Task Programme

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Sunday 28 Nov 2021Willow PollardingBurnt Mill Meadow, Old Marston
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Burnt Mill Meadow (otherwise known as Almonds Farm Fields) lies on the cusp of the Cherwell flood plain immediately to the north of the The Victoria Arms pub in North Oxford and is owned by Oxford City Council. The Freshwater Habitats Trust, together with Judy Webb and in collaboration with the current tenant farmer, have drawn up a management plan for the Meadow. Today we'll be working on one element of that plan to pollard a small copse of willows that stands in the wet channel that runs along the foot of the shallow-banked escarpment. The plan is to tackle these now, before they get out of hand. There will be lots of material to process. It's likely to be wet underfoot, so bring wellingtons! The site is a prime example of a unique habitat contingent upon its peculiar geographic and geological characterists. For more details on the history of the site and the flora and fauna it supports see Judy Webb's web-site page here: https://judithwebb.weebly.com/almonds-farm-bank.html.
Leader: Phil HunterDriver: Tom Bulford

Sunday 21 Nov 2021Reserve Maintenance / Hedge LayingAston Rowant NNR, South Oxfordshire
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The beech woods of the Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve always looks magnificent from late October to the onset of winter. This month's visit will most likely see us taking up work on the hedge at the top of Hill Lane, just across from the Cowleaze Wood car park. Laying the hedge will maintain its form and will promote vigorous new regrowth that should result in a thick, dense habitat, ideal for nesting birds. How much progress we make over the next couple of months will give us some idea of how long it will take us to complete the whole project. It may be that, come November 21st , the reserve warden would rather we tackle other, more urgent work, so keep and eye on the website and the OCV task email for confirmation of today's task.
Leader: Tim BletsoeDriver: Tim Howard

Sunday 14 Nov 2021Scrub ControlCrecy Hill LWS, Tackley, Oxfordshire
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The Crecy Hill Local Nature Reserve sits on the railway embankment just to the north of Tackley station with views over the shallow valley of the Cherwell to the open country beyond. The three acre site has never been farmed and its unimproved chalk grassland provides the perfect habitat for a good varity of native wild flowers. We'll be working to keep the scrub in check by clearing discrete areas of hawthorn, rose, and bramble. You can probably expect the first bonfire of the winter season.
Leader: Phil HunterDriver: Tom Bulford

Sunday 7 Nov 2021Willow PollardingAston's Eyot, Oxford
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We're back at Aston's Eyot in east Oxford today to do some more work on the willows that line the banks of the Cherwell and the Thames. We'll be working for, and with, the friends group that manage the site. The plan is to tackle only those willows that we can pollard safely. Pollarding will save the trees from complete collapse, significantly prolong their life spans, stimulate new regrowth, and keep the paths along the river banks passable. Some of the willows on the Thames bank have already collapsed and are beyond pollarding. We might experiment with these by, in effect, laying some of the material to create a waterside willow hedge that should mitigate the effects of erosion along the bank.
Leader: Chris SkepperDriver: Tim Howard

Friday 5 Nov 2021Fireworks display at The Plough, 6.30pmThe Plough, Wolvercote
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Join us for a Guy Fawkes' night fireworks display at The Plough in Wolvercote. There's no charge for the firework display but we're asked to buy something at the pub or donate to the charity bucket. There will be a barbecue and indoor and outdoor bars serving drinks and snacks including pasties and sausage rolls. The fireworks start at 7pm, so we're allowing time to find each other and buy refreshments. Wrap up warm!
Contact: Chris

Tuesday 2 Nov 2021Committee meeting
The committee meets once a month to make sure that the group operates smoothly. Prior to COVID19 meetings were held in the town hall and after a long break I hope we will be able to return there, but for now we'll be meeting elsewhere, November's meeting will be at the Old Tom on St Aldates. You don't need to be a committee member to join us, but please email secretary@ocv.org.uk so I can book enough space
Contact: Jenny

Sunday 31 Oct 2021Fen Cut and RakeLouie Memorial Fields, North Hinksey, Oxford
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Early autumn is the season for fen work, and Oxford has more than its fair share of these local but relatively rare wetland habitats. You'll find more information about the fens on your doorstep and the Oxfordshire Fens Project organised by the Freshwater Habitats Trust here: https://freshwaterhabitats.org.uk/projects/oxfordshire-fens-project/. The fen alongside the Louie Memorial Fields has similar geology to the fens nearby at North Hinksey and Raleigh Park. All three are fed by natural springs and all three have great potential as wildflower and wildlife habitats. Today we'll be working for the local parish council to carry out as much as we can of the autumnal cut of the fen itself. We cut the fen a year ago when the undergrowth was, in many places, more like overgrowth with a head high, more or less dense mixture of vegeatation. It should be a little easier this year. Make sure you can cover up your arms and legs, and wellies might be useful. We'll be using slashers, grass hooks, and scythes, and drag bags and tarps to haul the cut stuff off the fen.
Leader: Phil HunterDriver: Tom Bulford

Sunday 24 Oct 2021Fen Raking II (North Fen)Lye Valley, Oxford
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Day two in Lye Valley. Today we'll be working on the larger north fen with public access from the Slade. As well as the raking it's likely that we'll be working to control the flow of the central water course that runs through the valley by using the natural materials to hand. OCV have been involved with the Lye Valley Nature Reserve for many years now, more recently, in collaboration with the active local friends group, although any human time scale looks relatively insignificant given the site's 8,000 year provenance. See the friends of Lye Valley website for lots more information on this important, rare landscape: http://www.friendsoflyevalley.org.uk. As last week, we'll be with Judy Webb, and you'll need wellies even if there's been no rain.
Leader: Jenny HillDriver: Tom Bulford

Thursday 21 Oct 2021Pub night 8pmThe Turf Tavern
Thursday night is the new Friday night! Join us for a drink or two at the Turf Tavern, one of Oxford's oldest pubs and certainly its most difficult for newcomers to find! Everyone is welcome, even if you haven't been out on a task yet. We'll be outside if the weather is anything like decent, so wrap up very warm.
Contact: Chris

Sunday 17 Oct 2021Fen Raking I (South Fen)Lye Valley, Oxford
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Today is the first of two days work in Lye Valley, Headington. The early autumn cut of the both fens in the valley, the north fen and the south fen, is the major cut of the year, usually done by machine by the Oxford City Council green spaces team. The raking is done by hand, and that's where we come in. The aim is to keep the fertility of the soil low by removing as much of the cut material as possible. Any number of volunteers stomping up and down the fen at this time of year also mimick some of the desired effects of livestock grazing. The balance in favour of the wild flowers on this relatively rare habitat is now well established, but will need regualar maintenance to keep it that way. Ecologist and Lye Valley expert Judy Webb will be with us. (See a selection of her photographs taken on site in the photo gallery.) We'll be working on the south fen today (that's the fen with no public access by the golf course) but check the weekly email for confirmation. Make sure you're on the OCV mailing list! Wellies recommended even if there's been no rain.
Leader: Tim BletsoeDriver: Dan Moden

Sunday 10 Oct 2021Reserve Maintenance/Hedge LayingAston Rowant NNR, South Oxfordshire
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Aston Rowant is our local National Nature Reserve, perched on the west facing escarpment of the Chiltern hills. This winter we've made arrangements with the reserve managers to begin a hedge-laying project at the top of Hill Lane. There are 100 meters or so of hedge to lay and we'll look to do as much as we can over the coming winter months. There will be a lot of cut material to process, so even if you don't fancy the first-order work of laying the hedge there will be plenty to keep you busy. It may be that other work on the reserve will prove more important in the short term, so keep and eye on the website and the weekly task email for confirmation of the task details nearer the date.
Leader: Tim BletsoeDriver: Tim Howard

Saturday 9 Oct 2021Site MaintenanceTrap Grounds, Oxford
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Notice that this is another of our occasional Saturday tasks.The Trap Grounds is a small pocket of the countryside in the middle of urban north Oxford hard by the canal. It's managed by an enthusiastic volunteer group (The Friends of The Trap Grounds) and includes a range of habitats: woodland, ponds, reed-beds, and areas of meadow and marsh. It's a great example of a state of the art urban wildlife site with an ideal combination of complementary micro-habitats. As usual there will be mixed-bag of things to do. Given the time of year we might well be working in the ponds and reed beds. Another job to take in hand will be to 'pop' (i.e. lever out) a myriad of small self-seeded ash saplings in the wooded areas.
Leader: Phil HunterDriver: Tom Bulford

Sunday 3 Oct 2021Shirelake Ditch DredgingAston's Eyot, Oxford
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This large 30 acre site is an 'island' bordered by the Thames, Cherwell New Cut and Shirelake Ditch, just downstream from Christ Church Meadow. The land is owned by Christ Church College and is managed by an enthusiastic Friends group with some help from the Oxford City Council. One aim of the long-term management plan for the site is to improve the condition of the Shirelake Ditch -- the watercourse that runs, or rather should run, round the eastern boundary of the site from the Cherwell to the Thames. Today we'll pick up work at the confluence with the Thames. We've worked here before in 2017 and 2019 and the good results are still evident. The inlet is an ideal habitat for spawning fish, with lots of fry in season. We'll be digging out thick mats of reed, cutting back overhanging vegetation, and dredging silt. It'll be mucky, smelly, and wet, so bring wellingtons. If the water levels turn out to be too high we'll change the work programme, so watch out for the weekly task email on the OCV mailing list.
Leader: Chris SkepperDriver: Tom Bulford

Sunday 26 Sep 2021Meadow Mow and RakeCuxham, South Oxfordshire
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We first mowed the meadow in Cuxham back in the summer of 2017. Today we'll return to mow and rake the meadow for the fifth consecutive time. The work gets progressively easier each time we go back, though that's not to say that you can expect an easy day's work! We'll aim to mow a relatively large area of the grass meadow, and to cut back any scrub that's beginning to encroach from the thick hedge-line at the bottom of the site. Everything we cut will need to be shifted, so we'll be using tarpaulins to raft the cut swaths off the meadow. We'll be using the OCV set of Austrian scythes (if you can bring your own, then you'll be more than welcome) and will be working for the local parish council who own and manage the site as a wild flower meadow. You'll get an idea of what's involved from the photo gallery (click 'Cuxham South Oxfordshire' in the top right to go through to the reserve page, then click on 'Photos', again in the top right).
Leader: Phil HunterDriver: Tim Bletsoe

Sunday 19 Sep 2021Willow Pollarding and Hedge Cutting (South Fen)Lye Valley, Oxford
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Today we'll pick up work that was postponed earlier this year. We'll be working on the perimeter of the south fen, that's the smaller of the two Lye Valley fens, the one by the golf course with no public access. The willows at the top boundary of the fen need to be pollarded to ensure that they begin neither to block out light, nor to extract any significant quantity of moisture from the spring lines that are crucial to the fen habitat. The hedges that suround the fen on its other three sides are also in need of serious attention before they get out of hand. We'll be back here again in October to carry out the usual seasonal cut and rake. Ecologist and Lye Valley expert Judy Webb will be with us for the day and she's always more than happy to explain in detail why this kind of local, grass-roots conservation work on sites like this SSSI are so important. If it's been wet wellies will be useful.
Leader: Tom HeathDriver: Phil Hunter

Saturday 18 Sep 2021Meadow Mow and RakeNorth Hinksey Nature Reserve
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Note that this is one of our occasional Saturday tasks. Back in July we mowed and raked the community orchard and the perimeter of the flower meadow. Today we'll return to finish the work on the meadow and to prune back the willows surrounding the pond. This is an urban reserve, owned and managed by the local parish council, with an unusually complex mixture of habitats in a relatively small space -- a real gem. There will be full details in the weekly task email as usual.
Leader: Phil HunterDriver: Dan Moden

Tuesday 14 Sep 2021Pizza 7pmPizzeria da Mario
Join us for pizza at Mario's on Cowley Road. More details nearer the time, or contact socials@ocv.org.uk if you'd like to come.
Contact: Chris

Sunday 12 Sep 2021Hazel CoppicingAston Rowant NNR, South Oxfordshire
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Aston Rowant is our local National Nature Reserve on the Chiltern escarpment just above the Ridgeway footpath. On a clear day there are extensive views across Aylesbury Vale past, and sometimes over, the Red Kites that cruise the updrafts. Today's task involves coppicing stands of hazel just off Hill Lane. We'll look to harvest stakes and binders to use on a hedge laying project on the reserve planned to start this winter. Laying a hedge encourages vigorous regrowth to form a compact, dense hedge-line, the ideal habitat for nesting birds. As usual we'll be working with Steph Wilson (one of the Reserve's wardens). Exact details of where we'll meet and the start time will be advertised via the OCV email list -- so make sure you're signed up!
Leader: Tim BletsoeDriver: Tim Howard

Tuesday 7 Sep 2021Committee meetingTown Hall
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The committee meets once a month to make sure that the group operates smoothly. Prior to COVID19 meetings were held in the town hall and after a long break I hope we will be able to return there, but please await further information by email. You don't need to be a committee member to join us, please email secretary@ocv.org.uk for details.
Contact: Jenny

Sunday 5 Sep 2021Site MaintenanceStansfeld Park, Oxford
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Stansfeld Park in Headington Quarry, Oxford is set within 18 acres of woodland with ponds, marshland and meadows. The undulating landscape results from quarrying for limestone in the area that was used to build many of Oxford's colleges, churches and civic buildings. When quarrying ended, a variety of habitats formed, including limestone grassland, ash and hazel woodland, dense hawthorn scrub, ponds and wetland. We'll be working for the Oxford Trust who have rejuvenated the site partly as a local amenity and partly an educational resource. We'll be working with Roger Baker (the site's Outdoor Learning and Ecology Manager) and at the time of writing he's suggested that we might take on a mixed bag of jobs from pond work to path work. So make sure you're on the OCV mailing list to receive details of today's task. For more on Stansfeld Park see the Oxford Trust website: http://theoxfordtrust.co.uk/stansfeld-education-centre/.
Leader: Jenny HillDriver: Dan Moden