Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Cothill Fen, 26th September 2015

A slightly smaller group than usual, nine Green Gymmers assembled in the car park for the first of two visits to Cothill Fen on our current programme. We were working under the direction of Judy Webb, who is an expert on the wildlife and ecology of the area. 

It was a lovely day, with blue sky and sunshine and hardly any wind. We were pleased to see Erin, who had completed her Duke of Edinburgh bronze section in the Spring, back again. Our main task was to rake a large area of cut reed and to cut down the alder that was sprouting from the tree stumps. We needed to use large wooden rakes for the reeds and it was hard work, with the added exciting possibility of stepping thigh deep in muddy fen water. 

The deepest part of the fen is fenced off with an electric fence to prevent the horses, which graze the fen for part of the year, from falling in. These horses are from Wales and will eat even the toughest vegetation. They didn't seem to be around when we were there, however. Maybe they had gone to Twickenham to watch an important rugby match.

After a welcome tea break, we continued working. A number of rare species can be found in this alkaline fen, including Grass of Parnassus (parnassia palustris), with its five petalled white flowers. Cothill Fen and Parsonage Moor are the southernmost limits of its range. Judy also took a photo of mating common darter dragonflies (sympetrum striolatum).

By the end of the session there was still quite a large area that we hadn't managed to rake. but we will be back again in two weeks' time to finish the job.
-Eleanor



Cutting back sprouting alder

Erin and Kate piling up the reeds

James raking

Judy working behind the electric fence

Lesley handing round the biscuits

The fen at the end of the session

Mating pair of common darter dragonflies Sympetrum striolatum (photo by Judy Webb)

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Southern Town Park, 19th September 2015

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness....” Green Gym meets  at Southern Park, Abingdon to set up our base before cutting back encroaching brambles and picking litter. Kevin is in charge as tasks are agreed. 



















Up goes our notice - so people know who we are.........






Some beautiful wild flowers are still in bloom. The Common Mallow (Malva sylvestris) is in full flower.


Some of the brambles, later stacked up for the Council to collect.





















Part of the litter haul – a survivor from a good party?




More litter for recycling where possible.



















Coffee – now the sun is shining.  Eleanor passes round the biscuits.


Time to leave already after a useful morning – it’s quite warm now. Next week we will be at Cothill Fen.



















-Barry

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Ock Valley Walk, Tesco End, 12th September 2015

Fifteen volunteers, ranging in age from 17 to 88, assembled to work on the Tesco end of the Ock Path. The plan was to cut back vegetation, make habitat piles of fallen branches, pick up litter and pull up Himalayan Balsam.

We were shocked to find that in the usual spot for our encampment, the council contractors (we assume), had been there already, had cut down some trees and ground these and other fallen branches into very rough woodchip, which they had then scattered all over the ground. To our disappointment, they had also destroyed our favourite log-for-sitting-on. Where a willow tree by the river had been cut to a stump, an extensive area of high wire fence had been pushed down.

There was still plenty to do, however, and no time to ponder the mysterious workings of local government policy. Some people set off to pick up litter and others to tackle the Himalayan Balsam, much of which is exploding and scattering seeds. Despite a few flurries of rain, we carried on working, stopping at 11 o'clock for our refreshment break.

By the end of the morning we had collected several bags of rubbish and recycling and had a good go at the Himalayan Balsam. The rain had cleared and the sun was shining. The Himalayan Balsam will be back to greet us next year and the litter will always keep us busy.
-Eleanor


Ground Zero

The willow tree stump and the broken down fence

Litter picking

James tackling Himalayan Balsam in the ditch

Himalayan Balsam jungle

Coffee break

Monday, September 7, 2015

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 5th September 2015

The weather continues cold and overcast as we gathered by the footbridge over the Ock.  The footpath that we regularly maintain is still in good condition, but everything has shot up over the wet summer.

The nettles, thistles and willow herb are way over six feet tall and our arch enemy, the lovely Himalayan Balsam, has had a chance to grow a second crop, and those overlooked before are now well over ten feet tall.

The jobs for the day were: clearing around the trees we planted, which are now doing well, only about half a dozen have withered and died; a crack willow had dropped a large branch and needed to be cut up and stacked; Himalayan Balsam, which surprisingly sprang up all over the area, needed to be cleared and there was, as always, litter to be collected, even if at first glance the cache of beer cans weren’t obvious.

All jobs were satisfactorily completed, though the Himalayan Balsam will be back, as many flower heads had set seeds, which could not be prevented from bursting out over a large area.
-Ursula








Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Barton Fields, 29th August 2015

This session was  at Barton Fields, to help the Abingdon Naturalists Green Team, led by David Guyoncourt, rake up and stack the hay from the wildflower meadow, which had been cut on Wednesday. 

We thought that we might muster only a few Green Gym members as it was Bank Holiday weekend, but in fact nine turned up. Once again we were really lucky with the weather.

The Green Team had already been hard at work on Thursday and Friday raking the  hay into piles and stacking it at the sides of the meadow. It's important to rake it up as soon as possible after the cut, otherwise nutrients leach into the soil, making it too rich. This not good news for wild flower meadows, which need poor soil.

There were lots of piles that needed shifting so we set to work with tarpaulins and drag bags while a few people went down to the lower meadow, where the hay still needed raking. Another reason for moving the piles quickly is the risk that some late night revellers will set fire to them. Despite the recent rain and general dampness this was exactly what had happened to one of the piles.

It was hot work, so we were glad of a break. David had provided croissants and currant buns and we contributed cake left over from last week's picnic. By the end of the morning we had shifted all the piles and had begun to rake up the residue. The hay stacked at the edges of the meadow will provide cosy winter quarters for a variety of wildlife.
-Eleanor



James loads hay on to a tarpaulin.

Green Team members unload hay on to the pile.

Ursula and Kate rake the lower meadow.

Colin with his trolley.

Dieuwke and Kristine.

A welcome break.