Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Barton Fields on the Abingdon Blog

An article has been posted on the Abingdon blog website providing some further information about the hay raking activities that the Green Gym have been involved with this past weekend... http://www.abingdonblog.co.uk/?p=9521

Monday, August 26, 2013

Barton Fields, 24th August 2013

This was our first session at the Barton Fields site for quite some time.  Since November last year in fact - that occasion was one of our rare rain-sodden outings, at which time Barton Fields was flooded in places with the heavy winter rainfall. No such conditions this time.  Even though the forecast again featured heavy rainfall, instead we thankfully got dry conditions.  Probably just as well since our main task this time was to rake and stack hay in the wildflower meadow area.

Earlier in the week, the meadow had been mown, hence the need for the raking.  If the cuttings are not removed, they would apparently encourage unwanted plant growth and ruin the pristine conditions for the seasonal wildflowers.  Which in turn would reduce the biodiversity that the field supports.  

As always at Barton Fields, we were working under the direction of Abingdon Naturalist Society 'Green Team' wardens, David and Jo.  Most of our fifteen or so volunteers were deployed in the hay raking and subsequent pitch-forking of the hay to a number of stacks around the field margins.  In addition, a couple of smaller groups were engaged in Himalayan Balsam pulling in the willow carr area and also in maintaining paths around the ponds.

The hay raking and stacking in particular was exhausting work with a number of piles of hay having already been raked by volunteers earlier in the week.  The piles were duly consolidated into the larger stacks with some variety of pitch-forking techniques on display.  Care was taken not to deposit a trail of hay from pile to stack, but this proved largely unavoidable with more raking then required to clear up all the hay dropped en-route...

Tea break was therefore most welcome as an opportunity to re-group, re-charge and to consume some lovely chocolate brioche for those of us who got there first!  Following much conversation and merriment, we eventually, if not reluctantly, resumed work operations. 

It was evident upon re-commencing, that the hay raking detail had lost some personnel to the balsam pickers, but not to worry, with a final push we were determined to finish the task.  This we almost achieved by home-time, with only a smattering of rogue hay cuttings here and there remaining on the ground. Job almost done.

There was, alas, no opportunity for me to get around to the willow carr and pond areas to verify the efforts of the sub-teams' labour, but I'm sure the usual high Green Gym standards were evident here too.  Another successful session at Barton Fields!
- Andrew

Piles of raked hay

David demonstrates how the pitchforking should be done

Gathering round for refreshments

Break time

Area of raked wildflower meadow

Andrew and haystack

Packing up

Rakes and pitchforks

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 23rd August 2013

This was an extra session in addition to the published programme, held somewhat unusually on a Friday. Earlier in the week, Eleanor had spotted some Himalayan Balsam growth along the Ock Valley Walk, close to the area of woodchip path that we regularly maintain.

Eleanor, Kate and myself met at 10am by the footbridge over the weir, ready to tackle what we thought was just a small patch of balsam.  Instead, there turned out to be rather more than anticipated, alongside both branches of the river.  

As usual, the balsam was found to be growing amongst stinging nettles, making the task a little trickier than it otherwise might have been - with us trying and largely failing to avoid being stung to pieces.  Care also had to be taken not to fall in the river as we balanced sometimes quite precariously on the banks of the Ock.

Despite finding such unexpectedly mature balsam, a couple of hours and much effort later, our eradication efforts were complete.  As a reward, Eleanor provided tea, coffee and cake, which the three of us enjoyed while taking a seat on a fallen tree and enjoying the sunshine as we reflected upon a job well done!  

Having been away for the whole summer up until now, it was good to be taking part in a Green Gym session once again.  

Kate amid the balsam

Balsam on the river bank

Lords and ladies

all gone!

Guelder-Rose with a fine display of berries

Balsam with stems of considerable girth

Balsam pile

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mill Road, Marcham, August 17th 2013

This session saw us at Manor Farm, Marcham for the third time this Summer. There were thirteen of us and we were very pleased to welcome two new members, mother and daughter, who we hope will become regular Green Gymmers.

The weather was grey and blustery, a complete contrast to our last session here, when the temperature had reached 30 degrees, but fortunately the rain held off. There is so much Himalayan Balsam here that we would need to be working every day for several weeks to get rid of it all. Fortunately the ditch we had worked hard on this year and in previous years was almost clear with only a few remaining plants to be pulled up.

We mainly worked on the banks of the stream which runs into the Ock. Seeds that get into the water are carried downstream to Abingdon and on into the Thames. The plants had grown very tall and were forming seed pods, but luckily few of them were ripe enough to pop and release their seeds.

We had our tea break in the relative luxury of a barn with a picnic table and chairs before continuing with our task. This was the last time we would be here until next Summer.

tea break

more tea being consumed...

Carolyn in the ditch

Ursula on the bank of the stream

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

New Green Gym Summer - Autumn 2013 Programme

Abingdon Green Gym's new Summer - Autumn 2013 programme has just been published.  This has information on all sessions to be held between this coming Saturday 17th August and Saturday 19th October. 

See below for full details or view/download a pdf version on our website - http://www.abingdongreengym.org.uk/programme/

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Abrahams Wood, Boars Hill, 10th August 2013

Ten of us gathered by the Open University building on Berkeley Road, where we met Andy Gunn from BBOWT who was to direct us in our tasks.

We walked down the meadow to the wood, where there was a lot of balsam growing. This type of balsam is not as large and invasive as Himalayan Balsam and has a yellow flower, but it is still worth getting rid of, so that was one of the tasks. The other task, pulling up bamboo, was much more challenging.

Abraham's Wood was once part of a private garden and consequently has a lot of ornamental non native shrubs such as laurel and bamboo. We used forks and spades to try and dig up the roots, which run for many metres underground. Sometimes we were able to pull up a really long root but sometimes we had to give up and cut them off close to the ground.

After our coffee break some of us swapped tasks, but the bamboo pullers had really got stuck in and would not give up easily. Steadily, the piles of bamboo roots and balsam grew. By the end of the session we had achieved quite a lot but there is still plenty to do. We found what may be some badger sets. The hazelnuts on the abundant hazel trees were developing and in the spring, the woods will be a sea of bluebells.

Pulling up balsam

more balsam pulling

Robert digging up bamboo roots

A prize-winning bamboo root!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Withymead Nature Reserve, 3rd August 2013

Eleven of us went down to Goring for the annual Green Gym picnic. This year it was preceded by a work party with the Withymead Nature Reserve volunteers, so we really felt we had earned our lunch time feast!

The site was Little Meadow, a lovely spot right next to the Thames Path, not the main reserve where we had been before. However, the tranquillity was disturbed by the proximity to the railway viaduct. Why is it that trains are never so frequent when you are actually waiting for one? We were grateful for the very clear directions sent by the wardens as we would never have found our way without them. As the site was half a mile from the nearest road we were also grateful for the loan of wheelbarrows to transport the food and drink.

It was the time of the annual cut of the wildflower meadow and while the wardens, Dorothy and Keith used the mower and strimmer, we joined the regular Withymead volunteers in raking up the cut vegetation and transporting it to the heaps at either end of the meadow by pitchfork or in builders' bags, while some people used scythes and slashers to cut the grass by the river bank that the machines couldn't get to. There was a great deal of knapweed in the meadow and the bees were very busy. It was rather sad to see their forage area becoming smaller and smaller as the mower did its work.
The weather was warm and sunny and we were glad to stop for our half time break. We carried on until one o'clock and it was surprising to see how much the uncut area had diminished and the heaps had grown.

Dorothy, Keith and Robert from Sonning Common Green Gym joined us for our picnic. Everyone had brought something so there was cold chicken, sausages, French Bread, salad, cheese, biscuits, crisps, fruit and cake and drinks, both soft and alcoholic.

As we made our way back to the cars, the sky darkened and just as we arrived, the rain began to fall. We couldn't have been luckier with the weather!

Raking up the cut vegetation

Carolyn, Lauren and Lesley

Kevin and Victor cutting by hand

Dorothy with the mower

Ursula and Sally, drag queens

Victor finds a new use for a wheelbarrow

The picnic

Relaxing after the feast