Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Ock Valley Walk, Tesco End, 22nd June 2019

We gathered under the summer sun in the car park of Barclays Bank for our session at the Tesco end of the Ock river path. Sixteen of us turned up for some litter picking and Himalayan Balsam pulling, including Sophie who has returned for the summer.

The balsam was a little hard to come by, but we eventually found plenty in the damp ditch that runs along the path towards the mill. We had to slash through tall nettles to get to it, but once down there, found it a cool respite from the heat of the morning. The balsam has grown quite tall by now but has yet to come into flower, so no exploding seed pods yet!

After working our way up and down the stream in the first half of the session, we found further patches on the river bank and pulled plenty more before making our way back for tea break, some of us nursing some nettle stings. Carolyn turned up to tea break with the tallest plant which must have been at least eight feet tall.

Petra had made some delicious banana bread which we ate with relish and as it was Abingdon Food Festival, it was decided that those who wished to leave after the first half could do so. But a few of us stayed on for further HB pulling and litter picking. Good work!

Photos by Andrew, apart from last photo by Kevin:

Kevin addresses the volunteers.

Colin begins the litter pick.

Joanna hunting for balsam in the ditch.

Carolyn with her huge specimen.

Tea break.

Packing-up time.

Some of the litter picked.

A grey heron in the Ock.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Southern Town Park wild flower patch - an update!

Eleanor has provided a few recent photos of our wild flower patch that we created and look after at Southern Town Park. It is looking rather impressive with many daisies, red campion and foxgloves in particular as shown below (note the bee on the red campion on the final photo!):

Woodhaven, Frilford Heath SSSI, 15th June 2019

We were back at Woodhaven for the second time this summer to tackle the Himalayan Balsam. We knew that there would be a lot to do as we had missed two years due to difficulties in contacting the new owner of the property.

There was light rain as we assembled, which soon cleared. We counted ourselves lucky after a week of torrential rain with very little respite. We were also pleased to welcome a new member, Ross.

We made our way to the SSSI site, which is overseen by Natural England. There were a number of orchids growing along the edge of the meadow. Orchids are one of the features which make the preservation of this site so important. We crossed the bridge and set up our base in the wood, then set off in different directions to pull up the balsam. Where it has been cleared, many native wild flowers are returning.

We were glad to stop for our break, then it was back to work. Another meadow revealed many more orchids, which you can see in the photos.

We realised that there was much more work to do and may arrange an unofficial evening session in a few weeks’ time, weather permitting. This was something we did a few years ago and was really worthwhile, so watch this space!

Photos by Margaret:

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Manor Farm, Marcham, 8th June 2019

Fourteen of us turned out for today’s session at Manor Farm, Marcham. We parked up, gathered our tools and made our way along the edge of the barley field to set up base in the usual spot. It was extremely windy, with the water rippling across the lake and trees creaking overhead. Initially we thought it might start raining too until we were reassured that the weather was actually forecast to improve throughout the morning.

We’d been here a couple of weeks previously, so knew where the Himalayan Balsam was hiding – or not! It had sprung to great heights, and was widespread around the edges of the lake, all of which made for a very satisfying first half of the session pulling up this invasive plant. To get to these patches we had to cross the stream, and Dan managed to slip up and give himself a soaking!

After the tea break, we split up with Adrian and a few others going back along the field to pull balsam he’d found there, and the rest of us spreading out along the other side of the lake. It was harder going this time, with the main patches now having been pulled, and the remaining balsam further and fewer between and in amongst tall nettles and goosegrass or right at the water’s edge – easier to pull by standing in the stream itself.

A significant amount of balsam was later discovered towards the end of the session by Eleanor. This was along Mill Road, in the stream bed and pulling this will be the focus of our next session here.

Kevin spotted some water vole droppings – a sign of a healthy waterway – and we watched some lovely horses grazing in the field over the lane. By the end of the session the sun was out and we went home happy with our work.

Photos by Andrew (except last photo by Kevin):

Gathering in the farmyard.

Off to work we go.

Eleanor's opening speech.

The very makeshift bridge!

Rich pickings for Joanna.

Lesley and Joan on the pull.

An alder tree and the lake.

Poppies in the adjacent field.

Mug shot.

Beverages decanted.

More colourful than just a green gym.

Kevin takes to the stream.

The second half was harder going.

Some lovely horses.

Eleanor makes a late discovery.

It takes five green gymmers to fold a tarpaulin in the wind!

A damselfly in distress?

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Abbey Fishponds, 1st June 2019

It was probably the hottest day of the year for our session at Abbey Fish Ponds today, led by James, with the Earth Trust’s Lucy Duerdoth. We made our way to our spot overlooking the Abbey Fish Ponds reserve and set up camp.

Lucy gave us our tasks which were predominantly – you guessed it – Himalayan Balsam pulling, which has been being eradicated from the site for many years now. Yet there are still some patches where shoots have been missed and seeds are brought in from brooks that run through the reserve. The other main task was to dig ‘scrapes’ coming off the streams to hold water in a mosaic of pools across the site for dragon and damsel flies – all good for the ecology. There was also the job of scything reeds and raking them back from the footpath if anyone fancied that.

Lucy explained that in time the fen, which has an alkali base, will become a bog as the pH increases as mosses and other plants rot down to form layers of peat. This happens over many years, but for now it is a fen with several springs providing water to it. Dragonflies love this habitat and Andrew spent a good proportion of the session standing at the water’s edge trying (and failing!) to capture the perfect photograph of one! As well as the dragonflies and electric blue damselflies we saw butterflies, a frog and there were some beautiful orchids and ragged robin, amongst other flora and fauna.

Teabreak was a welcome respite in all the heat. James announced that we would finish the session a quarter of an hour early in order to enjoy the ‘Fun in the Park’ festival that was going on that day in Abbey Meadow Gardens. So we went back out into the heat for the second half – particularly tough going for the heroic diggers, Kevin and Graham, who were making one of the ponds – and happily made our way home after a hot but satisfying session. 

Photos by Andrew and Joanna: