Cothill Fen, Saturday 18th of September

It was a day of two seasons at Cothill Fen this Saturday, with thick fog greeting our volunteers before it all burned off to a rather warm and sunny morning. Cothill Fen is popular among the volunteers and we were glad to be back, with many commenting on how much the fen has changed since volunteers from Natural England and Green Gym had started working on it. 

After a quick health and safety briefing from Eleanor D, the day's Session Leader, we followed Steph from Natural England down to our working site, where she explained to us today's tasks. The volunteers then split in to two groups: those raking and distributing the the reeds (which had already been cut by Natural England volunteers - team work!) along two causeways which needed some bolstering, and those helping to build 'fish-scale bunds' (fish-scale here referring to their shape, not their material). These bunds, Steph explained to us, help the fen in two ways. Firstly, they create new marginal habitats that are perfect for insects like dragonflies and damselflies, which the site is particularly attractive to, and secondly they act as natural filters, trapping pollutants which enter the water from local field run-off. Amazing! 

Our first session was then a flurry of hard work as volunteers raked, forked, and tight-roped along the causeways to shore them up, or undertook the difficult task of trying to hammer wooden poles in to the sticky underwater fen mud to secure the bunds. Our breaktime was a very welcome opportunity to rehydrate, and Eleanor D kindly offered around some beautifully emerald greengage fruits! 

After break it was back to work, but not before a quick walk with Judy Webb (Oxfordshire ecologist extraordinaire)who kindly showed us two plants which the management of the fen was helping to support. The first was the Devil's-bit Scabious, whose purple pom-pom flowers are a firm favourite with bees and butterflies. This plant came with a folk-story, as Judy told us how the plant received its name: the devil bit off part of the plant's roots as he was so angered at its ability to cure human ailments (indeed, if you were to pull one up you would see its stunted roots)! Next, she showed us the beautiful white flowers of the Grass-Of-Parnassus, which is not actually a grass but is so-called for the delicate green stripes on its petals. Steph also spotted a stunning female Wasp Spider, whose stripy yellow and black body was distinctly Halloween-ish. 

We then went back to work for the final part session. This was a somewhat bitter-sweet morning for Abingdon Green Gym members as we said goodbye to a much-loved and long-serving member: Andrew (formerly of this blog!) Andrew will be much missed, but we made him promise to come back for the Christmas Meal, and wished him the best of luck with his partner Joanna his loyal hound Elly. Andrew has done a wonderful job running this blog, and if I fill only a small portion of his very large wellies, I will be very happy. 

- Eleanor B

The Parsonage Moor welcoming committee!

A foggy briefing of the volunteers by Steph

Sail away, sail away, sail away...

Reflections in the fen

Circus skills along the causeway

Team Bunds hard at work (photo courtesy of Margaret N.)

Here you can really see the curve of the bunds (photo courtesy of Margaret N.)

Glorious Greengage!

Judy and the nature classroom

Devil's-bit Scabious


A female Wasp Spider - look at those stripes!

Coordinating details (fashion is, indeed, our passion)

Our glorious (Session) Leader!

Team work is the dream work! 

Obligatory triumphant Graham!

Saying goodbye and marvalising Andrew!


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