Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cothill Fen, 9th December 2017

Thirteen Green Gymmers gathered on a bright, frosty morning for our session at Cothill Fen, the last one before our Christmas/New Year break. Our tasks were to rake and stack up cut vegetation from the fen and to cut up and stack felled trees under the direction of Judy Webb and Alison Muldal. The frost was sparkling on the fen and it was pretty cold but at least we could see where we had raked.

We had to be careful where we trod as there was a thin crust of ice on the boggy areas. We worked hard and were glad when it was time for our break and we could warm up. At least it was better than working in the rain.

After the break, some of us began the task of cutting up the felled branches. We were shadowed by two hungry robins. It was surprising to see two coexisting peacefully outside the nesting season. By this time we were all looking forward to making our way to the Merry Miller pub and our festive lunch. We were joined there by a few more Green Gymmers who had been unable or unwilling to brave the cold. Some of us ordered the very welcome and warming mulled wine and we all enjoyed the excellent food.

We look forward to seeing each other again in January.

Photos by Margaret and Judy (group photo of tea break):

Monday, December 4, 2017

Frilford Heath Golf Club, 2nd December 2017

We were back at Boundary House Fen, Frilford Heath Golf Club for our penultimate session of the year, workin site supervisor Rod d'Ayala who directed our tasks.

Essentially, we continued with raking the cut reeds from the fen.  In common with our session here back in October, we concentrated on transporting the reeds to the stream running through the centre of the area. Rod has added a number of dams to the stream to encourage the water to flood out onto the fen and improve the wetland habitat.  By piling the reeds into the stream between the dams, this exaggerates the effect. Similarly, there are two ponds bordering the fen and these were to be filled with reeds also.

No sooner had we assembled and received instruction, before the fen claimed it's first casualty of the morning.  Michelle lost her footing beside the stream and got a soaking.  A volunteer down, we continued on, but not without further incident. Three more of us filled our wellies with water as we attempted to trample reeds down into the water.

Squelchy boots aside, we continued apace and raked the reeds into piles before carting them off via drag bag and pitchfork to the specified locations. 

By the time that the break came, we were ready for the delicious Anzac biscuits that Carolyn had baked to go along with our tea and coffee.

For the second half we concentrated on shifting all the reeds closest to the stream, and raking the ones at the outer edges into piles for collecting on a subsequent occasion. This we completed just before packing up at 12:30pm, ready for the march back across the golf course and home.

Heading to the fen.

A large bug hotel spotted on the golf course! Not our handiwork though.

Raking begins!

Part of the stream.

Graham and Dieuwke empty a drag bag of reeds into the stream.

The state of play before the interval.

Golf ball haul.

Kevin passes around the biscuits.

Andrew's welly mishap.

The partially dammed stream.


Matt raking.

Turkeytail fungus.

A pine tree standing tall in the middle of the site.

Packing up.

Preparing for departure.

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sunningwell Green, 25th November 2017

Back in February 2016, we made our first visit to Sunningwell to assist some of the locals to plant a hedge on the green.  The green had recently been saved from possible development and since then has been bought by a group of the villagers to ensure that it remains as a valuable community asset.

We returned for a second session this weekend to continue with the hedge planting - essentially to extend it in a line from the where we left off last time, down the slope, towards the main road.

Having parked our cars outside the village hall, we met with Bob Evans who lives opposite the green and who was again supervising our work here.  After being briefed in his front garden, the fifteen or so Green Gymmers and a few Sunningwell residents began work.

The first task was to clear away some overgrown vegetation in the area with slashers and rakes.  Next, a line was established with some string to define where the tree whips were to be planted, with canes put in the ground at regular intervals marking the exact locations.  A mixture of species including hawthorn, blackthorn and dogwood were provided, along with spiral tree guards and ties. Given the large group, the hedge was finished just in time for the tea break.  Hopefully, over time, it will establish itself as successfully as the previous section, which has developed nicely.

The break was taken in the garden of Bob's house, and he and wife Kati had assembled an impressive spread with hot sausage and spring rolls, along with biscuits and sweet treats.  At this point, we discussed the post-tea time agenda, which included the scattering of wild flower seeds in an area of the green which had been prepared with the use of a rotavator during the morning.  Also, under the guidance of villagers Colin and James, there was the pond opposite the church to clear.

We divided up accordingly for the second half.  Kevin and Andrew each donned a set of waders and joined Colin in the pond, where the overgrown aquatic vegetation was removed by hand and deposited around the perimeter for clearing.  A couple of wheelbarrows had been sourced and the plants were carted away to a pile back on the green.

The pond water was not as cold as expected and a good effort saw much of the weed cleared before the 12:30pm deadline.  A number of locals including some staff and students from the neighbouring Sunningwell School of Art were delighted to see the immediate improvement!

All in all, a good morning's work in the November sunshine, and something a little different from many of our more regular tasks.

A well sunny Sunningwell Green!

Bob briefs the group in the bright sunshine.

Raring to go.

The section of hedge we helped plant in February 2016.

Graham, Carolyn and Kevin get started.

Clearing away vegetation.

Marking-out the line of the hedge.

Planting begins.

Each cane marked where a sapling was to be planted.

Spiral tree guards to protect the saplings.

A row of Green Gymmers and locals.

A finished section.

Completion of the task!

Tea garden.

Villager Colin removes weed from the pond.

Kevin joins in.

Pond weed is removed to the pavement, where it is collected and taken away.

Where the pond borders the art school.

The pond complete with island.

The pond was surprisingly deep in places!

Matt with a barrow-load of pond weed.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Ock Valley Walk, 18th November 2017

Because of the closure of the footbridge at St Helen's Wharf, the venue for our planned session for work at the Town end of the Ock River Path was changed to the Tesco end, as parking was easier for everyone.  Sally was our leader for the session and the tasks were to collect litter, clear nettles from the footpaths and generally tidy up.

The weather was fine, if dull, to start with and we all got to work, as there was a lot of litter to pick.

We made our way to our normal base area in the wood, while Matt and Colin put our signpost and leaflet holder up.

Michele, Graham and Colin set to work by sweeping up fallen leaves from the bridge over the Ock so that it was less slippery underfoot and generally cleared the paths of leaf litter.  Matt slashed away nettles from the sides of the path, while Janet, Rosie and Sally collected litter.  The new handihoops for our litter bags made this task a lot easier.  Dieuwke joined us a little later and she and Colin also joined in collecting litter.

The rain started just before our very welcome tea break and Dieuwke had also brought some satsumas for us to enjoy along with some tasty biscuits, which lifted our spirits.

We were pleased to hear from Eleanor, who had been working at the Town end planting wild flower bulbs with Andrew, Petra and Dan that they had successfully completed their task, but unfortunately, had all decided to go home afterwards as it was a long trek from the Town end to our base, so they missed out on tea on this occasion.

Colin had reported finding a used mattress, which we thought had been discarded, but when we went to collect it, it was clear that this was or had been someone's home.  Sadly, we found evidence of drug use and Sally reported this to the police and Council so that the site can be properly cleared, afterwards.

We then spent the next 20 minutes or so finishing up.  Janet disturbed a huge rat (fatty ratty!) on the river bank in her quest to retrieve some litter before it made its way into the Ock and then with Colin and Sally managed to pick up an array of screws, bolts, copper tubes and plastic ties that had been strewn on the pavement by Barclays Bank.

The path is used by many people lots of whom were very appreciative of our efforts.  All-in-all, a very satisfying morning's work was done.

Photos by Andrew (first 11) and Sally (last 5):

Sign warning of the closure of the footbridge.

Autumn colours on the path.

Ducks on the Ock.

Petra and Eleanor prepare to plant bulbs beside Chris's memorial tree.

Petra plants.

Dan keeps busy.

Some of the spring bulbs.


Eleanor plants the last of the bulbs.

Leaves on one of the young beech trees that the Green Gym planted a few years ago.

Homeward bound.

Michele sweeping fallen leaves

Rosie nettle bashing.

Graham clearing the path.

Janet with part of our haul.

Matt, Rosie, Janet, Graham and Michele with our collection of litter and recycling.