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.


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