Two Pines Fen, Frilford Heath Golf Course, 12th March 2019

In a departure to our main programme, a special mid-week raking session had been arranged at Two Pines Fen, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, on Frilford Heath Golf Course.  Because the Fen is flanked by two golf courses, it is only practical to carry out this work when one of the courses is closed for maintenance and, on this occasion, it was the Green Course that was closed.  Five Green Gymmers had set aside the day, including Lindsay, a friend of the Green Gymmers, who had been given the day off by the company she works for as a ‘charity day’.

We met in the Greenkeepers’ Compound area and took the tools and tea kit to Two Pines Fen.  It was apparent from the water level in the stream, which is more like a ditch, that the recent damming work by Rod d’Ayala had caused water levels to rise, with the consequence of wetting the Fen, which has been drying out in recent years to the detriment of the specialist plants and invertebrates that inhabit it.

Our principal task was to rake off as much of the cut reed and thatch that has built up over the years as possible and take the rakings to the edge of the Fen for the groundsmen to pick up at a later date.  We had also been asked to cut down sprouting willow to prevent this from growing thereby taking moisture from the Fen and crowding out the specialist Fen plants that we are trying to encourage.

We initially concentrated our efforts on the area of Fen flanked by the Red Course, as we had been told that it was being used for a Ladies’ competition that day.  However, Hurricane Gareth soon started up and put an end to that!  So, although on the one hand we had few golfers to worry about, the weather was against us from about 10.00 o’clock with heavy rain at times and a strong wind.  We soldiered on, with Adrian and Sylfest concentrating initially on cutting down the willow and brambles, while Graham, Lindsay and Sally raked and raked.  Break time could not come soon enough and we struggled to keep biscuits from getting soggy as the rain continued!

Undeterred, we carried on until lunch time, with the heap of ‘lost’ golf balls growing almost as quickly as our pile of rakings!  We made our way back to take shelter in one of the huts in the compounds where we were able to dry off and enjoy our packed lunches with a hot drink and some lemon cake.

After lunch, we returned to carry on where we had left off.  Lindsay carefully picked off fallen leaves from the precious area of sphagnum moss that had been marked with canes.

As the rain began to ease, our spirits correspondingly lifted especially when the sun at last came out.  Raking continued into the afternoon and we progressed onto the Green course side.  As we raked to reveal the soil beneath, pools were forming, which will be home to rare Fen invertebrates.

Adrian cut back the willow growing at the top end of the Fen and, it was as we were leaving, we found some spotted narrow leaves – so at least one of the orchids was coming through, ready to make a splendid show which many of the golfers will enjoy in late spring.  All-in-all, it was a good day’s work and we hope that the rare Fen plants and invertebrates will show their appreciation by thriving and hopefully increasing in number.

The photographs do not reflect the very un-Green-Gymlike weather we encountered for most of the morning (thanks, Gareth!) as our main priority was to get the raking done, but the afternoon sunshine was very welcome and we packed up at just before 4.00 o’clock, a little later than planned and all of us were looking forward to a cup of tea and a hot bath!

Sylfest, Adrian, Graham and Lindsay getting to work before the arrival of storm Gareth.

Spirits restored after lunch - Graham and Sylfest.

Adrian adds to our haul of golf balls.

Bizarrely beginning to look like a map of Britain.

One of the precious pools revealed by raking.

The sphagnum moss patch - reputedly the largest in the county of Oxfordshire - which we're hoping will grow.

A good spot! The telltale spotted narrow leaves of an orchid.

At the end of a hard day's work - Adrian, Graham, Lindsay and Sylfest and our heap of rakings.

One of the leaky dams created by Rod d'Ayala. The height of the stream is a lot higher now.

The clouds rolling in over the fen as we say farewell - its looking a lot darker and wetter as a result of our raking.


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