Christmas Meal, 15th December 2018

In recent years we have enjoyed our Christmas meal at the Merry Miller pub in Cothill.  This year was no exception, the difference being that there was no session at the nearby fen beforehand.  Instead we assembled in our clean clothes, a week later than the same occasion last year. The idea was to take a leisurely stroll around another local nature reserve, Dry Sandford pit in advance of lunch.

Upon meeting in the pub car park, the day took rather a soggy turn. As the rain lashed down, anoraks and wellies were donned and umbrellas brandished. While a minority took refuge in their cars, the hardy remainder began their stroll up the road to the pit. We were lucky to have an expert on hand - Alison Muldal of Natural England and supervisor of many a Green Gym session over the years. Alison imparted her broad knowledge of the fenland environment and a little of the wider habitat upon the group as we took our tour around this former quarry. 

We have worked at this site before - under the direction of the Oxfordshire Geology Trust. During this occasion, back in 2013, we carefully removed vegetation from the old quarry faces in order to expose the sedimentary rock formations. The whole area was once a tropical sea - hard to believe during the cold winter weather, but the evidence is there with shells and many fossil remains from this era. Nowadays, solitary bees and wasps along with rabbits are more likely to be resident than coral and exotic crustaceans.

The walk lasted an hour or so, before we made our way to the pub to commence festivities. There we met with our rain-dodging comrades and a few other latecomers. The first drink was provided courtesy of the group's coffers, thus an orderly queue was formed at the bar before taking our seats. Kevin and Carolyn arrived last of all, bringing the headcount up to sixteen. They also brought some crackers, which injected a sense of seasonal jollity. Kevin then gave his chairman's speech, thanking everyone for their hard work throughout the year. The food arrived a little later and was of the usual high quality that we have come to expect from this establishment.

We wended our merry way home from the Merry Miller in the early afternoon and will reconvene back in Abingdon for the AGM on 12th January 2019.

A soggy start to the walk.

At the pit.

Information board.

Alison talks about the fen habitat from an appropriate spot.

Burrowing into the past.

Homes for solitary bees.

A scene from a wintry walk.

Candle snuff fungus.

A tangle of mossy branches.

Our chairman gives his pre-lunch speech.

Alison complete with novelty Christmas cracker 'tache.

Time to tuck in!


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