Monday, October 27, 2014

The Elizabeth Daryush Memorial Garden, Boars Hill, 25th October 2014

Following the cancellation of the scheduled Geo Conservation session at Lye Hill Quarry, we were fortunate to find that our services were needed at Boars Hill, on Oxford Preservation Trust land, which is managed by BBOWT. This time it was a new site, the Elizabeth Daryush Memorial Garden.

Elizabeth Daryush was a poetess, the daughter of the poet Robert Bridges. She and her Persian husband lived at the house called Stockwell on Boar's Hill and they donated the garden to the Oxford Preservation Trust. A few yards from the entrance is a large pond with two benches beside it and two large sweet chestnut trees. The rest of the garden is mostly rough grassland with trees around the edge and one or two more benches.

Green Gym's task was to clear some of the bramble bushes and small trees in the middle and at the  edge of the field. We met at the usual meeting place and then squeezed into fewer cars to drive up the narrow road towards the Youlbury scout camp. having parked in the rather limited spaces at the roadside, we unloaded and proceeded through the gate and down to the lower end of the garden, where we set up camp. The weather was dry and fairly sunny but the overnight rain had resulted in dripping trees. We set to work at once, being careful to avoid the rabbit holes we had been warned about. With Kevin plodding up and down with pitchfork loads of brambles, we soon had several heaps.

After a welcome stop for coffee, tea and biscuits we carried on lopping and sawing but eventually had to stop, to give ourselves time to tidy up and transport the remaining piles down to the fence. There is still a great deal of work to do on this site, but we all enjoyed working in this beautiful area and look forward to coming back.

Petra tackles a tree

Removing a bramble patch

Kevin with a load of brambles

Tea break

The notice board

The pond and Autumn trees

Sweet chestnut trees

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Green Gym 25th October - Change of Venue

Green Gym on 25th October will not be at Lye Hill Quarry but at Boars Hill. For further details and meeting place, phone or email Eleanor (contact details on programme).

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Southern Town Park, 18th October 2014

We are very fortunate to have so many parks, playing fields and and playgrounds in Abingdon.  The football club in Lambrick Way is known well enough to parents of children who play football, but beyond that is a semi wild area with some playground equipment and a BMX trail and plenty of space to kick a ball around or walk the dog.  Just please, please put your doggy bags into the bins provided (or take them home) they will not decompose.

We had the luxury of a picnic table for our tea break and worked in the fenced areas of tree plantations, clearing brambles which threaten to overwhelm the young trees. Also there is always plenty of litter to pick up, and we did well filling at least four sacks from all areas, including the margins of the football field.

In the intermittent bursts of sunshine, wet berries glistened and trees glowed with bright yellows and reds against a stormy indigo sky. Our party of eight was lucky not to get wet, especially Robert who came all the way from Wheatley on his bicycle.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Abrahams Wood, Boars Hill, 11th October 2014

Once again we were at Abraham's Wood, Boar's Hill to continue with our attempts to eradicate the laurel and bamboo. The previous tasks we have carried out here include making "doughnuts" around newly coppiced hazel to prevent the deer from nibbling the new growth, building a dead hedge and planting oak tree whips.

Unlike last week, the weather was fine and sunny and despite predicted scattered showers, remained dry throughout the morning. As we made our way down through the meadow, with its wonderful view of Oxford, we met a couple of disconsolate mushroom gatherers returning from a fungus foray with about two mushrooms. The weather had been much too dry in September for any worthwhile quantity of mushrooms to have appeared by the second week in October.

Having made our encampment in the wood, one group set to work on the bamboo roots with mattocks and the others attacked the laurel. Bamboo has runners which spread underground, criss crossing in an intricate network so eradicating it is very hard work. Laurel is almost as bad, taking root spreading underground and popping up again everywhere. The aim is to return the wood, which used to be part of a private garden, to native deciduous woodland. Nineteenth century plant hunters have a lot to answer for.

We stopped for a welcome break at 11 o'clock and, fortified by cake, carried on with our tasks. Returning up the hill, we felt we had achieved quite a lot in one morning, though there is still plenty to be done.


Tackling the bamboo

Cutting back the laurel
Barry sets to work on a laurel branch

Back to work after the tea break

Returning up the hill

Sunday, October 12, 2014

New Green Gym Autumn 2014 Programme

The new Abingdon Green Gym programme for Autumn - Winter 2014 has just been published (below).  For a pdf file version, click HERE

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Little Meadow, Goring-on-Thames, 4th October 2014

Although billed on our programme as being at Withymead Nature Reserve, Saturday's session was actually held at Little Meadow, south of Goring-on-Thames.  The site is a three acre wildflower meadow, managed by the same charitable trust as nearby Withymead.  The Green Gym had visited the site on a previous occasion during the summer of 2013.

Little Meadow is our farthest-flung site from Abingdon, being a 30-40 minute drive away for most.  However, the location of the meadow on the banks of the Thames, on the edge of Goring itself, is quite delightful and we are therefore more than happy to make the journey!

Due to the lengthier commute, we assembled slightly later than usual at 10am, at which time we parked up and met with the local volunteer group.  Tools were unloaded and divided up for transporting to the meadow itself, a good ten minutes walk from the parking spot.

Upon arrival at the site, work was already underway, with site wardens Dorothy and Keith mowing and strimming the meadow.  A few eager volunteers had already begun raking up the cuttings and stacking them in one of two piles at the edge of the work area using pitchforks.  This was the final phase of cutting the meadow for the year, the bulk of the work already having been completed on previous sessions.  No matter, there was still plenty left for us and the other volunteers to do.  With both groups combined there were in excess of 20 workers.  Keith briefly instructed us on what was to be done and we got underway.

Unusually, given our good run of recent weather, we were less fortunate this time.  Rain fell persistently throughout the morning, making mowing conditions slightly less than ideal.  Not to worry, we had all come prepared with our waterproofs and the precipitation was light enough not to cause too much bother.

The site, as well as being besides the Thames, is flanked by the railway line running through to Reading and ultimately, London Paddington.  Therefore, many trains thundered past at regular intervals throughout the morning.  A good result of this is that there is a fairly large bridge taking the track across the river, thus providing us with an ideal, sheltered spot for taking refreshments, away from the rain.  We retreated under cover later than we would ordinarily do, given the later start.  We were even more ready than usual to take tea and coffee, supplemented by the odd biscuit or three!

Fully refreshed, it was disappointing to learn that the rain had not eased, on the contrary, it was perhaps heavier than before.  There was only a small patch of the meadow still to clear so there was never any question of packing in early, however.  Work continued apace, a slight pause in proceedings only taking place when a rabbit was spotted having taken refuge in the last remaining patch of uncut vegetation.  The rabbit was encouraged to scarper and the site was completed.  A good morning's work.

The rain still fell as we carried the tools back along the path to the car park.  It seemed to many like a longer journey on the return leg, perhaps due to being tired and soggy?!  Oh well, it all felt worthwhile and we look forward to returning to this beautiful location again in the not too distant future.  Hopefully the weather will be kinder for us then.

All parked up and ready for the off

Dorothy with the mower

Raking gets underway

Taking refuge under the bridge for refreshments

A mown meadow, train passing in background

Finishing up

The Thames Path as it passes through the meadow

Rain-soaked and packing up