Monday, August 19, 2019

Summer Picnic, Jarn Mound and Wild Garden, 17th August 2019

Our annual summer picnic was held last Saturday at the Jarn Mound and Wild Garden as per the last few years. Fingers and toes had been crossed that the weather would be fine, in contrast to the wild and changeable conditions that the previous week had offered.

As we arrived, the sun shone, yet some ominous looking clouds were also evident. One of the reasons for choosing this site, which is also one of our work venues, is due to it having a sizeable shelter as a bad-weather back up. However during his recce, Kevin found that it was already occupied! Therefore we would have to set up outside and hope for the best.

Seventeen Green Gymmers gathered for the occasion, along with Eleanor's husband, Arthur. Once we had unpacked the food and drinks from our vehicles and transported it to the garden, we decided to take a short walk in order to work up our appetites. James remained to keep guard over the picnic as we set off.

A light stroll through the nearby woodland and heath was all that was required for our collective appetite to manifest and it wasn't long before the spread was prepared and unveiled upon the large table. However as we were about to tuck in, a shower of rain appeared and we hastily covered it again, waiting for our moment.

The sun soon had his hat back on and feasting commenced. As ever, an impressively vast buffet of savoury items was evident, largely comprising homemade fare. For dessert, a range of cakes and cheese and biscuits were presented before us, including Michele's amazing Green Gym-themed cake centrepiece!

The weather remained fine for the remainder of the occasion and we left full and happy. Many thanks to Carolyn and Kevin for co-ordinating the event. Back to work next week though, where we will be hay raking at Barton Fields.


Photos by Andrew and Joanna:

The venue.

Setting up the table.

Preparing for our pre-picnic stroll.

One of several mushrooms seen on our stroll. Possibly a rather nibbled 'charcoal burner'.



Joan and Andrew.

Group shot!

The first course.

As soon as the picnic been unveiled, a shower of rain appeared.

Michele's amazing Green Gym cake!
The sun reappeared as we tucked in.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 10th August 2019

Nine of us came along to what turned out to be quite a hair-raising session along the Ock River path today, led by Kevin. The rain held off, but the winds were high! We met in the car park and gathered our tools and hard hats and made our way to our base in the usual spot. As we walked we could see the pathway and river itself strewn with branches brought down by the winds.

Once we’d set up base, Kevin gave us our tasks which were mainly to cut back over grown foliage around the trees we’ve planted, cut back any branches overhanging the path and the inevitable litter picking.

We set to work. It was noisy with the wind causing trees to sway in an alarming manner. About 20 minutes into the session, Joanna was walking along the path when she heard an enormous creaking behind her and a crack willow came crashing down across the pathway. ‘I guess that’s why they’re called crack willows,’ said a passerby sardonically. A jogger stood flummoxed for a moment before deciding to pick his way through the fallen tree.

We carried on with our work. Various climbing plants were found to be efficient at scaling tall nettles with their tendrils catching the branches of our flourishing trees and dragging their branches down so it was good to cut these back and release the trees from their grip.

By break time we’d cleared round the trees and our cups of tea, coffee and biscuits were welcome. Thankfully where we made our base the trees didn’t seem so dangerous. We finalised the list of what everyone is to bring to the summer picnic next weekend and with the work complete we decided to finish early, but not before Kevin had propped up one of our rowan trees that was groaning not from the wind, but under the weight of its crop of berries.

Assessing the weather.

Arrival at base.

Climbers strangling the trees we’ve planted - so we cut back the growth around the trees.
The crack willow that came down across the path.

A hapless jogger picks his way through.

The sign.

Blackberries in various stages of ripening.

Kevin starts on the fallen tree.

Tea break.

The rowan tree groaning under the weight of its crop of berries.
Kevin props up the rowan.

The propped-up rowan (photo by Petra).
Kevin wading in to retrieve fallen branches from the River Ock (photo by Petra).

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Abbey Fishponds, 3rd August 2019

The Green Gym rendezvous was at the usual Abbey Fishponds meeting point at the far end of Hadland Road.  Here we met with Lucy of the Earth Trust, who manage the site, and Sally our team leader for the day. Once assembled, we transferred the tools and equipment needed to our tea break location on a high bank overlooking the nature reserve. 

The Fishponds themselves have long since gone but you can see that the flat low lying area with springs rising in the reserve would have been a ideal site to stock fish for the monks at Abingdon Abbey, centuries ago.

One of the tasks for the morning was clearing back overgrown bushes and brambles on the edge of the reserve next to the Radley Road which were beginning to cause a hindrance to traffic. Adrian, who had been working with Lucy and knew the spot, took Margaret, Dieuwke, Rosie and Carolyn to fulfil the task - with the added precaution of high visibility jackets for working in such an environment. A squashed Hedgehog found on the side of the road was a warning! 

Meanwhile Lucy, took a dedicated team of Graham and Dan, plus fence posts, spades, spirit level and everything else needed to make a start on digging  up and replacing some rotten fence posts at the boundary of the site.

The rest of the willing group, divided their time up with Himalayan Balsam pulling and litter picking, while Ursula and Sarah went to clear nettles from the path which were obstructing cyclists.

By break time the clearing of the foliage at the edge of the Radley road had been completed so they diverted their attention to the HB pulling. The replacement of the fence posts was still a work in progress - the digging out of the old posts, then lining up the new posts making sure they were square, and fitting them into the fence line and gate took longer than we thought, but was finished by end of play. Lucy said the cross beams were a temporary fixture and a more permanent construction will be added later in the month.

On the nature watch front Lucy gave me quick update on the inhabitants of the ponds. There is now a badger sett, also foxes come and go, plus I have seen fleeting glimpses of muntjacs also know as barking deer, not to mention numerous sightings of insects including bees loving the numerous flowers, butterflies, dragonflies as well as and bird life and the odd local cat trying his luck.

Clearing overgrown vegetation from the roadside.

The Radley Road.

Lucy, Graham and Dan replace some fence posts.

Break time on the mound.

A partially repaired fence.

Himalayan Balsam in flower. (photo by Sally)

Lesley in amongst the reeds (photo by Sally).

Hemp agrimony (photo by Sally).

Hemp agrimony and other wildflowers (photo by Sally).

Monday, July 29, 2019

Dry Sandford Pit, 27th July 2019

It was a cloudy and slightly drizzly day, in contrast to the record hot temperatures of the past few days, when fourteen of us met to carry out work on the cliff faces at Dry Sandford Pit, which is a BBOWT nature reserve.

This area is an old quarry and the sand and limestone cliff faces show fossil rich strata from when the area was a warm, shallow sea in the Jurassic era. Our task was to cut back vegetation in front of the cliffs and to clear it from the cliff face to expose the geology of the area. There are many holes on the cliff face, which are home to solitary bees and wasps.

We set to work with a variety of different tools, slashers and loppers for the larger vegetation at the base, and secateurs, trowels  and hand forks for the smaller plants growing on the cliff face itself. Soon we were transporting large heaps to the dumping site.

We moved to the shelter of some trees for our tea break as rain was threatening again. After the break we moved to a neighbouring area to begin work there.

There is still a great deal to do and we will be having two more work parties at the site in the near future.
Dry Sandford Pit is home to orchids, marsh helleborines, a variety of mosses as well as  rich bird and insect life and is well worth a visit.

First five photos by Sally, second five by Eleanor:

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Southern Town Park, 20th July 2019

Eleven of us turned up at the car park on Lambrick Way for our session at Southern Town Park, led by Sally. It was a muggy day, with rain threatening - although it never came to anything - and we set off loaded with our gear to set up base at the usual picnic bench.

The main tasks of the day were litter picking, cutting back overhanging branches and inspecting and weeding the wild flower patch we’d reseeded last March. Sally had brought along her folder in which all the plants are listed so we could see which ones were in flower. The patch has been doing incredibly well, and was buzzing with insects, butterflies and bees, so it was decided we’d expand it, too. A passerby commented how, since getting his dog three months ago, he’d walked past on a regular basis and enjoyed seeing the flowers come up. It’s always nice to get such a positive response!

In the first half of the session a few of us went far and wide litter picking, whilst others concentrated on the wildflower patch. After the tea break, it was back to the wild flowers for more clearing before we went home happy after a good morning’s work.

The circle of truth.

The wildflower patch.

Ox-eye daisies.

Checking the patch.

Litter pickers!

Tea break.


Extending the wildflower patch.

Litter haul including a rusty scooter.