Monday, August 25, 2014

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 23rd August 2014

Following a impromptu session midweek at Abbey Fishponds, where a number of us helped with a variety of jobs at the nature reserve there, it was back to the Ock Valley Walk on Saturday.  Tasks involved the usual maintenance of the woodchip path, further eradication of the invasive Himalayan Balsam, clearing around the recently-planted trees and litter-picking.

We met by the bridge across the weir and were pleased to welcome two new members to the group.  We had a good turn-out as usual, particularly since many of us live within close proximity of the site and are keen to ensure that it is well looked-after so that ourselves and the wider community can enjoy the beautiful surroundings.

Back in March, we planted around sixty trees here - all native UK species, appropriate to the area, most of which are thankfully thriving.  This is in addition to the many trees we have planted in previous years, including the memorial tree to one of our former leaders, Chris Thomas, which has been growing at an impressive rate since it was established during February 2012.

There was still much Himalayan Balsam in patches close to the riverbank and within the wooded area, but removing this was slow progress since we need to be careful at this time of year as the seeds are out and we have to collect and remove the explosive seed pods first, thus doing our best to avoid this invasive non-native plant from dispersing further.

A lot of litter was found and cleared along the length of the path, out towards the Drayton Road as usual, although this task is easier during the winter months when much of the seasonal vegetation has died back.

It was good to see that the River Ock was abundant with fish and much additional wildlife was spotted including the common frog, common shrew, and a number of caterpillars, including that of the Elephant Hawkmoth which much favours the area.

Caterpillar of the Elephant Hawkmoth

Coffee time!

If you look closely, you can see some fish in the Ock!

Clearance around one of the saplings, planted back in March

Chris Thomas's memorial tree (a black poplar) in good health!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Caldecott School, 16th August 2014

This was our maiden outing to Caldecott School.  Our task there was to assist a group to rake up the cuttings from a recently-mown wildflower meadow that has been created beside the playing fields.  We were relatively few in number, but were also joined by some volunteers from the Abingdon Carbon Cutters, thus boosting the workforce somewhat.

The raking was begun in a small enclosed area and once completed there, our activities moved on to the larger meadow, where wild flowers had been sown in and around a number of trees.  A small orchard has been planted, along with an area of hazel saplings and a variety of other native trees.

As some of us raked the grass cuttings into piles, others transported these cuttings to a compost heap besides the school gate.  Some tarpaulins and builders' 'drag bags' had been brought along to make this task a little easier.  It was soon apparent that due to the large volumes of grass, a second heap was required, with a frame to hold the contents in place hastily constructed!

The refreshment break was taken beneath an awning, with a number of makeshift seats  available (i.e. a collection of logs!), so that we were in relative comfort.  A variety of biscuits and cakes appeared along with bacon rolls, kindly supplied by the neighbouring childrens' centre.
We were rather spoiled.

Fully victualed, we continued apace up until the 12:30pm deadline with some furious raking and clearing activities.  Kevin managed compress the cuttings as best he could by jumping up and down on them to keep the volume down, so that they could all be contained within the frame.

A job well done.  Hopefully the wildflower meadow and the trees will remain well looked-after and perhaps we will be back next year to help out again.

Work commences

Raking the larger wildflower meadow

Raking around the trees

One of the young Apple trees

The orchard area

Colin and Margaret loading a drag bag

Kevin compresses the cuttings

Evidence of a job well done!

The end of the session

Friday, August 15, 2014

New Summer-Autumn 2014 Programme

The new Abingdon Green Gym Summer-Autumn 2014 programme has just been published.  It can be viewed below, or click HERE for the larger-text PDF version (opens in a new window).

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Next Session - Saturday 16th August

The new Abingdon Green Gym programme will be available soon and posted up on the website.  

However, the next session for Saturday 16th August will be at Caldecott School, raking the cut wild flower meadow.  Meet outside the school at Caldecott Road at 9:30am.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Annual Picnic, Wittenham Clumps, 9th August 2014

This was the day of the annual Green Gym picnic. Originally held to celebrate the shared birthday of Ursula and Eleanor, it has now become an annual event.

This year we decided to go to Wittenham Clumps where we had been three years previously. We met in the car park and, having eventually all found the same car park, we set off for the Earth Trust Arboretum.

Despite predictions of showers earlier in the week, the day turned out fine though breezy. We had a very pleasant walk around the arboretum, where the groups of different trees were all labelled. We then retraced our steps but this time, climbed to the top of the hill, where we had an excellent view of the surrounding countryside including the Thames, the lakes at Dorchester and the three remaining cooling towers at Didcot power station. There is a useful marker here showing what can be seen at all points of the compass, and the information that here was the boundary between the ancient kingdoms of Wessex and Mercia.

We descended the hill back to the car park, where we began the serious business of unloading and setting up the picnic. Fortunately the one picnic table was free and with the help of the folding chairs we had brought, everyone could be seated. Barry had also brought a folding table where we could place the drinks and cakes.

Everyone had contributed something and we settled down to a feast of cold chicken and sausages, salads, rolls and focaccia baked by Robert, crisps and cheeses followed by cake and fruit, not forgetting the wine and fruit juice. The only thing we had to be careful to do was to keep hold of plates, napkins and plastic cups, which the frisky breeze threatened to blow away.

We ate and drank with gusto, accompanied by the occasional raucous bovine bellow from behind a thick hedge and the envious glances of the walkers and climbers setting off from the car park. Having rounded off our feast with coffee or tea, it was time to pack up and set off home. Here's to next year's picnic.

The remaining three cooling towers of Didcot Power Station viewed from the top of the hill

The picnic commences

Enjoying the feast!

At the Arboretum

Monday, August 4, 2014

Cothill Fen, 2nd August 2014

This was a joint session at Cothill Fen, held with other local Green Gym groups to commemorate the Abingdon Green Gym's 10th anniversary.  The event was organised by one of our regular leaders, Margaret, who is a founder member.

We assembled in the car park opposite the Merry Miller pub at 10am - 30 minutes later than usual.  This afforded the volunteers from further afield a slightly later departure.  As well as the eleven Abingdon Green Gymmers in attendance, we were joined by others from the groups in Sonning Common, Woodstock and Wallingford, and not forgetting session supervisor, Bob Silverwood from Natural England - the organisation who manage the fen.

Bob had arrived in his landrover and was able to transport all our tools and other paraphernalia directly to the site, thus saving us the hard work of carrying them all the way along the muddy track. We re-convened by the Cothill entrance gate and set up our base.  Bob then gave an introductory talk on the area, outlining what we would be doing during the morning as well as discussing some of the plans for future management.  This included information that five ponies are soon to arrive here to graze and keep the reeds and other vegetation from becoming too overgrown.

On this occasion, the tasks were twofold - to continue constructing a boardwalk around part of the perimeter footpath and to un-obstruct and more clearly delineate the remainder of the path along its length.  We split into groups and commenced operations, just as the clouds burst and (unusually for one of our sessions!), the rain began to fall heavily.  Fortunately there was some shelter to be enjoyed amongst the trees since much of the footpath passes through woodland.  Eventually however, the precipitation percolated through the canopy, giving us a mild soaking!

Not to worry - this was intended to be a celebratory event after all, and the prospect of tea and cake at the interval provided motivation enough to continue.  A special 10th anniversary cake had been prepared by Eleanor, along with other food contributions including some strudels provided by Barry and Enid.  Once the cake had been cut and refreshments taken, our chairman, James gave a brief speech, thanking Margaret for organising the event and the members from the other groups for making the effort to join us.  It culminated in the sharing of a toast for the continued success of the Green Gym.

Back to work then, for there was a footpath and boardwalk that required further attention.  These were dealt with in an enthusiastic manner despite the inclement conditions and by 1pm, we had made sufficient progress that we declared the session complete.  Off to the Merry Miller it was subsequently, for a pub lunch and the opportunity to better socialise with our neighbouring Green Gym groups.  Here's to the next ten years!

Assembling in the car park

Bob's Landrover

Let's get going...

Instructions being given

The section of the boardwalk to be laid

The boardwalk pre-assembly

Eleanor's cake


James mid-speech

Additional photos provided by Julia Booker (Sonning Common Green Gym):