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There were three tasks today on the Common: cutting back bramble by the crossroads; encouraging the heather by removing smothering bramble, cutting down leggy gorse and invading silver birch trees; and clearing back the bushes encroaching on a muddy footpath at the bottom. Luckily a large crowd turned up to work in the sunshine, and we made a lot of progress on all three fronts.
This month’s session at Aston Rowant was on the wind-swept slope of Linkey Down, where a rash of small hawthorn bushes needed removing before they grew large enough to shade out chalk downland wild flowers. They were too small be cut by mechanical means, so it falls to volunteers such as the 12 who arrived from our group.
It was surprising how large an area we managed to cover, gathering the cut thorn into bundles for pushing down the hill to the future bonfire site. Mick was on hand to treat the cut stumps and thus discourage further growth, while we occasionally paused to admire the amazing view.
Cleeve Court Meadows
Thick fog and extensive flooding by the Thames for our March visit to Cleeve Water Meadow were no obstacle to our volunteers, 18 of whom turned up to clear 2 large trees brought down by winter gales. Small branches and ivy were burned on a bonfire whilst larger branches were stacked for firewood, leaving the trunks to be cut later by chainsaw. Care was needed to ensure safe working by the giant limbs, but we all enjoyed the challenge and satisfaction of completing the task.
Despite the change of site because of continued flooding at the site originally scheduled, we had a large contingent of volunteers to continue the hedge-laying project at Dunsden Church. Hazel branches had been brought from another site – thin, whippy ones to be used for binders and thicker ones destined for stakes. The stakes were given points with bill-hooks then installed by the hedge-laying team, who were not distracted by Tony’s appropriately-green St. Patrick’s day hat.
All the brash surplus to hedge-laying was carried away to be burned in the fire trailer together with material left over from previous sessions. Meanwhile, three volunteers installed a wooden gate by the corner of the churchyard wall.
Warm sunshine, birdsong, crackling fire, interesting tasks, iced cake at coffee break – what’s not to like?!
Thank you to all of you who came to Withymead today. It was a good place to spend my 64th birthday.
It was good to be able to see progress on so many different jobs.
We also officially opened the Wishing Well in remembrance of Richard Harris.
Our task today was to smarten up the car park entrance drive by cutting back overgrown scrub along the verge and in the small wood. There were 14 in the group, and we made an informal dead hedge of the brush and logs along the boundary line with the adjacent car park. We also collected several bags of litter which had been blown in by winter gales. As Nuffield Place is closed until April there was no problem with passing cars to cause a work hazard.
Our February visit to Aston Rowant found us cutting and burning scrub on a high hill-top overlooking the Oxford plain. Photographs from the 1960s show this was open grassland apart from some yew trees, so the wardens have made a project for volunteer groups such as ours to return it to its chalk downland state. There was plenty of cut material to start a bonfire on the site previously used for burning, and we 10 added to the pile with our own efforts. When tackling the taller trees we donned helmets and despite the brisk breeze soon warmed up, especially with hot cross buns at coffee break.
Three consecutive visits to Dunsden churchyard in February helped us to make a lot of progress on the hedgelaying project as well as tackle some other tasks. Shrubs needed pruning back, and trees brought down by recent gales had to be cleared away. The resultant material together with the cuttings from the hedge laying were hauled to the parking area then prepared for burning in the fire trailer. An area by the corner of the churchyard wall was cleared of debris then a new gate and fence was installed to create a tidy composting area for the church. The huge heap of cut materials was reduced by about half, and the rest will be burned in the fire trailer at a future session.
Green Broom Wood
Heavy squalls did not deter our intrepid band at Green Broom Wood on 8th February. The weather turned sunny after our arrival so we could continue with our project of clearing brambles and fallen branches to open up the glades. Bluebells were coming up where we had cleared last year. As we worked we uncovered not only branches but massive tree trunks…..
An early year session on the Nettlebed Commons (18 January) brought us a lot of clearance on the Joyce Grove Triangle. Extremely wet but no rain of significance brought a number of green gymmers together to burn off even more of the Christmas Calories.
We got two bonfires going and a lot of scrub got cleared. We are working to clear some areas of old heather patches. Heather is fairly uncommon in this part of the Chilterns, so this is something we should take care of. Our usual coffee break brought warm drinks and cakes.