Thursday, December 19, 2019

Oxford talk by Green Gym founder Dr William Bird

Some of our members recently attended a talk at the Oxford Martin School by Dr William Bird, the founder of the Green Gym movement.

Entitled 'Why we need a Fourth Revolution in Healthcare', the entirety of the talk has been uploaded to YouTube. The video has been embedded below or can be found at HERE if you'd prefer to watch it in a separate window.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Dry Sandford Pit and Christmas Meal, 14th December 2019

This was the last Green Gym meeting of the year, with a slightly shorter-than-usual work session at Dry Sandford Pit followed by our annual Christmas meal at the nearby Merry Miller pub.

Despite a favourable weather forecast, we assembled eleven-strong at the car park in the pouring rain! Undeterred, we gathered tools and tea kit and braved the conditions, setting up camp beside the spot where we had worked on our last visit here a couple of weeks ago. On this occasion we were joined by Nicole Clough, representing the local Wildlife Trust who own and manage the site.

Nicole gave us our instructions for the morning along with a quick talk about the site and the purpose of our work - namely to keep the cliff faces clear of vegetation and shadow. This provides an ideal habitat for solitary bees and other invertebrates, with the added bonus of keeping the sedimentary layers of this former quarry clear for geological study.

The bulk of our endeavours on the previous visit had involved working on the cliff faces themselves, but this time we focused on scrub clearance on the other side of the main path. A proliferation of brambles, thorn bushes and willow was evident. Armed with loppers, bow saws and slashers, we therefore commenced operations.

Fortunately we didn't have long to wait until the rain abated and was replaced with bright blue skies. The occasional shower passed over throughout the morning, but the complete wash-out that we had feared did not come to pass.

By break time it looked as it we would clear a larger area than originally supposed, such was our ferocious work rate. We took our refreshments around a rock that served as a table under the relative shelter of a few trees as some light rain returned. Unfortunately our tea-volunteer, James had forgotten to bring the milk, but we were certainly glad of warm drinks in the slightly chilly conditions.

The session was terminated a little early so that we could get to our lunch reservation on time, where we would be meeting a few others who had elected not to join our outdoor session. Before we got going, Nicole took a team photo (see below) of us hardy souls who had braved the worst of the weather that the morning had to offer.

And so onto the pub, where Kevin and Carolyn were already waiting for us, having set out our table with Christmas crackers and arranged for our first drink to be paid for from club funds. Wisely we had pre-ordered our food so that it all arrived together and a lovely meal was enjoyed by sixteen of us. 

After we'd eaten, Kevin in his capacity as chairman gave a short speech, thanking everyone for their hard work in what had been another successful year for the Abingdon Green Gym. A toast was raised for our ongoing endeavours into 2020, with our first session back after the seasonal break being on Saturday 4th January up on Boars Hill.

Assembling in the rain.

Work begins.

Halfway there by break time.

A sturdy refreshment table.

More showers at the interval.

Holes in the cliff face made by solitary bees.

From the reed bed.

Mission accomplished.

Team photo by Nicole.

Seasonal scenes at the Merry Miller.

Taking our seats for the meal.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Barton Fields, 7th December 2019

There were 21 of us for today’s session at Barton Fields, next to the River Thames in Abingdon. The session was led by Sally in conjunction with David Guyoncourt from the Abingdon Naturalists' Society Green Team who manages the site.

We unloaded the tools and David took a splinter group of a few of us, including Rosie and Michele, off for some hardcore lopping and sawing to take place along the river bank. A path had to be forged through the undergrowth to get there and they were given their own supplies of refreshments as they wouldn’t be able to make it back to the main base for break time.

Otherwise, we made our way to the place we’d be working and were split into two further groups – a small group of loppers and sawers to work next to the Sustrans cycle path where grassy bays are being created in order to attract solitary bees and butterflies. Here it was a question of cutting down and thinning out overhanging branches so the light can get through.

The remainder of us took to scything and raking the cut reeds, sedges and willowherb in order to create a floodplain meadow. There was also a strimmer in use. The aim was to clear about 100 square metres, although it looked like we cleared a bigger area than this. This is the first time it’s been cut, but the aim is to cut it again next year and in time have it ready for planting flowers such as snakeshead fritillaries which thrive in this sort of habitat. The work is being done with the advice of the Open University Floodplain Meadow Project.

We gathered at break time (apart from the splinter group!) got welcome cups of tea and coffee and mince pies and Sylfest's home made Christmas biscuits were offered around.

In the second half of the session, the fuel for the strimmer ran out, just as the last bit of willowherb was cut – impeccable timing! We raked up the rest of the cut material and by the end of the session had three or so huge mounds which will rot down over the coming months. It was a grey old day, but we'd worked hard and went home happy with our progress and looking forward to seeing how the meadow develops over the coming year.

David and Margaret about to get started.

David instructs as Petra volunteers to get involved.

The raking gets underway.

Joanna enjoys a biscuit.

The splinter group take their refreshments in isolation.

The remainder of the group at break time.

The second half of the session.

Michele and Rosie, two of the hardcore loppers!

A view of Abingdon Lock from the work site.

The session is almost complete.

A field vole.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Dry Sandford Pit, 30th November 2019

Dry Sandford Pit Nature Reserve was the venue for today’s session, led by Sally. We were there to do work for BBOWT, continuing on from our last visit to the site in July. Sixteen of us turned up on a beautiful bright frozen morning with the grass and trees glittering with frost as the sun rose. It was so cold it was nice to imagine that millions of years ago this place had been the bed of a warm, coral-rich sea.

The nature reserve was once a quarry and our job for the morning was to carry on clearing the cliff faces of vegetation, in order to expose the strata of limestone and sand, and maintain the many habitats of solitary bees and wasps that nest there.

With a mixture of tools, including loppers and slashers for cutting back brambles, and trowels and small mattocks for hacking at the vegetation clinging to the cliff faces, we set to work, building up the habitat piles and soon warming up as the morning wore on.

By break time the sun was high in the sky and we drank our tea basking in its warmth.

Dry Sandford Pit is a fascinating site, as there are always fossils to be found and this time Carolyn also found a crystalized rock of some description. By the end of the session we had made good progress along the length of the cliff face and pathway, and look forward to carrying on in a couple of weeks time.  

Dry Sandford Pit.

Gathering tools.

On our way to site.

A beautiful morning.

Nearly there.

One of the cliff faces.

Chilly beginnings.

Workers in the frost.

Lesley takes her pick.

Woody nightshade.

Dieuwke, Joan and Sally.

Our progress.

Sally takes stock of our work at the end of the session.