Saturday, January 24, 2015

Frilford Heath Golf Club, 24th January 2015

This was our first visit of the year to Frilford Heath Golf Club - to continue the maintenance tasks at Boundary House Fen.  It was another frosty start, though thankfully no snowfall this week as we assembled in the Golf club car park - almost 20 strong.  An impressive turn-out.  Once all present and correct, we drove around to the groundsman's area just along the road and unpacked the tools and tea kit, ready for our trek across the fairways to the fen itself.

It was approaching 10 o'clock before we were in a position to commence operations, with Alison Muldal from Natural England, along with Judy Webb outlining our jobs for the morning.  The reeds at the fen had once again been cut by the golf course staff and it was a matter of raking them up and transporting and piling up these cuttings along the edge of the site, away from the delicate wetland habitat.  At the same time, another group were tasked with removing some small trees and bushes along the opposite edge of the fen in an effort to halt their further encroachment.

Despite the cold and rather crisp beginnings, the sunshine soon took the chill out of the air and by keeping busy we soon warmed up.  Good progress was evident with the raking fairly rapidly, with the cuttings deposited into builders' 'drag bags' for removal.  A much more efficient operation than pitchforking alone!

As we worked, red kites circled overhead, a rather magnificent sight!  Not many other creatures were evident, as expected at this time of year however - just a few birds, and certainly too early in the year for amphibian activity around the ponds.  Judy did however spot some fairly locally rare plants to add to her species list.

Given our late-ish start, tea break soon came along, providing the opportunity to take stock of our progress.  We were over halfway through our reed raking and stacking and thus additional members were re-assigned to the tree removal detail following refreshments.  A good push in the final hour ensured that we completed our mission here, ready to pack up and transport ourselves and the equipment back across the golf course.  As usual our rather messy appearance met with some bemusement among the golfers out for their Saturday round, but it did at least provide a good opportunity to spread the word about our conservations activities at this location!

And so it begins...

Raking underway

James in a thicket

Judy hard at work

A red kite circles overhead

Refreshments by the reed pile

Robert and Alison discuss the plan of action

Sally, raking


Dieuwke and Heidi with one of the drag bags

Robert and Barry sawing one of the fallen trees

Lizzie and Lesley

One of the ponds

Sphagnum moss

Action amongst the trees

A collection of rakes and pitchforks


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Minor updates to current programme...

Some minor amendments have been made to the current Green Gym programme.  There are no alterations to where we are going, just some changes to who is leading. This affects four sessions.  The revised programme can be seen below, or for a pdf version, click HERE (opens in new window).

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Stonehill House, 17th January 2015

This was our first outdoor session of the year, following-on from the AGM on the previous Saturday.  A group of 16 of us met at Stonehill House, between Abingdon and Drayton.  It was a relief that it had stoppped snowing, with some of us wondering if our activities might be cancelled due to the wintery conditions.  Instead, we were keen to get going since temperatures were a little on the cold side!

We assembled in the courtyard outside the house itself, where we were met with site supervisor, Sophie who instructed us on the tasks to be done.  It was a pleasure to welcome another new member, Heidi, to the group, joining us for the first time.

Stonehill House is privately-owned, but has community facilities including a recently-planted woodland and gardens, and also runs exhibitions and courses on a variety of topics.  Our work there is to assist in maintaining the community woods and the morning involved clearing grass and weed growth around the young saplings and removing any dead trees or indeed removing any tree guards around some of the more mature trees.  The tree guards are necessary to protect the saplings from attack by deer who tend to strip them back given the chance.  Indeed, it wasn't long before we encountered some deer in the grounds as we set about our work.

Some of us wielded grass hooks and cleared around the trees, while others removed or re-adjusted tree guards and the remainder raked-up grass cuttings and transported them to a pile in the corner of the field.

One of the other projects at Stonehill is to provide courses on the construction of low-impact buildings, using environmentally-friendly materials such as straw bales, and the field in which we worked was flanked by such buildings, providing an element of interest to our session.

We hadn't been working long, when the sun appeared and temperatures began to rise, although there was still most certainly a chill in the air.  Our tea break was therefore even more keenly anticipated than usual, and we returned to the car park for this.  Petra had kindly baked a banana and chocolate chip loaf for the occasion - to celebrate her year anniversary of attending the Green Gym.  Most delicious it was too.  At this time, we we also met by the property's owner, Anthea, whom some of the group had met before on our previous visits. We are well looked after here, and were lucky to be able to have use of the toilets - a rarity for one of our sessions!

Back to work then and despite our good progress, it was apparent that there is still much work to do here.  Perhaps we will return again soon, although in the meantime it is anticipated that other community groups will also help out and contribute to what is a valuable community asset.

A snowy start at Stonehill House

Unpacking the tools

Sophie instructs us on the morning's tasks

Some of the low-impact buildings

Workers in the field

Kevin clearing around a tree

A sapling within a tree guard

Erin and Kate clear away some of the grass cuttings

A grass hook

Barry hard at work

A pile of cut grass

Packing up at the end of the session

Sunday, January 11, 2015

AGM,10th January 2015

The Abingdon Green Gym's first activity of 2015 was the AGM.  This was once again held at James and Ursula's house.  The majority of our regular members were in attendance, with only a handful of apologies to announce.

Chaired by James, the meeting was was thorough, and included a review of the past year's activities, a financial report from our treasurer, Sally, and our plans for the year ahead.  

We have done well in the past 12 months in attracting new members and look forward to building upon our recent successes.  Thus there were discussions on additional requirements for tools and first aid kit supplies as well as funding ideas.

We rattled through the agenda at a good pace with some great input from those present.  We were finished after two hours, and so onto the main event - the buffet lunch!  Food had been contributed from all present and a wonderful spread it was too.  Once again, Eleanor's legendary meringues were star of the show, with homemade salads & bread and Barry's apple strudels also particularly delicious.

Thanks to James and Ursula for hosting and we all look forward to a great 2015.

Ursula, James and Barry

Sally, Eleanor and Lesley peruse the agenda

Robert, Margaret, Janet and Petra mid-meeting

The savory side of the buffet

Lesley, Kevin and Robert get stuck in!

Monday, January 5, 2015

The new Winter 2015 programme

The new winter 2015 Abingdon Green Gym programme has just been published (below).  For a higher-resolution pdf version, click HERE

Prior to commencing the work sessions for the year, the AGM is to be held this coming Saturday, 10th January at James and Ursula's house.  Details are as per the previous programme HERE