Stonehill House, 17th January 2015

This was our first outdoor session of the year, following-on from the AGM on the previous Saturday.  A group of 16 of us met at Stonehill House, between Abingdon and Drayton.  It was a relief that it had stoppped snowing, with some of us wondering if our activities might be cancelled due to the wintery conditions.  Instead, we were keen to get going since temperatures were a little on the cold side!

We assembled in the courtyard outside the house itself, where we were met with site supervisor, Sophie who instructed us on the tasks to be done.  It was a pleasure to welcome another new member, Heidi, to the group, joining us for the first time.

Stonehill House is privately-owned, but has community facilities including a recently-planted woodland and gardens, and also runs exhibitions and courses on a variety of topics.  Our work there is to assist in maintaining the community woods and the morning involved clearing grass and weed growth around the young saplings and removing any dead trees or indeed removing any tree guards around some of the more mature trees.  The tree guards are necessary to protect the saplings from attack by deer who tend to strip them back given the chance.  Indeed, it wasn't long before we encountered some deer in the grounds as we set about our work.

Some of us wielded grass hooks and cleared around the trees, while others removed or re-adjusted tree guards and the remainder raked-up grass cuttings and transported them to a pile in the corner of the field.

One of the other projects at Stonehill is to provide courses on the construction of low-impact buildings, using environmentally-friendly materials such as straw bales, and the field in which we worked was flanked by such buildings, providing an element of interest to our session.

We hadn't been working long, when the sun appeared and temperatures began to rise, although there was still most certainly a chill in the air.  Our tea break was therefore even more keenly anticipated than usual, and we returned to the car park for this.  Petra had kindly baked a banana and chocolate chip loaf for the occasion - to celebrate her year anniversary of attending the Green Gym.  Most delicious it was too.  At this time, we we also met by the property's owner, Anthea, whom some of the group had met before on our previous visits. We are well looked after here, and were lucky to be able to have use of the toilets - a rarity for one of our sessions!

Back to work then and despite our good progress, it was apparent that there is still much work to do here.  Perhaps we will return again soon, although in the meantime it is anticipated that other community groups will also help out and contribute to what is a valuable community asset.

A snowy start at Stonehill House

Unpacking the tools

Sophie instructs us on the morning's tasks

Some of the low-impact buildings

Workers in the field

Kevin clearing around a tree

A sapling within a tree guard

Erin and Kate clear away some of the grass cuttings

A grass hook

Barry hard at work

A pile of cut grass

Packing up at the end of the session


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