Abbey Fishponds, Saturday 23rd October, 2021

 This week the Abingdon Green Gym team were at the Abbey Fishponds (which contain neither fish, nor an abbey). As the Earth Trust website explains, this site is so named because it was thought that the embankment on the site was a medieval dam built by the abbey to create ponds for fish, but archaeological evidence shows that it is more likely to be the remains of a roman causeway. Whatever the history, Abingdon Green Gym were here in the present to help manage the site under the guiding hand of Tim from Earth Trust. We also welcomed two new volunteers, Liz and Mike, who we were very happy to have with us! 

We started with a safety briefing from Tim and the day's GG leader, Adrian, before splitting off in to groups to tackle the morning's wide-ranging tasks. There were three main activities for the day. Firstly, scything, raking, and piling the ever-rampant reeds. Secondly, bow-sawing down and neatly piling straying willow into rudimentary hedges, and lastly (but not least-ly) continuing to disperse the pile of woodchip along the paths on the site. 

As this Green-Gymmer-cum-blogger was part of Team Scythe, I will take you through an account of my morning. Tim very kindly offered to give a tutorial to those of us who had no scything experience, and this little group of three(and Sally, but we do not class her as a beginner, no matter what she insists) became grim reapers in training. Tim began by showing us how to choose the right size 'snath' (the long wooden stick), adjust our grips (handles), and secure our blades. On this occasion we were using 'ditch blades', as opposed to bush blades or grass blades, as they are relatively short and sturdy and would allow us to cut through the often-woody reeds and sedge. We then set off to learn how to sharpen our blades, how to stand, and how to not chop parts of ourselves or anyone else off. We then got to work. Although I was amazed at how little effort was required to slice through the reeds, it exponentially increased my appreciation of the more experienced scythers (Adrian, Jim, and new member Mike) who were able to speed along with a neat line of reeds behind them.

It was then breaktime and we were all grateful for a cup of tea and a chat. Many of us snaffled up some of the apples which Roger had bought from his garden (which I will be making in to a crumble). When we returned to work I milled about taking photos of everyone's efforts, which were very impressive, and got stuck in raking and forking the cut reeds on to piles. At the end of the day, Team Scythe safely took their tools apart again (with no sliced fingers), and thanked Tim for his patience and help. All in all, a fabulous day! 

Rapt volunteers 

Learning the ropes

Safe Sharpening (photo by Olivia)

Liz getting in to the swing of scything

Sally the scyther (Photo by Olivia)

A Ros(ie) among Reeds


The mellow fruitfulness of Autumn (feat Mags and Adrian's reed bed)

Graham's carthorse action

Team Willow Cutters

Philip surveys the devastation (photo by Mags)

Team Woodchip

The scything interns (photo by Mags)


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