Monday, September 24, 2018

Cothill Fen, 22nd September 2018

A team of 15 green gymmers, including new member, Joanna - gathered at the Cothill Fen car park for today’s session, along with Judy Webb from Natural England who was to manage our tasks.

Our main aim for the morning was to continue the work from our last time here in July. With nitrate leaching into the fen from fertiliser on the neighbouring farmland, its entry point the ‘evil spring’ (as Judy calls it), duck weed and algae have been blooming out of control, disrupting the natural habitat. In previous sessions a ditch had been dug, and lined with logs, in which cut reeds had been tamped down in order to create an anaerobic reaction, the result of which should be that the water is cleared of nitrate before it seeps into the fen. And it has been working – with 10 parts per million of nitrate in the water at the evil spring, it’s down to zero some way along the ditch. But still nitrate has been finding its way through so there’s always more work to be done.

With rain threatening, most of us made our way out onto the fen to start raking the reeds, and transferring them into the ditch, while a couple of others started cutting back the alder and hazel trees bordering the fen.

It’s wet, smelly work – the pungent smell of sulphur just occasionally laced with light mint - and Kevin was the first to fall victim to the uneven surface, with water going over the top of his boot early on. Eleanor went in up to her knees shortly afterwards.

By tea break we’d already raked a good half of the previously-cut reeds, trodden them down into the ditch, and were ready for a well-earned cuppa and slice of Eleanor’s delicious, moist courgette cake. It was while gathered under the trees that the rain started coming down in earnest.

For the second half of the session, we kept to the shelter of the woodland bordering the fen armed with loppers and bow saws to clear and cut back. Meanwhile Judy went to collect devil’s-bit scabious seeds from one part of the fen to scatter on other parts. This is a vitally important plant for late bees and butterflies and every garden should have them!

By the end of the session, soggy but happy, we made our way with the tools back to the car park. A good morning’s work!

Photos by Joanna and Andrew:

A gathering of Green Gymmers.

The fen pre-work.

Judy briefs the group.

A mystery Green Gymmer loads reeds into a drag bag.

Andrew - quite a rake!

Duck weed.

A ditch lined with logs.

The pond area in the middle of the fen.

Dryad's Saddle fungus.

Devil's Bit Scabious.

Eleanor cuts her cake.

A well-camouflaged Margaret.

Judy leads the way.

Grass of Parnassus.

A young stinkhorn fungus.

A nibbled Fly Agaric nestling beneath a tree.

Sulphur Tufts.

Chicken of the Woods.

The primary colours of the (not just) Green Gym.

Dead Man's Fingers.

Andrew reflects upon his hard work!

Monday, September 17, 2018

Sunningwell Green, 15th September 2018

For this session we paid another visit to Sunningwell, where we had done some work in the early Summer. The tasks arranged by Bob Evans were to do some more clearing of the pond, to weed the hedge we had planted on the Green and to clear the wildflower meadow.

James was eager to don waders and get stuck into the pond. This task was overseen by another James from Sunningwell (James Pond?) There was also a huge stack of cut willow by the pond, which needed cutting into manageable pieces and moving to the bonfire site on the Green. Graham, Margaret and I set to work on this task while the others went off to do the hedge weeding.

Gradually, the willow pile grew smaller and more weed and green gunge was pulled from the pond. The hedge weeders also had a daunting task where a lot of nettles had grown among the young hedging plants.

We were very lucky to have our tea break in Bob’s lovely garden, with delicious sausage rolls supplied by Bob’s wife Koty.
Some people had to leave after the break, including both Jameses. The remaining hedge weeders went to work on the wildflower meadow, Meanwhile, there was the remains of the willow to be cleared and piles of pond gunge to be barrowed to the Green and dumped by the boundary fence, where it would rot down.

Then it was time to pack up and we found that one of our larger rakes was missing. At last we spotted it – abandoned on the pond island, so even though we couldn’t get at it, at least we know where it is!

James wades in.

James Pond and Graham.

Margaret cuts up willow.

Working on the hedge.

Dieuwke with a barrow load.

Ursula slashes nettles.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Abbey Meadows Wild Flower Maze, 8th September 2018

The task this session was to rake up the cut vegetation from the wild flower maze in the Abbey Meadows. The maze is an initiative of Abingdon Carbon Cutters and is cared for by Lucille Savin.

Despite some early rain, the weather turned out to be dry with some sunny intervals. The wildflowers in the maze had done pretty well, considering the heat and drought of the Summer. The time for cutting and raking up had arrived and Lucille had already done and initial strim. It is important to rake the cut material off as quickly as possible so nutrients do not leach into the soil and enrich it too much. Wildflowers flourish on poor soil.

We worked hard raking and stacking, while Lucille did a second strim of the raked areas. There was also quite a bit of litter revealed, which had to be cleared. During our break, Lucille sketched out a plan for an interpretation board which would appeal to children. This might encourage them to come over from the nearby playground and search for the flora and fauna in the maze.

We carried on with the work and got most of it raked up. In all, it was a very satisfying morning and we look forward to visiting the maze next Spring and Summer.

Raking and stacking.

Lucille strimming.

Grim reaper Adrian.

Kevin depositing a load.

Tea break.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Southern Town Park, 1st September 2018

Margaret had the honour of leading this weekend's session at Southern Town Park. Our instruction was to clear the wildflower bed which we established a couple of years ago. The weather was good, starting out warm and rising to 25°C by lunchtime!

We began by collecting any wildflowers that were left and distributing them amongst us (see photos). After that, we plucked any nettles that had infiltrated into the bed. Finally we slashed back the rest of the plants and raked them into a pile away from the area. This was all pretty much achieved by break time.

After the much-needed break (we had the luxury of a solid iron park bench to serve the refreshment on and enough seating for most of us to rest and take the weight off), we were back to the usual routine of slashing and lopping down nettles and brambles that were starting to encroach upon the paths and tracks.

Then of course litter picking, filling half a dozen bags - this is about the average for this location, with no unusual items of interest!

There was one minor casualty during the session when Graham disturbed a wasps' nest in a bunch of nettles and sustained a sting to the forehead.  Treatment was administered by Carolyn with some magic ointment from our First Aid box.

Margaret detailing the jobs to do.

The flowers of our labours.

We disturbed a few of these tiny frogs and placed them well away from the work area.

Clearing the patch.

Hops. Where did they come from?

Carolyn with the prickly job of removing the brambles, hence the dainty welders gloves that we use for this purpose.

Refreshments with wide ranging conversation.

Photo by Michele.