Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 24th November 2018

It was drizzling when we met in the car park at the Town End of Ock Path, thirteen green gymmers ready to work a session led by Sally. Thankfully, by the time we’d carried the tools and equipment to our usual spot on the river bank, the rain had cleared and Sally split us into three groups: the planters, the prospectors and the progressives.

The planters were to clear areas between the pathways using the mattocks for wild bulb planting. Eleanor had brought along a variety of native English bulbs, including wood anemones, wild garlic and bluebells.

The prospectors were the litter pickers. They set off with recycling and bin bags towards the Drayton Road end of the path, where most litter seems to be thrown. And if we had been prospecting for gold we’d have been millionaires after the first half of the session as there were rich pickings indeed: a large plastic paddling pool, road traffic cone that had to be hauled out of the river, shopping basket on wheels (nearly new), a whole bike (in a sorry state), a push chair, bits of clothing, and a small mountain of cans and bottles, plus the usual sweet wrappers, fast food containers and other bits and pieces, including someone’s bank card which had expired in 2002!

In the meantime, the progressives set to clearing leaves and other debris from the paths along the Ock river, making sure they’re nicely delineated and easy to walk along.

After a busy first half of the session it was back to our spot for refreshments with a delicious coffee cake made by Eleanor and biscuits. Notices were given and Margaret brought to our attention a concert her choir were giving the following day.

In the second half of the session, we continued with our various tasks. At the town end of the Ock Path we found a whole fake plastic Christmas tree in the undergrowth, replete with baubles and ho-ho-ing santa which must have been dumped there last winter. We bagged it up and took it to Drayton Road, ready for collection by the council with the rest of the rubbish.

By the end of the session much progress had been made and we set off for home, happy and with thanks from many appreciative passers by.

Photos by Andrew and Joanna (and Petra - last two photos):

The pre-session gathering.

Sally proposes her three P's.

Evidence of the planters.

Graham the progressive in action!

A pair of planters.

Andrew prospects.

Eleanor's coffee cake.

Eleanor addresses the Green Gym public at the break.

Ho ho ho? Littering ought to be a definite NO NO NO!

A pair of shrooms.

Further along the path.

A trio of progressives.

A millionaires' litter pick.

A discarded push chair.

...and an owl motif shopping trolley!

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Frilford Heath Golf Club, 17th November 2018

For this session we were at Boundary House Fen on Frilford Golf Course, to continue our work here from last month. This time there were a good number of us and we were joined by Judy Webb, Alison Muldal, volunteer Mike and Rod d’Ayala, who is in charge of the project.

The main tasks were to rake up the cut reeds and deposit them in the stream flowing through the fen. This would both purify the water and make the fen wetter. We certainly noticed that the fen was much wetter than on our last visit, which showed that the plan was succeeding. Raking up the reeds would also give the calcareous fenland plants, such as marsh valerian, a chance to grow. 

There were also a lot of branches, twigs and quite large logs on one side of the fen, which needed to be cleared and put on to habitat piles. The weather was chilly but sunny, which made the tasks much more pleasant.

We worked hard and were glad of our tea break. By the end of the session, we had managed to clear all the piles of reeds. Once or twice we disturbed a medium sized frog as we raked. It must be glad of the extra water on the fen. We will be back there again in two weeks’ time to continue the task.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Southern Town Park, 10th November 2018

This was our first visit to Southern Town Park since cutting and raking the wildflower area in early September. The photo shows the very attractive sign painted by Ursula. Since then, a lot of nettles had sprung up as a result of the mild Autumn but a lack of hand forks meant we couldn’t do much weeding. However, there were a lot of brambles to be cut back and the usual litter picking. We were joined by Neil and Rhiannon. Rhiannon is working towards a Scout award, which involves community and outdoor work.

We worked hard at slashing and raking up the brambles and nettles and the weather was fine and mild. There also seemed to be less litter than usual, so maybe the youth football club had been doing their bit.

We stopped for our tea break, stoking up with plenty of cake. The second part of the session was shorter than usual as some people wanted to go to the bun throwing to celebrate the centenary of the Armistice.

Dark clouds were gathering in the sky and as soon as we had finished and loaded the tools, the first drops of rain began to fall. So, once again we had been lucky with the weather.

Photos by Ursula:

Weeding the wild flower patch.

Litter picking.

Scything brambles.

Cutting back brambles and weeds.

Ready for tea.

A great clean-up.

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Cumnor Pond, 3rd November 2018

We have been in several ponds lately, notably those on Boars Hill and in Sunningwell. On Saturday November the 3rd we dipped our wellies for the first time in  a new one, namely the village pond in Cumnor.

This pond is right beside the road so we were able to park by the roadside next to the pond.  The benefit of this was that we did not have to carry our tools any distance.

We had been asked by Lorraine if we would cut back the reeds that covered about one third of the pond. Lorraine, ably assisted by Gordon her husband, has been responsible for the maintenance of the pond for some years but requested the services of the Abingdon Green Gym to undertake some work on the reed-bed. We were asked to cut them back, not to remove them.

The area where we were working was deceptive in that most of it was under about six to nine inches of water but there were some patches where the depth was nearer four feet. These patches were not obvious and some of us, even those wearing waders, suddenly found ourselves hip-deep.

The main area of the pond, away from the reeds, needed the surface weeds to be cleared so Rosie and Gordon set sail in a small dinghy in which they cruised the pond and, in spite of running aground at least once, managed to complete the task and return safely to harbour.

The rest of us working with slashers, sickles, shears and loppers, managed to produce  large heaps of cut reeds on the banks of the pond. To remove these, Gordon fetched his trailer onto which we stacked the reeds, now in drag-bags. At first it seemed that Gordon would have to make two trips but, just like Dr Who’s Tardis, the trailer proved to have far more capacity than it appeared to have and, eventually, all the reeds were piled on and Gordon drove off. We didn't ask where!

Rosie and Gordon setting sail.

Not quite the Grand Union Canal!

Kevin, Kate and James among the reeds.

Lorraine and Robert surveying the scene.


Loading the Tardis.

Tardis ready for launch.

Friday, November 2, 2018

Kennington Memorial Field, 27th October 2018

This Saturday as per the programme, the Abingdon Green Gym spent the morning at the Kennington Memorial Field which was establish after the Second World War to commemorate local men who died in the conflict.

Rachel of the Oxford Preservation Trust, who manage the site, was there to instruct us on what we were going to do. This was to clear scrub, brambles and small saplings that have encroached onto the open heath restricting access for the cattle that graze there.

The first task on the agenda was to establish a bonfire to dispose of the cleared scrub. Graham our firestarter-in-residence set to work with some fire lighters and dried kindling supplied by Rachel. Once the fire was well established, the cut scrub soon piled up ready for Graham to feed it.

We were working on what was a new part of the field for us, but the clearing activity was the same as on our previous visits, so we all knew what to do. The majority of us tackled the difficult business of cutting/slashing the spiky brambles and thorn bushes. Once cut, they still required considerable effort to pull them away onto a pile ready to be pitchfork over to the fire.

The warmth of the fire was appreciated at first but as it grew and we generated plenty of our own heat via our labours, there was no need to loiter near the flames.

By the end of the morning we had cleared a substantial area which will be kept down by flailing the ground to stop the scrub coming back, which will encourage wild flowers and grasses to flourish there. We will be returning in the new year to continue the process.

Photos by Margaret and Kevin: