Monday, December 9, 2019

Barton Fields, 7th December 2019

There were 21 of us for today’s session at Barton Fields, next to the River Thames in Abingdon. The session was led by Sally in conjunction with David Guyoncourt from the Abingdon Naturalists' Society Green Team who manages the site.

We unloaded the tools and David took a splinter group of a few of us, including Rosie and Michele, off for some hardcore lopping and sawing to take place along the river bank. A path had to be forged through the undergrowth to get there and they were given their own supplies of refreshments as they wouldn’t be able to make it back to the main base for break time.

Otherwise, we made our way to the place we’d be working and were split into two further groups – a small group of loppers and sawers to work next to the Sustrans cycle path where grassy bays are being created in order to attract solitary bees and butterflies. Here it was a question of cutting down and thinning out overhanging branches so the light can get through.

The remainder of us took to scything and raking the cut reeds, sedges and willowherb in order to create a floodplain meadow. There was also a strimmer in use. The aim was to clear about 100 square metres, although it looked like we cleared a bigger area than this. This is the first time it’s been cut, but the aim is to cut it again next year and in time have it ready for planting flowers such as snakeshead fritillaries which thrive in this sort of habitat. The work is being done with the advice of the Open University Floodplain Meadow Project.

We gathered at break time (apart from the splinter group!) got welcome cups of tea and coffee and mince pies and Sylfest's home made Christmas biscuits were offered around.

In the second half of the session, the fuel for the strimmer ran out, just as the last bit of willowherb was cut – impeccable timing! We raked up the rest of the cut material and by the end of the session had three or so huge mounds which will rot down over the coming months. It was a grey old day, but we'd worked hard and went home happy with our progress and looking forward to seeing how the meadow develops over the coming year.

David and Margaret about to get started.

David instructs as Petra volunteers to get involved.

The raking gets underway.

Joanna enjoys a biscuit.

The splinter group take their refreshments in isolation.

The remainder of the group at break time.

The second half of the session.

Michele and Rosie, two of the hardcore loppers!

A view of Abingdon Lock from the work site.

The session is almost complete.

A field vole.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Dry Sandford Pit, 30th November 2019

Dry Sandford Pit Nature Reserve was the venue for today’s session, led by Sally. We were there to do work for BBOWT, continuing on from our last visit to the site in July. Sixteen of us turned up on a beautiful bright frozen morning with the grass and trees glittering with frost as the sun rose. It was so cold it was nice to imagine that millions of years ago this place had been the bed of a warm, coral-rich sea.

The nature reserve was once a quarry and our job for the morning was to carry on clearing the cliff faces of vegetation, in order to expose the strata of limestone and sand, and maintain the many habitats of solitary bees and wasps that nest there.

With a mixture of tools, including loppers and slashers for cutting back brambles, and trowels and small mattocks for hacking at the vegetation clinging to the cliff faces, we set to work, building up the habitat piles and soon warming up as the morning wore on.

By break time the sun was high in the sky and we drank our tea basking in its warmth.

Dry Sandford Pit is a fascinating site, as there are always fossils to be found and this time Carolyn also found a crystalized rock of some description. By the end of the session we had made good progress along the length of the cliff face and pathway, and look forward to carrying on in a couple of weeks time.  

Dry Sandford Pit.

Gathering tools.

On our way to site.

A beautiful morning.

Nearly there.

One of the cliff faces.

Chilly beginnings.

Workers in the frost.

Lesley takes her pick.

Woody nightshade.

Dieuwke, Joan and Sally.

Our progress.

Sally takes stock of our work at the end of the session.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Winter 2019/2020 programme

Our new programme for Winter 2019/2020 has been published and starts after the session this coming weekend. It will be uploaded to our website soon!

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Jarn Heath, Boars Hill, 23rd November 2019

A crowd of 22 green gymmers turned up for today’s session at Jarn Heath on Boars Hill, plus two local residents who decided to join the group. It was a mild, muggy morning. We were led by Margaret, with Lindsay Priddle from OPT and Rod D’Ayala giving instructions.

We mainly split into two work parties. The first party were set to laying the hedge along the lane, under the expert guidance of Rod. And the rest of us headed off into the woodland to plant foxgloves, red campion and wood sorrel, which local resident, Camilla, had potted up from her vegetable garden. As the secondary woodland on the heath means it’s quite poor at ground level, these were to be planted ready to give variety and colour when they flower next spring.

Otherwise there was also a lot of clearing of dogwood from the woodland floor, as well as clearing up where contractors had been to cut back trees. We set to work and by tea break all the plants had been planted and the hedge was coming along brilliantly. 

We had our tea and biscuits on the lane, admiring the handiwork of the hedge-layers. A horse came through – very interested in the coffee and walnut cake provided by Eleanor!

After the break, we continued with our tasks. Camilla showed us the stone benches (which we’ve scrubbed in the past) in memory of Sir Arthur Evans and how originally the yew trees around them were meant as windbreaks but over the years have been allowed to grow wild. Perhaps we’ll try chopping them back one day. 

It was a good session and in particular, many of our members welcomed the opportunity to learn the art of hedge-laying!  

The beginnings of the crowd.

Lindsay and Rod provide instruction.

Rod briefs the hedge-laying sub team.

Meanwhile Camilla leads the planting operation.

Off to work we go.

The glade, where the woods have been partially cleared.

Some of the plants.

Andrew digs for victory.
Rosie and Barbara busy laying a hedge.

The hedge at break time.

Margaret on tea making duties.

Meanwhile Sally distributes the cake.

A well-earned break!

The horse in search of cake.

A beautiful wood blewit.

Joanna tidies up.

Some cobbles found on the heath.

The completed hedge.

Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Boundary House Fen, 16th November 2019

We were at Boundary House Fen at Frilford for this morning’s session, led by Sally under the aegis of Rod D’Ayala, who has been managing the site, and Judy Webb of Natural England. Seventeen of us turned up, during a lucky break from the previous days’ rain, including newcomer Phineas, who came with his father and will be joining us for sessions for his Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award.

We gathered initially in the Golf Club car park then consolidated into fewer cars and drove round to the site. We took up our tools – mostly rakes - and made our way across the golf course which was pretty busy.

Rod was already hard at work on site, and he gave us our task for the morning which comprised one thing: raking! Rod pointed out where the cut reeds lay strewn about the ground, and where we needed to rake them to, placing them in the centre of the stream running through the site, or in the hedges at the edge of the fen, or in large habitat piles to rot down. Particularly towards the bottom of the fen, there was a pool which needed filling, and also Rod had set up markers between which we were to make a ridge of reeds. Following our instruction, it was time to get started.

At break time, just as we were enjoying our tea and biscuits, we had an unexpected incident. A golfer’s ball had strayed into the rough at the edge of the fen. In trying to hit it back onto the course, it hit a tree and bounced back right into the middle of our group – fortunately not hitting anyone – so the golfer had quite an audience trying to hit it back out again, which he succeeded in doing to a round of applause.

After the break, it was back to more raking. We’d worked hard and made real progress and there wasn’t a huge amount left to do. Meanwhile, Judy scattered some marsh louse wort, a parasitic plant that should keep down the sedge and reeds. She’d also collected a basketful of fungi – quite a variety to be found on the fen. Before we knew it, the session was at an end, and we were making our way dodging golfers back across the course.

Donning hi-vis and almost ready to go.

Joanna takes a 'before' photo of the site.

Rod provides instruction.

A nest of golf balls.

Raking commences.

Roger pitchforks some reeds off towards the stream.

Some toadstools.
Joanna gives us a wave.
Tea time.
A fine selection of biscuits.

The hapless golfer.

Getting there...

Judy sows some marsh lousewort.

Piling up reeds around the boundary of the fen.

Session complete.

Judy's basket of fungi.