Monday, October 24, 2016

Late Autumn Programme 2016

Our new programme for late autumn 2016 has just been published - see below, or click HERE to view a larger-text PDF file version (opens in new window).

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Ock Valley Walk, Tesco End, 22nd October 2016

When we were last at the Tesco End of the Ock Valley Walk, summer was in full-swing and the Himalayan Balsam was somewhat rampant.  Now, firmly in the grip of Autumn, the Balsam, along with much of the rest of the summer vegetation had begun to die-back.  The consequence being, that for this session, we were not inundated with invasive non-native plants to eradicate, but instead, gave priority to litter-picking - with the litter problem along this section of the path all the more obvious as the plant growth has subsided.

A secondary task was to sweep the paths of fallen leaves, which when wet can become a slip hazard, especially on the recently-tarmacked sections.  In addition there were some potentially dangerous overhanging tree branches to deal with.  General path maintenance tasks in fact!

In excess of fifteen members turned out on this mild and dry morning and the many hands did indeed make light work.  Several bags of recyclable and non-recyclable waste had been gathered by the tea break at 11am and the paths had been swept and tidied also.  

All that was left for the remainder of the morning was to broaden our litter-picking horizons and venture further out along the verges that run parallel to the supermarket car park and to the steep banks of the Ock River.  Additional litter bounty was gathered and many of our number departed slightly early, safe in the knowledge that we had put in a good effort and again improved the appearance of this popular thoroughfare.

Green Gymmers gather in the car park

Assembling at base camp!
Eleanor sweeping the path
Tea break
Andrew in the Ock!
Eleanor, Janet and Margaret with the litter-picking haul

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Elizabeth Daryush Memorial Garden, Boars Hill, 15th October 2016

A group of around fifteen Green Gymmers assembled at the entrance to the Elizabeth Daryush Memorial Garden along the Ridgeway at Boars Hill.  We met with Rachel Sanderson, of the Oxford Preservation Trust - the organisation who manage the site.  

Today's session leader, James, had met with Rachel earlier in the week to discuss the morning's tasks, and he had already briefed us on the jobs via email:

1) Severing ivy from trees that grow in the woodland belts near the boundaries with Sandy Lane and The Ridgeway.  OPT had a tree safety survey done a few weeks ago, and the tree surgeons asked if we could cut the ivy so that it dies back enabling them to see the condition of branches in the canopy.  This work is necessary because we don’t want dead branches, or trees, falling into the roads or on the paths that meander through the woodland belts.  It’s probably a job for bowsaws – plus some care so that the tree bark doesn’t get damaged.

2) Path clearance – just under the trees really because the grassland is being mown.  This will involve clearing brambles and bracken that’s grown up over the summer so probably a job for loppers and/or secateurs.

3) Bramble clearance – we would like to knock back the brambles that are growing out into the grassland on the long boundary parallel to Sandy Lane.  This is because the Memorial Garden has been designated as a Local Wildlife Site for its acid grassland and the uncommon plants which grow there.  If left unchecked, the brambles will gradually creep out and we will lose grassland.  Again, probably a job for loppers and/or secateurs, but bowsaws might be used if we find things like sycamore saplings in the bramble patches.

We thus devided into sub-teams and tackled the above as specified.  As we got underway, the sky became increasingly overcast and it wasn't long before we were rained upon!  Fortunately the inclement conditions were short-lived and the sun soon appeared, bathing us in a beautiful autumnal light.

Many hands made light work, and shortly after the break, the ivy-cutters and path-clearers had completed their respective details. We were also joined by a pair of litter-pickers, who had returned with only limited bounty, as might be expected in this rather prestigious area of Oxfordshire! At this point, everyone worked together in the bramble clearance at the side of the field, stopping only for a quick forage for some apples which were found to be perfectly ripe in one of the trees.

Another successful session, and we look forward to returning to this beautiful site on future occasions.

Setting off.

Information board.

James instructs us on the tasks of the day.

The bramble-clearers.

A parasol mushroom spotted in the middle of the field.

Sunlight over the pond.

A very autumnal break!

Common puffballs amidst the woods.

Further bramble-tackling action.

Impromptu apple break!

Kevin pitch-forks some brambles to the pile.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Southern Town Park, 8th October 2016

We didn't expect a large group for our session at Southern Town Park but in the end, ten people turned up. The main tasks there were bramble clearing and litter picking. We hadn't been there since March and there were a lot of brambles overhanging the fences and encroaching on the roadway as well as engulfing the trees in the enclosures.

The weather was cloudy and at times drizzle threatened but it generally remained dry. We set to work and the piles grew steadily. By tea break we had also collected a few bags of rubbish, mostly drinks cans. Adrian brought some fruitcake, which was a welcome addition to our biscuits.

As we continued to cut back and slash brambles, a lot more litter and fly tipping was revealed including several apparently quite full paint tins. Such was the Green Gymmers enthusiasm for slashing that, as 12.30 approached, it was difficult to tear them away from their task and encourage them to clear up. Meanwhile, Carolyn patiently swept the roadway.

We had quite a lot to show for our mornings work, including two very impressive piles of brambles and a large collection of rubbish.

Cutting back brambles

Tea break

Kate and Adrian show off the bramble heap

A collection of rubbish

Monday, October 3, 2016

Abbey Fishponds, 1st October 2016

There was a small team of seven volunteers from the Green Gym this Saturday, but we were supplemented with Lucy, Marjorie and four others from the Earth Trust which manage the Abbey Fishponds Nature Reserve - our venue for the Morning.

The forecast was not good, with rain most of the time, thankfully it remained intermittent, largely just spitting with a downpour only at the end.

We are regulars at this site and the task of raking and stacking the cut reeds is something that we have done often over the seasons.  We had two large areas to clear either side of the high bank which cuts across the reserve and where we decamp our equipment and have our coffee break.  One area was about 100m by 30m and the other about 50m by 50m.

We divided into two groups and set to it. The reeds hadn't become too wet - making it easier to move them, however, there were a lot to move!  It was just a question of finding the best system that worked, which was to raking the cut reeds towards the entrance of the pathways and then to pitch-fork them to where we were going to stack them.

We manage to clear half the area before the break. Then with the help of the reviving refreshments and the added effort to see the job through, we completed the task by the end of the session!
The start - ready, willing and able?

The task ahead

Getting stuck in

Margaret being thorough clearing the pathway

Janet in the distance starting at the other end

Maggs with a determined look on her face, thinking of the chocolate biscuits at break time!

Dieuwke in much need of chocolate biscuits and coffee!

The other team well on their way to completing their patch

No time to stop and pose for the camera

So far so good - half finished at the break

Job done!