Another week, another new site for the Abingdon Green Gym! We met at the car park at Farmoor Reservoir, a healthy turn out of 17 of us, including French father Sebastien, and his eleven-year old son, Maelo, who was joining us for a school project. The session was led by James under the instruction of Hanna Jenkins, the warden of Pinkhill Meadow Nature Reserve, so called because it is right on the banks of the River Thames, just near Pinkhill Lock.
It was another blustery day. Will this crazy wind ever let up? We followed Hanna in convoy round the edge of the reservoir, which was choppy to say the least, and parked up on the other side where it was thankfully a little calmer, the high banks of the reservoir providing some shelter. Equipped with our tools, gloves and goggles, we made our way onto the spot on the nature reserve where we were to do our work.
Hanna told us that the reserve had been formed in 1991, but some aspects had been neglected over the last ten years. The aim was to prevent it becoming a ‘willow forest’ and maintain it as a wetland. So our task for the morning was really quite simple: chop down all the willows that had been springing up around the edges of the water. We were then to drag them into a pile, with the butts all facing the same way, ready for chipping.
We got stuck in with loppers and bow saws, and started dragging the cut material into a pile. In fact, the pile grew so quickly that we started a second one some metres away.
At break time, we made our way to a birdwatching hide for our tea and biscuits. It had a brilliant view out over the wetlands, and Hanna pointed out some perches that had been erected, including a tall one with a nest on top hoping to attract an osprey. Having at one time become extinct in England, and then reintroduced, there are only a tiny number of breeding pairs in this country at the moment, so if one can be persuaded to nest here that would be a brilliant coup. They arrive in the UK in late March, migrating back to West Africa in September, so bird watchers will have their eyes peeled. Otherwise the perches have been used by kestrels and other birds, Egyptian geese showing interest in the nest at one time, too!
After the break, we made our way back to the site to continue where we had left off. For a moment there it looked like the four horsemen of the apocalypse had made their way through, but we soon had it tidied up, ready to pack up our tools for the end of the session. A quick group photo by Hanna in front of our two enormous piles of brash – ideal for a witch burning, remarked Sally! - and we were on our way, hoping to make another visit to the site in the not too distant future.
|Hello and welcome!|
|Parking up and getting ready after having driven round the reservoir in convoy to the site.|
|Making our way onto the nature reserve.|
|Hanna Jenkins, the warden giving us the lowdown and instructions.|
|'Before' picture of the willow that needed to come out.|
|Another 'before' photo.|
|We set to work.|
|Petra with some pussy willow branches.|
|The pink ladies.|
|The hide where we had our tea break.|
|In the hide.|
|The view from the hide including the perch hoping for an osprey.|
|Hanna and James chatting ospreys.|
|Group photo taken by Hanna in front of the two piles of brash.|
|An 'after' pic!|