Sunday, July 28, 2013

Frilford Heath SSSI, 27th July 2013

Ten of us met at Woodhaven, Frilford Heath, for our third assault on the Himalayan Balsam on the SSSI site. The Met Office had promised us rain in the early afternoon but at 9.30 the weather was still pleasantly sunny.

Having sprayed ourselves liberally with insect repellent in anticipation of the voracious woodland wildlife, we set off for our encampment. We decided that one group should tackle the the balsam on the reed bed at the nearer edge of the site, while others chose various patches further into the site to work on. The Himalayan Balsam had grown very tall and much of it was in flower. We were joined by Dieuwke and later by Lesley, but even with twelve of us hard at work, the task seemed endless.

Sally had provided us with a delicious lemon drizzle cak for our very welcome refreshment break and then we set to work again. The central area we had worked hard on over the past few years was still clear, which was encouraging. Fortunately, there was still no sign of the rain that had been forecast as we packed up to go home.

Sally anxiously contemplates the task ahead

Eleanor among the Himalayan Balsam

Carolyn drowning in Himalayan Balsam

a speckled wood butterfly

Barry holds his balsam aloft

Did Victor eat all the cake?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ock Valley Walk, Tesco End, 20th July 2013

A smaller group than last week assembled for our first Himalayan Balsam clearing at the Tesco end of the Ock path. In contrast to last week at Marcham, the sky was cloudy and the temperature was several degrees cooler., which, after the last couple of weeks, was a welcome relief when working out of doors.

As well as balsam pulling, there were brambles and nettles to be cut back from the footpath and the usual large amount of litter to be cleared up. We were pleased to be joined by Mayor Samantha (not in mayoral regalia!), Councillor Neil and children Emma and Charlie for the first part of the morning, who set to work clearing nettles and brambles from the edge of the footpath.

There was a lot of Himalayan Balsam to be cleared on the other side of the ditch and in the wooded area by the river. Some had grown very tall and was in flower, though fortunately ripe, exploding seed pods had not yet formed. If you look at the photo of Victor, you can see how tall Himalayan Balsam can grow. It also seems that the more you pull up, the more you spot!

After the coffee break, during which we discussed ideas for the new programme, we did some task swapping and carried on, collecting large piles of balsam and a few bags of rubbish and recycling. We will need to revisit the site early in the next programme as by then the smaller balsam plants will have shot up.
- Eleanor

Dieuwke and Ursula pulling up Himalayan Balsam

Councillor Neil Fawcett cutting back nettles

Mayor Samantha Bowring lends a hand

 Victor with 9 ft tall Himalayan Balsam
Sally litter picking

baby Charlie relaxes in her buggy
James and Emma clearing wood

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Mill Road, Marcham, 13th July 2013

Thirteen of us assembled in the yard at Manor Farm on what was to be the hottest day of the year so far with temperatures climbing towards 28 degrees. We set off towards the field with the ponies and horse, where there had been so much Himalayan Balsam before. We found that the owner had strimmed it so Laura and Victor, who are horse-friendly, stayed to pull up what remained and James and Margaret went on the other side of the fence to the bank of the stream where there was still plenty. It will be interesting to see whether the strimming stimulates the balsam into new and more vigorous growth.

The rest of us set off along the stream to where it bends to the right and runs along behind the farm. There was plenty of balsam along the banks and even more on the opposite bank. the bottom of the stream was muddy and looked too deep for wellies, but eventually we found a shallower spot with a gravel bottom where we were able to get across.

We returned to the welcome shade of the barn for our rather long tea break and eventually returned to work. We were pleased to see that the ditch which had been so full of balsam up until two years ago had far less and the remaining plants were easily cleared. Although we had found quite shady places to work, we were glad to finish at 12.30 and go home to cool off.

Margaret on the banks of the stream

Victor and Laura in the pony field

James at work in the stream

Enid and Barry, well camouflaged on the opposite bank

Monday, July 8, 2013

Abbey Fishponds, 6th July 2013

Fourteen of us gathered at Abbey Fishponds on a hot sunny morning and with Marjorie's helpers we had quite a sizeable group. We had one new volunteer, who had actually tried to join Wallingford Green Gym but couldn't contact them so we were his second choice. We hope that he had such a good time that he will decide to stay.

One of the main tasks was to clear overhanging branches from the stream that runs through the Fishponds Nature Reserve. Those sensible enough to have brought wellies volunteered eagerly for this task as the prospect of spending a hot morning in a cool stream was very tempting. We split up into groups to tackle both ends and the middle in the hope of eventually meeting. Fortunately the stream is shallow and doesn't normally come above wellie height. Other tasks were trimming the hedge that runs along the north eastern side of the reserve and planting some wild flowers.

We met up again for our tea break, though it was difficult to tempt some people out of the stream. Barry and Enid had brought some delicious chocolates back from their trip to Dresden and of course we had to eat them very quickly before they melted.

After the break there were reeds, which had been cut with the strimmer, to rake up and stack while the other carried on with clearing the stream. All too soon it was time to pack up and head home after a very busy and productive session.

Dieuwke and James clearing the stream

Barry raking up reeds

Carolyn in the stream

the group packing up at the end of the session

Monday, July 1, 2013

Frilford Heath SSSI, 29th June 2013

Saturday 29th saw us once again at Woodhaven, Frilford Heath to tackle the Himalayan Balsam. There were nine of us in the group, including two volunteers who hadn't been to Woodhaven before.

It was a fine, sunny day and quite a contrast to the previous Saturday on the Ock Path. Consequently, the tea break photo shows us looking somewhat more cheerful.                      

There was plenty more balsam to tackle but none of it was, as yet, in flower. Many people say it is a pity to pull balsam up as it is pretty and colourful. The bees also love it and it goes on flowering right through September. I am told that "balsam honey" is sold on some places. However, it takes over huge areas, crowding out the native plants and the fact that each seed pod, when ripe, explodes and releases up to 200 seeds means that it spreads very rapidly, often along waterways.

Where balsam has been eradicated, a variety of plants soon returns and in the central area we have worked on over the past few years we saw buttercups, cranesbill, woundwort and ragged robin.

We chose our particular areas and set to work and soon we had some quite satisfactory heaps. We didn't linger too long over our 11a.m. tea/coffee break and were back at work by 11.20.

Pulling up Himalayan Ballsam is a very satisfying occupation and I can thoroughly recommend it. We have one more official session at Woodhaven this Summer and ther is still plenty to do.

Tea Break

Carolyn and Ursula picking Himalayan Balsam

A pile of pulled Balsam!