Monday, August 26, 2019

Barton Fields, 24th August 2019

We gathered at the north end of Barton Fields for our annual hay raking and stacking session under the instruction of the warden, David Guyoncourt. There were sixteen of us, led by Eleanor, along with members of the Abingdon Naturalists' Society Green Team.

The hay had already been cut by tractor in previous days, and raked into neat lines by the Green Team, ready for further raking up and stacking at various points along the nature reserve.

It was hot work, with the temperature climbing towards the 30s as the morning wore on. But we took to the hay with our pitchforks and rakes with relish and by tea break had already cleared over half of the field. A second rake was done to clear up any stragglers – the aim being that as much hay needs to be removed to prevent the hay from rotting down and ensuring that the nutrients don’t go into the ground and the wildflower meadow can flourish the following year.

We took tea break, some of us taking to the shade of nearby trees, and Alastair who runs the Abingdon Blog passed by and took some photos of the occasion.

In the second half, we managed to clear the rest of the field and by this time had several considerable stacks of hay along the field. These will provide useful habitat piles for reptiles and small mammals.

Photos by Andrew and Joanna (unless otherwise indicated):

David instructs the group.

Collecting the cut hay.

Adding hay to one of the piles.

Some of the hay was moved across site on a big sheet.

...then rolled up onto the piles.


Joanna does some raking.

Members of the Green Team get stuck in.

Heading off for the tea break.

A stack of hay and some volunteers in need of refreshment.

Tea served with the temperature rising towards the 30s.

The hay provided a good spot to relax.

...while others headed for the shade.

Almost finished.

A grass snake skin.

Packing up.

A small rodent. (Photo by Michele)

Grasshopper. (Photo by Michele)

Our Barton Fields session on the Abingdon Blog

Our session of hay raking last Saturday at Barton Fields has been featured on the Abingdon Blog: (link opens in new window). 

Our own blog update from this session will follow soon!

Autumn 2019 programme

Our new programme for Autumn 2019 has been published, from next Saturday 31st August onwards. Click HERE for pdf version (opens in new window) or see below:

Monday, August 19, 2019

Summer Picnic, Jarn Mound and Wild Garden, 17th August 2019

Our annual summer picnic was held last Saturday at the Jarn Mound and Wild Garden as per the last few years. Fingers and toes had been crossed that the weather would be fine, in contrast to the wild and changeable conditions that the previous week had offered.

As we arrived, the sun shone, yet some ominous looking clouds were also evident. One of the reasons for choosing this site, which is also one of our work venues, is due to it having a sizeable shelter as a bad-weather back up. However during his recce, Kevin found that it was already occupied! Therefore we would have to set up outside and hope for the best.

Seventeen Green Gymmers gathered for the occasion, along with Eleanor's husband, Arthur. Once we had unpacked the food and drinks from our vehicles and transported it to the garden, we decided to take a short walk in order to work up our appetites. James remained to keep guard over the picnic as we set off.

A light stroll through the nearby woodland and heath was all that was required for our collective appetite to manifest and it wasn't long before the spread was prepared and unveiled upon the large table. However as we were about to tuck in, a shower of rain appeared and we hastily covered it again, waiting for our moment.

The sun soon had his hat back on and feasting commenced. As ever, an impressively vast buffet of savoury items was evident, largely comprising homemade fare. For dessert, a range of cakes and cheese and biscuits were presented before us, including Michele's amazing Green Gym-themed cake centrepiece!

The weather remained fine for the remainder of the occasion and we left full and happy. Many thanks to Carolyn and Kevin for co-ordinating the event. Back to work next week though, where we will be hay raking at Barton Fields.


Photos by Andrew and Joanna:

The venue.

Setting up the table.

Preparing for our pre-picnic stroll.

One of several mushrooms seen on our stroll. Possibly a rather nibbled 'charcoal burner'.



Joan and Andrew.

Group shot!

The first course.

As soon as the picnic been unveiled, a shower of rain appeared.

Michele's amazing Green Gym cake!
The sun reappeared as we tucked in.

Monday, August 12, 2019

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 10th August 2019

Nine of us came along to what turned out to be quite a hair-raising session along the Ock River path today, led by Kevin. The rain held off, but the winds were high! We met in the car park and gathered our tools and hard hats and made our way to our base in the usual spot. As we walked we could see the pathway and river itself strewn with branches brought down by the winds.

Once we’d set up base, Kevin gave us our tasks which were mainly to cut back over grown foliage around the trees we’ve planted, cut back any branches overhanging the path and the inevitable litter picking.

We set to work. It was noisy with the wind causing trees to sway in an alarming manner. About 20 minutes into the session, Joanna was walking along the path when she heard an enormous creaking behind her and a crack willow came crashing down across the pathway. ‘I guess that’s why they’re called crack willows,’ said a passerby sardonically. A jogger stood flummoxed for a moment before deciding to pick his way through the fallen tree.

We carried on with our work. Various climbing plants were found to be efficient at scaling tall nettles with their tendrils catching the branches of our flourishing trees and dragging their branches down so it was good to cut these back and release the trees from their grip.

By break time we’d cleared round the trees and our cups of tea, coffee and biscuits were welcome. Thankfully where we made our base the trees didn’t seem so dangerous. We finalised the list of what everyone is to bring to the summer picnic next weekend and with the work complete we decided to finish early, but not before Kevin had propped up one of our rowan trees that was groaning not from the wind, but under the weight of its crop of berries.

Assessing the weather.

Arrival at base.

Climbers strangling the trees we’ve planted - so we cut back the growth around the trees.
The crack willow that came down across the path.

A hapless jogger picks his way through.

The sign.

Blackberries in various stages of ripening.

Kevin starts on the fallen tree.

Tea break.

The rowan tree groaning under the weight of its crop of berries.
Kevin props up the rowan.

The propped-up rowan (photo by Petra).
Kevin wading in to retrieve fallen branches from the River Ock (photo by Petra).

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Abbey Fishponds, 3rd August 2019

The Green Gym rendezvous was at the usual Abbey Fishponds meeting point at the far end of Hadland Road.  Here we met with Lucy of the Earth Trust, who manage the site, and Sally our team leader for the day. Once assembled, we transferred the tools and equipment needed to our tea break location on a high bank overlooking the nature reserve. 

The Fishponds themselves have long since gone but you can see that the flat low lying area with springs rising in the reserve would have been a ideal site to stock fish for the monks at Abingdon Abbey, centuries ago.

One of the tasks for the morning was clearing back overgrown bushes and brambles on the edge of the reserve next to the Radley Road which were beginning to cause a hindrance to traffic. Adrian, who had been working with Lucy and knew the spot, took Margaret, Dieuwke, Rosie and Carolyn to fulfil the task - with the added precaution of high visibility jackets for working in such an environment. A squashed Hedgehog found on the side of the road was a warning! 

Meanwhile Lucy, took a dedicated team of Graham and Dan, plus fence posts, spades, spirit level and everything else needed to make a start on digging  up and replacing some rotten fence posts at the boundary of the site.

The rest of the willing group, divided their time up with Himalayan Balsam pulling and litter picking, while Ursula and Sarah went to clear nettles from the path which were obstructing cyclists.

By break time the clearing of the foliage at the edge of the Radley road had been completed so they diverted their attention to the HB pulling. The replacement of the fence posts was still a work in progress - the digging out of the old posts, then lining up the new posts making sure they were square, and fitting them into the fence line and gate took longer than we thought, but was finished by end of play. Lucy said the cross beams were a temporary fixture and a more permanent construction will be added later in the month.

On the nature watch front Lucy gave me quick update on the inhabitants of the ponds. There is now a badger sett, also foxes come and go, plus I have seen fleeting glimpses of muntjacs also know as barking deer, not to mention numerous sightings of insects including bees loving the numerous flowers, butterflies, dragonflies as well as and bird life and the odd local cat trying his luck.

Clearing overgrown vegetation from the roadside.

The Radley Road.

Lucy, Graham and Dan replace some fence posts.

Break time on the mound.

A partially repaired fence.

Himalayan Balsam in flower. (photo by Sally)

Lesley in amongst the reeds (photo by Sally).

Hemp agrimony (photo by Sally).

Hemp agrimony and other wildflowers (photo by Sally).