Thursday, December 31, 2020

Cancellation of Sessions

Due to the ongoing Covid 19 situation and the current Tier 4 restrictions in Oxfordshire, it is with regret that we have made the decision to cancel all our forthcoming sessions until further notice.

Stay safe and we hope to see everyone again as soon as circumstances permit.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Dry Sandford Pit, 12th December 2020

There was a depleted team this Saturday owing to the limited amount of volunteers permitted to work on the BBOWT site at Dry Sandford Pit.

So rather than waste the enthusiasm on turning down our devoted members, one of our leaders Eleanor kindly volunteered to take and surplus to Abingdon Southern town park and do some tidying up.

This resulted in seven of us going to dry Sandford. The weather was fine but chilly which is always a good excuse to work up a sweat before refreshment break.

The task was basically to continue with the same job we were doing last time; to clear the area of scrub and brambles below the sand bank, containing the cliff face which exposing the strata layer of marine fossils. The area was once a sea bed, millions of years ago.

What we lost in numbers, we made up with two scythers, Adrian and Sally - who cut a swath through the scrub, whilst the other five - Graham, Colin, Lesley and myself followed up with cutting down larger bushes and shrubs too big for the scythes. Meanwhile Margaret opted for going up closer to the cliff face and clearing the loose soil that had fallen and covered the strata.

Good progress was make, although the roots of the shrubs were a challenge although the use of a root/tree popper (large metal leaver with a clamp at one end to secure round the stem which tightens when you pull on the leaver made it easier.

Refreshment time involved chatting (from a distance) putting the world to rights and enjoying the sun and the view looking out over the fen area. Then it was back for the final effort stopping occasionally to chat to inquisitive walkers with children and dogs about the large holes on the cliff face, possibly made by rabbits? Or perhaps Sand Martins nesting in the spring, with the very small ones made solitary Mason Bees.

This was the last session of this year. We begin again on the 2nd of Jan 2021.

Best Wishes to all


Photos by Margaret:

Monday, December 7, 2020

Cothill Fen, 5th December 2020

We were quite a small group for this session, compared to the previous two Saturdays.

We met in the car park and walked along to the site. It was a beautiful day, though cold, with blue sky and sunshine for once. We were working under the direction of Steph and her assistant, Holly, from Natural England.

We split into two groups as there were two main tasks - to transport the reeds cut by the Friday volunteer group to the causeway across the water, to be spread along it, making it stronger and safer to walk on and to do some coppicing in the woods.

We cleared the nearest heaps of reeds quite quickly, then had to move on to the heaps in the fen itself. These were trickier to get to as it was hard to see the depth and we were in danger of getting a wellyful of water but we made it and soon got into a rhythm, with Graham and me bag filling, new member Colin dragging the bags and Kevin spreading them along the causeway.

Meanwhile the sawing and lopping was going on in the woods and the hard work soon warmed everybody up.

Then it was time to stop for a tea break.

Back to work, we were able to cross to the other side of the fen to deal with the heaps of grass and reeds there, while Adrian continued to scythe away, just to make sure we would never run out of work!

At 12.30 we were able to walk back to our encampment along the causeway, thus proving its robustness. We were pleased with our mornings work and it had been great to see the fen on such a lovely day.


Photos by Kevin (except last photo by Sally):

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Two Pines Fen, 28th November 2020

We returned to Two Pines Fen today to pick up where we left off last week - to continue scything and raking the reeds across this Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), set within Frilford Heath Golf Course. Again, our session was held to take advantage of the current course closure.

Led again by Sally, we were 18-strong this time including new member Colin and almost-new member Camilla. We had five scythers among us and the remainder of the group raked and stacked reeds both in piles on the boundaries and within the stream running through the fen to slow the water and encourage it to spill outwards onto the wetland area.

There had been plenty of reeds left untouched despite our best efforts last week and these were all cut during the morning on the main site with clearance on an additional small area off to one side. A further large reed bed area will also require attention in the near future, but we did well to achieve what we did today.


Meeting at the compound.

Arriving on site.

Mushrooms amidst the dew.

Discussing the plan.

Break-time scenes.

Damming-up the stream.

Alison and scythe.

Socially-distanced raking.

Jim sharpens his scythe.

Clearance begins on the secondary area.

Barbara and Camilla keep busy.

Lesley counts up the many golf balls that we found during the session.

The fen all cleared of reeds at the end of the morning.
Piles of reeds at the fen boundary.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Winter 2020/2021 Programme

Our new programme for Winter 2020/2021 has just been published. A downloadable pdf version can be found here:

We are currently looking for new session leaders! All necessary training will be provided. Please contact us for further information or speak to a session leader/committee member at any Abingdon Green Gym session. 

Two Pines Fen, 21st November 2020

Two Pines Fen Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at Frilford Heath Golf Club was the venue for yesterday's re-scheduled Green Gym session. We work here with Natural England (the government's adviser for the natural environment in England), who are happy for our socially-distanced work parties to go ahead during the current lockdown period. Their operational update regarding activities during the ongoing coronavirus situation can be found here - 

Sally took on the leadership duty and instructed the 15-strong group on the jobs to be carried out after we had assembled at the ground-staffs' compound. After completing the signing-in form and the risk assessment, we set off for the fen, a short walk to the end of the nearest fairway.

The principle task involved raking up reeds that had already been cut during previous sessions and those that were cut during the morning. These were then stacked in piles by the track at the edge of the fen for later collection. As some of us raked, a trio took up their scythes - leader Sally, Adrian and new member (green) Jim. In addition, shoots of new willow or alder growth were lopped back and added to the brash pile at one end of the fen.

We have worked on this site for a few years now, but it requires quite a lot of attention at the moment following a period of relative neglect after the first lockdown. Our sessions here have previously been held during the week since it lies squarely within an active part of the golf course and the increase in flying balls on a busy Saturday morning can be a real hazard! Since the course has had to close for the time being, now is the ideal time to get our work completed safely. It is also of sufficient ground area that a reasonably-sized group can spread out and work in socially-distanced manner.

As we progressed, we found numerous golf balls amongst the reed bed. A collection of around 100 had amassed by the close of play! 

It was apparent that despite our many hands and our good work rate, there was no way that we would be able to complete the task within the allotted time. Especially as there is a secondary area of reeds that also requires attention on the other side of the main track. Not to worry - we will return here again next Saturday to pick up where we left off and may have an all-day session, though this is yet to be decided!


Sally's leader's speech.

The tool arsenal.

The 'before' picture.

Distancing during the break.

A snowy waxcap mushroom.

A patch of sphagnum moss on the fen.


More of the golf ball haul.

The two pines.

Sally scythes.

The 'after' photo.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Ock Valley Walk, Tesco End, 14th November 2020

Our remaining programme for November has been cancelled due to the lockdown. However, volunteering is still permitted under the government guidelines and our parent organisation TCV have approved us holding sessions during this time subject to the updated COVID 19 safety guidelines. Therefore as part of a revised schedule, a group of six of us met at the Tesco end of the Ock Valley Walk for a socially-distanced morning of litter picking, path sweeping and sowing of wild flower seeds.

Eleanor led the charge, issuing us with our details. It was apparent that there was a large amount of litter to be collected and half of us set off with bags for recyclable and non-recyclable waste. Much of the bounty was made up of discarded drinks cans and bottles, with an alarming number of disposable face masks also lining the path. 

As well as litter, the path was covered with fallen leaves which had become quite slippery as a result of the rain. Armed with rakes and spades, we cleared these to the path margins in an effort to make this busy thoroughfare a little safer for passers-by. 

Meanwhile, Sally cleared a small area by the bridge to plant some wild flower seeds which will hopefully make the area more attractive and wildlife-friendly come the summer months. Time will tell!

After a short mid-morning break, we continued for another 15 minutes or so, finishing off our tasks before plotting our escape, hastened by the fact that it was pouring with rain.

Joanna had come out to meet us (and to provide me with a lift home!) at the end of the session, bringing with her Elly the puppy - who quickly made friends with the group and might well become the new Green Gym mascot!

The socially-distanced gathering.

Sally gets raking.

Velvet Shank mushrooms on a log beside the Ock Path.

The Ock Path out of town.

More mushrooms.

Coral fungi.

A soggy mid-morning break.

All the litter picked.

Graham clearing the path of leaves.

Eleanor finishes up.

Joanna and Elly the pup.