Jarn Heath, 9th March 2019

Today we held our first ever session on Jarn Heath. This is one of three linked sites owned by Oxford Preservation Trust, the other two being Jarn Mound, site of many a Green Gym visit, and the Matthew Arnold (the poet of ‘dreaming spires’ fame) Reserve. The session was led by Kevin in extremely windy conditions!

Contractors had already been onto the site to thin the trees and open out the glade, allowing light to make its way to the woodland floor. Winding paths have been fashioned throughout the sites, with the aim of allowing wildlife to disperse and move between the sites, as well as giving walkers a pleasant experience.

Our tasks today were threefold. First of all, there is an entrance onto the heath at the corner of Jarn Way and Orchard Lane. When walkers go through the gate, they are faced with a tangle of overgrown holly and brambles and dogwood. Called the ‘unwelcoming corner’ by Rachel, our job here was to make the entrance more, well, welcoming! So we were to cut back the undergrowth with loppers and open out the entrance in order to draw visitors onto the heath, but leaving the reddish twigs of the dogwood to grow. We were also to leave dead wood, both standing and fallen as, although it sounds contradictory, the dead wood is vital for insect, wildlife and flora in any living woodland.

The second task was to trim back and lay the hedge on the edge of the heath that leads to the unwelcoming corner – this fell to James and Graham.

And thirdly, now that contractors have been in to do tree work and open up the glade on the heath, we were to move snow drops into this area so that they will flower there next year. As the snowdrops are ‘in the green’ this is the time to replant them.

There was a large mound of ash where Rachel had been burning brush from the previous day which meant that – happy day! – we could have a fire again. Throughout the morning we carried the cut material from the ‘unwelcoming corner’ in drag bags and, with a little stoking, the fire was soon in flames again. Passers by commented on the work we were doing, some delighting in the woodland management, some seemingly in despair at the tree work which had been carried out – but not realising that it’s all for the good of the site in the long run. Still, there’s no telling some people!

By tea break we had made significant progress, so much so that after tea it was decided we would do a further 20 minutes, tidy up our tools and Rachel would take us on a walk around the heath and onto the Matthew Arnold Reserve so we could see what work had been being done and learn of future plans. As always Rachel was extremely informative and most dramatic of all was some cutting back that allowed a terrific view of the North Wessex Downs, previously blocked by the tangle of overgrown trees and bushes.

All in all a very satisfying session and we look forward to returning there in the late summer.

Photos by Joanna (and last two by Rachel):

Jarn Heath Sign.

Rachel gives us instruction.

The 'unwelcoming corner' upon arrival.

...soon to receive a Green Gym welcome!

The heap of ash soon becomes fire again.

Roaring into life.

Joan ready to replant the snowdrops.

Dieuwke takes the opportunity to burn top secret documents on the fire. 

Joanna gets fired up!

Gathering for tea break.

The glade.

The tea break in full swing.

The laid hedge.

The welcoming corner!

Replanting in the glade.

Letting the fire die down.

Rachel leads the post-session walk around the site.

The view now opens out before you.

The Matthew Arnold Field.

Rachel's group photo.

The daffodils inside the gate at the Elizabeth Daryush Garden, revealed in their full glory thanks to our endeavours!


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