Monday, February 29, 2016

Kennington Memorial Field, 27th February 2016

It was our annual visit to Kennington Memorial Field for this week's session.  The meeting place was the car park for the playing field.  We arrived just before the Saturday morning kids football teams who use the pitches adjacent to the work site here.

We were met by a couple of local volunteers, who showed us what needed to be done. Namely, to cut back the encroachment of blackthorn and brambles with the idea of encouraging the grass to grow for the summer-grazing cattle. It is the intention that the animals will keep the bushes from returning by nibbling away at any new shoots that may emerge.

We set about the task with loppers to tackle the thick and tough shoots, wearing thorn-proof gloves and eye protection.  Otherwise, dragging out the long strands of brambles and needle-sharp spikes on the thorn stems could inflict a painful reminder of our visit!

Once the cut stems had been piled up, it was a question of moving these piles gingerly with pitchforks.  The original plan of pushing the springy stems into drag bags proved futile.Normally, the cuttings would be left for the local wildlife to use as shelter, but as is traditional at this site, we instead have a bonfire!  

It was good to be able to feel a sense of achievement at the end of the session - we cleared a sizeable area, which hopefully will be extended next time we visit.

Kate and Robert having a tug of war with the brambles

James, Janet and Petra in the thick of it

Eleanor starting her task

Kate, Michelle and Lesley making short work of one bush that was soon to be fire wood

The satisfaction of disposing of it

Refreshments (normally we have the luxury of the sports pavilion for our break but it had been taken over by the football spectators for their half time diversion)

The finished result

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 20th February 2016

This session was scheduled for tree planting at the town end of the Ock Path. We had planted 50 trees two years ago in the semi circular area between the main path and the woodchip path. Most of the trees had survived but we needed to fill in gaps where trees had died. We had been given a "package" of 50 free trees by the Woodland Trust - wild cherry, silver birch, aspen, alder and Norway maple but we really only needed 20 of these. Aspen and alder are riverside species and silver birch survives flooding quite well. We decided not to use the maple and as for the cherry, we just had to hope it would survive future floods, which are an almost annual event in this area.

The  weather was  grey, damp and windy but once again we were lucky as the heavy rain held off until we were packing up at the end. I had marked out with stakes where the trees were to go the previous day so it was a question of locating the stakes and beginning the planting. As well as tree planting there were a lot of fallen branches and dead wood to be cut up and tidied into piles and brambles to be cut back. Of course, there was plenty of litter picking to be done, especially at the Drayton Road end of the path.
By the break, most of the trees had been planted with stakes and tree guards to protect them. We had salvaged a number of  weed supressing mats, but not enough for all the trees so we used woodchip instead. there was even time to plant some violets in the hope that these would eventually spread.

The litter pickers had done a good job. As well as the usual rubbish, they found a large quantity of fly tipped polystyrene and a bag of miscellaneous crockery. We had all noticed that the dog mess problem seemed to be getting worse again. 
The remaining trees will be given to the Earth Trust to plant on their sites. 

Margaret plants a tree

Kate plants a tree

James attacks some brambles

Kristine and Dieuwke wrestle with a tree stake

Ursula plants some violets

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Green Gym Marmalade

A small group of green Gym ladies met in Ursula's kitchen on 8th and 15th February to make "Green Gym Seville Orange Marmalade".  We have been doing this for the past few years and selling it to raise funds for Green Gym.

We spent the morning shredding the peel by hand and boiling it in two Maslin pans. By midday it was time to add the sugar and take turns to stir until the marmalade reached setting point. By early afternoon it was ready to pour into jars. 

Altogether, over the two sessions, we made 60 jars, each decorated with our own attractive label. The marmalade will be sold at the very reasonable price of £2 per jar.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Sunningwell Green, 13th February 2016

This was a new site and a new task for us. We had been recruited to help lay a hedge on Sunningwell Green. Seventeen Green Gymmers attended, eager to help with this new task despite the cold, damp weather. Bob Evans, who was in charge of the project, told us that the Green had been saved from development some years ago in a case which had gone right up to the House of Lords. It slopes upwards and is partially divided by a hedge. Our task was to plant a new section of hedge and to make a gap in the brambles further up the slope so walkers can go through from one side to the other.

First we had to clear vegetation from the shallow ditch where the hedge was to be planted. Then there was barbed wire to remove and old fence posts to be knocked out. The various species of hedging plants were laid out in rows where they were to be planted along two lines of string to make sure the hedge was straight - malus sylvestris (wild crab), crategus (hawthorn), prunus spinosa (blackthorn) to name but a few. We were ready to start planting. 

We had planted a few, with plastic guards and supported by canes, when it was time to go for our tea break in the unaccustomed luxury of Bob's kitchen, where his wife Kati had provided not only tea, coffee and biscuits but sausage rolls and cocktail sausages as well.

Rather reluctant to leave the warm kitchen, we went back out to continue the planting. Looking at all the remaining plants, our task looked rather daunting and we wondered if we could possibly get finished in time, but everybody worked hard and by half past twelve the hedge was finished. I'm sure we will be going back at some future date to see how it is growing.

Cutting back brambles

Clearing the ditch

Planting a tree

Kitchen tea break

Planting the hedge

The finished hedge

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Abbey Fishponds, 6th February 2016

The weather forecast for the day was terrible and would have struck fear into the hearts of many conservation groups, but Abingdon Green Gymmers are made of sterner stuff and ten of us met for the work party at Abbey Fishponds. We were also joined by a group of six from the Earth Trust.

It was still raining at the start but the rain soon eased off and stopped and although we didn't see the sun, it remained dry for the rest of the session.

The tasks were to cut back a large bramble patch, to move some branches and brash to a new location in the woodland and to mend the willow fence along the top path with branches from the willow coppicing in the reed bed . We split into groups for these various jobs. The fence repair proved difficult as many of the uprights were missing or rotting.

After the tea break the Earth trust volunteers brought newly cut willow stakes, which we sharpened and they banged in with a heavy mallet so then then the weaving was much easier and the fence much stronger.

Towards the end of the session the wind increased and by the time we were on the way home heavy rain returned and continued for the rest of the day. So once again, Green Gym luck with the weather had held.

Kristine and Ursula tackle the bramble patch

Barry gets down to some sawing

Carolyn transports branches

Kate and Dieuwke start on the fence repair

A well earned tea break

Monday, February 1, 2016

Elizabeth Daryush Memorial Garden, Boars Hill, 30th January 2016

Abingdon Green Gym is nothing if not an all-weather group. Here we are assembling on Saturday 30th January at Elizabeth Daryush Memorial Garden at Boars Hill near Oxford. Margaret is leader and our tasks are cutting bamboo, dead branches and brash to make a dead hedge. It is cold and drizzling slightly but the forecast is good and we are up for it!

Ursula sets a good example. This is where the hedge needs to be. It will make a good habitat for wildlife.

“Nothing to be alarmed about!” says James, “You just need the right kit for the job”.

Lesley deals with a pile of brushwood. The task is to incorporate it into a defining hedge.

Christine shows how to keep warm on a cold winter’s day. Progress is definitely being made in reducing the tangle of brushwood.

Dieuwke and Carolyn. “Surely it can’t be coffee time already?”

Janet demonstrates virtuosity with the loppers. Once the brushwood has gone, the native wildflowers will have a chance.

One final push – it’s beginning to come together and is definitely starting to look like a hedge.

What a mixture. Bamboo, brambles, dead wood, cuttings. But it’s definitely a hedge, AND the sun is shining!