Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Stonehill Community Garden, 22nd April 2017

This was our first visit to the Stonehill Community Garden, in the grounds of Stonehill House, for quite some time.  Much has changed in the interim and a medium-sized plot of land is being transformed into a vegetable garden, incorporating ideas from permaculture and biodynamics and involving a number of local groups and individuals.

We gathered in the field adjacent to the main house and met with site warden, Rachel Hammond.  Rachel, and the day's Green Gym session leader, James, then took us on a quick tour of the site with it's many interesting features, while emphasising the tasks for the morning.

We were joined for the first time by Eleanor who is still at school and volunteering with us as part of her Duke of Edinburgh award.  She was joined by her mother and an additional twelve members - a reasonable workforce yet again.

The priority on this occasion was to loosen the soil in a strip from the car park area to the main vegetable plot in order to make a path.  This will later be laid with hard material, but for the moment we put down woodchip along it's length.

Other jobs included laying a second, but much shorter woodchip path within the fenced plot itself, and subsequently setting out some straw bales beside it that will be used as growing stations. Some wooden pallets were moved from one location to another and elsewhere a hole was dug that will form the foundations of a self-watering polytunnel.

The weather was beautiful for the occasion and we achieved our objectives over the course of the morning.  A little spare time even allowed some of us to feed the chickens that live here!  We look forward to returning to the site again and helping out with this interesting and valuable community project where we can.

The entrance to the garden.

Rachel takes us on a tour of the site.

Work on the path gets underway.

The path being raked and almost ready for woodchip.

Lesley feeds the chicken.

Petra, Jessica and James fill wheelbarrows with woodchip.

Lesley and Dieuwke busy raking the woodchip.

A well-earned break.

Graham takes charge of digging the polytunnel foundations.

Petra and Jessica meet the chickens.

Beautiful weather for the occasion.

Some wooden pallets being moved around the site.

The pizza oven!

Garlic being grown in old tyres.

These are formerly battery chickens, but are now kept free-range here.

A second woodchip bath with straw bales (to be used as growing stations) arranged on one side.

Graham with one of the hens.

Rachel provides some further information on the hen-keeping and the garden in general.

Almost finished!

Andrew in the shade of some apple blossom!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Abrahams Wood, Boars Hill, 8th April 2017

Glorious sunshine was arranged for our arrival at Boars Hill on Saturday.  Indeed, the conditions were more akin to summer than spring with leaves having appeared on many of the trees bordering Berkeley Road in the past week.  We met at the lay-by outside the Open University buildings on the aforementioned road and it is here that we were joined by Oxford Preservation Trust's (OPT) land officer, Rachel Sanderson who was to direct our tasks for the morning.

Fifteen Green Gymmers assembled, including Jessica Amy, a student from Brookes University who was along to participate and conduct a survey regarding our volunteering motivations.

We carried a large quantity of tools and the all-important tea kit across the road, through the newly-widened kissing gate and down the hill to the top gate of Abrahams Wood.  Before we entered, Rachel gave us a quick summary of our objectives, before taking us on a tour of the site and showing us the specific jobs that would keep us busy for the morning.

Following the recent Storm Doris, some trees had fallen or blocked paths or the woodland floor and required clearing. Elsewhere, there were large patches of laurel and if we had time, bamboo to clear.  It was with some surprise that bluebells had already begun to pop up, rather earlier than expected.  Along with wood anemones, primroses, wild garlic and daffodils, there was plenty of colour to enjoy.

We split into sub-groups and set to work.   The laurel clearance as usual here was our main focus.  We took care to cut and clear this invasive shrub as far as possible and stack the cuttings on elevated piles in order to limit the opportunity for it to put down new roots and re-grow.  At a later time, some OPT volunteers will be along to treat the laurel stumps with herbicide in an attempt to eliminate it and re-establish the native flora growth in areas where it has run rampant.

At the break we took our refreshments before Jessica Amy handed out some questionnaires and consent forms for us to complete.  She is studying Geography and Anthropology with this exercise forming part of her degree project.

Back to work and the air temperature kept rising to the extent that it was t-shirt weather!  21°C was recorded at the end of play, certainly the hottest session of the year so far.

We packed up having made good progress here and ascended the hill back to our vehicles.  We will be taking a break for a week now and will return after Easter, with Stonehill House the next venue.

Assembling on Berkeley Road

Rachel along with James outline our tasks for the morning.

A tour of the woods in the sunshine.

A gnarly old oak tree!

Some early bluebells.

A wood anenome.

Sally lops some laurel.

We complete Jessica Amy's questionnaires at the break.

Graham goes undercover while sawing up a fallen tree!

Graham, Michele and Kate hard at work.

Kate and Lydia add laurel to the dead hedge.

A hazel leaf in the sun.

Wild Garlic.

Margaret transports the tea kit back at the end of the session.

Back up the hill and home!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 1st April 2017

Eleven of us gathered for our second week at the town end of the Ock Path on a lovely mild and sunny day, to continue the work of renewing the woodchip path. Other tasks were clearing the nettles, which were now growing fast, from around the young trees, clearing some patches to sow more wild flower seeds, and of course, litter picking.

The wood chip was nearly all at one end of the path and quite scattered so it was harder to collect and there was further to push the wheelbarrows.  Clearing the nettles revealed more patches of wild flowers which we had planted in previous years, fritillaries  and quite a lot of wild garlic. We hope eventually to have fewer nettles and more wild woodland flowers in this area.

After a very welcome break for the woodchip haulers and spreaders, we carried on with the tasks. We cleared a couple of patches as far as possible of nettle roots and goose grass and sowed wild flower seeds suitable for urban woodlands.

Sadly, we didn’t manage to finish the path. Time and woodchip were running out and we had to leave a stretch of a few metres.

Lydia wheeling a barrow load of woodchip.

Shovelling woodchip.

Margaret raking woodchip.

Tea break by the Ock.


Jessica and Janet preparing a patch for sowing.