Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Kennington Memorial Field, 24th Febuary 2018

It was a bitterly cold day, though fine and sunny as eleven Green Gymmers met for our twice yearly session at Kennington Memorial Field, under the direction of Rachel from Oxford Preservation Trust.

Our task was to clear scrub from the south eastern slope to allow primroses and cowslips to come through later in the Spring. We also had a bonfire to burn the scrub. There were hawthorn and blackthorn bushes all tangled up with briars and brambles, the ends of which had taken root again in the ground. We had to keep moving to keep warm. Later on we were also joined by some Kennington families. We carried the cut scrub over to the fire, where the people tending it were able to keep a bit warmer.

We were glad when it was break time and we could enjoy hot drinks. Then we carried on with the work and began to feel a little bit warmer. At last it was time to stop cutting and carry the remaining piles over to the fire. We were pleased with how much clearing we had managed to do and I shall certainly look forward to visiting the site later in the Spring to see the flowers.   

Photos by Margaret:

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 17th February 2018

A dozen or so Green Gymmers assembled at an unfamiliar spot along the Ock Valley Walk on Saturday.  Described by session leader Eleanor as the flat bridge over the humpy bridge, the revised meeting point was necessary due to the ongoing closure of the normal crossing at St Helen's Court due to safety concerns. This necessitated a longer than usual walk to the woodchip path where we set up shop, ready for a morning of tree planting and litter picking.

Eleanor had visited in advance and set out a number of colour-co-ordinated canes, marking the locations of whips of different tree species that were to be planted. Oak, beech, silver birch and alder were all represented and we therefore split into sub-groups to hunt these cryptically arranged sticks and get digging.

Among our number were four new members - Tom, Christina, Zoe and Rob.  It was remarked to them that it was best not to get too used to planting trees, for we more usually chop them back!

All the saplings had been planted by the break time and attached to stakes, with tree guards and weed-suppression mats fitted.  Therefore we were re-briefed at this time for our subsequent details.  These were litter picking for some, and for others, the tidying up of stray tree branches and weeds.

As usual, and even despite the closure of the bridge making the path a dead end, there was litter aplenty.  Rich pickings.  Amongst our haul this time was a luggage set. The bags were eventually hand-carried to the agreed rubbish collection point.

In conclusion, it was a busy and productive session for the members of the Abingdon Green Gym, old and new.

A wheelbarrow and a sign.

Early morning light.

Members old and new.

Eleanor makes her point.

The new recruits were offered the rare opportunity to plant some trees rather than chopping them down.

Tea break is taken seriously at the Green Gym.

Various degrees of camouflage attire.

Looking for inspiration in the most unlikely of places.

Bin bags.

Trees as far as the eye can see.

Packing up time.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Jarn Mound and Wild Garden, 10th February 2018

We gathered at the Jarn Mound and Wild Garden, Boars Hill on Saturday, at least 15-strong.  There we met with Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT) warden Rachel Sanderson plus some local volunteers and received our instructions for the morning.

As Green Gym session leader James had already outlined in his email during the previous week, the task was to cut up and remove fallen tree debris from the Wild Garden using bow saws and loppers.  The heavy snowfall here over the winter had caused a lot of damage and while tree surgeons had already been in attendance to tackle the most dangerous branches, there was much detritus left for us to clear.

By the time we arrived on site, a bonfire had already been lit and some of the smaller cut branches were being added to it. The larger logs were stacked to one side to make a habitat pile for wildlife. Rachel then provided further instructions, crucially including which areas of the garden to focus our activities on. 

We set to work fairly frantically as some persistent and increasingly heavy rain appeared on the scene. However, the precipitation neither dampened our spirits nor extinguished the bonfire, which was soon raging quite satisfactorily. 

Time zipped by and almost before we knew it, we were summoned away to the nearby shelter to take our teas and coffees.  The beverages were accompanied not only by the customary biscuits, but Ursuala's delicious home-made marmalade cake. Her bake perfectly showcasing the Green Gym marmaladies' recent batch of preserve (£2 a jar, proceeds go directly to group funds).

Just when it was supposed that things couldn't get any better, Sally then whipped out a quantity of toasting forks and marshmallows and gathered us around the fire to participate in the fun.

Fully refreshed we continued our clearance tasks for the remainder of the session.  While progressing outwards, we inevitably tackled debris further away from the fire.  It was quite a drag to get some of the branches back from the furthest reaches of the site, but this we did.  

Towards the end of the morning the instruction was received to stop adding additional material to the fire in order for it to burn itself out. It had been a gallant effort all round to achieve all that we did, even if there is much more of the same remaining for our next visit. 

The Green Gymmers appear in a puff of smoke.

Bonfire smoke or a low cloud?

Chop chop.

See saw.

Graham and Dan add fuel to the flames.

Carolyn gets fired-up.

Fire water.

Group shot minus the appointed photographers.

Luxury tea break shelter.

Ursula distributes her (Green Gym) Marmalade cake, much to Margaret's delight.

Taking precautions while toasting a marshmallow.

Rachel on top, Graham underneath.

Moss and ivy.

What a drag for Ursula!

Kevin branches out.

Bow saws and loppers.

A few beech leaves cling on through the winter.

A proliferation of snowdrops.

Friday, February 9, 2018

Green Gym 20th Anniversary Joint Session, 8th February 2018

6 Abingdon Green Gymmers made their way to Watlington Hill National Trust site to participate in this event organised by Sonning Common Green Gym.  Representatives from most of the other Oxfordshire Green Gyms were present, Abingdon, Bicester, Chipping Norton, Wallingford as well as Newbury & Thatcham Green Gym from just over the border.  There were 49 participants overall, making for a good social/networking event meeting old friends and making new ones.

We parked up, put on our boots and set off to site where there was much scrub cutting to be done. The NT wanted the site cleared of scrub and trees in order to encourage and allow wild flower habitat to grow.  So we set to our task after a 10 minute walk to site, started chopping and taking cut scrub towards one or other of the many bonfires that had been started.

The wind was bitingly cold, but the work was physical so kept the cold at bay.  Tea break came along at 10:45 (we welcomed it being early!) where there was a huge choice of homemade cakes to be had along with speeches from the head of the GP practice at Sonning Common John Hasler and the founder of Green Gym, Dr William Bird, who was back then a junior GP working for John with a new idea of how to improve the health of the locals. They retold the story of how Green Gym started 20 years ago.

We all got back to cutting scrub having had a nice warm cuppa and sustaining cake and chat with other green gymmers from around the county.  At 12:30 it was announced that lunch was ready – potatoes for everyone all baked in the heat of the fire.  More speeches came from Craig Lister head of Green Gyms within TCV who spoke about the positive effect that participating in Green Gym has been proven to have, amongst news that TCV Green Gym has outreached as far as Italy, South Korea and New South Wales, Australia!

Gradually then we took the walk back to the car park said our goodbyes and departed having had a truly fulfilling morning.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Frilford Heath Golf Club, 3rd February 2018

A very depleted group of Green Gymmers met in the Frilford Golf Club car park, a number of us having been laid low by illness. We made our way to Boundary House Fen, where our task was to finish off raking up the reeds and dead vegetation under the direction of Judy Webb and Rod d’Ayala. The weather was chilly, grey and slightly drizzly, which meant there were fewer golfers and flying golf balls to avoid as we crossed the course.

On our previous visit before Christmas we had filled the stream flowing through the fen with cut reeds to encourage the water to spread out and Rod had already dammed it in places. This was important as the fen was in danger of drying out. The reeds also help to clean the water and remove nitrates, which damage the fen’s ecosystem.

On our return, we found that the water had spread out considerably and formed pools. You can see in the photos the beautiful colours of a fen in Winter.

There were piles of reeds from our last visit that needed to be moved to the higher ground on the edge of the fen and more reeds to rake up. Rod also began to dig another hollow for the water to collect in. Although there were only seven Green Gymmers there, we worked hard and got a lot done so by the end of the session all the piles had been moved and the fen was much clearer. As a bonus Judy dug up a clump of snowdrops that had been thrown out from a neighbouring garden, not welcome on the fen but worth taking back to our own gardens.

Graham and Janet fill a drag-bag with cut reeds.

Carolyn and Rosie keep busy.

Raking the reeds into piles.

An increasingly flooded fen.

A dammed stream.

Water, everywhere!

Rod digs a hollow.

Turkeytail fungus. On a log.

'tis the season for a snowdrop.