Sunday, July 31, 2016

Ock Valley Walk, Tesco End, 30th July 2016

This session had originally been scheduled for earlier in the month, however there was more urgent work to be done at the Town End of the Ock Walk and the two sessions were swapped over. Therefore it was not until now that we found ourselves back at this location.

Despite being in the middle of the summer holiday season, a large group of eighteen Green Gymmers turned up to have another go at tackling the Himalayan Balsam along with the usual litter pick.  The litter, while being an ongoing issue here, was manageable; the Balsam meanwhile was rather out of control!

Large swathes of very tall, flowering Balsam were evident upon arrival on both sides of the river. All that we could really do was to pull as much as possible in the hope that it will be less prolific in subsequent years as a result. The native plants may then stand more of a chance to flourish.

Plenty of wildlife was at least evident during the morning, including moorhens and chicks, bees, grasshoppers, spiders and a kingfisher!  There were also many annoying flies, which, when factored in with the heat and rampant stinging nettles and cleavers, made for quite an unpleasant work environment!

As a result of the aforementioned issues, the refreshment break was very much welcomed by all. A good opportunity to cool down. It largely passed without incident, except for poor James who was persuaded to try dunking his biscuit in his coffee - against his better judgement. Alas, said biscuit was dunked for a little too long and somewhat regrettably sank to the bottom of his mug without trace. He won't be trying that again!  The perils of stopping work?!

Back to work and a final fix of Balsam bashing. A small dent made in the overall population, but we can certainly expect to return for another go next season.

Starting out
Session leader Kevin outlines our tasks
Himalayan Balsam flower
Michelle with one of the tallest plants!
The River Ock and some of the Balsam
A spider nest in amongst the nettles
A bee heading for a Balsam flower
Jessica models the new Abingdon Green Gym logo attire 
The break
A thicket of Balsam
Carolyn, hard at work
Margaret and a pile of pulled Balsam
Some of the impressive Balsam roots! (photo: Petra)

Monday, July 25, 2016

Cothill Fen, 23rd July 2016

A trip to Cothill Fen for a session on one of the hottest days of the year!  Even as we assembled in the car park opposite the Merry Miller pub, it was obvious that the day would be rather a scorcher. No matter, we carried our tools down to the fen and awaited instruction from site supervisor Judy Webb, on the morning's tasks.  Alongside our regulars, we were joined by a new member, Adrian.

The main objective this time was to rake up some of the recently cut reeds on the fen and stack them into piles. There was also some cutting back of vegetation encroaching onto the periphery of the fen, such as willow, alder and bracken. 

The ground was soggy and the sun was beating down with no shade for the most part, thus we worked at a steady pace, ensuring that we remained well hydrated!

There was evidence of high nitrates in the water as indicated by duckweed - not good for this fragile habitat or for the rare flora and fauna that it supports. Therefore we attempted to re-route some of the drainage channels that run through the site by careful positioning of the reed piles. However, a more permanent solution will require investigating.  

Fortunately in some areas of the fen, the wildlife appeared to be thriving.  Judy carried out some survey work and identified various species including the carnivorous plant, bladderwort, some dragonfly nymphs and soldier flies.

The refreshment break provided us with a good opportunity to cool off and Sally had provided some cake in honour of session leader Margaret's birthday next week!

We continued work and finished our raking task, careful to avoid the deep patches of water around the site. Unfortunately, I was not quite careful enough and managed to plunge my foot into one of the dampest areas - in and over my wellies! 

We left Judy to continue her survey work at the 12:30pm end of session and we much relieved to finish, get home and have the chance to relax!

A hot and sunny start!
Looking across the fen
Margaret and Judy provide instruction
Off to work...
The raking gets started
One of the reed piles
Robert tackles some alder growth
Mid reed-raking
Hemp Agrimony
The edge of the fen
Back for refreshments!
The break
A dragonfly nymph
The fen at the end of the session

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 20th July 2016

This was an impromptu session arranged mid-week to rid the town end of the Ock Path of the Himalayan Balsam for another year.

Six green gymmers turned out on what was a rather hot, yet breezy and overcast Wednesday morning for a two-hour blitz.  By 11am, the sun had appeared and the heat had become a little stifling, but fortunately we we had almost completed our task by then.

In addition to the balsam pulling, some new tree guards were fitted/replaced around some of the trees we had previously planted in this area and a general tidy-up and litter-pick was conducted.  A good morning's work!

Assembling at the woodchip path
Some Himalayan Balsam in flower beside the river
Eleanor amongst the tree plantation
James pulling balsam
The path bathed in sunshine by the end of the session

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Mill Road, Marcham, 16th July 2016

It was another session at Marcham this Saturday to continue pulling the seemingly inexhaustible Himalayan Balsam growth around the field margins.  Here, perhaps more than any of our other regular sites, the Balsam is extremely prolific, perhaps due to the stream and lake at the site, which transport and disperse the seeds year on year.

Twelve green gymmers turned up to get on with the task, taking minimal tools from the meeting point in the farmyard outside Cumber's farm shop to the work location. James and Graham donned waders so that they could get in the stream and right up to the banks where a lot of the growth is concentrated.  The remainder of us worked steadily amongst the trees, adding to the piles of pulled plants as the morning progressed.

Refreshments were taken at 11am in the barn as usual for this site, and then it was back to work to see how much we could complete up until the close of play.

Much Balsam was removed, but large swathes remain. Many more sessions will be required here if we are to successfully eradicate it from the area. A daunting task, but one that we are prepared for!

Assembling in the farmyard
On our way to the work site
Today's leader, James, instructs us on the task
Crossing the stream to the work site
A pile of pulled Balsam
Himalayan Balsam and Green Gymmers
Refreshments in the barn
The barn
Back to work!
The stream
Still plenty of Balsam left for next time!
Packing up at the end of the session

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Frilford Heath SSSI, 9th July 2016

A small-ish group of nine Green Gymmers turned up for our latest session at Woodhaven, Frilford Heath.  Our tenth attendee, Michelle had to drop out due to feeling under the weather, but was kind enough to meet us there at 9:30am with the tea kit which she had previously volunteered to organise!

It was down to the SSSI area with said tea-kit and minimal tools and gloves, ready for another session of Himalayan-Balsam pulling.  Upon arrival, it was certainly clear (to myself at least, since I hadn't been here for a year), that this invasive plant was much-reduced in volume. Whereas large swathes of the whole area were once covered, there exists now, only small patches.

We did our best to deal with the remaining Balsam and it was a pleasure to note just how much native wildlife is currently evident. Hopefully a good indicator of our success. Many species of wild flowers and plants were identified and there also appeared to be many snails of assorted colours and shapes, along with significant butterfly and moth populations.

Unlike the last session here, the weather was kind - dry and warm, but not too warm. Stinging nettles and biting insects provided a mild annoyance, but nothing that us hardy Green-Gymmers couldn't handle!

Session leader Kevin briefs us upon arrival
Water Mint
Herb Robert and a couple of bugs!
The main event - Himalayan Balsam!
Lords and Ladies
A curious-looking snail!
Carolyn mid-Balsam pulling!
Carolyn, Graham and Kevin
Kevin prepares the refreshments as Lesley consults the beverage list!
A moth resting upon a leaf
Another snail spotted on some Brambles
some very Ragged Robin
A Dog Rose flower
The end of another session

Homeward bound