Friday, May 31, 2013

Fun in the Park and new summer green gym programme

Tomorrow (Saturday 1st June), the annual Fun in the Park event will be held in the Abbey Grounds, Abingdon.  As usual, the green gym will have a stall at this community-led fete between 11am-3pm.  More information can be found on the Abingdon Town Council website

In addition, our new green gym programme for summer 2013 has just been published. Click here to view.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bank Holiday walk along the Ock Valley, 27th May 2013

For the Bank Holiday Monday, a programme of free walks was organised by various Abingdon groups, all starting at the market place.  Included among these was a tour of the Ock Valley Walk, led by one of our session leaders, Eleanor.  

The Ock Valley Walk is one of our green gym work sites, so as well as enjoying a pleasant stroll along this beautiful route, the aim was to show participants the work that we do there along with providing some further information about the history and nature of the areas visited.

Registration for the walks began at 10am and the group of 11 people and a dog left at 10:30am.  The walk was conducted at a leisurely pace and was an interesting social occasion as well as being an opportunity to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather.  Many participants were local to Abingdon, but we also had walkers from as far afield as Newbury.

Eleanor gave a brief talk at the start of the Ock path about the route and the wildlife to be found there and proceeded to guide the walkers along the woodchip path that the green gym maintain.  We subsequently followed the path out past the Drayton road and out towards Tesco (another spot where we regularly hold work sessions).  We took the path across the newly-restored footbridge and as far as the New Cut Mill.  We then diverted towards Sutton Wick, and then across some fields to Masefield Crescent before returning back into town via Caldicott Road, St Helen's Wharf and East St Helen's Street.

Our return to the market square was shortly before 1pm.  Positive feedback was provided by those involved and it proved to be a lovely way to spend the bank holiday morning.

registration for the walks in the market place begins

Eleanor with sign

the market place

Eleanor provides some information at the start of the Ock Valley Walk

along the woodchip path

the bridge at the Tesco end of the path

back at the market place at the end of the walk!

Friday, May 24, 2013

A few photos from our German friends...

We were recently joined on a number of green gym sessions by a German couple, Bernd and Ursula, who were involved in a house share with regular members Barry and Enid.  They had traveled all the way from Dresden. 

We have received a few photographs from them, taken at the green gym during their stay.

It was a pleasure to meet Bernd and Ursula and their hard work and enthusiasm was most welcome.  We look forward to staying in touch!

group photo at Frilford Golf Club

picnic lunch during Withymead Nature Reserve visit - photo 1

picnic lunch during Withymead Nature Reserve visit - photo 2

picnic lunch during Withymead Nature Reserve visit - photo 3

Tea break at Stonehill House session

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Next Session 18th May - Cancelled

Due to circumstances beyond our control, the next scheduled session for this Saturday 18th May at Cothill Fen has been cancelled.  There is also no session the following week due to it being a bank holiday weekend.

Our next official activity will be the Fun in the Park stall on June 1st.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Stonehill House, 11th May 2013

Stonehill House, on the Southern edge of Abingdon, was a new site for us. Our planned visit in March had been postponed but at least the weather was better than on that date, though certainly not perfect. The current owner of Stonehill House is keen to have community groups working there and as well as aiming to make the grounds a haven for wildlife there are ongoing gardening and art projects projects and a beautifully restored barn for events and courses.

Our tasks were to remove tree guards from young trees and to tidy up the woodland. We split into two groups with one group in the woodland clearing fallen branches, making habitat piles and cleaing vegetation from the informal footpath through the wood and the other group setting to work on the tree guards.

At coffee break time we were joined by our German friends, Bernd and Ursula, who were paying us a farewell visit before returning to Dresden. We had also found out that it was Victor's birthday so we managed to conjure up a surprise birthday cake. We swapped jobs after the break as tree guard removal loses its thrill after the first fifty or so. There were certainly far too many to be removed in a single session.

The grounds of Stonehill House are certainly a haven for wildlife. We spotted a roe deer running across the field and Sally came across a fawn concealed in the grass. There are a number of badger sets and on our way back Mark, the resident gardener and naturalist, let us look through his telescope at a red kite on her nest. It was interesting to work on a new site and we hope to visit it again soon.

Sally sawing wood

German visitor, Ursula

Victor removing tree guards

a view of Stonehill house beyond the gardens

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Withymead Nature Reserve visit, 6th May 2013

On Bank Holiday Monday, Sally organised a return visit to Withymead Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Goring, where we had been for the joint Green Gym session with Sonning Common in April. This time it was not to work but to see the Loddon Lilies in full bloom.

The Loddon Lily or Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) is a rare plant found in only a few areas of Southern Britain. It was first identified growing by the River Loddon in Hampshire, hence its name, but Withymead has the most extensive area of these plants in the country. It resembles a taller, larger snowdrop, with a distinctive green spot on the outside of each petal.

There were twelve of us on this visit, including two German visitors, who have been helping Green Gym during their house exchange holiday in England. We were given a tour of the reserve by Dorothy, one of the volunteer wardens, with plenty of time to admire the Loddon Lilies, which grow in the boggy areas close to the river, and to learn more about the history of the site and plans for its future development. We then had our picnic while basking in the sunshine outside the Visitors Centre and enjoying tea, coffee and cake provided for us.

Dorothy showed us various ingenious habitat piles and wildlife "hotels" then lifted up an old door which sheltered a grass snake and some slow worms. Some of us were interested but others beat a hasty retreat! 

We could not have wished for better weather for this trip and look forward to returning to the reserve in the near future.


loddon lillies

close-up of the plant

picnic lunch

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Abbey Fishponds, 4th May 2013

Saturday found us once again at the Abbey Fishponds nature reserve on the eastern side of Abingdon.  We assembled as usual at the far end of Hadland Road where we were met by site warden, Majorie White.  We unloaded the tools from session leader James's vehicle and proceeded down the track to set up our base on the mound and to be briefed on the morning's tasks by Majorie.

Despite a few spots of rain as we set out, the clouds soon parted and the welcome sight of blue sky was soon upon us.  We split into a number of groups - the largest of which continued with the laying and maintenance of the woodchip path, another which tackled some overhanging brambles around the path margins and a third which was deployed on a litter pick.

A number of wheelbarrows had been brought by various green gym members and the main objective with the path-laying was to re-distribute the large and troublesome pile of woodchip that had been deposited at the Radley Road end of the site.  Unfortunately, the remaining areas of the path that required laying/re-patching were some distance away from the pile, so the shoveling and transporting of woodchip was a rather strenuous task.  However, given that one of our main objectives is to stay fit, there could be no complaints.  Three wheelbarrows and Colin with his cart were soon making several journeys up and down the reserve to patch and extend the path, ably assisted by further bodies raking the woodchip into a path-like form once unloaded.  We were later joined by Fishpond volunteers Mike and Pete whose contribution was most welcome.

The sunshine had us working up a sweat in no time and with it came the need to remove overcoats and green gym hoodies!  T-shirt weather at last.  It was with some relief that the 11am teabreak soon arrived and our 16-strong group returned to the mound for refreshments.  Revitalised by beverages and biscuits we pushed on and completed the removal of the woodchip from the pile - providing just enough material to extend the path down to the bridge.  Our bramble-bashers and litter pickers had also done a great job and de-littered and brambled the site magnificently before home-time came around and we packed up ready for the off.  A quick glance around the site and you could tell that we'd been!

the group assemble at the eastern end of Hadland Road

path progress by the tea break

tea break on the mound

section of path patch-up!

wheelbarrow and woodchip path

Sally rakes the last of the woodchip 

session's end

the completed path

the litter-picker's bounty

home time!