Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 22nd June 2013

Quite a small group gathered for this session and the weather didn't look promising. However, we were pleased to welcome a new member, Laura. We set off for the woodchip path,where we made our encampment. The nettles had grown high and dense since our previous visit, almost concealing the young trees, compising beech, oak, silver birch, cherry and rowan, which we had planted as whips almost two and a half years previously. One of our tasks was to clear the nettles and other vegetation immediately around them. As you can see from the photo of the young cherry, most of the trees are flourishing. Other tasks were to cut up and clear fallen branches into piles and the inevitable litter picking.

There was a sharp shower shortly before 11 o'clock but it had stopped when we gathered for a welcome tea break.

By the end of the morning we had finished clearing round the trees, tidied away the dead wood and picked up quite a respectable amount of litter, though I suspect that there was still quite a lot concealed by the abundant greenery.

This session's tasks made a welcome change from pulling up Himalayan Balsam. We haven't found any so far in this area, though I'm sure that it's only a matter of time before it springs up.
- Eleanor

cherry tree

Sally at work

tea break

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Mill Road, Marcham, 15th June 2013

Today we had our first visit of the year to Mill Road, Marcham to start pulling up the abundant Himalayan Balsam. Here, several streams and ditches drain into the Ock , up river from Abingdon, so it is important to eradicate as much balsam as possible before it seeds and gets carried down river.

We parked in the yard at Manor Farm and made our way down the road to inspect the ditch, where there had been a lot of balsam in previous years. We were pleased to see that in this area there wasn't as much as in before and that native wild flowers, such as cow parsley, buttercups and white dead nettle were now dominant, but some of us set about removing any Himalayan plants we spotted.

The biggest task, however, was on the opposite side of the lane in a field occupied by a very friendly horse and two ponies. Here there was a veritable carpet of balsam on the edge of the field and down the banks of the stream so we set to work to get as much cleared as possible.

We were certainly ready for our tea break at eleven back in the farmyard and enjoyed the relative comfort of a barn, where there was an old plastic patio table and several chairs. Then it was back to work until 12.30. We knew from last year that the stream behind the farm needed a lot of attention but we would have to leave that until our next visit.

Dieuwke in the ditch

Victor makes friends with a horse

a carpet of himalayan balsam

tea break in the barn

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Frilford Heath SSSI, 8th June 2013

This was our first trip of the year to the Frilford SSSI even though we had been at the nearby golf club on a couple of occasions in the past few months.  The reason for our return?  The himalayan balsam of course.The seasonal sprouting of this invasive non-native plant will be the focus of our attentions for many of the upcoming sessions over the summer.

As I have explained on here previously, himalayan balsam, is a very persistent and fast-spreading alien plant on these shores and without intervention, it would soon crowd out the local species and reduce the bio-diversity of the areas it colonises.  When the area in question is home to rare flora and fauna such as the Frilford SSSI, our action is merited.

Nine green gym volunteers assembled at Woodhaven on Saturday morning, long-sleeved and gloved since the area also has an abundance of stinging nettles at this time of year!  Led by Margaret, we began the short walk across the meadow to the work site and despite seeing much reduced balsam growth thanks to our efforts on previous years, there was still plenty of the site to focus on.  Robert and Kevin began by removing some willow branches that had blocked the paths since our last visit and adding the cut wood to habitat piles, while the rest of us started balsam-picking in earnest.

Although the summer has only just begun, many of the plants were already fairly tall, which did at least make removal easy.  While the balsam tends to be rampant, it can be up-rooted with little effort.  This time of year is the best time to tackle it before the seeds appear and begin to disperse.  It is also an activity that can be performed with little consequence to the general wildlife in the area, since at this time of year there are plenty of creatures nesting that we do our very best to avoid disturbing.

While the day was sunny and temperatures were on the rise, the shade that the area's trees offered us was welcome.  The wearing of long sleeves was not too uncomfortable as it can be on the hottest days, although the nettles do often have the ability to penetrate clothing and produce a nasty sting!

Good progress was made, but such is the persistence of the balsam, that we will be back before long to pick up where we left off.  Our efforts will only become truly clear in the following season when the coverage of the plant can be assessed.

the group assembles at Woodhaven

tea break

himalayan balsam (centre) with some nettles and cleavers

...and some comfrey

spot the balsam-picker!

self-portrait with himalayan balsam

freshly-picked himalayan balsam


a balsam-free area of site

habitat pile

the path with overhanging willow branches removed

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Fun in the Park, 1st June 2013

The annual Fun in the Park event was held in the Abbey Grounds, Abingdon on Saturday.  The event is a family fun day/fete organised by the town council.  Entry as usual was free and many of Abingdon's clubs and societies have a stall.

The green gym were in attendance as usual with many of our members volunteering on the stall throughout the day.  As well as promoting our activities and providing information to potential new recruits we were selling marmalade, lemon curd and cakes made by our members.  In addition, we had a treasure hunt game where members of the public could stick a pin on a map of Abingdon and win a prize if the pin fell on one of our pre-determined winning squares.

The weather for the occasion was lovely and the event attracted a large crowd.  We had good levels of interest in our stall and we look forward to welcoming any new members who may have become aware of our work.
- Andrew

Sally and Dieuwke promoting the green gym

treasure hunt game

marmalade for sale

Enid, Sally and Kate at the stall

Lauren in charge!