Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Elizabeth Daryush Memorial Garden, 17th June 2017

On Saturday 17th June we returned to the delightful Elizabeth Daryush Memorial Garden on Boars Hill.  This time it was the pond that need some attention.

Rod d’Ayala, an expert in this field, explained that the pond needed to be cleared of crassula, an invasive foreign species that takes over and smothers native plants.  We were all a bit surprised to find that this plant looked very much like moss and was about the same size, but harder to grub out.

We worked in defined patches, first cutting down everything to ground level which made it possible to remove and safely dispose of the invader.  The pond will have to be covered with fresh patches of plastic liner and gravel to further discourage the spread of crassula.

Although the work was hard, as can be seen from the pictures, we had wonderful weather.  The Damsel and Dragonflies were all around, bees and butterflies buzzed happily, only gnats were a bit of a nuisance.

Our earlier sessions there involved marking the positions of marsh orchids, and they are doing well. The pond margins are also now clear of bramble but water lillies and yellow irises are abundant.

On Sunday we were back in the Garden with the Oxford Preservation Trust who look after the area, to enjoy afternoon tea and jazz.

Marsh Orchid

Pond Clearing.


Hard work.

Considering it...

More hard work!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Mill Road, Marcham, 10th June 2017

This was our first serious Himalayan Balsam pull of the season. It is necessary to try and get rid of this invasive species as it produces seed pods which, when ripe, explode and release about 200 seeds each. These are carried along water courses and colonise new sites.

We assembled in the yard at Manor Farm, Marcham and were pleased to welcome back Lydia from her honeymoon trekking in the Himalayas. She hadn’t seen any Himalayan Balsam there. We must therefore conclude that it is all here.

We set off down the lane, turning right on to a “Jubilee Walk” footpath which led us to a stream where the Himalayan Balsam grows in abundance. Tackling it is a major challenge here as much of it is inaccessible, either because it grows on the steep banks of the stream or on land which is out of bounds, huge swathes growing on the other side of barbed wire fences.

We set to work to pull up as much as we could. It had grown quite tall and didn’t require much bending over and some was already in flower. There was also a shallow spot in the stream we remembered from previous years where we could cross quite easily.

We returned to the farmyard for our tea break and gathered in the barn. Sadly, the plastic picnic chairs which we had used in the past had disappeared but there was a large concrete block, rather like a sacrificial altar, which served as a table.

Then it was back to work, and by the end of the session we had some pretty impressive heaps. We have one more Himalayan Balsam session here in a month’s time.

The Balsam pull begins.

A small section of the Himalayan Balsam.

Pulling continues.

One of the largest specimens of the day!

A pile of pulled Balsam.

Tea break in the barn.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Summer 2017 Green Gym Programme

Our new programme for the summer has just been published.  See below or click HERE for a pdf version (opens in new window).

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Fun in the Park, 3rd June 2017

Last Saturday was the annual 'Fun in the Park' event in Abingdon's Abbey Grounds.  For the past couple of years, we have been relegated to the car park for this community event, but we were pleased to be able to pitch our stall in the park itself this time!  The weather was suitable glorious to boot.

A number of Green Gymmers - Eleanor (and husband, Arthur), Sally, Lesley, Janet, Kevin, Carolyn, Jessica, Colin, Dieuwke, Michelle and Andrew helped out throughout the day, with details including the erection and dismantling of the gazebo, tables and associated paraphernalia in addition to speaking to prospective new members, and selling our wares.

Eleanor had printed and laminated some new photographs for the display boards, and a good amount of people expressed an interest in our activities throughout the day.

The "Find the Lucky Square" game made it's annual appearance and made £8.00.  Along with sales of the legendary Green Gym Marmalade, Eleanor's Lemon Curd, Mixed Fruit Chutney and Rhubarb and Ginger Jam, treasurer Sally was pleased to inform us that a respectable total profit (after costs) of £34.20 was achieved!

A photo of some of our volunteers at the stall even made it onto the popular Abingdon Blog.  A good effort all round!

The Green Gym stall back in the park itself!

Marmalade among other preserves for sale!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Bank Holiday Walk, 29th May 2016

As usual, there was no Green Gym session on the Spring Bank Holiday weekend so instead we led one of the Bank Holiday walks, which have been organised by the Friends of Abingdon since 2012. Our walk left from the centre of town and took us along the Ock Valley to show people some of the work Green Gym does there and nature and history of this part of town.

Green Gymmers Eleanor (who organised and led the walk), Sally, Andrew, Graham and Colin were in attendance along with an additional four who had signed up for the tour.  This was somewhat lower number than than on previous years, but the damp weather may well have been a factor.

The route took us from Abingdon Market Place, down East St Helen's Street to weir behind St Helen's Court.  From here it was along the Ock Valley Walk to it's furthest extent at New Cut Mill via Drayton Road and past the junction of the footpath with the Tesco store. 

After that we headed towards Drayton/Sutton Wick and traversed some fields in the direction of the Ladygrove Estate and subsequently meandered back to town along Caldecott Road.

There were several stops along the way to point out interesting features and we spotted many birds including grey herons, swifts, skylarks and a family of swans and cygnets.  We even witnessed a mini-murmuration of starlings!

Despite our limited numbers we all had a most enjoyable time!

The meeting point in the Market Square.

Along East St Helen's Street...

The town end of the Ock Valley Walk.

The Green Gym's woodchip path.

Heading west.

Swans and their cygnets.

A grey heron.

On the footbridge beside Mill Lane.

Pausing in a country lane.

A dog rose bush in flower with Didcot Power Station in the distance.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Ock Valley Walk, Town End, 20th May 2017

The Green Gym met at the Town End of the Ock Valley Walk last Saturday in what was a change to the initially-published programme.

The jobs to be taken care of were outlined by session leader James, and consisted of finishing the woodchip path, clearing the path from nettles and other overgrown vegetation and the usual litter-pick.

The nettles bashing took a bit of a back seat to raking of the rampant goose-grass (cleavers) as it had grown in place of the nettles. 

The turn-out was smaller than usual but the usual suspects worked hard.  We were pleased to welcome along a a new member, Dan, who had a good day while making him fully aware that there was no payment only - in coffee and biscuits, or at least the ones available before Graham turns up! Let's hope that we don't scare him away.

Despite threatening skies, the rain thankfully held off in what was a pleasant morning's work.

The group assemble.

Let work commence...

Green Gym amidst the greenery.

An apparently exhausted Margaret!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Cothill Fen, 13th May 2017

We met at Cothill Fen this Saturday for another session at this nature reserve, working as usual with Judy Webb, representing Natural England, who manage the site.

In our absence, Green Gymmer Adrian has been working here regularly on his own, cutting back the trees that line the border the fen, close to the main footpath.  We were therefor, keen to see how he had got on since our last session here, some months ago.

On our walk down the track from the footpath, we encountered a large group of schoolchildren from the nearby school, and elsewhere there were many walkers and cyclists about.  The weather was dull and overcast with the threat of rain, but it was fairly mild, especially apparent once we started working.

Prior to getting underway, Judy outlined our task, which was to continue cutting small trees back on the edge of the fen, to open the area out and reclaim as much as possible of this rare habitat.  We donned high-vis vests, googles and hard-hats where applicable as extra safety devices during the felling operations. The twelve of us then wended our way across the site to begin.

We spread ourselves out across the edge of the tree-line, and armed with loppers and bow-saws, tackled any small tree within our means, along with some straggly bushes close to ground-level, such as wild privet. A few shrubs were marked and were to be left in place due to their ecological importance.  These were mostly purging buckthorn.

As we lopped, cut and stacked the wood into piles, Judy carried out some survey work around the vicinity and was able to show us a variety of wild flowers and interesting creatures that reside here.  Indeed, the fen was in flower, with many Marsh Valerian plants, cowslips and orchids among others.

We were all impressed with the effort that Adrian has put in lately and hardly recognised the opposite side of the reserve, where he has been operating.

Tea break was very welcome today due to the rather exhausting work, and we were treated to Eleanor's lemon drizzle cake, which was very well received!

As we continued after refreshments we were treated to some aerial acrobatic displays with a number of aircraft apparently rehearsing for the following day's Abingdon Air Show.

Work continued right up until the 12:30pm deadline, and by the time we packed away our tools and carried them back up the track to the car park, it was already 1pm!  A busy session.

Upon arrival.

Judy's team talk.

Marsh Valerian.

Off to work we go.


Graham gets underway.

Kevin keeps busy.

A Narrow-Leaved Marsh Orchid.

Andrew saws.

Looking across the fen to the area of trees that Adrian has been busy felling.

That time again...

Tea-time banter.

The remains of Eleanor's Lemon Drizzle cake!

A female glow worm.

Flea sedge.

Ursula hard at work.

King Alfred's Cake fungi.

A pair of wood piles.


Snail on an ash tree.

Ursula, Dieuwke, Graham and Carolyn relax after a busy morning.

Evidence of our morning's work!

Heading homewards.

Packing up.

Aerial acrobatics kept us entertained.

Janet manages to remain stylish throughout!