Monday, December 12, 2016

Group photo from our last session of 2016!

Judy Webb sent through a group shot of the Green Gym members from our last session at Cothill Fen last Saturday:

Cothill Fen, 10th December 2016

Our last session of 2016 already and back to Cothill Fen for the second week running!  We were here to continue with the tasks that had kept us occupied on the previous visit. Primarily to remove the recently-felled trees from the fen itself to piles at the perimeter, while another group was tasked with reed cutting and raking/stacking at the far end of the site.

Although it had been dry when we assembled in the car park, no sooner had we walked down the lane to the fen itself than it began to spot with rain.  As the morning progressed, the rain got heavier - to the extent that we got a reasonable soaking.  Not to worry, there was considerable motivation to keep us going, namely the annual Christmas dinner in the Merry Miller pub afterwards.  

From the outset, it looked like we had much to keep us busy before thoughts could turn towards luncheon.  There was quite a considerable brash pile to deal with.  Fortunately, our numbers were sufficent enough to give us a decent chance.  We organised ourselves so that some cut the trees into smaller sections with bow-saws and loppers, while others carried the cuttings to the existing piles.  It was rather wet underfoot, so it was decided that some of the larger logs should be laid-down to form makeshift paths to improve our efficiency.  A chain-gang was then established to transport the wood from the fen to the piles.  Teamwork!  We encountered the occasional frog and a mouse to distract us momentarily, but otherwise we worked with plenty of determination.

By the soggy teabreak, we were well on our way to dealing with the brash.  Thus, afterwards a few more bodies were assigned to the reed raking detail.  Indeed, as soaked as we may have been, by the end of the session we had achieved our aims.  The only problem now was how to dry ourselves off in order to look presentable for lunch!  

A rabble of twenty-one, wet, and slightly weary Green Gymmers assembled at our booked table at the Merry Miller, and following a brief speech by our chairman, Kevin, and some Christmas Crackers, we tucked into some delicious food.  

That is our programme over with for another year and we will resume operations at our AGM on the 7th January.

Unloading the tools

Judy Webb instructs the group upon arrival.

The felled trees to remove (photo taken during the previous session!)

Off to work we go...


Pondering our next move.


A makeshift path.

A common frog.

Kevin at work with a bow saw.

Adrian and Judy on the reed cutting and raking detail.

A soggy teabreak.

Soaked-through but determined!

One of the wood piles.

Looking back across the fen.

Preparing for departure.

Finally, the Christmas meal!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Cothill Fen, 3rd December 2016

December already and our penultimate session of the year - the first of two successive trips to Cothill Fen to continue our work at the nature reserve there.  The preceding week had been cold and frosty, but Saturday morning was a little milder at least.  Just as well since Dieuwke and Barry had been keen enough to cycle in!

Before our arrival another work-party had visited and removed some more of the (mostly Alder) trees at the edge of the fen.  These had encroached upon the site in recent years, slowly destroying this rare habitat.  The group had also cut the reeds back.  Therefore our two tasks were to rake up the reeds and transport them to piles by the main footpath in, and also to remove as much as the brash remaining from the aforementioned tree-felling operations.

As always here, Judy Webb was on hand to provide guidance and carry out some of her usual species identification.  Some of the photos below show some of the interesting plants and fungi seen on this visit.

There was more than enough work to keep us busy for the morning, and plenty remaining once we reached our 12:30pm deadline.  We will endeavour to get stuck into this next week upon our return.  However, with the site (as might be expected for a wetland), rather soggy, it could make for an interesting challenge as we have only tackled the driest areas thus far!

A special mention should be made for both Sally who provided  chocolate rolls and sausage rolls, and to Eleanor who brought along some of her homemade cake to ensure that we were well looked-after at the intermission!  Next week we will have to hope that we are less well-fed at the break so that we retain our appetites for the Christmas lunch at the Merry Miller pub!  

Meeting in the car park.

Some of the tree-felling on site.

The tree stumps indicate how much of the fen has recently been reclaimed. 
Judy surveys the scene upon arrival.
The warm-up.

The morning's main weaponry.
Sally, Margaret and Dieuwke rake.

Barry takes on the brash.

Self-portrait of soggy mishap!

Taking a break and pondering our next move.

Common Bonnets.

Bank Haircap Moss.

Some remaining tree debris to clear on our next visit.

The colourful interior of an alder tree.
One of the ever-expanding reed piles.

Dog Lichen.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Barton Fields, 26th November 2016

We joined site warden David Guyoncourt and his Abingdon Naturalist's Society Green Team volunteers for this week's session at Barton Fields.  It was the first time that we had been here since the end of the summer - back when we had been busy raking the recently-cut wildflower meadows.  The tasks on offer this time differed somewhat, but involved either raking-up vegetation that was being strimmed from the perimeter of the ponds, grubbing-up invasive snowberry plants close to the main path, or litter-picking.

We split into teams once we had transported our tools from the meeting point on Barton Lane, down to the main field and got stuck into our various assignments.  It was a lot milder than the previous week, and while not overly warm, proved to be a good temperature for working.

The pond-raking team had made impressive progress, being almost finished by the tea break, while the litter-pickers were nearing completion also.  Therefore the second half of the morning saw most of the group tackling the remainder of the snowberry, or moving along the track to cut back some of the bramble growth at the far end of the site.

Traversing the field upon arrival.

Preparations underway.
The Green Team prepare to strim.

Graham busy with the snowberry eradication.

Autumnal snowberry.

Some remaining autumn leaves on this sycamore.

Dieuwke assists the Green Team at the ponds (photo by Sally).

Across the pond (photo by Sally).

Full strim ahead (photo by Sally).
The litter-picker's find of the day!

Refreshing and recharging.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Frilford Heath Golf Club, 19th November 2016

Another session was held at Boundary House Fen, within Frilford Heath Golf Course on Saturday. It was our first trip here for a few months, and as usual, we gathered in the main club car park before driving the short distance along the road to the ground-staffs' premises to park and walk to the work site.  Or at least that was the plan - instead, our convoy arrived at the turn-off to be greeted with a locked gate, and we had no option but to park on the grass verge beside the main road and carry our tools a longer distance to the fen than usual.  On the way we passed by Two Pine Fen, where we have held a couple of weekday sessions, this year and last.  Unfortunately, the reeds had not been cut as had been hoped, and the area looked rather overgrown and neglected.

The longer walk meant that we didn't arrive at the Boundary House site until 10am.  It was still rather cold and frosty at this time and some warm-up exercises were performed to get us going.  While the session was led by Kevin this week, as usual at this location Judy Webb (representing Natural England) was present to oversee our operations.  Raking the cut reeds was the main task, with the removal of some small trees and log debris also on the agenda.

The raking was intially quite tricky since the ground was frozen, but soon after we started, it thawed quickly and we raked the reeds into piles and then either pitch-forked them to piles at the top of the site, or filled a builders' drag bag with them and hauled them across.

James began to remove some tree growth around the perimeter as the rest of us were occupied with the raking, and was later joined by Carolyn and Lesley.

The rakers worked from one side of the site to another throughout the morning and made impressive headway, but were unable to complete the task in the time available.  We will be back in the new year to continue though, and during the past few years working here, it is clear that we have made considerable progress in restoring this locally rare habitat.

Unexpected car-parking arrangements!

Warm-up exercises.
Frozen ground early-on.

Blewits growing amidst the old reed piles.

Lesley and Carolyn remove branches from an old Ash stump.

A plethora of honey fungus.

Graham and Kevin hauling a drag bag of cut reeds.


A view across the fen at the end of the session.

Autumn colours on the walk back.