Saturday, February 25, 2017

Kennington Memorial Field, 25th February 2017

This week we joined forces once again with the Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT) for our regular spring scrub cutting and burning session at Kennington Memorial Field. Around fifteen Green Gymmers and an additional fifteen or so OPT volunteers, led by Rachel Sanderson, turned out on a surprisingly cold morning.

Rachel directed the tasks, and as usual at this site it was straightforward enough - namely to cut back scrub from an area of the field, to light a bonfire and to burn it.  While one team got started with lopping back the blackthorn, hawthorn and brambles, another set about getting the fire going so that it would soon be ready to receive the cuttings.

The field itself is fairly vast with bushes and shrubs encroaching on all sides.  We concentrated our activities in just a small area, so that we didn't have to transport the cut vegetation too far to the bonfire.  The impressive turnout meant that we could make reasonable progress in our designated spot.

Limiting the scrub growth serves the purpose of maintaining the valuable grassland habitat here - which supports a number of interesting plant species, while also keeping the area fairly clear for the public to enjoy.

By the mid-morning break, enough bushes had been cut and a new instruction was issued. This was concentrate on collecting together the piles that we already had and to stop cutting new material, so that the bonfire would not have to be kept going for the entirety of the day!  The only exception was where some trees and scrub had already been partially felled and required making safe before leaving the site.  This amounted to quite a significant operation in itself, although there were enough of us on hand to achieve our objectives by the close of play at 12:30pm.

We will work with OPT again in another couple of weeks.  This next occasion will see us return to Boars Hill - at the Elizabeth Daryush Garden.

Gathering outside the sports pavillion.

Rachel instructing the group upon arrival at the Memorial Field.

Cutting scrub.

Ian and Alison hard at work.

Margaret takes on the brambles.

Mark gets the fire started.

Plenty of material on the bonfire.


A roaring success!

The final push.

Job just about done.

Kevin packing away the tools at the end of the session.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 18th February 2017

This week we were at the town end of the Ock Valley Walk.  Sixteen-strong and led by Sally, our tasks were many and varied!

Having convened by the St Helen's footbridge over the weir, we took a stroll with tools and tea-kit to our usual encampment spot - halfway along the woodchip path.  Sally then issued instructions to the faithful, which this week included both Lauren's mother, Sue, and Jessica's mother, Jill.  Bring your mum to Green Gym day?!

The most significant job was to litter-pick along the stretch of the walk from the footbridge, all the way along to the Drayton Road end.  Otherwise, there was the usual bramble-bashing, the cutting back of stray willow branches and the clearance of vegetation away from the bases of trees that we have planted here in previous years.  A check was conducted on the health of these trees, and any that had not survived since our last visit (very few thankfully!), were removed, along with corresponding tree guards and stakes.

Eleanor had also brought along some wild flowers to sow close to (former Green Gym leader) Chris Thomas's memorial tree - a black poplar which we had planted here some five years ago and which has since grown to an impressive height.

The litter-pick was as bountiful as usual with a bicycle, a road cone and a witches' broom among the more unusual items recovered amidst the standard cans, bottles and food wrappers.  A startled muntjac deer was encountered at one point while a dead fox was spotted lying peacefully beside the main path.

Another of Eleanor's amazing cake's appeared at tea-break which required us to work extra-hard in the second half of the morning in order to burn off the calories consumed.  This presented no problem of course and there was still plenty to be done.  

Tackling the seemingly never-ending supply of litter close to the Drayton Road bridge was a priority, and we made a big impact here, although some areas will need further attention on our next visit.  Many bags of recyclable and non-recyclable waste were however taken to the assigned collection point by the pedestrian crossing on the Drayton Road - for the council contractors to pick up on Monday.

A good morning's work by both our regular members and our visitors!

Preparing to get started.

Graham and Adrian tackle some stray willow branches.

Barry clears vegetation from around one of the young tree bases.

Some raked vegetation.

Jill and Jessica mid bramble-clearance!

Back to base for refreshments.

Sally and her witches' broom!

Signs of spring are apparent!

The results of the litter-pick at the collection point.

A bicycle found in the undergrowth.


James and Sue.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Jarn Mound and Wild Garden, Boars Hill, 11th February 2017

This was our second session of the year working with the Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT) at Jarn Mound and Wild Garden.  A couple of weeks previously we had mainly been concerned with planting a hedge alongside the road here, but today, the main task was to continue with the clearance of trees and shrubs from the slopes of the mound itself.  This is hoped to improve the general environment, making it more welcoming and opening up the views across the surrounding area.

As we arrived, snow had begun falling and a light covering had formed upon the ground.  What with the chilly temperature, we were keen to commence operations!

Rachel Sanderson from OPT again led the session and instructed us on the finer points of the work before we began.  The majority of the group took bow saws and loppers to the mound to continue the clearance that had got underway last year.  The area to the right of the steps (as you stand at the base of the mound looking up) had already largely been dealt with, thus we concentrated on the area to the left.  The vegetation was cut back and then dragged down the slope to a bonfire, before being burned.

Meanwhile, a second group were concerned with cutting back holly trees that had rather taken over in the garden, close to the entry gate.  The thinning of the trees will allow more light in and provide a more sociable space.  The cuttings from this area were also destined for the bonfire.

By the end of the session, the morning's work had been successfully completed and the bonfire had been a roaring success!  All that remained were some of the taller ash trees on the mound, but these were beyond the capabilities of our hand-tools.  A local volunteer will be along in the coming days to fell these with a chainsaw, while also removing some of the holly stumps to ground-level.  

We will no doubt return to the site, but perhaps not until the Autumn.

A snowy start!

Rachel issues instructions.

A dusting of snow upon the mound.

Preparing the bonfire at the base of the mound.

Action stations.

Let lopping commence...

A plume of bonfire smoke.

Sally and Kate H cut back the bracken.

Meanwhile, the holly in the wild garden is trimmed.

Ian takes on the fire!

Andrew clears some of the holly.

A well-earned break.

Mound clearance almost complete.

Open space in what was previously a dense holly thicket.



Sunday, February 5, 2017

Abbey Fishponds, 4th February 2017

Abbey Fishponds was the venue for Saturday's session.  The Green Gym, including new recuit, Ian, met with volunteers from the Earth Trust (who manage the site), working under the supervision of community reserves warden Lucy Tomkinson and local warden Majorie White.  We met as usual by the Hadland Road entrance to the site and received instruction on the morning's activities.

We divided into groups, with some of us taking a number of ash stakes and other apparatus to the footpath at the far end of site to re-lay a hedge, while others traversed their way across to the reedbed to rake some of the reeds that were being scythed, into piles.  A number of willow trees in the wetland area were also being trimmed, with the removed branches being added to a dead hedge in the vicinity.  Some of the straighter branches were fashioned into binders to use in the hedge-laying, along with some hazel that was coppiced for the same purpose.

As we worked, we were joined by a cat that had introduced himself earlier as we had gathered in Hadland Road!  Not that we needed any more hands, as we had another good turn-out for the morning.

A good shift was put in by all and the sun even shone upon us, quite a contrast to the weather of the preceding week.  An impressive amount of raked reeds were stacked, and the hedge-laying was completed to a satisfactory standard, with the remaining cut willow branches removed to piles at the edge of the site as we finished up.

Assembling at the end of Hadland Road

Sally, Colin and Rosie busy laying the hedge.

Reeds raked and stacked.

Hard at work in the reedbed.

The dead hedge.

Lesley -  after having sunk into the reedbed beyond her wellies!

Blue Skies!

Tea Break.

A feline visitor. (photo by Petra)

Teasel in the sunlight.

Homewards at the end of the session.