Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Frilford Heath SSSI, 25th June 2016

This session was our second visit of the Summer to Woodhaven. We knew that since our first visit two weeks ago, more Himalayan Balsam, previously concealed by the nettles and other vegetation, would have sprung up. Eight of us were there on a fairly bright morning, but with threatening clouds. As we walked alongside the meadow we saw orchids in flower.

We made our way towards the wood and set up our base and then set off in various directions to tackle the known hot spots. The central part of the wood, which  we have worked on for several years, was fairly clear, we were glad to see. A large treeless area on the edge of the wood, which we had cleared last year in a couple of evening sessions, had quite a bit of balsam, but not nearly as much as before.

As we stopped for tea break, the rain began to fall heavily, so we donned waterproofs. Suggestions about packing up early began to be heard. The rain eased off a bit and some blue sky appeared. The more hardy among us, i.e. me, were all for carrying on, but I was outvoted and we packed up and returned to the cars.

Shortly after driving off, the heavens opened and we were treated to a cloudburst of biblical proportions, so I have to admit, cutting the session short was probably a good idea after all.
We have one more session at Woodhaven, though we hope to return for a couple of impromptu short evening sessions if the weather settles down and we get some sort of Summer.

Petra pulling up HB

An orchid

A wet tea break

Monday, June 20, 2016

Amendment to the Summer programme...

The Green Gym Summer programme has been slightly amended - the sessions at the opposite ends of the Ock Valley Walk have been swapped.  The Town End session is now 2nd July and the Tesco End is now 30th July.  The revised programme can be seen below or on the programme page of our website.

Mill Road, Marcham, 18th June 2016

Green Gym today arrived at Manor Farm, Marcham with the single-minded purpose of attacking the Himalayan Balsam now in the flourishing part of its season. This superficially attractive flowering invader is an annual plant imported (I believe) by the Victorians to beautify their gardens. 

Unfortunately it has had a devastating effect on indigenous plants. It is prolific along the banks of rivers, ditches and other wet areas where its rapid growth shuts off the sunlight from any other plants and prevents their growth. 

Now is a good time to tackle the balsam before it fully comes into flower and scatters a huge amount of seed to provide next year’s crop. Fortunately it has a weakness; generally it is very easy to pull out. The main aim is to give indigenous plants a chance to recover.

Today’s Green Gym was a small group of seven, led by Margaret Notley.

“Hey, hey, what a beautiful day!” Ursula and James arrive at the field of operations.

The hunt begins in earnest. Margaret and Eleanor ensue there will be no hiding place for the Himalayan Balsam.

Michelle makes a find – interesting but not Himalayan Balsam.

This is the stuff! Temptingly close but the stream is wider and deeper that it looks and there is barbed wire behind it.

Got you! Enid and Michelle are encouraged by Eleanor’s success.

How’s that for size then?

Backs being rested at coffee time.

Beautiful native oxeye daisies prosper in parts free from Himalayan Balsam, although we had to leave quite a lot of the balsam perhaps for another day. A good morning’s work though.


Monday, June 13, 2016

Frilford Heath SSSI, 11th June 2016

This session saw the first of our visits this year to Woodhaven,  Frilford to pull up Himalayan Balsam. The day was cloudy with a few spots of rain after several days of warm, fine weather. There were twelve volunteers altogether, including three who hadn't been to this site before. We walked alongside the meadow and across the bridge leading to the SSSI area, looked after by Natural England. In the woodland area there was a fallen tree across the path, which provided an opportunity for a sawing and lopping task.

The centre of the woodland, which we had worked on for several years, was encouragingly free of Himalayan Balsam so we spread out further and soon found several patches. We worked hard on eradicating these until tea break time. Dieuwke had provided us with chocolate brioches and pain aux raisins, which were a very welcome treat.

We found plenty to keep us busy until the end of the session. We are expecting plenty more balsam to have become visible by the time of our next visit in two weeks' time. We were lucky with the weather again as the rain held off until we were setting off home.

Graham tackles a fallen tree 

Janet, Ursula and Dieuwke

Himalayan Balsam, not yet in flower

Tea break

Friday, June 10, 2016

Fun in the Park, 4th June 2016

Saturday 4th June was Fun in the Park day and, as usual, Green Gym had a stall. Like last year we were assigned to the Abbey Close car park along with the other club, society, volunteer and charity stalls. 

My overloaded car was admitted to Abbey Close, after I had been cross examined by a security guard who I really thought was going to demand my passport, fingerprints and iris scan. Along with three other helpers, we attempted to erect the gazebo, though we were sadly lacking in both the necessary tallness and competence. We succeeded at last, with a bit of help from the woodcarving stall next door. 

The weather was dull and cloudy but at least it was dry. As well as a display board illustrating our activities, we had marmalade and lemon curd for sale and our "stick the pin in the lucky square" game, 20p a go, £1 prize for a lucky square and sweets as consolation prizes. 

With eight volunteers helping at various times throughout the day, (Arthur, Graham, Sally, Dieuwke, Petra, Lesley, Janet, Jessica) there was an opportunity for everyone to take a break to visit the other  "poor relations" stalls in the car park and the more spectacular and money generating activities and food stalls in the Abbey Grounds. The main purpose of our stall was not to make money, though we did take £36.80p but to publicise our group and provide some fun.

Our stall
The game

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Summer 2016 Programme

The Abingdon Green Gym programme for summer 2016 has been published.  It will be uploaded to our website once the current one finishes, but in the meantime, it can be viewed below...

Bank Holiday Walk, 30th May 2016

There was no Green Gym session on the Spring Bank Holiday weekend but instead we led one of the Bank Holiday walks, which have been organised by the Friends of Abingdon since Jubilee year in 2012. Our walk was along the Ock Valley to show people some of the work Green Gym does there and point out the flora and fauna and interesting historical features of this very underrated part of Abingdon.

Unfortunately, very few Green Gymmers supported the walk this year. There was Colin, minus trolley on this occasion, but with his trusty hand made walking stick, Jessica, a very new member and at the last minute, Lesley with her dog. We were also joined by nine walkers, which was very good for a dull cloudy day.

The route took us from the weir behind St Helen's Court, across Drayton Road and along the newly tarmacked path towards Tesco, then on to New Cut Mill. We then turned right along Mill Lane and left along the path leading to Sutton Wick. About halfway along we turned left and walked alongside a field, stopping to view Didcot power station, left again alongside a hay meadow and down through Masefield play area. That was the end of the countryside part of the walk.

We returned to the town centre via Caldecott Road, once the route of the Wilts and Berks canal, then past the stone walls that used to enclose Caldecott House and so back to the Market Place.

A piece on the Bank Holiday walks was also featured on the Abingdon Blog site.

Just before we set off from the Market Place