Showing posts from July, 2014

Mill Road, Marcham, 26th July 2014

It was back to Marcham this Saturday, for the second session of the summer at Mill Lane.  The plan was to continue the Himalayan Balsam clearance.  Fortunately, there was a much larger turn-out than the previous session, which had seen only five Green Gymmers rather overwhelmed with the extent of the balsam growth.  Fifteen-strong this time, the task ahead was still fairly daunting given the ideal growing conditions that the previous months have presented for this invasive plant. Upon arrival at the site, we assembled outside the farm shop and made our way to the bottom of the adjacent field to commence operations.  Along the field boundary and around the lake area, we were greeted with a bumper crop of balsam, up to 10 foot tall and with stems of considerable girth.  It was a matter of getting stuck in and working flat-out to get as much done as possible. This we did, working on through the heat of the sunny July morning.  Soon enough, large piles of pulled balsam began to accumul

Frilford Heath SSSI, 19th July 2014

This week, we were working in our tireless pursuit of ridding our precious heathland of invasive Himalayan Balsam at Frilford Heath, a Site of Special Scientific Interest, which is a site largely in private ownership, but managed by Natural England. The morning did not start off promisingly. Rain? On a Green Gym morning?! HELLOOOO!! We arrived at Woodhaven in dribs and drabs, where we have the kind permission of the landowner to park, and made our way to our normal base site, eagerly surveying the scope and enormity of the task ahead as there were forests of Himalayan Balsam everywhere. The rain soon stopped and lifted our spirits although, in the humidity of the day, we could be forgiven for imagining that we were somewhere in a tropical jungle, rather than in an Oxfordshire heath!! Kevin, our leader for this session, had to cut branches from across the path so that we could make our way unhindered to base camp. We then split into groups to wage our attack on all fronts aga

Evening walk around Parsonage Moor and Cothill Fen, 16th July 2014

On the evening of Wednesday 16th July, Dr Judy Webb led us on an evening nature walk around Parsonage Moor and Cothill Fen. Only a few Green Gymmers were there and those who didn't make it missed a really fascinating tour. We were also joined by a group of Parsonage Moor volunteers. This is an area of alkaline fen and needs constant conservation work to preserve the rare habitat. We set off along the boardwalk and Judy showed us the hemp agrimony, a food plant of the scarlet tiger moth, and meadowsweet. Then we plunged into the fen and encountered a fragrant orchid and took turns to sniff its clovelike scent.  Judy pointed out the starfish-like pale green leaves of butterwort. This is an insectivorous plant which has attractive purple flowers in Spring. Another rarity in this fen is Grass of Parnassus, which will have a white flower in September. Parsonage Moor is now, as a result of global warming, the southernmost point at which this plant grows. We learnt that sphagnum mo

Mill Road, Marcham, 12th July 2014

Only five of us arrived for our first Himalayan Balsam pulling session at Mill Road, Marcham. However, our group included Robert Wilson. who we hadn't seen at Green Gym for some time, so it was nice to welcome him back. Having parked in the farmyard of Manor Farm, we set to work on the ditch running along the right hand side of the lane. We had cleared this pretty thoroughly last year so we were disappointed to see that so much had come back. Looking across the fields, we could see a line of solid pink, where the balsam was growing thickly beside the stream. The weather was fine and sunny, in fact a bit too hot so we tried to keep in the shade. It was a daunting task with so few of us to tackle it. We put up our notice board and some passers by stopped to look at it. In fact two jogging ladies actually took leaflets. We had our break in the comparative luxury of the barn, where there were some plastic patio chairs to sit on. James and Ursula joined us for coffee,

Ock Valley Walk, Tesco End, 5th July 2014

With rain falling at breakfast time it didn't bode well for Saturday's session at the Tesco end of the Ock Valley Walk.  Fortunately however, it had stopped by time we got to our usual spot to decamp our equipment. We could see that the flooding in the winter had contributed to considerable plant growth in the area, in particular, a large amount of stinging nettles.  Meanwhile, the local Ock River volunteers had taken down a number of trees that needed logging and stacking which Robert only too willingly dealt with. The Himalayan Balsam was a different matter! There were clumps of Balsam in amongst a sea of nettles, which we had to slash our way though to get to.  This was achieved but the nettles went down fighting, stinging any part of exposed wrists or even through covered legs.   Nevertheless, the gallant team cleared a large amount of the plant including around the river bank itself. The path also need a trim in places and a litter-pick was conducted