Sunday, April 14, 2013

Abrahams Wood, Boars Hill, 13th April 2013

A grey, yet mild and thankfully dry morning awaited the 12 or so green gymmers who assembled outside the Open University buildings along Berkeley Road, Boars Hill for the first 2013 session at Abrahams Wood.  Here we met Andy Gunn representing the Oxford Preservation Trust - the organisation who look after the site.  We carried our tools down the hill to the woods where Andy outlined the morning's tasks following a quick series of warm-up exercises, led by Kate.

The team then split into two groups - the first of which was assigned the job of weaving 'willow doughnuts' - circular woven fences surrounding new tree and shrub growth.  The purpose of these is to protect the new growth from any hungry wild deer in the area that might strip them down.  The doughnuts are made from weaving willow branches around a number of upright streaks.  The willow is of course a very flexible material and ideally suited to the task.

The second group were assigned to consolidating a number of piles of cut laurel that we had created on our last visit here back in November 2012, into a 'dead hedge'.  Laurel grows prolifically in the area, and left unchecked would soon form a dense thicket, thus smothering the native trees and lower plants.  The laurel is non-native in the UK and has little ecological value.  Therefore the best course of action is to remove it as far as possible.  It is difficult to eradicate entirely since it can't be burned due to the fact that it gives off cyanide gas (!) and even when cut and left it soon puts down new roots.  Our strategy in this case was first to lay down a base layer of hazel and then add the laurel on top to reduce the chance of it re-seeding and spreading rapidly. 

The cut piles that had been left from our last session looked a little untidy, and so creating a hedge from them and screening the edge of the woods from neighbouring property/further enclosing new tree growth to some extent from the deer seemed like a good option.

Both groups got stuck in and it wasn't long before very noticable progress had been made.  By the the tea break at 11am, the hedge was well underway and a couple of doughnuts had been completed.  Refreshed and re-invigorated the teams carried on after the break and completed the consolidation of all the piles of cut laurel into a hedge, perhaps 50m in length and around 1 metre high.  Combined with several willow doughnuts, it was not a bad morning's work at all - and was completed almost right on cue, ready for our 12:30pm finish. 

Following all the hard work, all that remained was for the group to psyche themselves up - in preparation to carry the tools all the way back up the hill back to the car parking spot.

warm-up exercises

Andy directs the morning's tasks

piles of cut laurel, left from our last session here

work begins on the dead hedge

weaving willow doughnuts

Enid, Lesley, Sally and Kate show off their hard work

completed willow doughnut

the completed hedge

another view of the hedge

packing up the tools at the end of the session

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