Sunday, January 19, 2014

Barton Fields, 18th January 2014

This was our first outdoor session of the year, following-on from last week's AGM.  We assembled opposite the Sophos building along Barton Lane, where a fairly large group of us joined up with the Barton Fields 'Green Team' group, led by site warden, David Guyoncourt.  We were pleased to welcome two new members to the Green Gym, Petra and Tanya, who were both attending for the first time.  The weather was dry, thankfully, in sharp contrast to the previous days and weeks.  Indeed flooding was still evident along much of the field, particularly on the side where it joins the Thames.

A large amount of tools were gathered and transported to the opposite end of the site, where we organised ourselves and received instructions on the work tasks from David.  The main jobs this time were to grub-up some of the blackthorn that has been encroaching rapidly on the boundaries and to cut back some of the bramble growth.  Both tasks were necessary in order to safeguard the grassland habitat for variety of plants and animals.

The blackthorn in particular had formed a dense thicket, with many new shoots evident on the outer edges.  With the trees currently free of leaves and sloes, now is the best time of the year to tackle the problem and cause the least disruption to the area's wildlife.  Mattocks and spades were the tools of choice, deployed to remove the plants in their entirety, including the roots.  The material was then cut into smaller sections and stacked into piles.  It wasn't long before a toad was discovered, taking shelter in the area. Rudely awoken perhaps, wondering what all the commotion was all about, the creature was removed to safety and the work re-commenced...

Nearby, bramble cutting was well underway and elsewhere, litter was being picked.  At 11am we downed-tools temporarily in order to refresh ourselves with tea, coffee and biscuits.  A much-needed break, since the tasks this week were fairly arduous by our standards.  We were thus able to compare blisters and scratches!

Fed and watered, a final push was then initiated, in order to complete the tasks to ours and David's satisfaction.  This, I am sure we achieved!  With such a large group of 20 or so volunteers, much progress on all fronts was evident.  

The sting in the tail came at the very end of the session, when faced with sorting out all the tools between those belonging to the Green Gym and those in possession of the Green Team.  Not the easiest task given the vast array of hardware.  Then there was the issue of carrying it all back to our vehicles, ready to transport home.  Indeed, the walk back to Barton Lane seemed a good deal longer on the return leg.  No matter, I'm sure we all needed the exercise after our over-indulgences during the festive season!

David instructs the group upon arrival

amphibian activity

a dense blackthorn thicket

taking a break

Tanya and Lauren

Andrew wielding a mattock

tackling the blackthorn growth

cut brambles by the cycle path

keeping the bramble growth in check

some more bramble-bashers

the hardware...

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