Ock Valley Walk Tesco End, 14th August 2021

An Abingdon outing for the Green Gym this Saturday, following several weeks of sessions out in the surrounding countryside and villages. The Tesco End of the Ock Valley Walk was the venue for a late season Himalayan Balsam pull and a spot of litter picking, led on this occasion by Eleanor D. Sixteen of us were in attendance (if my maths was correct), including new member Richard.

After assembling in the car park and perilously navigating the supermarket access road via its somewhat poorly observed pedestrian crossings, we set up base camp in the trees beside the path. While the area appeared to be relatively litter-free (or perhaps it was largely concealed within the surrounding undergrowth?), the balsam was in abundance. Despite an impromptu evening session or two here recently, there was more than enough to get stuck into for this occasion, if not all eternity! It was frustrating that our enforced Covid break last year had wiped out our year-on-year progress in taming this invasive non-native plant. Therefore, the majority of us went out on the pull, while the litter-pickers were rather slimmer in number.

We focused on a number of areas - in the ditch beside the path to New Cut Mill and the willow carr area adjacent to it, beside the Ock itself, also the flood plain area back along the path toward town. 

Although the plant was in flower and often higher than the tallest green gymmer, we set about uprooting what we could, hoping that it was not too late in the year to make a difference. Fistfuls of the celery-like stems could be heard crunching in our gloved hands. Nettles stinging any exposed flesh or perhaps penetrating our thinner layers. Andrew gathering the natural antihistamine plant, ribwort plantain, in a witchdoctor approach to remedy those affected.

We returned to base camp for our 11am break to regroup and discuss tactics, fuelled by drinks supplied by ourselves, the contents of the communal biscuit tin and supplemented with foraged blackberries. The Green gymmers soon re-dispersed in all directions on a post-refreshments smash and grab raid, pushing back the balsam lines, ready for a more co-ordinated campaign next year.

-Andrew


Setting up base camp, Kevin on tarpaulin detail.

Eleanor D reads the risk assessment.

Roger waist-deep in balsam.

The anatomy of a balsam flower.

A lone litter-picker on the path out to New Cut Mill.

Working in the willow carr.

Ripening blackberries.

Kevin by the water's edge.

Bracket fungi on a willow tree.

Rosie and Carolyn lost amongst the balsam.

No gloves for Petra!

A quintet of pullers.

Andrew's casual approach.

Graham and his whopping specimen.

A huge pile of pulled balsam (Eleanor D for scale).

Action shot! (photo by Petra).

A glimpse of the Ock (photo by Petra).

Cathy and Graham busy with the balsam (photo by Petra).



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