Sunday, November 26, 2017

Sunningwell Green, 25th November 2017

Back in February 2016, we made our first visit to Sunningwell to assist some of the locals to plant a hedge on the green.  The green had recently been saved from possible development and since then has been bought by a group of the villagers to ensure that it remains as a valuable community asset.

We returned for a second session this weekend to continue with the hedge planting - essentially to extend it in a line from the where we left off last time, down the slope, towards the main road.

Having parked our cars outside the village hall, we met with Bob Evans who lives opposite the green and who was again supervising our work here.  After being briefed in his front garden, the fifteen or so Green Gymmers and a few Sunningwell residents began work.

The first task was to clear away some overgrown vegetation in the area with slashers and rakes.  Next, a line was established with some string to define where the tree whips were to be planted, with canes put in the ground at regular intervals marking the exact locations.  A mixture of species including hawthorn, blackthorn and dogwood were provided, along with spiral tree guards and ties. Given the large group, the hedge was finished just in time for the tea break.  Hopefully, over time, it will establish itself as successfully as the previous section, which has developed nicely.

The break was taken in the garden of Bob's house, and he and wife Kati had assembled an impressive spread with hot sausage and spring rolls, along with biscuits and sweet treats.  At this point, we discussed the post-tea time agenda, which included the scattering of wild flower seeds in an area of the green which had been prepared with the use of a rotavator during the morning.  Also, under the guidance of villagers Colin and James, there was the pond opposite the church to clear.

We divided up accordingly for the second half.  Kevin and Andrew each donned a set of waders and joined Colin in the pond, where the overgrown aquatic vegetation was removed by hand and deposited around the perimeter for clearing.  A couple of wheelbarrows had been sourced and the plants were carted away to a pile back on the green.

The pond water was not as cold as expected and a good effort saw much of the weed cleared before the 12:30pm deadline.  A number of locals including some staff and students from the neighbouring Sunningwell School of Art were delighted to see the immediate improvement!

All in all, a good morning's work in the November sunshine, and something a little different from many of our more regular tasks.

A well sunny Sunningwell Green!

Bob briefs the group in the bright sunshine.

Raring to go.

The section of hedge we helped plant in February 2016.

Graham, Carolyn and Kevin get started.

Clearing away vegetation.

Marking-out the line of the hedge.

Planting begins.

Each cane marked where a sapling was to be planted.

Spiral tree guards to protect the saplings.

A row of Green Gymmers and locals.

A finished section.

Completion of the task!

Tea garden.

Villager Colin removes weed from the pond.

Kevin joins in.

Pond weed is removed to the pavement, where it is collected and taken away.

Where the pond borders the art school.

The pond complete with island.

The pond was surprisingly deep in places!

Matt with a barrow-load of pond weed.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Ock Valley Walk, 18th November 2017

Because of the closure of the footbridge at St Helen's Wharf, the venue for our planned session for work at the Town end of the Ock River Path was changed to the Tesco end, as parking was easier for everyone.  Sally was our leader for the session and the tasks were to collect litter, clear nettles from the footpaths and generally tidy up.

The weather was fine, if dull, to start with and we all got to work, as there was a lot of litter to pick.

We made our way to our normal base area in the wood, while Matt and Colin put our signpost and leaflet holder up.

Michele, Graham and Colin set to work by sweeping up fallen leaves from the bridge over the Ock so that it was less slippery underfoot and generally cleared the paths of leaf litter.  Matt slashed away nettles from the sides of the path, while Janet, Rosie and Sally collected litter.  The new handihoops for our litter bags made this task a lot easier.  Dieuwke joined us a little later and she and Colin also joined in collecting litter.

The rain started just before our very welcome tea break and Dieuwke had also brought some satsumas for us to enjoy along with some tasty biscuits, which lifted our spirits.

We were pleased to hear from Eleanor, who had been working at the Town end planting wild flower bulbs with Andrew, Petra and Dan that they had successfully completed their task, but unfortunately, had all decided to go home afterwards as it was a long trek from the Town end to our base, so they missed out on tea on this occasion.

Colin had reported finding a used mattress, which we thought had been discarded, but when we went to collect it, it was clear that this was or had been someone's home.  Sadly, we found evidence of drug use and Sally reported this to the police and Council so that the site can be properly cleared, afterwards.

We then spent the next 20 minutes or so finishing up.  Janet disturbed a huge rat (fatty ratty!) on the river bank in her quest to retrieve some litter before it made its way into the Ock and then with Colin and Sally managed to pick up an array of screws, bolts, copper tubes and plastic ties that had been strewn on the pavement by Barclays Bank.

The path is used by many people lots of whom were very appreciative of our efforts.  All-in-all, a very satisfying morning's work was done.

Photos by Andrew (first 11) and Sally (last 5):

Sign warning of the closure of the footbridge.

Autumn colours on the path.

Ducks on the Ock.

Petra and Eleanor prepare to plant bulbs beside Chris's memorial tree.

Petra plants.

Dan keeps busy.

Some of the spring bulbs.


Eleanor plants the last of the bulbs.

Leaves on one of the young beech trees that the Green Gym planted a few years ago.

Homeward bound.

Michele sweeping fallen leaves

Rosie nettle bashing.

Graham clearing the path.

Janet with part of our haul.

Matt, Rosie, Janet, Graham and Michele with our collection of litter and recycling.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Southern Town Park, 4th November 2017

Southern town park is a large site in south Abingdon surrounding the rugby football fields  - there are many trees, brambled areas, the beginnings of a wild flower area instigated by the green gym.  It is a popular spot for locals to walk and cycle and take their kids to play sport.

This autumn visit for green gym to this site entailed litter picking, nettle slaying, bramble bashing and caretaking of the newly planted wild flower patch to remove invasive species (mainly nettles).

The day started off very cold but and wet, but not long in the rain stopped, 13 brave souls joined in and we spread ourselves around the brambly area to the east side of the site, along peep-o-day lane and along the southern side towards the wild flower area.

Litter picking started off with attempting to fix litter bags to the new hoops that Sally obtained to help with the activity - with much success the pickers went off on their way to collect.  Brambles were chopped enough to free the trees surrounded by them, and the wildflower patch had nettles handpicked.

Tea time was a welcome break, chat about the new hoops ensued, along with a lovely four legged visitor turning up near the end where we learned quite a lot about guide dogs, both active and retired, from her owner.

Post tea we continued with our activities and left the area less brambly, less nettley and less littered!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

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

Jarn Mound and its woodland garden is one of three sites on Boar’s Hill where we help the Oxford Preservation Trust to restore, maintain and improve the environment.  The gardens and the mound were built by Arthur Evans with the help of local volunteers during the depression.  This provided work at a difficult time and left a legacy for our enjoyment.  It seems fitting that voluntary organisations are again instrumental in caring for this heritage.  Rachel from OPT has had talks with a garden designer to device a long-term plan to restore not only the mound but also the garden.  The ponds may never be proper ponds again, but it would be possible to create a wetland with a diverse habitat for plants suitable for a site that would remain boggy. To this end we were asked to remove many saplings and small trees from the pond areas.

The day started cold and drizzly, but we soon warmed up sawing and lopping.  The bonfire was alight in no time in spite of the damp, and kept fed by Graham with piles of chopped wood.

Sally, our refreshment volunteer for the day, thought of everything, and at the end of the session marshmallows were toasted by the fire on toasting forks and long sticks to everyone’s delight.