Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Two Pine Fen, Frilford Heath Golf Course, 29th March 2017

For the last couple of years, we have held a midweek session at Frilford Heath Golf Club, specifically on Two Pine Fen.  This was repeated today as we took the opportunity to carry out our annual raking duties here on a Wednesday, while the golf course was (relatively!) quiet.

The fen had recently been mown and we went armed with rakes to gather the cut material into piles and to eventually consolidate into larger stacks at the edge of the site.

We were supervised again by Judy Webb, representing Natural England.  As well as raking, volunteers were also involved in damming the fen runnels, with the aim of making the ground wetter, to improve the habitat.  A number of wooden boards were erected at intervals to achieve this, and reinforced with peaty soil dug from the vicinity and deposited as required.  Ideally, the two pine trees that give the fen it's name will be felled in the near future, as these draw up a large amount of water that would be better remaining on the fen itself!

A group of nine gathered for this session, including new volunteer Lindsay, with some of us just working the morning, and others seeing the job through to completion.

Many golf balls were recovered as is normally the case during this session and we also had to dodge flying balls as golfers regularly tee'd off nearby.  A small price to pay perhaps for preserving and slowly improving the habitat here.

Getting ready at the ground staff area.

Judy has at least one volunteer in the palm of her hand as she instructs us before commencing!

Let raking commence...

The runnels are dammed up across the fen.

Eleanor's chocolate brownies are a hit during the intermission.

Pausing while some golfers tee off nearby.

Rakings and a golfer.

A small selection of recovered golf balls.

Adrian surveys the scene having collected some damming material.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 25th March 2017

An startlingly bright and beautiful morning greeted the Green Gymmers as we gathered at this week's appointed meeting spot - by the footbridge over the weir at the town end of the Ock Valley Walk.  We were somewhat reduced in numbers due the ATOM science festival occuring at the same time, with several of our members being involved. In addition, session leader Kevin was unable to attend due to unforeseen circumstances, and Eleanor stepped up to deputise. In the event, a group of eleven assembled - still a respectable number.

Once we had re-located to the work site, the tasks for the morning were outlined.  These were to re-lay the woodchip path, to sow some wild flower seeds and to litter-pick.  We subsequently divided ourselves up accordingly and got underway.

We only had a single wheelbarrow and the woodchip piles were minimal.  We did well throughout the morning to cover half of the path, however, but will need to continue with this task next time.  

Elsewhere, a number of patches of wild flower seeds were planted, and a reasonable amount of litter was retrieved.

It was encouraging to see many of the trees that we have planted here in recent years beginning to show signs of life now that spring is well underway.  Leaves and blossom abound!  Also, and with some surprise, some of the snake's head fritillary flowers that we sowed previously are already in flower.

We return to this location next week and hope to finish laying the woodchip and attending to the other tasks that require our attention.

Eleanor explains the tasks ahead.

A bright start.

Ian, Graham and Petra in various states of activity!

Eleanor sows some wild flower seeds as Rosie and Lesley dig.

Lesley serves elevenses.

The Green Gym publicity sign and leaflet dispenser beside the freshly woodchipped path.

Pear blossom.

A fine display of daffodils beside the Ock.

Pink primroses.

Ian rakes.

Margaret returning from a wheelbarrow run.

One of the snake's head fritillary flowers.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Spring 2017 Programme

See below for our new Spring 2017 programme, or visit the programme page on our website for a pdf version:

Southern Town Park, 18th March 2017

Thirteen Green Gymmers, new and older, attended our session this Saturday at Southern Town Park.  We have enjoyed a significant growth in our membership in recent times, and while this was actually the smallest turn-out of the year, it still represented a respectable total.

It is perhaps true that this site tops none of our lists of favourite work locations, yet our work here is valuable in the maintenance of this community space.  

We gathered as usual here in the car park along Lambrick Way, before heading down towards the area beyond the sports pitches to set up beside one of the picnic tables.  Kevin was the leader on this occasion and outlined the morning's jobs - to clear and pile stray tree branches, to conduct a litter-pick and to clear an area in order to plant some wildflower seeds.

The group split into sub-teams and set to work, with each detail having plenty to keep them busy.  As usual, the fruits of the litter pick were rich and bountiful, with much fly-tipping uncovered as well as the usual snack wrappers and discarded beverage receptacles that typically line the edges of the field.  Carolyn and Andrew were even successful in clearing the waste from the ditch at the Southern end of the football pitches.

Elsewhere, recent high winds had dislodged a number of tree branches along the many footpaths, and these were sawed-up and lopped into manageable lengths before stacking them into habitat piles.

Eleanor had brought some wildflower seeds with her, notably yellow rattle.  A small area was raked and the seeds sown, which should attract bees and butterflies here, later in the season.

At the refreshment break, we were joined by Eleanor's niece and daughter, who were over from the USA, and along with her husband, Arthur, boosted our numbers as we re-grouped, ready for the second half of the session.  

It was more of the same until the close, and with that we have completed our Winter 2017 programme.  The new edition has just been published and will be posted here very soon!  For the next two weeks however, we will be at the Town End of the Ock Valley Walk.

Kevin briefs the group.

Graham prepares the soil for Eleanor's seeds.

Seeds are sown.

The wildflower team!

We were unable to clear all of the discarded litter that we encountered!

Extra numbers for tea break.

Carolyn litter-picks along the field perimeter.

A habitat pile.

Colin beside the litter haul - at the collection point along Peep-O-Day Lane.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Elizabeth Daryush Memorial Garden, Boars Hill, 11th March 2017

The latest of our sessions working with the Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT) saw us return to the Elizabeth Daryush Memorial Garden at Boars Hill for the first time this year.  It was another good turn-out of Green Gymmers, with numbers boosted by OPT volunteers under the expert guidance of the organisation's land officer, Rachel Sanderson.

Once we had arrived, parked our vehicles in the assigned locations and transported tools and tea-kit to the garden itself, we were taken on a short tour outlining the many and varied tasks on offer.  Both Rachel and Green Gym leader, James explained in a good level of detail what was to be done.  We then divided up and set to it!

Three small trees needed felling, and then chopping into sections to be used as fencing material to block off a gap in the fence at a southern corner of the site.  Elsewhere, some large patches of brambles needed clearing, some bracken needed cutting back and other general tidying jobs were assigned.

Many daffodils were in flower during our visit, giving a glorious burst of colour.  We had hoped to see some frog spawn in the pond here, but there were reports of mallard ducks having got to it first.  We did at least catch sight of a mature frog in the shallows, so perhaps all is not lost!

Now that spring is more or less upon us, we're unlikely to be working here again until the autumn, for fear of disturbing the wildlife.  We will however return to Boars Hill - this time to Abrahams Wood in around a month's time.

The group meet by the Ridgeway layby. 

Bird feeders are replenished before we begin.

James and Rachel take us on a tour of the site.

One of the daffodil patches.

Graham and Mark fell a small tree.

The felled trees are used to block a gap in the fence in the corner of the field.

A small animal skull hidden amongst the brambles.

Lesley lops some brambles.

A patch of cleared bracken beside one of the garden's benches.

Kevin liberates a tree from the brambles.

Margaret and Carolyn clear tree debris away from the daffodils.

Moss and an ear fungus growing on an elder tree.

A large patch of cleared brambles.

Robert mid-bramble clearance.

Across the pond and down the field.

A frog spotted in the pond!

Session's end.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Ock Valley Walk, Tesco End, 4th March 2017

After a thoroughly changeable week of weather, it was quite a relief to be greeted with blue skies as we gathered on Saturday morning, eighteen-strong.  We were at the Tesco end of the Ock Valley Walk for our regular litter-pick and tidying tasks.

As well as the standard and often depressingly large volume of litter to be found bordering the main path from Tesco back towards town, there was also some fly-tipping to deal with.  Leader Eleanor had become aware of some waste that had been dumped off Mill Lane at the far extent of the path, beyond the housing estate.  A group of six of us initially broke away from the main group to investigate, and found two large piles of rubbish left besides the hedgerows beside the old Wilts and Berks canal, bordering a field.  Eleanor had brought her wheelbarrow to make it easier to shift much of it, while the larger items could be carried away with some effort.

The fly-tipped waste was transported to the grass verge at the end of Mill Road, with council contractors having been contacted to come and collect it from here on Monday.  Among the debris were a number of window frames, vehicle parts and rubble.  More of the group later joined in with this task, given the scale of the job.

Meanwhile, the litter-pickers had much to keep them busy and several bags of recyclable and non-recyclable rubbish were filled, ready for collection beside the crossing opposite the Tesco store itself.  

While these main tasks were underway, part of a willow tree that had fallen across the path was removed and the cuttings stacked.  Also, rather earlier than anticipated, some Himalayan Balsam that had begun to sprout was found in the vicinity!  This was removed as far as possible, with the aim of limiting the extent of this invasive non-native plant so that we have less to clear when we return over the summer!

Gathering in the sunshine.

The Ock path from Mill Lane towards Tesco.

Some of the fly-tipped waste.

Graham and Barry wonder where to begin!

Janet, Graham and Petra join forces!

Barry with part of a bench!

Eleanor and Rosie find a way to move a window frame!

Lesser Celandine - among the spring flowers spotted this morning.

Conversation at the break!

The willow tree obstructs the path.

After the Green Gym work their magic!

The dreaded Himalyan Balsam returns!  (photo by Margaret)

The pile of fly-tipped waste ready for collection beside Mill Road.

Andrew, Janet and Lesley with the litter-pick waste mountain!