Boundary House Fen, Saturday 6th November, 2021

This week's blog was written by session leader and volunteer, Sally, and supplemented with photos by volunteer, Mags.  

Yesterday, ten ardent Green Gymmers returned to Boundary House Fen on Frilford Heath Golf Course SSSI to carry on with the autumn cut and rake of reed in order to allow light and prevent the build-up of nutrients.  Fens are spring fed and as the water percolates through a chalk layer, it forms tufa on the surface, which makes them slightly alkaline and therefore the flora and fauna are specially adapted for these conditions.  Only Norfolk, Anglesey and Oxfordshire boast alkaline fens in this country, which makes them even more precious.  Fens are also better carbon stores than woodland.  It therefore seemed even more fitting that we were working on this site on the Global Day of Climate Justice!  

We worked under the direction of Rod d'Ayala, who had visited the site the day before and in the fading light managed to mow a lot of reed, so there was plenty for the rakers to get on with.  Philip volunteered to help Rod's friend, Mike, to help create a bund on the far side to help keep the fen wet.  The dam that we have been helping build up with the cut reed near the spring head had sprung a bit of leak, so another job was to pack the cut reed to seal the leak.  It was evident from the start that the fen is looking a lot wetter, which is perfect for many of the specialist plants and the gently flowing waters will hopefully attract insects (possibly even the rare southern damselfly) to breed next year.  
Margaret, Dieuwke, Graham, Olivia, Rosie and Roger grabbed rakes, pitchforks and drag bags and spread out over the fen to rake up the cut reed and continue damming the stream (which was created to drain the fen many years ago thereby leading to its demise.)  Our job is to ensure that the water can flow gently and spread over the fen creating shallow water courses and pools which are so favoured by the specialist insects (such as soldier flies) and many of the fen plants, such as a variety of sphagnum mosses, sedges, rushes and orchids.  Unfortunately, Dieuwke got a boot full of water, but was able to empty the boot and dry off enough to keep going.
Adrian, Jim and Sally took up their scythes to tackle cutting more reed - Adrian and Jim started clearing the areas working towards the Fen's baby sister, Two Pine Fen, whilst Sally scythed the triangle area near the spring now that the marsh lousewort seeds had been harvested for sowing on a future date.  Marsh lousewort is an ecosystem engineer as it is parasitic on reed - its roots suck out the sugars from the reeds thereby reducing their vigour and giving other fen-loving plants a chance to thrive.  We also found lots of different fungi and were missing Judy Webb who would otherwise have been able to identify them for us.
Philip grabbed a spade and followed Mike to the opposite side of the bank and started digging.  He found lots of water shrimp in the clear waters.
The day also happened to be Olivia's birthday and she had made some delicious cup cakes for us to enjoy at breaktime.  Roger had brought some lovely, juicy Spartan apples from his garden which were very refreshing.  The sun also made an appearance after a rather unpromising start and we were all rather relieved that the rain held off.
Refreshed after our break, we carried on where we had left off.  The time seemed to fly by and it did not seem too long before we were packing up our tools and heading back to the compound to collect our cars, but not before handing Olivia a birthday card from us all which we had tried valiantly to keep as a surprise and failed miserably!  Jim had managed to continue cutting reed along the stream so we could actually see the golf course that flanks the fen.  The bund that Philip was helping create with Mike was looking great.
Rod seemed pleased with the progress made and we look forward to returning to the site in early December to carry on the good work!  What a team!

Rakers raking

The pile growing taller than Rosie! 

Rosie then fights the reeds for trying to surpass her

Three musketeers! Feat. the pink-wellied birthday girl!

Mushroom madness

The great (as opposed to grim) reaper

Adrian introduces the newest member of ABG: a mushroom

Woman of the Wet Welly

Home for a well earned bath


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