Cothill Fen, 22nd September 2018

A team of 15 green gymmers, including new member, Joanna - gathered at the Cothill Fen car park for today’s session, along with Judy Webb from Natural England who was to manage our tasks.

Our main aim for the morning was to continue the work from our last time here in July. With nitrate leaching into the fen from fertiliser on the neighbouring farmland, its entry point the ‘evil spring’ (as Judy calls it), duck weed and algae have been blooming out of control, disrupting the natural habitat. In previous sessions a ditch had been dug, and lined with logs, in which cut reeds had been tamped down in order to create an anaerobic reaction, the result of which should be that the water is cleared of nitrate before it seeps into the fen. And it has been working – with 10 parts per million of nitrate in the water at the evil spring, it’s down to zero some way along the ditch. But still nitrate has been finding its way through so there’s always more work to be done.

With rain threatening, most of us made our way out onto the fen to start raking the reeds, and transferring them into the ditch, while a couple of others started cutting back the alder and hazel trees bordering the fen.

It’s wet, smelly work – the pungent smell of sulphur just occasionally laced with light mint - and Kevin was the first to fall victim to the uneven surface, with water going over the top of his boot early on. Eleanor went in up to her knees shortly afterwards.

By tea break we’d already raked a good half of the previously-cut reeds, trodden them down into the ditch, and were ready for a well-earned cuppa and slice of Eleanor’s delicious, moist courgette cake. It was while gathered under the trees that the rain started coming down in earnest.

For the second half of the session, we kept to the shelter of the woodland bordering the fen armed with loppers and bow saws to clear and cut back. Meanwhile Judy went to collect devil’s-bit scabious seeds from one part of the fen to scatter on other parts. This is a vitally important plant for late bees and butterflies and every garden should have them!

By the end of the session, soggy but happy, we made our way with the tools back to the car park. A good morning’s work!

Photos by Joanna and Andrew:

A gathering of Green Gymmers.

The fen pre-work.

Judy briefs the group.

A mystery Green Gymmer loads reeds into a drag bag.

Andrew - quite a rake!

Duck weed.

A ditch lined with logs.

The pond area in the middle of the fen.

Dryad's Saddle fungus.

Devil's Bit Scabious.

Eleanor cuts her cake.

A well-camouflaged Margaret.

Judy leads the way.

Grass of Parnassus.

A young stinkhorn fungus.

A nibbled Fly Agaric nestling beneath a tree.

Sulphur Tufts.

Chicken of the Woods.

The primary colours of the (not just) Green Gym.

Dead Man's Fingers.

Andrew reflects upon his hard work!


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