Saturday, March 29, 2014

Abingdon Clubs and Societies Day, 29th March 2014

This was the bi-annual Abingdon Clubs and Societies Day, held at the Guildhall in the town centre.  It provides us along with the many other groups and organisations in Abingdon with the chance to have a stall and demonstrate to those attending what we get up to.  Also, it is a good opportunity to attract new members.

Dieuwke was in charge of organising the stall this year.  We were placed opposite the Abingdon Naturalists Society who we regularly hold joint sessions with, but there were many other groups present whose activities do not overlap.

We received much interest, with several people registering interest.  We look forward to welcoming new members over the coming weeks.

Dieuwke, Kevin and Carolyn at the Green Gym stall

There was much interest in our activities during the day

Information on our activities and marmalade for sale!

Poster outside the Guildhall

Abingdon Guildhall

New Spring 2014 Green Gym Programme

The new Abingdon Green Gym Programme for Spring 2014 has been published (below).  Click HERE to open the larger-text pdf file in a separate window.

Ock Valley Walk, Tesco End, March 22nd 2014

We returned to the Ock path after several weeks away to start clearing the mess of litter left by the floods the had covered most of the fields by the Ock following the heavy rain during January and February.

Twelve Green Gymmers were in attendance on what was a warm and pleasant morning. Sally was in charge for the first time with James away doing atomic work in organising "ATOM" for Abingdon (the town's first science festival). She was feeling apprehensive about her new role but she need not have worried.

The main tasks for the Green Gymmers was litter picking, cutting up some branches and some light judicious cutting back of hawthorn that would soon grow over the pathways and a pile of logs that had tumbling onto the pathway that needed a bit of attention.

It was even claimed that some red and white barriers had fallen into the Ock and need removal. Kevin and Robert when off to try and find these barriers but after walking the length of the Ock between Drayton Road Bridge and the foot bridge near the end of the path nothing was found.

Meanwhile the rest of the Green Gymmers had split into small groups to carry out the rest of the tasks.

Carolyn, Tanya and Dieuwke were cutting back the hawthorn that was threatening to grow across the paths which could create problems for cyclists as they ride along the path.

Laura, Victor, Lesley and Enid were collecting litter that seemed to be everywhere.  Margaret, Sally with Kevin were clearing the path of branches that had been washed over it by the floods.

Given the state of the Ock River only a couple of weeks before, it now looked beautiful and peaceful.

By the time we finished the was a large number of filled rubbish and recycling bags left by the road into Tesco for collecting by the Council on Monday morning.

Sally instructs the group

the River Ock - at a lower level than recent weeks

Dieuwke cutting back hawthorn

Carolyn and Tanya also tackling the hawthorn

Victor and Laura

Kevin, Margaret and Sally clearing the path of branches

Some of the many rogue tree branches

The River Ock looking beautiful and peaceful

A few more photos from Frilford Heath Golf Club...

Many Thanks to Judy Webb who provided the following additional photos from the Green Gym sessions held at Frilford Heath Golf Club on 11th and 15th March 2014:


Laura raking

Fen raking

Alison raking, Robert filling the bag with the vegetation

Tanya and Sally busy at work

Andrew raking

Early Purple Orchid leaves at Two Pine Fen

Sally and Andrew raking at Two Pine Fen

working at Two Pine Fen

Sally at Two Pine Fen

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Frilford Heath Golf Club, 15th March 2014

For the second time in a week, we had a session at Frilford Heath Golf Club.  This time we assembled in the main golf club car park before moving on to the Greensmans' area at the alternate entrance off the Abingdon Road, toward Tubney.

Twelve Green Gymmers, along with site supervisors, Judy and Alison, were in attendance on what was a rather warm and pleasant morning.  Blue skies, birdsong and a very potent spring ambience were very much the order of the day as we ran the gauntlet down across the golf course, dodging golfers and their flying balls, en-route to Boundary Fen.

As with Tuesday's session, the main task was raking up the cut vegetation that had been left over from the activities of the golf club staff at an earlier time, and to remove any rogue tree debris and/or fallen trees that we might find.  

On the way to setting up our encampment on the fen itself, we had to cross the narrow, yet fairly deep stream that runs beside the site.  Alison and Judy were the first to hop across, but subsequent volunteers ran into a bit of trouble negotiating the obstacle!  Finally having all made it in one piece, the tasks were outlined and we set about beginning our operations.

The cuttings were raked and made into small piles and then transported across to the top edge of the site.  In order to achieve this quickly and efficiently, a couple of large builders' 'drag bags' had been procured.  A large quantity of vegetation could thus be loaded and transported into these receptacles without the need for heavy lifting.

While the raking was in progress, Judy had a good scout for noteworthy flora and fauna, with some interesting species discovered.  Most obviously, there were many frogs and a good deal of frogspawn in the ponds around the perimeter.  Also, an ants' nest was found, although the exact species of ant was unclear without further analysis.  Furthermore a fairly significant blushing bracket fungus was identified.  All good signs of biodiversity within what is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).

We covered the majority of the site during the session, with only some of the area towards the Abingdon Road end and a patch across on the other side of the stream left outstanding.  There were also some sections of fallen trees that will require finishing off.  Otherwise, a job well done!

The return trip across the golf course was not without delay as we had to wait a while for some golfers to tee off.  We took care not to move the golf balls from their tee-shot positions as we crossed the fairway.  Apologies if any deviations from this intention occurred - to any golfers who might be reading!  Not everything always goes according to plan...

Judy provides some instruction

Ant colony

One of the 'drag bags'

The top of the 'Blushing Bracket' fungus

...and the underside

All steam ahead...

Taking a quick break

Alison and Kevin remove a section of felled tree

Dieuwke and Eleanor fill the bag

Discussions beside the wood pile

Tanya and Sally, busy raking

Boundary House Fen in the March sunshine

A pair of frogs in the pond


Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Frilford Heath Golf Club, 11th March 2014

Another week, another mid-week session!  While we usually meet on Saturdays, there have been a number of additional sessions recently, and this was one of them.

The idea of meeting on a Tuesday was due to the fact that a part of Frilford Heath Golf Course was not in use and thus we could in theory work on one of the fen areas without the risk of having to dodge flying golf balls.  

Six Green Gymmers plus Judy Webb from Natural England (the authority that manage the wetland areas there) met at 10am, outside the greenkeepers' buildings on the course itself.  We collected together our tools - mainly rakes, and advised the head greenkeeper, Sid, that we had arrived.  Sid escorted us down to the worksite - the appropriately named Two Pine Fen.  This is a small wetland habitat within the course itself.  It is adjacent to the larger Boundary House Fen where we regularly work and has a pair of large pine trees within it.  It is home to a variety of locally rare plants including several species of orchids and bog mosses.

Once at the site, Judy instructed us on the task, which was to rake up the the vegetation that had been cut sometime earlier, and to move it into piles at the edge of the fen for later collection by the golf club staff.  Despite it being rather a small area, it soon became apparent that we were faced with quite a large job owing to the uneven and soggy ground and with the many tree and shrub root obstructions.  There were quite a proliferation of ground elder and willow roots, which may require tackling at a later date, lest they should spread any further.

On this occasion, we worked around any such impediments and raked-up as much loose vegetation as we could.  Hidden amidst the undergrowth were found to be quite a number of lost golf balls that we collected together, with guesses being put forward as to how many that we would find during the morning.  

Occasionally we had to stop raking while some golfers teed-off at a nearby hole.  The green and fairway that sandwiched the fen were not in use and the part of the course that was active shouldn't have posed much of a problem, however there were many erratic first shots that sent golf balls flying across the work area and fairly close to ourselves!

The refreshment break was taken at 11:30am with both carrot cake and lemon drizzle cake on offer, having kindly been supplied by Eleanor and Sally.

A good effort was put in after the break to complete the task and to maintain or even improve the habitat for the rare plants.  Some other strategies may have to be put in place to safeguard the wetland, however. These include removing some of the drainage channels that currently take a lot of the water away from the site thus leaving it too dry for the flora that it is intended to support.  

We will return to the golf club on Saturday, but it will be back to Boundary House Fen for that session.  Incidentally, the number of rogue golf balls was counted up at the end of play, and the grand total was... 74!

Work gets underway

Kevin rakes

The largest area of this particular variety of bog moss in the county!

Carolyn and Eleanor prepare refreshments

A small patch of orange bog moss

Work is halted while some golfers tee off

The final push

Sally and Judy, hard at work

Most of the golf ball haul

Eleanor adds to the pile, having dragged the raked cuttings across on a tarpaulin

Piles of raked cuttings, ready for collection

The aptly-named Two Pine Fen