Parsonage Moor, Saturday 23rd of July 2022

This week's blog post was written by the sensational Sally G.!: 

This week, Abingdon Green Gym was at Parsonage Moor, which is a BBOWT nature reserve and Site of Special Scientific Interest and one of the Cothill Fens.  Our leader, Adrian, had advised us that wellington boots would not be required.  The weather has been so hot and dry, that alarmingly, even the fen is running dry! 

A group of 17 gathered in the Cothill School overflow car park opposite the Merry Miller and made our way with the tools along String Lane to the kissing gate that leads onto Parsonage Moor.  Halfway along the boardwalk, we set up base camp and Adrian explained the morning's tasks.  He would show the scythers the area of old rush to be cleared with the assistance of rakers to follow.  Michele and James volunteered to cut back vegetation overgrowing the board walk and were assisted by some of the rakers until the scythers had got going, whilst Lesley and Rosie were shown where the ragwort was growing, which needed to be pulled up before it set seed and also ahead of the grazing ponies who are due to be brought back to graze the fen soon.  Ragwort is toxic to ponies, but it is a tasty favourite for the caterpillars of the Cinnabar Moth and is a super plant for pollinators.  

Adrian led the way for the five scythers in the group, including Barbara who had brought her brand new Austrian scythe to try it out!  There was a large area of brown rush which we had been asked to cut down until we reached the area of lush vegetation around it.  We were not daunted by the task in hand, but it felt unnatural to be walking on a bed of spongy dried up moss, which would normally have been completely waterlogged!  

Max was our Chief Lizard Spotter!  Other distractions included an old duck's egg, some helleborines setting seed, a rather curious but beautiful glaucous insect that looked a bit like a frog-hopper of sorts and lots of gorgeous sphagnum mosses.

It was soon break time and we were able to step back and see our progress.  It was hot, thirsty work in the sunshine, as the rush did not make for an easy ride for the scythers and the rakers had a tough time negotiating between the tussocks to rake up as much of the spoils as possible.  The heap soon started to grow!

Suitably refreshed after break, it was all hands on deck.  Lesley joined James and Michele to do more clearance around the boardwalk whilst everyone else joined in raking and heaping the cut rush into drag bags.  Adrian finally called time and we paused for a group photo.  We'd pretty much cleared the area of old rush as asked.  Hopefully, the ponies will find the new growth to their liking, which will give the fen plants that relish light and air and the insects that like to breed in pools around the tussocks a better chance to thrive in this precious habitat.  All we need now is for rain - lots of it - for the water table to return to its usual levels and for the watery fen to be restored to its former glory.

Stripy little cinnabar moth caterpillars climbing around the ragwort  

Scythers in action

More scything (and some raking)

Raking (and some scything)

Raking in action 

The team enjoying the shade

Walkway inspection

The AGG squad #squadgoals

A tubby common lizard

Team Ragwort!

Country roads (or walkways), take me home...


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