Monday, July 31, 2017

Ock Valley Walk, Tesco End, 29th July 2017

The Tesco End of the Ock Valley Walk is one of our least exciting venues, but our work here is valuable and we are highly-visible to the general public.  We also drew the highest turn-out in several weeks this Saturday.

As usual, we were here to litter-pick and to continue the seasonal Himalayan Balsam pull.  The latter task was the main focus this time as this invasive plant is particularly rampant in this area, beside the River Ock.  It was also very much in seed, so we needed to be careful not to aid the spread of it by disturbing the explosive pods in which the seeds are housed.

Although only July, it was apparent that many of the fruits associated with late summer or autumn are already ripe.  Apples, blackberries, elderberries and others looked to be peaking, therefore good to see that some native vegetation is flourishing despite aggressive invaders such as the Balsam taking over in close proximity.

Kevin on litter-picking duties.

A large stand of Himalayan Balsam.

Margaret, Ursula and Jessica removing Balsam from a ditch.

Thistles and a bee.

Tea Break in the trees.

Andrew contemplates his next move.

Blackberry picking!

Apples ripening upon the tree.


Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Cothill Fen, 22nd July 2017

We returned to Cothill Fen for this summer session after a few days of heavy rain!  We were here on this occasion to rake up reeds that had been cut shortly before our arrival, and to stack them into piles around the site margin.  The plan was to burn them at a later time on specially-constructed platforms.  There were also some logs from recently-felled trees to be moved off the fen itself.

As usual, we met with site warden, Judy Webb and once we had unloaded tools and tea-kit, we began the hike down to the wetland area.  Upon arrival, we saw the results of the hard work that Green-Gymmer Adrian has been undertaking here on his own, regularly, over the past few months.  This is under the guidance of Natural England, who manage the site.

Session leader Margaret outlined our jobs for the morning and went through the usual risk assessment.  We were joined this Saturday, by Andrew's mother, Judith, who along with an additional twelve of us and Judy, made for a respectable turn-out.

The weather was pleasant as we began, with intermittent sunshine, and raking began in earnest.  It was quite heavy going with the moisture under-foot, but by the break we had raked almost half the assigned area.  The cuttings had been variously pitchforked or transported away in builders' drag-bags to the edges.

Once we paused for refreshments, the skies looked a little gloomier and the heavens opened shortly afterwards with a heavy shower! We took shelter under the trees until it had passed and then got on with the task.

The second half of the site was more difficult to rake than the first, since the reeds were drier and trickier to gather.  There were also some even squelchier patches to be found underfoot as we progressed!

By the close of play, we had almost removed all the cut reeds, with only some small patches remaining.

As we began the trek back up to the car park, Judy remained on site to continue with her wildlife survey work - she had already identified a viviparous lizard along with a number of butterflies including a number of red admirals.  Adrian also stayed on - to continue with his reed scything operations.

We will return here, much later in the year, December perhaps, to continue with our valuable work at the fen.

Matt's new wellies - they wouldn't stay this pristine for long!

Meeting in the car park.

The hike down to site.

Almost there!

Margaret and Judy brief the group.

Hemp agrimony.

Raking begins.

Andrew on pitchforking detail.

Hatched moorhen eggshells.

James in pitchfork action.

The group keep busy.

Graham, Ian and Adrian attack the reeds.

A carpet of cut reeds.

Time for a break!

Tea and biscuits in the shade.

Judith busy raking.

The group progresses across the site.

Graham working hard as usual.

One of the reed piles and some resting workers.

Take 2.

Rakes and pitchforks.

The site at the end of the session.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 15th July 2017

We were back at the Town End of the Ock Valley Walk this Saturday to continue with our various tasks here under the guidance of session leader, Sally.  These included the seasonal Himalayan Balsam pull, checking on the health of the trees that we have planted here in recent years (and clearing vegetation from around them), trimming back dangerous willows and of course the usual litter-pick.

Since we were 17-strong on this occasion, many hands made light work.  Dividing up into smaller teams, we set about our work, mindful that the session was shorter than usual - finishing at 12pm instead of the usual 12:30pm.  This was so that several amongst us could attend (regular Green Gym members) Barry and Enid's 90th birthday celebrations later in the afternoon.

The tea break was brought forward to 10:45am at which point Eleanor produced one of her lemon drizzle cakes, to the delight of the workers!  This even mitigated the fact that it had begun to rain as we assembled back at our base camp.

Ready and raring to go for the reduced and somewhat soggy second half, we completed our assignments and were off on our merry way according to plan at midday.

Sally addresses the faithful.

One of the wild cherry trees that we have planted here.

A snail clinging to a nettle leaf.

Margaret and Matt trim back a weeping willow that was hanging across the main path.

A den in the woods.

Kevin saws up a fallen crack willow.

A Guelder Rose with ripening berries.

Graham and Rosie pull balsam from the edge of the Ock.

A robin's egg that had fallen from a nest.

Wet-weather gear donned during the tea break.

Eleanor's lemon drizzle cake.

Plenty of balsam on the other side of the river!

Soggy feet.

Clearing vegetation at the woodchip path margins.

The Abingdon Green Gym sign post!

Jessica and her borrowed gloves covered in burrs!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Mill Road, Marcham, 8th July 2017

Our second visit of the summer to Manor Farm, Marcham saw eleven Green-Gymmers assemble outside Cumber's Farm Shop on a beautiful July morning.  We welcomed along new member Matt, while Eleanor (with mother, Anna) was here for the final session to contribute towards her bronze Duke of Edinburgh award.  Once briefed on the morning's activities by session leader, Kevin, we ventured off to our work site.

As before, we were here to pull the non-native Himalayan Balsam from the field margins and the banks of the streams.  The plant is so prolific at this location that we could not hope to achieve total elimination, but instead concentrate on reducing it in certain areas before it spreads and scatters seeds.  The ultimate aim is to narrow its coverage over the coming years and thus allow the native flora to regenerate.

We commenced operations at a slow and steady pace due to the heat, yet made reasonable inroads.

The tea break crept up, almost by stealth, and we marched back along the fields to the main farmyard, where we set up shop in one of the barns.  A number of chairs were found stacked in a corner and so we were able to refresh ourselves in comfort, with the downside being that there was a somewhat reduced motivation to start up again afterwards!

Nevertheless, we headed back for a final pull, with most of the group concentrating their efforts within the shadier areas and attempting to avoid the burning heat.

Kevin welcomes new member, Matt.

The stream running through the site.

The infamous Himalayan Balsam plant, in flower.

Graham, arguably the Green Gym's hardest-working member!

Ursula, James and Kevin, mid-discussion.

One of the many poppies in the vicinity.

Chairs out and refreshments being prepared in the barn.

Time for a brew.

Manor Farm with balsam in the foreground.

Lords and Ladies - one of the native plants found here.

Andrew perched upon a pile of pulled balsam!

Sally and Eleanor prepare to cross the raging stream at the end of the morning.

Back across the farmyard and home!