids and ragged robin, amongst other flora and fauna.

Teabreak was a welcome respite in all the heat. James announced that we would finish the session a quarter of an hour early in order to enjoy the ‘Fun in the Park’ festival that was going on that day in Abbey Meadow Gardens. So we went back out into the heat for the second half – particularly tough going for the heroic diggers, Kevin and Graham, who were making one of the ponds – and happily made our way home after a hot but satisfying session. 

Photos by Andrew and Joanna:

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Summer 2019 Programme

Our programme for Summer 2019 has been published. It will be uploaded on our website shortly, but in the meantime, please see below for session details:

Manor Farm, Marcham, 25th May 2019

This was our first visit of the year to Manor Farm, Marcham, where we have been pulling up Himalayan Balsam for several years. As you will see from the photos, the balsam is not yet in flower, though some of it had grown quite tall.

There were fourteen of us in all, and we set off for the fields behind the farmyard. The weather was quite warm and sunny and we were grateful for this, remembering a sudden storm which we had experienced last year We found that quite a lot of trees had been felled since last Summer. The problem with the Himalayan Balsam here is that most of it is on the other side of a stream and beside a lake, which makes it difficult to get at. It was a question of  either wading across or using the makeshift “bridges” of tree trunks. We managed this, despite initial trepidation and soon were hard at work in three different areas. The more we looked, the more there was and we worked hard until our tea break by a convenient bench.

We carried on until 12.30pm, yet realised that there was a lot more work to do. There was a positive forest at one end of the lake and much of the balsam would have been concealed by nettles, ready to spring up as soon as the nettles began to die back.

We made our way back to the farmyard and some people took the opportunity to buy the local eggs, honey and asparagus. We will be back again in two weeks’ time.

Woodhaven, Frilford Heath SSSI, 18th May 2019

We returned to Woodhaven today for more Himalayan Balsam pulling in a session led by Kevin. We made our way to the SSSI at the bottom of the grounds to find the invasive plant had grown considerably since the last time we visited, two weeks previously. It was very satisfying removing it in swathes and watching our piles mount up. Meanwhile a few of us set to clearing up fallen timber, also as before.

For tea break, Michele had made some delicious rocky roads and we discussed the merits of Pilates and tested out whether we could get up from a sitting position on the ground to standing without using our hands as leverage. Not easy! 

After the break we carried on with the HB pulling and after a full session returned to the driveway of Woodhaven house. On the way back, we noticed much more balsam in the grounds but as this wasn’t on the SSSI it was outside our remit, so reluctantly we left it.