Friday, November 30, 2012

Barton Fields, 24th November 2012

Prior to this Saturday, our records suggest that all the green gym sessions of the year had been dry aside from a single trip to Frilford Heath earlier in the year.  Not bad going at all considering the appalling weather that has largely blighted 2012! However, the rains came this time and rather made up for their previous absence.

Upon arriving at Barton Fields, the bridge into the site from the Abbey Fields was found to be flooded along with the entire section of the Thames path along the length of the field.  The flood waters had in fact made their way to the edge of the wildflower meadow area and while fairly extreme at this time, the flood area continued expanding and caused some further issues in Abingdon later in the week.

The rain was persistent during the session, but a good turn-out of almost 20 volunteers braved the conditions.  As well as the green gym group, there were several members of the Abingdon Naturalists' Society's Green Team present who look after the site, led by David Guyoncourt. 

There were four main tasks this time - uprooting the invasive snowberry bushes in the shrub border, cutting back brambles, removing unwanted sycamore saplings and litter picking.

With such a large group of volunteers, good progress was made on all tasks, or at least within the areas that were accessible outside of the flood zone.  It was hard work, especially in the inclement conditions and from personal experience I can certainly conclude that snowberry is a very persistent weed with an exceedingly tough root system!

A partially flooded Barton Fields

Flood waters encroaching on the wildflower meadow

uprooting snowberry in the shrub border

the area of the field where the invasive sycamore saplings had taken root

sheltering from the rain under the trees during the tea break

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Geo Conservation, Lye Hill Quarry, 17th November 2012

In a break from our usual activities, this Saturday we joined up with the Oxfordshire Geology Trust at Lye Hill Quarry, near Wheatley on the outskirts of Oxford.  Besides being a bus depot, this site is a geological SSSI and formerly an active limestone quarry.

Upon arrival, the group assembled outside the entrance gate waiting for it to be opened by the security guard while acquainting ourselves with members of the Oxford Geology Trust, led by Lesley Dunlop.  Once inside we donned hard-hats and high-vis jackets and proceeded to the quarry face.  A short presentation was given about the importance of the site and how, aeons ago, the area was once a tropical sea.  Thus explaining the presence of shell fragments and other types of fossils found here.

In order for further investigation of the exposed quarry faces to be possible, our task was to clear the vegetation beneath and upon the limestone.  Many saplings and brambles had taken root and required removal.  A relatively large turnout ensured that steady progress was made in this regard.

As ever, the refreshment break was eagerly anticipated, especially so due to the appearance of some rather good biscuits and most crucially, Eleanor's excellent lemon drizzle cake.

Working at a quarry and being surrounded by buses and caravans of various shapes, sizes and vintages made for one of our more unusual excursions, but it also made a refreshing change to be at a new site.  To make such good progress in clearing a large area, to the delight of the Oxford Geology Trust members, was also a nice bonus.

A short presentation about the site before work commenced

Lye Hill Quarry information sheet

the quarry face, overgrown with vegetation

work commences

the view from above

one of the piles of cleared vegetation

tea break

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Abrahams Wood, Boars Hill, 10th November 2012

On another fine and mild Saturday morning, the Green Gym assembled at Berkeley Road, Boars Hill ready for a session in Abrahams Wood.  We were met by Andy Gunn, representing BBOWT who manage the site in partnership with the Oxford Preservation Trust.  

We descended the Hill to the woods and Andy briefed us on the tasks that were to be undertaken this time. Following-on from the last outing here in mid-October, our main objectives were to continue with clearing the invasive/non-native laurel trees and shrubs, and to undertake hazel coppicing and snedding.

Snedding is the process of removing or lopping the branches from the main stalk using a billhook.  The purpose of this was to prepare the hazel to be used for a hedging project at another Oxford Preservation Trust site nearby at Lincombe Lane, Boars Hill. 

A total of thirteen volunteers split up into various groups to commence or indeed resume the tasks from a month ago.  The site was formerly pasture, but has been returned to woodland in recent times.  It is home to a number of mature oak trees as well as the native hazel and birch.  However, the non-native and largely self-seeding laurel has rather taken over lately, so the main focus of our activities was to cut back the laurel and stack it into piles.  Removing this tree species, which forms a rather dense canopy, certainly allows a lot more light into the woods and permits the native species to thrive and provide an improved habitat for the local wildlife.

Our half-time tea-break was certainly well-deserved as the morning's activities were fairly strenuous, with everyone contributing with enthusiasm.  Dieuwke once again provided some cake which was warmly received and this provided a good energy boost to continue with our activities until the close of play.

Good progress was made with the laurel clearance, a good stack of snedded hazel was created and the group wended their way back up the hill after another successful session, pausing to admire the impressive crop of fungi that has appeared this autumn!

Andy outlines the morning's tasks

the Green Gym busy amongst the trees

Kevin clearing laurel having found a natural coat/hat stand!

an axe from the Green Gym tool arsenal

Andrew lops some laurel

Lauren sits on a pile of laurel

some coppiced and snedded hazel

a bumper crop of woodland fungi

packing up the tools at the end of a busy session

the group wending their way back up the hill from the woods

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 3rd November 2012

On arrival at the Ock Walk, we found that the Town Council contractors had been busy chopping down willow trees close to the river bank, presumably because they were dangerous. They had left a terrible mess and the ground was churned up by tyres. Part of the woodchip path, which we had only repaired and relaid in September was also damaged. We can only hope that they are going to come back and clear up.

Our task this week was to clear nettles and plant crocuses around the memorial tree and wood anemones, wild garlic and bluebells in some other cleared patches. The first part of the morning was spent slashing and uprooting nettles, which was hard work, but much appreciated by the local robin.

At the tea break we enjoyed a delicious fruit cake, made by Dieuwke to celebrate one whole year at Green Gym. We then planted the bulbs and corms in the cleared patches and cleared leaves from around some trees so we could scatter bluebell seeds. Unlike the bulbs and corms, which we hope to see flowering in the Spring, the seeds will take four or five years to flower.

There was also time to revisit the trees, oak, beech, silver birch, rowan and cherry, which we had planted in January 2011, and clear some nettles from around them. We were pleased to see that most of them are doing well.

tea break!
clearing around Chris's memorial tree

Eleanor hard at work

Friday, November 2, 2012

A few more photos from the Ock Valley Walk...

The green gym are back at the town end of the Ock Valley Walk this weekend, but here are a few photos from the last session there on 22nd September, when we re-laid a woodchip path. Photos taken by Margaret:


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Southern Town Park, 27th October 2012

This Saturday's session was in Southern Town Park, slashing the intractable brambles in the wooded areas on the eastern side by Peep o Day Lane. The day was fine and bright but very cold, the temperature having plummeted overnight.

There was a good turn out, however, and we made our way across the rugby pitches towards the stile, only to find it had become very wobbly since our last visit and didn't seem to be attached to anything at all. We set to work cutting and slashing the brambles and there was plenty of litter to be picked up too.

At tea break time, we had a nice surprise when Samantha arrived to pay us a visit with her baby, Charlotte. It just shows what Green Gym can do in terms of promoting health and well being! We set to work again attacking the brambles and pitchforking them to the roadside for collection along with several bags of rubbish and recycling. We had managed to make inroads into the brambles but there will be plenty more to tackle on our next visit.


pitchforking vegetation

Samantha and Charlotte