Sunday, September 28, 2014

Some additional photos from Cothill Fen...

Here are some additional photos from last Saturday, 27th September 2014, taken by (and kindly provided by!) Judy Webb:

Cothill Fen, 27th September 2014

This Saturday's session was back at Cothill Fen, a favourite site of many a Green Gymmer.  We assembled in the car park and were met by Judy Webb from Natural England, who was supervising our activities on this occasion.  We were pleased to welcome a new member, Jason, joining us for the first time.

Having unpacked and readied our tools, the fairly lengthy trek down the footpath to the work site was begun.  Once there, we had to navigate our way across the tussocks through the soggy fen, to establish our encampment.  When we were all present and correct, Judy outlined the morning's tasks and we divided up and set about working.  Prior to our visit, a previous work-party had cut the reeds over a portion of the site and the primary job now was to rake these up and stack them in a single pile, ready to be collected and removed at a later time.  Many of the cut reeds were around the pond area and beyond the electric fence, therefore, the power to this was temporarily disconnected while we worked in the vicinity.

The purpose of cutting the reeds is to allow the lower plants/flora, including the many rare wildflowers native to the area to flourish.  The fen requires a lot of management to prevent reeds and subsequently shrub and tree growth from encroaching upon the habitat.  The reeds therefore require removing once cut, to prevent them from releasing high levels of nutrients when they rot down and thus increasing this undesirable process.  While many of us were raking reeds, a number of other Green Gymmers were engaged in cutting back the tree growth around the site perimeter - mainly alders.

Ponies have recently been introduced to the site and to the neighbouring Parsonage moor to graze on the vegetation as a natural way of preserving the habitat.  They are however only likely to eat fresh shoots and not the more mature reeds.  Therefore, in order for them to have the greatest effect, the reeds have to be cut to ground level in the first instance.  While grazing, they will also trample the ground and disperse the wildflower seeds as they move around the site, which is highly beneficial to the conservation process.

After an hour and a half's vigorous activity, we took our break, with Sally providing some fantastic cakes for our consumption.  They were very well received, suffice to say!  Just the energy boost that was required to continue working until our 12:30pm deadline.

The reed raking was largely completed following our elevenses, and a number of us turned our attention to help out with the alder-removal operations.  During this time, Judy kept herself busy cataloging the various flora and fauna around the fen and I was pleased to be able to add a grass snake to her list, having spotted one in a reed pile established on a previous visit.

Having simultaneously collected a number of seeds from the devil's bit scabious plant, Judy assigned Kate the task of distributing these across the site in order to widen the distribution of this native wildflower - important in promoting the reserve's biodiversity.

The power to the electric fence was restored at the end of the session, essential to prevent the ponies from wandering into the vicinity of the pond!  We then packed up our tools and set off back along the path to the car park.  Upon arrival, we were slightly alarmed to discover that our vehicles had been boxed-in by a pair of coaches!  Fortunately, the drivers were present and they were only too happy to move and let us out.  Phew!  A good ending to a successful session.

Reeds cut on a previous occasion, ready for us to rake up

Making our way across the fen


the electric fence!

Work in progress...

Reed raking completed. For now!


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Southern Town Park, 20th September 2014

It was back to Southern Town Park this Saturday for our familiar autumnal litter-pick and overgrown bramble tidy-up around the field margins.  Meeting at the Football Club car park, we decided to focus our efforts on the Peep-o-Day Lane at the other end of the site, with members various driving around to the the lay-by or walking across the field to the designated work area.

Once there and having unloaded our tools, we divided up tasks accordingly and began work.  The weather was grey, but fairly mild, and thankfully free of the heavy rain that had hit Abingdon the previous day.

A good turnout ensured that it was soon obvious that we were making headway in our tasks i.e. ridding the park of litter (for now!) and removing brambles around the footpaths and from around trees.

We were joined just before break time by our German friends, Bernd and Ursula, who are currently staying in town. They first came along to Green Gym while they were in the UK during spring 2013 and it was great that they could make a return visit.  Especially since they provided such a delicious biscuit selection while taking our tea and coffee!

There was plenty more to be getting on with once refreshed and with Bernd having taken a group photo or five!  The outstanding litter was picked and any rogue brambles were removed where possible. No doubt we'll be back again soon for another round.

The session gets underway


Part of the litter haul

The famous Green Gym sign and leaflet dispenser

Ursula, Colin and Bernd

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Barton Fields, 13th September 2014

A large group of Green Gymmers along with members of the Abingdon Naturalist's Green Team met opposite the Sophos building, Barton Lane, for this Saturday's Session at Barton Fields.  We were working under the direction of site wardens, David Guyoncourt and Jo Cartmell as usual, with a variety of tasks on the agenda.  These included completing the raking of the recently-cut wildflower meadow, nettle-slashing along the Thames path, litter-picking and the removal of Himalayan Balsam in the willow carr area.

We thus divided up into sub-groups and set about our various jobs in earnest.  Having joined the nettle removal team along the river, and having heard that there were water voles in the area, I was somewhat surprised to see one scuttle off towards the water almost straight-away!  Too quick for a photo, sadly!  The nettles by the path have rather taken-over this year due to the weather conditions and have crowded-out many other plants and wild flowers.  We therefore chopped them back in sections and raked-up the nettles and stacked them in piles away from the path to discourage re-growth.

Elsewhere, the hay rakers were busy clearing the last remaining cuttings, although much of the work had already been completed during two previous sessions during the week by the Green Team and a group from the Environment Agency.  There were reports of much remaining Balsam growth that kept some of the others busy and it appeared that the litter-pickers plenty to work with!

Our refreshment break was taken with cake provided by Eleanor and some croissants also appearing!

Fuelled-up and back to work, the hay raking was completed and progress made on the other tasks.  As a bonus the weather improved steadily throughout the morning with warm conditions and blue skies by the end of the session!

David outlines the morning's tasks

Break time

James and David along the Thames Path

A pile of raked hay from the meadow

The raked meadow/the end of the session

Monday, September 8, 2014

Abbey Fishponds, 6th September 2014

As usual there were several tasks to be tackled at this large site but fortunately there was a really good turn out of Green Gymmers, including new recruit Janet, who was there for the third time and Nathan with his support worker. Lorretta from Earth Trust was there with her strimmer and she set to work cutting the reed bed. Marjorie told us the other tasks, which included cutting back vegetation overhanging the stream and along the perimeter paths, making a woodchip path from the Hadland Road entrance to the bridge and litter picking. We selected our tools and split up to go to our chosen tasks. Fortunately, the weather was warm and sunny, which made the work much more enjoyable.

We stopped at 11 o'clock for our break, which was extra special as Sally had provided some cakes to celebrate James' return to leading a session after a few months off. Then it was back to work and by the end of the session the path was finished, the stream was much clearer, the cut reeds were piled up and several bags of litter had been collected. It is encouraging to see Green Gym sessions so well attended.

The woodchip pile covered in nettles

The woodchip path at the start of the session

Tea Break

Petra and Janet working in the stream

Barry and Enid making a path

James attacking the undergrowth

Marjorie's helpers raking reeds

Kate and Lesley try to cut some very high branches

The finished woodchip path

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ock Valley Walk, Tesco End, 30th August 2014

Having been at the town end of the Ock Valley Walk on the previous Saturday, it was time for a session at the Tesco End.  As might be expected, there was plenty of litter to pick and an overwhelming amount of Himalayan Balsam to attempt to clear.

Early on, it was apparent that the Balsam growth was rather too much to deal with, but specific areas were targeted around the river banks, and we did the best that we could.  The majority of the group however, kept themselves busy litter-picking.  There was no shortage of waste in the vicinity, with the usual remains of impromptu summer parties to deal with i.e. many cans and bottles! A number of sacks were quickly filled with both recyclables and non-recyclables, although due to the heavy vegetation, it is likely that there was much more hidden within the undergrowth!  A session later in the year might be required for this.

With a good turn-out, a successful morning was spent here, with us leaving the path looking a lot cleaner and tidier than when we had arrived and as a bonus, the weather remained fine, in contrast to recent days!

Eleanor and Petra clear Himalayan Balsam


A nest in a tree beside the path

The half-time litter haul!