Monday, May 29, 2017

Bank Holiday Walk, 29th May 2016

As usual, there was no Green Gym session on the Spring Bank Holiday weekend so instead we led one of the Bank Holiday walks, which have been organised by the Friends of Abingdon since 2012. Our walk left from the centre of town and took us along the Ock Valley to show people some of the work Green Gym does there and nature and history of this part of town.

Green Gymmers Eleanor (who organised and led the walk), Sally, Andrew, Graham and Colin were in attendance along with an additional four who had signed up for the tour.  This was somewhat lower number than than on previous years, but the damp weather may well have been a factor.

The route took us from Abingdon Market Place, down East St Helen's Street to weir behind St Helen's Court.  From here it was along the Ock Valley Walk to it's furthest extent at New Cut Mill via Drayton Road and past the junction of the footpath with the Tesco store. 

After that we headed towards Drayton/Sutton Wick and traversed some fields in the direction of the Ladygrove Estate and subsequently meandered back to town along Caldecott Road.

There were several stops along the way to point out interesting features and we spotted many birds including grey herons, swifts, skylarks and a family of swans and cygnets.  We even witnessed a mini-murmuration of starlings!

Despite our limited numbers we all had a most enjoyable time!

The meeting point in the Market Square.

Along East St Helen's Street...

The town end of the Ock Valley Walk.

The Green Gym's woodchip path.

Heading west.

Swans and their cygnets.

A grey heron.

On the footbridge beside Mill Lane.

Pausing in a country lane.

A dog rose bush in flower with Didcot Power Station in the distance.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 20th May 2017

The Green Gym met at the Town End of the Ock Valley Walk last Saturday in what was a change to the initially-published programme.

The jobs to be taken care of were outlined by session leader James, and consisted of finishing the woodchip path, clearing the path from nettles and other overgrown vegetation and the usual litter-pick.

The nettles bashing took a bit of a back seat to raking of the rampant goose-grass (cleavers) as it had grown in place of the nettles. 

The turn-out was smaller than usual but the usual suspects worked hard.  We were pleased to welcome along a a new member, Dan, who had a good day while making him fully aware that there was no payment only - in coffee and biscuits, or at least the ones available before Graham turns up! Let's hope that we don't scare him away.

Despite threatening skies, the rain thankfully held off in what was a pleasant morning's work.

The group assemble.

Let work commence...

Green Gym amidst the greenery.

An apparently exhausted Margaret!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Cothill Fen, 13th May 2017

We met at Cothill Fen this Saturday for another session at this nature reserve, working as usual with Judy Webb, representing Natural England, who manage the site.

In our absence, Green Gymmer Adrian has been working here regularly on his own, cutting back the trees that line the border the fen, close to the main footpath.  We were therefor, keen to see how he had got on since our last session here, some months ago.

On our walk down the track from the footpath, we encountered a large group of schoolchildren from the nearby school, and elsewhere there were many walkers and cyclists about.  The weather was dull and overcast with the threat of rain, but it was fairly mild, especially apparent once we started working.

Prior to getting underway, Judy outlined our task, which was to continue cutting small trees back on the edge of the fen, to open the area out and reclaim as much as possible of this rare habitat.  We donned high-vis vests, googles and hard-hats where applicable as extra safety devices during the felling operations. The twelve of us then wended our way across the site to begin.

We spread ourselves out across the edge of the tree-line, and armed with loppers and bow-saws, tackled any small tree within our means, along with some straggly bushes close to ground-level, such as wild privet. A few shrubs were marked and were to be left in place due to their ecological importance.  These were mostly purging buckthorn.

As we lopped, cut and stacked the wood into piles, Judy carried out some survey work around the vicinity and was able to show us a variety of wild flowers and interesting creatures that reside here.  Indeed, the fen was in flower, with many Marsh Valerian plants, cowslips and orchids among others.

We were all impressed with the effort that Adrian has put in lately and hardly recognised the opposite side of the reserve, where he has been operating.

Tea break was very welcome today due to the rather exhausting work, and we were treated to Eleanor's lemon drizzle cake, which was very well received!

As we continued after refreshments we were treated to some aerial acrobatic displays with a number of aircraft apparently rehearsing for the following day's Abingdon Air Show.

Work continued right up until the 12:30pm deadline, and by the time we packed away our tools and carried them back up the track to the car park, it was already 1pm!  A busy session.

Upon arrival.

Judy's team talk.

Marsh Valerian.

Off to work we go.


Graham gets underway.

Kevin keeps busy.

A Narrow-Leaved Marsh Orchid.

Andrew saws.

Looking across the fen to the area of trees that Adrian has been busy felling.

That time again...

Tea-time banter.

The remains of Eleanor's Lemon Drizzle cake!

A female glow worm.

Flea sedge.

Ursula hard at work.

King Alfred's Cake fungi.

A pair of wood piles.


Snail on an ash tree.

Ursula, Dieuwke, Graham and Carolyn relax after a busy morning.

Evidence of our morning's work!

Heading homewards.

Packing up.

Aerial acrobatics kept us entertained.

Janet manages to remain stylish throughout!

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Change to Green Gym programme for 20th May session

In a change to the programme, the session for 20th May will now be held at the Town End of the Ock Valley Walk.

We will be finishing the woodchip path, pulling Himalayan Balsam, cutting back nettles and litter-picking. Meet at the usual spot by the footbridge over the weir, St Helen's Court, 09:30am!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Abbey Fishponds, 6th May 2017

It was a slightly gloomy, grey and blustery start to our latest outing at Abbey Fishponds. We were here to work alongside the Earth Trust, with community reserves warden Lucy Tomkinson and of course, local warden Majorie White.  We joined with a number of volunteers from their group.

As always at the Hadland Road entrance to the reserve, car parking is an issue, and some manoeuvring and re-arrangement of vehicles was required to enable Lucy to bring her truck and trailer in, which contained a number of tools and materials for the morning's tasks.

Having assembled, we were then instructed on the various jobs that were to be done.  These included scything and clearing away overgrown vegetation from the path margins, replacing the wooden boards along the central route through the site, Himalayan Balsam picking, lopping of brambles and other overgrown vegetation, litter-picking and constructing a habitat for stag beetles.

After digesting the itinerary, we divided up and got to it. Our tools and tea-kit were transported over the footbridge to the mound and we dispersed from there.

Adrian had already got underway with the scything before we arrived, so that detail was already in an advanced stage, thus many of us Green Gymmers began to clear the cuttings into piles.  Meanwhile, a search for the dreaded Balsam commenced, taking us on a merry dance before finally finding an abundance in some of the Fishpond's further reaches.  Not before uncovering an intriguing-looking den amongst the willows.

Fortunately, litter was not too much of a problem this time, thus allowing more of the group to get involved in the path maintenance tasks.  Good progress was made before the break and continued afterwards, up until the 12:30pm deadline.  A successful morning's graft!

Lucy instructs the assembled volunteers.

Michelle, Ursula and Dieuwke in search of Himalayan Balsam.

Towards the site perimeter.

Plenty of cleavers/goose-grass located!

Finally, an abundance of young Balsam is found.

A den uncovered in the woods.

Ursula contemplates shifting a pile of scythed debris.

Cuckoo flower.


Graham gives it a hammering.

Some of the newly-replaced path edging.


Some hops climbing up on reeds.

Much greenery around the steam.

Lesley digs out the steps.

Herb Robert.

Some freshly-scythed path margins.

Almost home-time!