Monday, July 29, 2019

Dry Sandford Pit, 27th July 2019

It was a cloudy and slightly drizzly day, in contrast to the record hot temperatures of the past few days, when fourteen of us met to carry out work on the cliff faces at Dry Sandford Pit, which is a BBOWT nature reserve.

This area is an old quarry and the sand and limestone cliff faces show fossil rich strata from when the area was a warm, shallow sea in the Jurassic era. Our task was to cut back vegetation in front of the cliffs and to clear it from the cliff face to expose the geology of the area. There are many holes on the cliff face, which are home to solitary bees and wasps.

We set to work with a variety of different tools, slashers and loppers for the larger vegetation at the base, and secateurs, trowels  and hand forks for the smaller plants growing on the cliff face itself. Soon we were transporting large heaps to the dumping site.

We moved to the shelter of some trees for our tea break as rain was threatening again. After the break we moved to a neighbouring area to begin work there.

There is still a great deal to do and we will be having two more work parties at the site in the near future.
Dry Sandford Pit is home to orchids, marsh helleborines, a variety of mosses as well as  rich bird and insect life and is well worth a visit.

First five photos by Sally, second five by Eleanor:

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Southern Town Park, 20th July 2019

Eleven of us turned up at the car park on Lambrick Way for our session at Southern Town Park, led by Sally. It was a muggy day, with rain threatening - although it never came to anything - and we set off loaded with our gear to set up base at the usual picnic bench.

The main tasks of the day were litter picking, cutting back overhanging branches and inspecting and weeding the wild flower patch we’d reseeded last March. Sally had brought along her folder in which all the plants are listed so we could see which ones were in flower. The patch has been doing incredibly well, and was buzzing with insects, butterflies and bees, so it was decided we’d expand it, too. A passerby commented how, since getting his dog three months ago, he’d walked past on a regular basis and enjoyed seeing the flowers come up. It’s always nice to get such a positive response!

In the first half of the session a few of us went far and wide litter picking, whilst others concentrated on the wildflower patch. After the tea break, it was back to the wild flowers for more clearing before we went home happy after a good morning’s work.

The circle of truth.

The wildflower patch.

Ox-eye daisies.

Checking the patch.

Litter pickers!

Tea break.


Extending the wildflower patch.

Litter haul including a rusty scooter.

Friday, July 19, 2019

More photos from last Saturday!

Margaret has provided a few more photos from our trip to the River Cherwell at Marston last Saturday - from the post-session pub meal and guided walk:

Sunday, July 14, 2019

River Cherwell, Marston, 13th July 2019

For today’s session, led by James, we made our way to Marston in the north of Oxford – a new site for Abingdon Green Gym and one which has been owned by Oxford Preservation Trust since 1929. We met in the car park of the Victoria Arms, a delightful pub on the banks of the river Cherwell, and Rachel Sanderson of OPT led us through a copse, over the Marston Ferry Road and along the banks of the river to where we’d be working. There were sixteen of us, plus two members of the OPT and Poppy the dog. Quite a turn out! We set up base camp and Rachel ran through our tasks of the day.

There are forty crack willows (Salix fragilis) along the banks of the river at this point, and over the winter they had all been pollarded. Because this was the first time this had been done since 1978, their 41 years of growth meant that there had been a huge amount of debris. Most of it had been taken away, including tons of woodchip used to fuel a boiler which produces electricity for the grid, but there were still plenty of branches and chip for us to clear and neaten up. Not that it was to be made too neat – as Rachel said, it is a field edge, not a park, after all. But people do walk alongside the river there and it would be nice to make it a little easier underfoot.

In addition to clearing wood, some of us had scythes to cut back some of the overgrown vegetation. There was even some balsam – but as it was orange, rather than Himalayan, it’s not nearly so invasive.

We set to work with spades, forks and rakes, clearing the path and evening out the mounds of chip. It was a warm day, and mostly the sun stayed behind the clouds but every now and again it came out and we really felt the heat. There were plenty of insects and butterflies as we worked, and as the morning wore on, lots of punters passed by, often giving us a cheery hello and a wave. It was lovely to watch them as they made their way along the river – but then punting looks like pretty hard work, too!

At our well-earned break time, James passed out menus from the pub as most of us were staying on for lunch and a walk guided by Rachel afterwards. Once the orders had been taken and tea drunk it was back to work, reducing the mounds of chip and filling up drag bags to make a more even pathway. And hard work it was too.

We finished ten minutes early in order to be back at the pub in time. Rachel commented that the site was unrecognisable from when we’d first arrived. It certainly makes for a pleasanter riverside walk now and we were thankful to learn that the next pollarding won’t take place for another ten to fifteen years.

Photos by Joanna and Margaret (where indicated):

The Victoria Arms.

Meeting up.

Making our way to site.

Rachel giving us instructions.

Some debris on the path.

Ducks on the river!

A pollarded crack willow.

A ladybird.

Kevin path clearing.

Mounds of chip.


Tea break.

A grass snake skin found by Adrian.

A punter.

The pub garden on the banks of the river.

James sorting the lunch orders (photo by Maragaret).

Poppy (photo by Margaret).

Sally (photo by Margaret).

Michele and Joan with a drag bag (photo by Margaret).

Joanna (photo by Margaret).

Sophie (photo by Margaret).

Birds foot trefoil (photo by Margaret).

Common knapweed (photo by Margaret).

Monday, July 8, 2019

Manor Farm, Marcham, 6th July 2019

Eleven of us showed up in the farmyard at Manor Farm, Marcham for our last visit of the season. The weather was fairly cloudy but still very warm and dry, unlike our previous visit, when we had had heavy rain and the stream was quite fast flowing. We made our way to our usual encampment and split up into a few groups to go Himalayan Balsam pulling. Much of it was already in flower.

It was important to work along the ditch running beside the road, as we hadn’t done that at all this year. We had cleared it several years ago and many native wild flowers had returned so we didn’t want to see it taken over by balsam again. There were many butterflies around, mostly meadow browns and ringlets and also a scarlet tiger moth, which you can see in the photo.

We worked hard until tea break time and most people were reluctant to return to work, a feeling that can be blamed on the muggy weather. However, there was still plenty to be done and as usual, we couldn’t get at it all.

As we approached the farmyard, we spotted a huge patch, some of it about eight foot tall and in flower so, our time having run out, we tried to ignore it!

Photos by Margaret (except last photo by Sally):


The lake.

Michele with balsam.

Tea break.

Surveying the task ahead.

Getting stuck in.

Close up of balsam.

Scarlet tiger moth.

Rosie and Michele (photo by Sally).