Sunday, February 23, 2014

Kennington Memorial Field, 22nd February 2014

This was our annual trip to Kennington Memorial Field to join up with Alison Muldal from Natural England and her group of local volunteers who hold work parties at the site.

This session, in common with those that have preceded it here, largely involved cutting back vegetation around the site boundaries.  Brambles hawthorn and blackthorn form the main thickets that require managing, lest they should completely engulf the field.  

We were sufficient in number, that upon arrival, Alison divided us into sub-groups and directed us to the different areas of the field that most required our attention.  Some of us tackled the brambles at the top end of the site, while others started working away at the thorn bushes lower down.

The area of brambles were a high priority due to the adjacent footpath having become muddy and waterlogged and therefore a new route needed to be cut.  Five volunteers worked especially hard to cut back the brambles in this area since they had become quite impenetrable. While this was going on, a bornfire was started at the bottom of the field and the thorn cuttings were transported here for burning.

As usual at Kennington, the refreshment break was taken in the relative comfort of the sports pavilion.  Tea, coffee, hot chocolate and an impressive selection of biscuits was offered.  Being extremely hungry from the hard work up until this point, we were indeed grateful! There was also some marmalade for sale at this time, having been made by some of the green gym ladies.

Back to work, and it was a case of getting as much done as we could before our time was up.  Steady progress was achieved by an increasingly weary bunch of volunteers.  This session involved quite arduous physical work, but I suppose that is the point!

an area of bramble removal to re-route a muddy footpath

Sally, Kate and Margaret, hard at work

Kevin tackles a thorny issue

Dieuwke adds fuel to the bonfire

Tanya, Carolyn, Lesley, Petra and Eleanor

more workers across the field

outside the pavilion, post-refreshment break

Andrew slashing

the many anthills are a feature of the memorial field

homeward bound at session's end

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Southern Town Park, 15th February 2014

This Saturday, we unexpectedly found ourselves at Southern Town Park.  Our original programme activity was to plant trees along the Ock Valley Walk, but recent heavy rain and flooding had forced us to reconsider our plans in advance and retreat to somewhere a little less waterlogged.

We assembled in the car park along Lambrick Way amid high winds.  The remnants of the previous night's storm, which had kept many of us awake as it battered our homes, was still in evidence.  It was actually fairly surprising that more trees had not fallen given the severity of the conditions, however.

Making our way across to the work site at the Peep-o-Day lane end of the park, it was evident that there was plenty to be getting on with.  The ongoing removal of heavy bramble growth that is smothering the trees adjacent to the lane was a priority, along with the usual litter-picking and the clearance of some fallen tree debris.

Eager to keep warm with the low temperatures and wind-chill we eagerly got started.  Sensibly, given the unpleasantness of the conditions it was decided that we would take an early refreshment break and finish the session half an hour earlier than usual and head to the nearby pub, the Midget.

We made good progress on all fronts, but as usual there was more to do than we could realistically achieve and so the tasks will continue into future sessions.  Nevertheless, we left the site looking better than when we had arrived and certainly devoid of much of the litter.  Our haul this time included a single high-heeled shoe and a fly-tipped armchair!  

Most of us re-grouped at the Midget for post-session drinks and as we did so, the rain that had held off all morning, began again.  Our usual run of good weather fortune continues, and long may it do so!
- Andrew

Arriving at the work site

Storm clouds over the playing fields

Rogue fly-tipped armchair among the brambles

James removes the chair for later disposal

Ursula discovers a single high-heeled shoe mid litter-pick!

Refreshment break banter

Recovered recyclables

A de-brambled area

Packing-up, pre-pub

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Cothill Fen, 8th February 2014

Expecting to see a large lake, we were surprised to find that the fen was its usual self.  Watery but not impossible to walk and work on.  Maybe the fen, being spongy in nature absorbed a lot of the water that has fallen this last month.

Our tasks were to rake up reeds that had been cut previously, and put them in piles at the margin of the fen.  Also cut back encroaching scrub and trees to keep the fen open and wet.

The morning started wonderfully sunny, a relief after the rainy week, and apart from some dramatic grey storm clouds on the horizon, remained dry and fine throughout the session.

Judy from Natural England got us started, and we completed all the raking and made good inroads with the tree cutting.  Judy invited us back for an evening walk later in the year when the effect of this work can really be appreciated.  Marsh orchids, marsh helleborines, bog pimpernel, black bog rush and marsh valerian can be found in spring and summer.  Of the wildlife, I only saw a lovely fat toad, and various birds like sedge warblers and robins. But it is also a good habitat for grass snakes and lizards.

This site is always a pleasure to work on, as it seems so remote and feels very peaceful.  The only hazards are getting wet feet when the ground suddenly gives way or toppling over on the uneven ground, but I think we avoided both this time.

- Ursula 

drier than expected, but wellies still required!

chatting while we work?

Andrew, mid-thought at tea-break...

Margaret takes time out from the relentless raking

James, the woodsman

work well-underway

Lauren hides-out among the reed piles

Monday, February 3, 2014

Abrahams Wood, Boars Hill, 1st February 2014

Twelve Green Gymmers gathered in Berkeley Road, Boars Hill for a session in Abrahams Wood. We were joined by Andy Gunn from BBOWT who led us down to the wood, where our task was to cut down as much of the laurel as possible and add it to the dead hedge, which we had constructed during a previous Boars Hill session.

It was a bright, sunny morning, though cold, but we were very grateful for some respite from the relentless rain which had gone on for so many weeks. Already we could see bluebell shoots springing up everywhere. Andy talked about the history of the wood for the benefit of the new members, how it had been donated to Oxford Preservation Trust and what BBOWT was hoping to achieve there.

We then set to work on the laurel with saws and loppers, piling up the larger logs and adding the brash to the dead hedge. It is amazing how tall laurel can grow, many plants being more like trees than shrubs. Because this wood was once part of a private garden, it contains plants such as laurel and bamboo. Laurel is very persistent and even a small amount left on the ground will take root again.

After a break for refreshments, we carried on with our task. The weather stayed dry for us and we began to warm up. As we packed up and made our way back up the hill to the road, we were quite pleased with how much we had cleared.

- Eleanor

Setting to work on the laurel

Cutting up the laurel branches

Petra with an armful

Margaret tempts us with biscuits

Tanya sawing down a laurel