Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ock Valley Walk, Tesco end, 29nd September 2012

Once again, despite the weather during the week having been predominantly wet and miserable, Saturday turned out to be fine and sunny!

Ten or so green-gymmers turned up to perform a variety of tasks at the Tesco end of the Ock path under the leadership of James this week.

The tasks included litter picking (litter is frequently a problem in this area), clearing away overgrown vegetation around the edges of the paths and removing some tree branches again around the path margins.

Good progress was made early on with all operations and by the tea break at 11am, there was not an awful lot left to do.  

Following refreshments, tasks were swiftly completed and the group set about packing up, keen to make the most of the fine weather, and in the case of several of the volunteers, eager to visit the local excellence market in the town centre!

Refreshment time!

Another fruitful litter pick

Kevin removes a dead branch from a tree

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Ock Valley Walk, Town end, 22nd September 2012

Our session on 22nd September happened to be on the day of the autumn equinox, and despite it being bright and sunny, there certainly was a distinct autumnal feeling in the air.

The main task on this occasion was the re-laying of the woodchip path at the town end of the Ock Valley Walk.  The council had provided a pair of woodchip piles - one at either end of the path, and the group split into two teams, starting at either end and meeting in the middle.

Wheelbarrows were filled with the woodchips and emptied at intervals along the path and then raked to form an even surface.  Those members not occupied with the path-making helped out by removing overgrown vegetation around the edges of the path and by litter-picking in the vicinity.  

By tea-break at 11am, the team working closest to the town end had completed their section of path and so joined up with the others to work at the far end.  The work, especially for the wheelbarrow operators, was rather strenuous, and much effort was maintained throughout to ensure that the path was completed by the end of the session.  In the event, the timing was almost perfect, with the job done shortly before 12:30pm and both piles of the woodchip were used in their entirety.  The path is now back in good condition for the people of Abingdon to enjoy.

wheelbarrow and woodchip!

a completed section of path

finished!  where the woodchip path meets the main Ock Valley Walk

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Southern Town Park, 15th September 2012

Today was the second consecutive session at Southern Town Park. Due to the events of last week ruling out any pond digging on the adjacent allotments (see the blog entry for 8th September for details), the volunteers once again set about tidying up overgrown vegetation.
Despite a beautiful autumnal morning, there was a very minimal turn-out - only four Green-Gymmers this time.  We focused on the Eastern edge of the park, adjacent to Peep-o-Day Lane where traditionally much bramble over-growth has been observed.  

Indeed, once again, the areas around the perimeter fencing were in much need of tidying, and several trees required liberating from this persistent plant, lest they should become suffocated. Much care and attention was given to ensure that there was no disturbance to the local bird population of course.

Loppers, rakes and pitchforks were the tools of the day. Firstly, cutting back brambles with the loppers, then raking them into piles and lastly using the pitchforks to consolidate them into bigger stacks, ready for collection later on.

We may have been short on numbers, but we were big on enthusiasm and hard work and much was achieved as the photos below illustrate.  

vegetation cut back from the borders

much better!

the largest of three vegetation piles

Lesley and Robert reviewing their morning's work

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Southern Town Park, 8th September 2012

The plan for this session was to split into two groups, one to continue digging the allotment pond, a project we had started in the early Spring, and the other to cut back overhanging brambles and litter pick in Southern Town Park. However, the pond diggers, equipped with wheelbarrow and spades, were halted by the allotment enforcer and told that further digging of the pond had been forbidden by the Town Council Amenities Committee. We had been caught in the crossfire of a deadly political dispute, something which is not meant to happen to Green Gymmers!

We beat a hasty retreat and joined the other group, where there was plenty of work to do in cutting back brambles overhanging the fences and using the spades to clear moss and other vegetation from the edges of the tarmac path. It was too early to do any major scrub clearance, which should only be done between October and February, to avoid disturbing nesting birds and other wildlife.  The litter situation was not too bad. Perhaps the wet Summer had put a damper on outdoor drinking parties.

The weather was fine and very warm, so we enjoyed our tea break sitting at one of the picnic tables. Next week there will, of course, be no pond digging but we will work on cutting back brambles on the other side of the park.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Frilford Heath SSSI, 1st September 2012

A pleasant and crucially, rain-free Saturday morning was spent once again at Frilford Heath, our last session of the year at this particular site.  As usual for this location, Himalayan Balsam pulling was the order of the day.
Approaching the site, it became clear to the seven volunteers that despite all the hard work put in during the year, the battle against the Balsam is far from won!  Large swathes of the plant still exist, to the detriment of the native species.  However, real signs of progress are also very apparent.  

We concentrated our efforts at the far-end of the site, the same area that we have largely focused on during other, recent sessions.  With only a small group this time, only a limited area could be covered, but much effort was put in to ensure that the plant was cleared as far as possible at least in this particular spot.  

The task was complicated by the fact that at this time of year, the Balsam has developed seeds.  These had to be collected for destroying before removing the plant so that scattering and re-seeding for next year was limited as far as possible.  If touched or moved, the seed pods spring open, launching the seeds some considerable distance.  Up to 7m is the maximum recorded distance.  Quite an impressive biological mechanism or somewhat of an annoyance, depending upon one's perspective!  Each seed pod has between 4 and 16 seeds and can remain viable for up to two years.

This is likely to be the last Balsam pulling session of the year - much to the relief of some members who will be keen to partake in a greater variety of tasks in the coming weeks!

the large stack of Himalayan Balsam, pulled on a previous session at Frilford Heath on 14th July

Lauren demonstrates how large the Himalayan Balsam plant can grow!

Andrew removing Balsam from a stream

Himalayan Balsam seed pods and seeds.  Note explosive seed release devices (the springy-looking bits!)