Sunday, December 15, 2013

Cothill Fen and Christmas Lunch at the Merry Miller, 14th December 2013

We gathered in the car park opposite the Merry Miller for our session at Cothill Fen, led by Dr Judy Webb. Once again, we were very lucky with the weather as it was fine and sunny. We walked along the footpath to the fen and Judy pointed out the new fencing that has been installed to keep the ponies in, which are being introduced early next year to graze the fen.

We could not do our originally planned task of reed raking as they had not been cut so instead we set to work cutting back any vegetation that was encroaching on the fen and cutting back any shoots that were sprouting from the tree stumps. If trees and shrubs are allowed to grow on the fen, they will take over and the fen will become scrub, thus destroying the unique ecosystem of an alkaline fen. There were orange tapes tied to some of the stumps where rare plants were growing, such as a rare fern and a dark-leaved willow.

During our tea break and sampled some of Robert's home made cinnamon biscuits and Judy showed us the fungi she had collected. Then it was back to work and even though we thought we had finished cutting back the sprouting stumps, we kept finding more.

We made our way back to the car park and thence across the road for our pre Christmas lunch at the Merry Miller, which we all thoroughly enjoyed.

That was our last session before the Christmas and New Year break. The next session on 11th January will be the A.G.M. but before that some of us will be going to see the Creation Theatre production "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe".


Sally and Kate cutting back encroaching vegetation

Kevin and Margaret hard at work

Tea Break

Enjoying Robert's cinnamon biscuits

Judy shows off her blewits

Festive cheer at the Merry Miller

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Abrahams Wood, Boars Hill, 7th December 2013

This Saturday's venue was Abrahams Wood, Boars Hill, on  Oxford Preservation Trust land.

The site has become one of our favourites; not just for the lovely view over the dreaming spires of Oxford, but also due to the fact that being a smallish wood, a limited work force can achieve quite a lot in a morning's session.

Our main effort is usually to keep down the non-indigenous plants that have invaded the area, allowing the light to get through so native shrubs such as hazel and holly can grow.

Invasive bamboo and laurel have unfortunately become rather established in Abrahams Wood. However, if the laurel shrubs in particular can be tackled before they grow too big, they can be kept under control fairly easily.  It is possible to get a bow saw through their relatively soft limbs, and log habitat piles can then be created with the cut wood.  These piles also serve as a great indication of our efforts at the end of the day!

It was pleasing to see that our previous work of building barriers to stop deer stripping native tree saplings, seems to have done the job.  Earlier in the year we constructed willow 'doughnuts' around young trees using coppiced willow and also created a large continuous waist high fence of cut branches, stretching across the wood for this purpose.

By the end of the session and with a well earned refreshment break of seasonal Stollen cake plus home made chocolate cheese cake, we were very satisfied with our efforts.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Stonehill House, 30th November 2013

On a fine, sunny Saturday morning eight of us met in the courtyard of Stonehill House, a lovely red brick manor house on the southern edge of Abingdon. The house, outbuildings and gardens are used as a Russian cultural centre as well as hosting projects such as theraputic gardening for people suffering from mental illness.

Our task was to clear a footpath through the woods and remove tree guards from the various trees with which the fields had been extensively planted.

We walked through the grounds and the woods into the field with the young trees. Three people stayed in the wood to clear the footpath and the rest of us set to work removing the tree guards, loading them into barrows and taking them to the top of the field to dump by the gate. We had had a pevious session removing the guards back in April and there still seemed to be hundreds left. The footpath rakers soon finished their task and came to join us.

The field has several badger sets near the northern border but as it was broad daylight, we saw no sign of them snuffling around, eating worms, moving goalposts or whatever else badgers are reputed to do.

We enjoyed our coffee break in the pleasant sunshine and then carried on with our task until it was time to pack up. We had made very good progress but there were still some tree guards left and we hadn't even been able to start on the field at the other side of the house, so I expect we will be back some time in the new year.

Dieuwke, Carolyn and Ursula clearing the footpath

Colin removing tree guards

coffee break

pegasus in the courtyard

James removing tree guards