Water Testing, Cothill Fen and Parsonage Moor, 30th January 2017

In addition to our winter programme, Abingdon Green Gym was invited to participate in water testing sessions at one of our regular work sites - Cothill Fen, and neighbouring Parsonage Moor.  A number of groups were involved in this operation including Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT), Natural England, Freshwater Habitats Trust and local volunteer groups including Friends of Cothill Fen and ourselves. 

Four Green Gymmers (Eleanor, Sally, Adrian and Andrew) attended on a Monday, although the project was set to continue into the Tuesday, under the guidance of Dr Curt Lamberth - an ecological consultant who set up a testing facility on site to analyse samples gathered nearby.

The purpose of the testing was to analyse surface and groundwater right across the extent of the fenland, to map nutrient flows into, across and away from the site.  Considerable levels of  dissolved nutrients, most crucially nitrates and phosphates, have been observed in recent times, and these in particular can adversely affect the ecology of this locally rare habit.  There is considerable interest therefore in identifying the sources of these nutrients and better understanding water flows so that a plan to protect the fen can be developed.

We assembled at 10am and received instruction on how to conduct the sampling.  We divided into pairs or small groups, and were allocated sections of the site in which we were gather samples.  A sample pack was given to each of the groups - each consisting of five numbered sample bottles, syringes (to gather the water samples before decanting to the bottles), a hand-held GPS receiver (in order to accurately record the location of each sample on the British National grid), a record sheet and pen, a map of the site and a ruler/tape measure (to record the water depth where the samples were taken from).  

After everyone was clear on what was required, we set off in different directions according to which sections of site we had been assigned to.  Samples were gathered, logged with some additional information including type of water - pond, puddle etc that they were gathered from, time of day and then returned to the base.  Dr Curt then began to analyse the samples in order to build up a database and ultimately a map of the 'critical' areas of nutrient build-up. 

Instructions are issued at the beginning of Monday's session.

Looking across Parsonage Moor towards Cothill Fen.

Dr Curt Lamberth indicates where samples are to be taken on the site map.

One of the teams prepares to commence sampling!

The 'base camp'.

The samples that have been acquired are marked on the map as the session progresses.

One of the site's colourful snails.

Many interesting sights are to be found within the fen habitat.

Sample testing in progress.

Some of the dense woodland bordering the fen.

A sample being taken at one of the pond locations.

Turkeytail fungus spotted on a tree.

In, out and pop the kettle on!


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