Sunday, November 19, 2017

Ock Valley Walk, 18th November 2017

Because of the closure of the footbridge at St Helen's Wharf, the venue for our planned session for work at the Town end of the Ock River Path was changed to the Tesco end, as parking was easier for everyone.  Sally was our leader for the session and the tasks were to collect litter, clear nettles from the footpaths and generally tidy up.

The weather was fine, if dull, to start with and we all got to work, as there was a lot of litter to pick.

We made our way to our normal base area in the wood, while Matt and Colin put our signpost and leaflet holder up.

Michele, Graham and Colin set to work by sweeping up fallen leaves from the bridge over the Ock so that it was less slippery underfoot and generally cleared the paths of leaf litter.  Matt slashed away nettles from the sides of the path, while Janet, Rosie and Sally collected litter.  The new handihoops for our litter bags made this task a lot easier.  Dieuwke joined us a little later and she and Colin also joined in collecting litter.

The rain started just before our very welcome tea break and Dieuwke had also brought some satsumas for us to enjoy along with some tasty biscuits, which lifted our spirits.

We were pleased to hear from Eleanor, who had been working at the Town end planting wild flower bulbs with Andrew, Petra and Dan that they had successfully completed their task, but unfortunately, had all decided to go home afterwards as it was a long trek from the Town end to our base, so they missed out on tea on this occasion.

Colin had reported finding a used mattress, which we thought had been discarded, but when we went to collect it, it was clear that this was or had been someone's home.  Sadly, we found evidence of drug use and Sally reported this to the police and Council so that the site can be properly cleared, afterwards.

We then spent the next 20 minutes or so finishing up.  Janet disturbed a huge rat (fatty ratty!) on the river bank in her quest to retrieve some litter before it made its way into the Ock and then with Colin and Sally managed to pick up an array of screws, bolts, copper tubes and plastic ties that had been strewn on the pavement by Barclays Bank.

The path is used by many people lots of whom were very appreciative of our efforts.  All-in-all, a very satisfying morning's work was done.

Photos by Andrew (first 11) and Sally (last 5):

Sign warning of the closure of the footbridge.

Autumn colours on the path.

Ducks on the Ock.

Petra and Eleanor prepare to plant bulbs beside Chris's memorial tree.

Petra plants.

Dan keeps busy.

Some of the spring bulbs.


Eleanor plants the last of the bulbs.

Leaves on one of the young beech trees that the Green Gym planted a few years ago.

Homeward bound.

Michele sweeping fallen leaves

Rosie nettle bashing.

Graham clearing the path.

Janet with part of our haul.

Matt, Rosie, Janet, Graham and Michele with our collection of litter and recycling.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Southern Town Park, 4th November 2017

Southern town park is a large site in south Abingdon surrounding the rugby football fields  - there are many trees, brambled areas, the beginnings of a wild flower area instigated by the green gym.  It is a popular spot for locals to walk and cycle and take their kids to play sport.

This autumn visit for green gym to this site entailed litter picking, nettle slaying, bramble bashing and caretaking of the newly planted wild flower patch to remove invasive species (mainly nettles).

The day started off very cold but and wet, but not long in the rain stopped, 13 brave souls joined in and we spread ourselves around the brambly area to the east side of the site, along peep-o-day lane and along the southern side towards the wild flower area.

Litter picking started off with attempting to fix litter bags to the new hoops that Sally obtained to help with the activity - with much success the pickers went off on their way to collect.  Brambles were chopped enough to free the trees surrounded by them, and the wildflower patch had nettles handpicked.

Tea time was a welcome break, chat about the new hoops ensued, along with a lovely four legged visitor turning up near the end where we learned quite a lot about guide dogs, both active and retired, from her owner.

Post tea we continued with our activities and left the area less brambly, less nettley and less littered!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Jarn Mound and Wild Garden, Boars Hill, 11th November 2017

Jarn Mound and its woodland garden is one of three sites on Boar’s Hill where we help the Oxford Preservation Trust to restore, maintain and improve the environment.  The gardens and the mound were built by Arthur Evans with the help of local volunteers during the depression.  This provided work at a difficult time and left a legacy for our enjoyment.  It seems fitting that voluntary organisations are again instrumental in caring for this heritage.  Rachel from OPT has had talks with a garden designer to device a long-term plan to restore not only the mound but also the garden.  The ponds may never be proper ponds again, but it would be possible to create a wetland with a diverse habitat for plants suitable for a site that would remain boggy. To this end we were asked to remove many saplings and small trees from the pond areas.

The day started cold and drizzly, but we soon warmed up sawing and lopping.  The bonfire was alight in no time in spite of the damp, and kept fed by Graham with piles of chopped wood.

Sally, our refreshment volunteer for the day, thought of everything, and at the end of the session marshmallows were toasted by the fire on toasting forks and long sticks to everyone’s delight.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Latest Abingdon Green Gym programme published...

Our new programme for the remainder of 2017 has been published.  See below, or visit the programme page on our website for a PDF file version.

Kennington Memorial Field, 28th October 2017

This Saturday we were back at Kennington Memorial Field for our bi-annual scrub-bash and bonfire.  The site falls under the jurisdiction of the Oxford Preservation Trust, and we met again with Rachel Sanderson from said organisation who outlined our itinerary. 

As well as a respectable Green Gym contingent, we were joined by a number of local volunteers who significantly boosted our numbers to over twenty.

With a chilly start, we were keen to get underway - to continue cutting back scrub (mainly hawthorn, blackthorn and brambles, which quickly encroach upon the area if left unmanaged) and to get the bonfire lit!

No sooner had we started, then we were infiltrated by a herd of inquisitive cows that graze the field!  It soon became apparent that they were keen to feed upon the leaves of the shrubs that we had felled, therefore we had to become efficient at removing the cuttings to the bonfire before they tucked-in.  Not that the heat of the bonfire appeared to dim their appetite, and we remained surrounded by our bovine buddies throughout the morning.

After the break, we were instructed by Rachel to stop cutting and to concentrate on burning, at which point the fire was enlarged, with a second area of trimmings being lit.  While initially being slow to get going due to all the green wood and general dampness, following a little coaxing, it roared into life.  This ensured that we were left with nothing but ashes to show for our efforts come the end of the session.

Meeting in the car park.

Transporting tools to the worksite.

Getting the fire started.

Margaret in a tense stand-off with the cattle!

Graham stokes the bonfire.

Scrub bashing.

No smoke without fire.

Carolyn drags some branches to the bonfire.

Some eager participants in the morning's activities.

Rosie is surrounded.


Mark takes charge of the fire.

Taking stock of the scrub clearance.

The bonfire in it's later stage.

Packing-up beyond the embers.

The 'after' photo, with regret there was no 'before' version...

The end of the session. As you were...

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Frilford Heath Golf Club, 21st October 2017

We met in the car park at Frilford Golf Club and then headed off to park by the green keepers buildings from where we made our way, looking out for flying golf balls, to Boundary House Fen. Here, our task was to rake up cut reeds from the fen under the direction of pond and freshwater habitats expert, Rod d’Ayala.

This is an alkaline fen, home to a number of rare species of flora and fauna and it is important to cut and rake the reeds every year. Rod had spent some time damming a ditch that runs through the middle of the fen. This will help to prevent the fen from drying out.

We set to work raking the reeds and Rod told us that, as well as transporting the reeds to designated places on the very edge of the fen, we could rake them into the ditch. We enjoyed doing this as it was easier than carrying heavy loads of wet reeds to heaps on the edge and some of us were brave enough to step on top of the reeds and see how far up our wellies the water came and whether more needed to be piled into the ditch.

After a break for tea and coffee, when we used Rod’s wheelbarrow to hold the mugs in the absence of a table, we carried on with our work. The weather stayed fine, though it did cloud over briefly. We will be back again in early December to rake the other half of the fen.

Photos by Eleanor unless otherwise stated:

Work commences.

Lesley rakes.

Getting stuck in.

Matt with a pitchfork.

A welcome break!

Some bracket fungi.

Carolyn and Kevin on beverage duty. (photo by Margaret)

The fen at the end of the session. (photo by Sally)

Another view of showing the morning's progress. (photo by Sally)

Looking towards the Boundary House just before departure. (photo by Sally)