Sunday, April 24, 2016

Clubs and Societies Fair, Abbey Buildings, 23rd April 2016

Saturday was the day of the Abingdon Clubs and Societies Fair, therefore we had no outdoor work session this week.

The event happens every two years and is normally held in the Guildhall.  Many of the town's groups attend and use the occasion to showcase their activities.  However, with a refurbishment programme currently underway at the Guildhall, the fair had been re-located to the Abbey Buildings, just around the corner.

The Green Gym stand was on the upper floor of this Medieval building - a rather atmospheric venue, but also a very cold one as it has open sides - no window glazing here!

A steady stream of interested people visited our stand throughout the day.  Many leaflets and copies of our current programme were distributed by our willing, if slightly shivering volunteers.  Hopefully we may recruit a few new members as a result, but time will tell!

Directions to the event in town, but only for the most eagle-eyed!
Roll-up, roll-up...
Kate, Janet and Lesley on a recruitment drive
The upper floor of the fair
Lauren takes charge

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Frilford Heath Golf Club, 18th April 2016

In common with recent years, an additional springtime session was held during the week at Two Pine Fen, Frilford Heath Golf Club.

The fen had recently been mown and required raking.  Since one of the club's courses was closed on this particular day, we could work without too much fear of being hit by a golf ball! That said, there was an active fairway close by, so we still had to be careful.

Natural England have an active role in looking after this site, and the session was once again supervised by Dr Judy Webb from that organisation. The fen is home to a number of locally-rare plants including sphagnum mosses and orchids, and therefore requires some maintenance to ensure its survival within the golf course.

Seven volunteers turned out - an impressive number for a Monday, and just as well, for there was plenty of raking to be done.  The cuttings were raked into piles, with the material later loaded into builders' drag-bags and transported to one end of the fen for later collection by the club's ground staff.

Around 80 golf balls were retreived during our work, and a number of orchids and other plants were identified by Judy as we worked.  Most of these will not flower until June, which is a pity as we will not get to see them.  It is good however to know that our work is successful in safeguarding this fragile habitat.

A busy car park upon arrival
Raking gets underway
A resident snail
The leaf of a common spotted orchid 
Patches of sphagnum moss are marked on the fen to avoid disturbance
The leaves of twayblade orchids
Kristine and Kate take it easy!
A stream runs through the fen, although the area is drier than it would ideally be
Cuckooflower or Lady's Smock
The volunteers relax on the pile of rakings at the end of the session!
All the golf balls we found on the fen during the session - can you count them all?!
Two Pine Fen as seen within the golf course environment

Monday, April 18, 2016

Abingdon Green Gym in the Oxford Mail!

Our recent session at the Jarn Mound and Wild Gardens, Boars Hill, has been featured in a piece by the Oxford Mail - which includes a photo of Lauren (not Laura!!!) hard at work.  There is a direct link to the article HERE

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 16th April 2016

Green Gym meets at the car park at the town end of the Ock Path. Sally tells us the jobs which include cleaning up along the river path, maintaining our little plantation of young trees, and of course dealing with any Himalayan Balsam that we encounter. We agree that it is unlikely that the rain will continue all the morning.

Colin has brought along his wonderful all-purpose trolley. It’s a great asset for this kind of job and will be well used today.

Green Gym planted these trees some time ago, and a very high proportion have survived so far. Today we pulled out weeds that were interfering with their growth, and did some maintenance in the area.

Excellent growth on many of the trees.

Coffee break. Still raining but it is bound to clear up soon.

Fritillaries in an area we cleared some time ago.

Another fritillary plus a Spanish bluebell?

A beautiful small white wildflower – I was told the name but have forgotten!

Wild garlic.

Found in the bushes by Colin. We decided to leave it by the path for now in case the owner wanted it.

Maintaining the new trees.

Robert slashing weeds.

End of the morning. Eleanor bagging rubbish for removal. It’s still raining!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Green Gym on Abingdon Blog

The ever-popular Abingdon Blog has recently posted an entry featuring our work along the Ock Valley Path.  Read it HERE

Monday, April 11, 2016

Claire's wedding

Last Friday, 8th April saw the wedding of former Abingdon Green Gymmer, Claire, and her partner, Bob.  A number of our members were in attendance to help the happy couple celebrate!  I'm sure all of us will wish Claire and Bob all the best for the future!

Margaret, Ursula, Sally and Eleanor celebrate!

Jarn Mound and Wild Garden, Boars Hill, 9th April 2016

This was a new site for us - however, it is not far from our usual work locations at Boars Hill, and it is also owned and managed by the Oxford Preservation Trust.

Jarn Mound  was laid-out in the late 1920s and early 1930s by famed local archaeologist, Sir Arthur Evans.  It consists of an artificial mound, 15 metres high, which was originally constructed to enable breathtaking views over to the city of Oxford in one direction, and the Vale of the White Horse in the other.  Significant tree growth in the intervening decades has obscured much of these views, yet the structure remains impressive, and the steps to the top are still in place.  Around this main feature are wild gardens, including rare plants and shrubs and many stone steps, benches and rockeries.

Session leader, James, had visited the site earlier in the week with Andy Gunn from Oxford Preservation Trust, in order to discuss what work was to be done.  The overall aim was to begin restoring the gardens to their former glory, involving scraping away moss and algae growth from the stone structures, and removing some of the invasive shrubs, small trees and brambles from the immediate vicinity of the benches.  It is hoped that this will encourage more visitors and ensure that the wild gardens are more attractive generally.

Our session commenced with a quick tour of the gardens and the climbing of the mound for the more energetic amongst us!  We then split into groups to tackle each of the main areas of restoration.  Scrapers and wire brushes were employed to clear the growth on the stone benches and steps while loppers and saws were utilised to tackle the vegetation growth around them.  Andy had left us with a number of builders' 'drag-bags' that we could fill with the garden waste and then transport to the gates for disposal off-site.

There were 15 or so of us in attendance, therefore we were able to achieve quite a lot over the course of the morning.  Indeed, we exceeded drag-bag capacity and had to transport some of the cuttings by hand in the latter stages - testament to our hard-work ethic of course!!!

An additional bonus to working here proved to be the garden shelter - an ideal venue for taking tea break, where we were treated to some chocolate-chip brioche buns thanks to Dieuwke in addition to our usual biscuity fare!  We very much look forward to returning.

The entrance to the mound and wild gardens

Information board

The work-party assemble!

The steps on the mound

The view over the trees with the Vale of White Horse in the background

Step restoration

Margaret tackles the tree growth in the vicinity of one of the benches

Robert and Sally fill a drag-bag with cleared vegetation

Kristina clears brambles

Lauren clears moss from a stone bench

Dieuwke keeps busy

Cleared area surrounding a bench

Lauren proud of her hard work!

Another stone bench successfully cleared

Michelle carries some chopped logs away

Some of the cleared vegetation

Margaret proudly ascending the newly-restored steps beside the shelter

Monday, April 4, 2016

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 2nd April 2016

For our first post-Easter session and to kick off the new programme, it was back to the town end of the Ock Valley Walk.  A large turn-out of 18 people and a dog assembled by the bridge over the River Ock, including three new members; Graham, Penny and Harry.  Kevin was leading this time and gave us a quick briefing on the tasks before we set of with our tools to the work site.

The main job on this occasion was to re-lay the path through the wooded area of the site.  The council had left piles of woodchip at either end of the path, ready for us to shovel into wheelbarrows and rake into place.  We split into groups - starting at each end simultaneously and ultimately meeting in the middle.  This task was completed shortly after the intermission.

Otherwise, other members variously cut back brambles that has been encroaching upon the path, litter-picked or began the somewhat tedious process of weeding-out the first of the season's Himalayan Balsam seedlings.  We were startled more than once by muntjac deer appearing from the undergrowth as we worked!

Carolyn supplied some chocolate muffins at the break which were very welcome and hungrily devoured!  

We will be back here again soon when we will concentrate mainly on tackling the dreaded Balsam which ought to be a little more established by then!  

Session leader Kevin outlines our tasks for the morning
Kristine and friend!
Sally, Janet and Sam tackle some brambles
Dieuwke transports some woodchip for the path in a wheelbarrow
A completed section of path
Break time in the sun!
Some of the trees that the Green Gym have planted here in recent years
Oak sapling
Himalayan Balsam seedling
The first English Bluebells of the season are appearing!