Saturday, February 29, 2020

Kennington Memorial Field, 29th February 2020

We celebrated leap year day with one of our biannual visits to Kennington Memorial Field. The area had been battered by Storm Jorge on Friday night, though thankfully the high winds and torrential rain had eased by the time that we gathered by the sports pavilion at the top of Playfield Lane.

Lindsay from OPT was present to greet and instruct us as usual, with the main task being to continue our work cutting back the scrub from the edges of the field. There was also a large recently-fallen tree to be chopped up and made safe by the top gate, thus we divided into two groups and got started.

It was another chilly morning, yet twenty or so of us Green Gymmers had turned up, with three hardy souls even travelling to site by bicycle! It was with some dismay then that Lindsay announced that we wouldn't be having our usual bonfire on this occasion. A mild shockwave rippled through the group as no-one could remember a visit here in the past without one. We would have to work hard to keep warm instead!

A group of five or so of us tacked the fallen tree - removing large branches with bow saws and stacking them in a pile by the boundary fence. We cut up smaller branches with loppers and made habitat piles. The tree was covered in ivy and there was quite a removal effort required to be able to get the saws in. The clearance was more or less complete by break time, with the trunk requiring contractors to come in later in order to remove it with the use of chainsaws. 

Meanwhile, down the hill and on the other side of the site, the bulk of the group were busy slashing brambles and blackthorn. The cuttings were then raked up and pitchforked into piles hidden within the wider thicket in the middle of the field. A never-ending task, but one that sees us returning here year after year.

A few locals, young and old, had joined us during the morning eager to get involved. Many hands did indeed make light work and a sizeable area was cleared by the close of play, by which time the sky had turned blue and the sun was shining!

Photos by Andrew and Joanna:

Lindsay opens the show.

Ready and raring to go.

Tackling the fallen tree.

Kate lops some ivy from the fallen tree.

Meanwhile down the hill...

Scrub clearance gets underway.

Tea time.

Work on the fallen tree is complete, ready for the chainsaws.

Joanna demonstrates the correct use of loppers.

Blossom already out on some of the trees.

A tunnel through the thicket.

A mountain of bramble to shift.

Looking better already!

The stream running alongside the site was looking rather swollen after the recent heavy rain.

Blue skies at the end of the session.

Kevin pitchforks the last of the cuttings away.
The green man emerges from the thicket.

A good morning's work!

Spring 2020 Programme

Our new programme for Spring 2020 has just been published, which commences with a session at Abbey Fishponds next week. 

See below or click HERE for a pdf version (opens in new window):

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Farmoor Reservoir, 22nd February 2020

Today’s session was held at Farmoor Reservoir – our third visit to this site, comprising a nature reserve and which borders the river Thames and surrounds. It was a blustery day as we arrived in the car park, but thankfully the rain which had been falling earlier that morning had stopped. Sixteen of us turned up and we were greeted by Hanna in her ‘gator’. After signing the Health & Safety form, we discussed whether we wanted to go for the planned task of reed cutting – albeit the nature reserve was under quite a few inches of water so we would get wet – or for a dryer task. We chose to stay dry!

As usual at this site, we shared cars and followed Hanna across to the other side of water along the concrete causeway.  We parked up in one of the anglers’ parking spots and got the tools ready. Really, there was one main task: that of cutting back years’ worth of growth along the fence that separates the reservoir from the Thames. Thick brambles, blackthorn, hawthorn, elder, wild rose and hazel all needed clearing to create room for wildflowers and views of the river. While Hanna apologised that this might not be the most interesting work, no apology was needed – it’s the kind of thing green gymmers love to get stuck into.

So we donned the thickest gloves to protect our hands from thorns and took to the task with zeal. By break time we had huge piles of cut material lined up along the trackway, ready for Hanna’s chippers and we could begin to see through to the river, along the other side. We’ve been lucky in this part of the country, and not hit by the terrible flooding of elsewhere over recent weeks, but still the river was at bursting point.

At breaktime, with no picnic table, we used an inspection hatch cover for the teas and coffees. It was so windy, with the coffee granules flying off Eleanor’s spoon as she tried to put them in the cups, it reminded her of going camping as a child, having breakfast on a mountain and cornflakes blowing off into the wind! Finally we all got our teas and coffees and the biscuits were much appreciated too.

In the second half it was more of the same and by the end we could see what an incredible amount of work had been achieved. The rain had held off. The sun had even shone a little bit. A really satisfying end to the session.

Hanna points out the work to be done.

Work begins.

Clearing scrub to the fence line.

Our work location.

The progress by break time.

Gathering around the inspection hatch.

The view from the side of the reservoir.

Looking towards Wytham Wood across the reservoir.

Where we ought to have been working!

The flooded Thames Path.

More of the flooding.

Sally and Adrian attack a patch of brambles with their scythes.

Many hands make light work.

Blackthorn blossom.

The view at the end of the session.

Monday, February 17, 2020

Sunningwell, 15th February 2020

It was not so sunny at Sunningwell for our session this morning. With Storm Dennis threatening, we gathered in the car park, fourteen or so of us, for the various tasks we’d be carrying out throughout the village. The session was led by Eleanor, with Bob Evans coordinating. As well as the green gymmers we were joined by some locals.

There were three main areas for us to work at today: Norm and Sylfest donned the waders, ready to tackle the duckweed in the pond. Wheelbarrows full of stuff were walked up the road from the pond to a compost heap at the edge of the green.

Then some of us set to tackling the brambles and ivy around the church yard, and generally tidying up fallen branches.

The rest of us headed onto the green, a large 10 acre site, to mark out areas for planting wildflowers using canes and tape. It was quite exposed on the green, and the wind made it tricky but once we had marked out some areas we then planted some cowslips from pots and lots of seeds which had been provided by Camilla who sometimes works with us on Boars Hill. Once we had planted the seeds, we moved on to weed the hedge that we planted back in 2017.

As a first timer at Sunningwell, it was interesting for me to hear from Bob how the village green was only registered as such in 1999 and a long court battle ensued to keep it as open, common land for use by all, a landmark case which went all the way to the House of Lords! While the green is still owned by the Oxford Diocesan Board of Finance, it is now managed and administered by Sunningwell Parish Council, and is protected so locals can use it for dog-walking, village fetes, bird watching and communal activities.

Tea break was an incredible spread provided by Bob and Kati in the shelter of their garden. We had warmed up quiches, sausages rolls, sandwiches, crisps, pop corn, a cake baked by Pat, tea, coffee and biscuits. Remarkably the rain had held off during the first half of the session but it really set in for the second half.

By the end of the session we were all a bit wet and bedraggled but had achieved a lot throughout the morning and look forward to returning to see how our efforts pay off!

Gathering in the car park.

The village pond.

The churchyard wall.

The village green preservation society.

Areas being marked out for wildflower planting.

The hedge that we helped plant a couple of years ago.

Clearing brambles and ivy.

Kati's incredible spread at break time.

The pond at the end of the session.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

The Elizabeth Daryush Memorial Garden, 8th February 2020

There were 14 of us for today’s session led by Margaret at the EDMG up on Boar’s Hill. Lindsay of OPT was unable to make the session so had sent through comprehensive instructions, including a map of what was to be done where, through to Margaret. After our briefing, we picked up tools and headed to our usual place under the sweet chestnut tree by the pond to set up base camp.

We chose from the various tasks and spread out over the site. At the top end, between the fence and the road we were to cut back over-hanging branches and pile them into a dead hedge along the side of the ditch. There were a number of places around the field where brambles needed to be cut back, and in addition plenty of fallen branches that needed tidying into habitat piles which had already been formed. Margaret commented on the irony of doing this job today of all days when gale force winds are forecast for tomorrow!

By break time we had made good progress and a weak sun was trying very hard to show its face. We admired the birds on the well-stocked feeders by the pond, and then set back to work for the second half, by which time the clouds had dispersed and we enjoyed a sunny second half with bright blue skies.

It was a good morning’s work and we went home satisfied and happy.

Meeting at the garden.

Lindsay's detailed instructions.

Fungi on dead wood.

Brisk business at the bird feeders.

Tea time conversation.

Ivy climbing a tree.

Margaret shifting some cuttings to a habitat pile.

The dead hedge by the road.

Snowdrops and spring bulbs.
Looking across the pond.
Joanna by one of the habitat piles.

Andrew clutching some brambles.