Sunday, December 13, 2015

Cothill Fen and Christmas Meal, 12th December 2015

For the final session of the calendar year, we were back at Cothill Fen, with our annual Christmas meal held in the nearby pub, the Merry Miller, afterwards.

There were a lot of similarities with this Saturday and last - once again we were supervised by Judy Webb from Natural England, reed raking was the main task, and the weather was damp but mild.  However, while there were only five of us on the previous occasion, we numbered a dozen this time.

Having transported tools and tea kit down the track, as usual, we found the fen soggy and the terrain uneven with all the many tussocks tricky to navigate. The reeds had been cut and required raking across approximately half the site, and stacking in existing piles around the perimeter.

While the majority of our workforce were busy raking and pitchforking, Robert and Colin were given the job of cutting back some of the smaller trees and branches on the edge of the fen.

In contrast to last week, when our depleted contingent had no hope of completing, on this occasion we got the job done in a timely manner.

Back up the track to the car park then, and onwards to the pub where we met with a few more members who had turned out for just the meal. A lovely social event with which to conclude another successful year.  Next up will be the AGM in January!

Gathering at 9:30am
The fen upon arrival
Off to work we go...
Andrew in pitchfork action!
Lauren by the tall reeds
Tree stump and tussocks amidst the general sogginess
Lauren levitates!
Towards the end of the session
The track back
The Christmas luncheon
At the bar!
A roaring fire at the Merry Miller

Monday, December 7, 2015

Frilford Heath Golf Club, 5th December 2015

An unusually small turn-out this week! We assembled in the car park of Frilford Heath Golf Club and were immediately a man down as session leader, James, was feeling rather under the weather and could not participate.  Sally took the reins instead and in any case, Judy Webb from Natural England was present to boost our numbers from five to six!

Onwards with a short drive around the corner to the groundkeeper's buildings, where we unloaded the tools and began our trek across the golf course to Boundary House Fen where our work was to be carried out.  A short pause while we waited for some golfers to clear the fairway and we arrived and got underway.

The reeds had recently been cut over the entire fen area and our job was to take them up and carry and stack them in piles around the perimeter.  There were also a few isolated areas of tree regrowth to cut cut back and some fallen branches to deal with.

Being somewhat understaffed, we did the best job that we could, but it was soon evident that we would not complete the task today.  Not to worry, we worked steadily and got around half of the raking done, quite respectable!

During the morning, Judy identified a number of rare plants and fungi and saw evidence of the increase of many fenland species. Very encouraging with regards to our work here.

Back across the golf course at the end of the session where we were interrogated by an irate golfer who informed us that there was no public footpath in the vicinity! Quite where he thought we were headed with rakes and pitchforks, we had no idea, but he soon apologised when we informed him of his error!  

Unloading of tools at the groundkeeper's buildings
Waiting for golfers as we walk across to the fen
Setting up!
Boundary House Fen at the start of the session
Some of the tall pine trees flanking the fen
Work in progress
Robert pitchforking some of the cut reeds
Sphagnum moss
Ursula in charge of refreshments
Mycelium inside a tree branch
Turkeytail fungus on a fallen tree
One of the ponds within the fen
The raked and stacked reeds from the session
Janet, Robert and Sally with a drag-bag full of raked reeds

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Abraham Wood, Boars Hill, 28th November 2015

We were at Abraham Wood, Boars Hill for this Saturday's session.  We work here on behalf of the Oxford Preservation Trust who own and manage the site.  On this occasion, session leader, Sally, had been instructed on our tasks in advance and so we were in attendance on our own.

Our job was to clear vegetation alongside the boundary fence between the two entry 'kissing gates'.  A 1.5 metre to 2 metre corridor was required to be cleared, of some considerable distance.  Thus it appeared to be rather a daunting task at first.  The area was thick with non-native and invasive laurel, along with many brambles and holly.  There was also some hazel that required coppicing.

Following Sally's initial briefing, our fourteen-strong team split into pairs, spaced at intervals along the boundary, each tackling our own section.

The weather was mild and dry and therefore favourable from the off, although the sky looked increasingly grey and threatening as the morning progressed.

The lopping and slashing commenced, and the cuttings were stacked onto existing piles from previous sessions.

Despite the thick vegetation growth, it was surprising just how much progress was quickly made and by the break at 11am, it looked as if we were well on our way to completion.

Indeed, a good push in the second half saw us achieve our goals!  A job well done.

It was fortunate that we had already packed up and were well on our way transporting our tools back up the hill, when it finally began to rain.  A slightly damp end but otherwise, a lucky escape!

Abraham Wood

A bright start to the morning on Boars Hill

Sally instructs us on the morning's task

Victor gets stuck in

Some of the dense vegetation that required clearing

A rare sighting of the chief blogger!

A pause in the morning's operation

Dieuwke, busy lopping

Getting there!

A finished section

Spot the green gymmer!

Kate and Michelle at the end of the session

Back through the gate

Homeward bound!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Barton Fields, 21st November 2015

It was a very cold and wintry, though thankfully dry, start to the session as we met outside the Sophos building along Barton Lane. Despite the plummeting temperatures, a total of around 20 green gymmers and members of Abingdon Naturalist Society's green team met for this work party at the Barton Fields nature reserve.

As usual at this location, we were working under the direction of warden David Guyoncourt.  A few different tasks were offered, though the predominant duty was to grub up the invasive snowberry plants alongside the Sustrans track running through the site - to allow the native tree and shrub species to thrive.

Elsewhere, unwanted hawthorn and sycamore growth was removed from the wildflower meadow areas, some dangerously low branches from some of the trees close to the main path were dealt with and a litter pick was also conducted.

It was fairly tough work tackling the snowberry, involving digging it out with mattocks, spades and forks!  The roots are surprisingly deep and far-reaching for such small shrubs, but with quite a number of us assigned to this detail, we at least made some good headway.

Meeting on Barton Lane

Off to work

Colin with some of his finds from the litter pick - parts of a motorcycle and a golf ball

Tidying up around a hawthorn tree

Burdock in the sun

An oak tree close to the path with some of the lower branches removed

A clear sky at break time

A pile of snowberry shoots

David (one of the green team volunteers) and Victor pulling up snowberry

The close of play