Sunday, March 19, 2017

Spring 2017 Programme

See below for our new Spring 2017 programme, or visit the programme page on our website for a pdf version:

Southern Town Park, 18th March 2017

Thirteen Green Gymmers, new and older, attended our session this Saturday at Southern Town Park.  We have enjoyed a significant growth in our membership in recent times, and while this was actually the smallest turn-out of the year, it still represented a respectable total.

It is perhaps true that this site tops none of our lists of favourite work locations, yet our work here is valuable in the maintenance of this community space.  

We gathered as usual here in the car park along Lambrick Way, before heading down towards the area beyond the sports pitches to set up beside one of the picnic tables.  Kevin was the leader on this occasion and outlined the morning's jobs - to clear and pile stray tree branches, to conduct a litter-pick and to clear an area in order to plant some wildflower seeds.

The group split into sub-teams and set to work, with each detail having plenty to keep them busy.  As usual, the fruits of the litter pick were rich and bountiful, with much fly-tipping uncovered as well as the usual snack wrappers and discarded beverage receptacles that typically line the edges of the field.  Carolyn and Andrew were even successful in clearing the waste from the ditch at the Southern end of the football pitches.

Elsewhere, recent high winds had dislodged a number of tree branches along the many footpaths, and these were sawed-up and lopped into manageable lengths before stacking them into habitat piles.

Eleanor had brought some wildflower seeds with her, notably yellow rattle.  A small area was raked and the seeds sown, which should attract bees and butterflies here, later in the season.

At the refreshment break, we were joined by Eleanor's niece and daughter, who were over from the USA, and along with her husband, Arthur, boosted our numbers as we re-grouped, ready for the second half of the session.  

It was more of the same until the close, and with that we have completed our Winter 2017 programme.  The new edition has just been published and will be posted here very soon!  For the next two weeks however, we will be at the Town End of the Ock Valley Walk.

Kevin briefs the group.

Graham prepares the soil for Eleanor's seeds.

Seeds are sown.

The wildflower team!

We were unable to clear all of the discarded litter that we encountered!

Extra numbers for tea break.

Carolyn litter-picks along the field perimeter.

A habitat pile.

Colin beside the litter haul - at the collection point along Peep-O-Day Lane.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Elizabeth Daryush Memorial Garden, Boars Hill, 11th March 2017

The latest of our sessions working with the Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT) saw us return to the Elizabeth Daryush Memorial Garden at Boars Hill for the first time this year.  It was another good turn-out of Green Gymmers, with numbers boosted by OPT volunteers under the expert guidance of the organisation's land officer, Rachel Sanderson.

Once we had arrived, parked our vehicles in the assigned locations and transported tools and tea-kit to the garden itself, we were taken on a short tour outlining the many and varied tasks on offer.  Both Rachel and Green Gym leader, James explained in a good level of detail what was to be done.  We then divided up and set to it!

Three small trees needed felling, and then chopping into sections to be used as fencing material to block off a gap in the fence at a southern corner of the site.  Elsewhere, some large patches of brambles needed clearing, some bracken needed cutting back and other general tidying jobs were assigned.

Many daffodils were in flower during our visit, giving a glorious burst of colour.  We had hoped to see some frog spawn in the pond here, but there were reports of mallard ducks having got to it first.  We did at least catch sight of a mature frog in the shallows, so perhaps all is not lost!

Now that spring is more or less upon us, we're unlikely to be working here again until the autumn, for fear of disturbing the wildlife.  We will however return to Boars Hill - this time to Abrahams Wood in around a month's time.

The group meet by the Ridgeway layby. 

Bird feeders are replenished before we begin.

James and Rachel take us on a tour of the site.

One of the daffodil patches.

Graham and Mark fell a small tree.

The felled trees are used to block a gap in the fence in the corner of the field.

A small animal skull hidden amongst the brambles.

Lesley lops some brambles.

A patch of cleared bracken beside one of the garden's benches.

Kevin liberates a tree from the brambles.

Margaret and Carolyn clear tree debris away from the daffodils.

Moss and an ear fungus growing on an elder tree.

A large patch of cleared brambles.

Robert mid-bramble clearance.

Across the pond and down the field.

A frog spotted in the pond!

Session's end.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Ock Valley Walk, Tesco End, 4th March 2017

After a thoroughly changeable week of weather, it was quite a relief to be greeted with blue skies as we gathered on Saturday morning, eighteen-strong.  We were at the Tesco end of the Ock Valley Walk for our regular litter-pick and tidying tasks.

As well as the standard and often depressingly large volume of litter to be found bordering the main path from Tesco back towards town, there was also some fly-tipping to deal with.  Leader Eleanor had become aware of some waste that had been dumped off Mill Lane at the far extent of the path, beyond the housing estate.  A group of six of us initially broke away from the main group to investigate, and found two large piles of rubbish left besides the hedgerows beside the old Wilts and Berks canal, bordering a field.  Eleanor had brought her wheelbarrow to make it easier to shift much of it, while the larger items could be carried away with some effort.

The fly-tipped waste was transported to the grass verge at the end of Mill Road, with council contractors having been contacted to come and collect it from here on Monday.  Among the debris were a number of window frames, vehicle parts and rubble.  More of the group later joined in with this task, given the scale of the job.

Meanwhile, the litter-pickers had much to keep them busy and several bags of recyclable and non-recyclable rubbish were filled, ready for collection beside the crossing opposite the Tesco store itself.  

While these main tasks were underway, part of a willow tree that had fallen across the path was removed and the cuttings stacked.  Also, rather earlier than anticipated, some Himalayan Balsam that had begun to sprout was found in the vicinity!  This was removed as far as possible, with the aim of limiting the extent of this invasive non-native plant so that we have less to clear when we return over the summer!

Gathering in the sunshine.

The Ock path from Mill Lane towards Tesco.

Some of the fly-tipped waste.

Graham and Barry wonder where to begin!

Janet, Graham and Petra join forces!

Barry with part of a bench!

Eleanor and Rosie find a way to move a window frame!

Lesser Celandine - among the spring flowers spotted this morning.

Conversation at the break!

The willow tree obstructs the path.

After the Green Gym work their magic!

The dreaded Himalyan Balsam returns!  (photo by Margaret)

The pile of fly-tipped waste ready for collection beside Mill Road.

Andrew, Janet and Lesley with the litter-pick waste mountain!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Programme Updates...

In a change to the programme:

Eleanor will be leading the next session this Saturday (March 4th) at the Ock Valley Walk, Tesco End.

Kevin will be leading on March 18th at Southern Town Park, where we will be doing litter picking, bramble clearing and possibly sowing wild flower seeds.

Revised programme below:

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Kennington Memorial Field, 25th February 2017

This week we joined forces once again with the Oxford Preservation Trust (OPT) for our regular spring scrub cutting and burning session at Kennington Memorial Field. Around fifteen Green Gymmers and an additional fifteen or so OPT volunteers, led by Rachel Sanderson, turned out on a surprisingly cold morning.

Rachel directed the tasks, and as usual at this site it was straightforward enough - namely to cut back scrub from an area of the field, to light a bonfire and to burn it.  While one team got started with lopping back the blackthorn, hawthorn and brambles, another set about getting the fire going so that it would soon be ready to receive the cuttings.

The field itself is fairly vast with bushes and shrubs encroaching on all sides.  We concentrated our activities in just a small area, so that we didn't have to transport the cut vegetation too far to the bonfire.  The impressive turnout meant that we could make reasonable progress in our designated spot.

Limiting the scrub growth serves the purpose of maintaining the valuable grassland habitat here - which supports a number of interesting plant species, while also keeping the area fairly clear for the public to enjoy.

By the mid-morning break, enough bushes had been cut and a new instruction was issued. This was concentrate on collecting together the piles that we already had and to stop cutting new material, so that the bonfire would not have to be kept going for the entirety of the day!  The only exception was where some trees and scrub had already been partially felled and required making safe before leaving the site.  This amounted to quite a significant operation in itself, although there were enough of us on hand to achieve our objectives by the close of play at 12:30pm.

We will work with OPT again in another couple of weeks.  This next occasion will see us return to Boars Hill - at the Elizabeth Daryush Garden.

Gathering outside the sports pavillion.

Rachel instructing the group upon arrival at the Memorial Field.

Cutting scrub.

Ian and Alison hard at work.

Margaret takes on the brambles.

Mark gets the fire started.

Plenty of material on the bonfire.


A roaring success!

The final push.

Job just about done.

Kevin packing away the tools at the end of the session.