Task Programme

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Sunday 18 Oct 2020Fen 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. 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 regular maintenance to keep it that way. There's usually work to do to keep the scrub on the boundaries of the fen in check, and, if there are enough of us, we'll pollard a couple of willows on the eastern edge of the fen. 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: Tom HeathDriver: Phil Hunter

Sunday 11 Oct 2020Reserve MaintenanceAston Rowant NNR, South Oxfordshire
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The beech woodland of the Aston Rowant National Nature Reserve always looks magnificent from October to the onset of winter. At the time of writing, as part of our anti-Covid measures, we're not yet using the OCV minibus to transport volunteers so, as in September, you may have to make your own way to the site. The dedicated task email will give precise instructions as to where we'll be working. This month's visit will most likely see us in the woods themselves or on the more open slopes of the escarpment cutting back invasive scrub and undergrowth. As usual, we'll be working with one of the Reserve's wardens, and, again as usual, the details will be announced in the weekly OCV email -- so make sure you're on the list!
Leader: Dan ModenDriver: Tom Bulford

Tuesday 6 Oct 2020Committee meetingTown Hall
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The committee meets once a month to make sure that the group operates smoothly. Normally meetings are held in the town hall but for the time being these have been moved online. You don't need to be a committee member to join us, please email secretary@ocv.org.uk for details of how to join the call.
Contact: Jenny

Sunday 4 Oct 2020Fen Cutting and RakingLouie Memorial Fields, North Hinksey, Oxford
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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 relatively rare 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. The undergrowth is, in many places, more like overgrowth with a head high, more or less dense mixture of vegeatation that needs to be cut and removed. So make sure you can cover up your arms and legs, and wellies might be uselful. We'll be using slashers, grass hooks, and scythes to make a start on work which is already overdue. If you come along to today's task you'll get some idea of what Lye Valley used to look like before the remedial conservation work began there. Please be aware that we may have to limit the number of volunteers consistent with our Covid-safe policies, so please reply in advance to the weekly task email if you intend to come along.
Leader: Phil HunterDriver: Tom Bulford

Sunday 27 Sep 2020Willow PollardingAston's Eyot, Oxford
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This large 30 acre site is an 'island' bordered by the Thames, Cherwell New Cut and Shire Lake 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. The plan for today was to dredge a section of the Shire Lake Ditch, as in previous years, but the difficulties involved in ensuring that we could maintain the two meter social distancing rule mean that we've postponed this work indefinitely. Instead, we'll continue with work to pollard the willows on site that we began earlier in the summer. As always, keep an eye on the website and make sure that you're signed up to the weekly email list for the dedicated email that will tell you everything you need to know about each forthcoming task.
Leader: Chris SkepperDriver: Phil Hunter

Sunday 20 Sep 2020Site MaintenanceAston Rowant NNR, South Oxfordshire
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We're hoping that today will see the first OCV task at Aston Rowant since the Spring lockdown began. 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. Whatever the task, we'll be working with one of the highly-knowledgeable wardens from Natural England. Exact details of the work involved for today's visit will be announced nearer the time via the OCV email list -- so make sure you're signed up; and note that there's still a chance that we'll have to reschedule this task, so keep and eye on the website!
Leader: Jenny HillDriver: Dan Moden

Sunday 13 Sep 2020Meadow Cut 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 fourth time, and there are encouraging reports that the site is improving significantly as a wild flower habitat. Cuxham is a shade over 14 miles from Oxford, and given that it's likely that we won't be using the OCV bus to transport volunteers, if you can make it, you'll be very welcome indeed! We've told the organiser from the Parish Council that we'll do what we can on the day, and she's happy with that even if we only manage to work on selected areas. Last year's work was significantly easier than previous years, and as this will be the final mowing task of the year we thought we'd leave it in the schedule.
Leader: Phil HunterDriver: Tim Bletsoe

Sunday 6 Sep 2020Pond Work and Site MaintenanceMilham Ford Nature Park
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The stream and ponds at the Milham Ford Nature Park, Headington were created in 2008-2009 in an area that had previously been 8 tarmaced tennis courts for use of the now defunct Milham Ford School. A stream which had been piped underground across the playing field was brought to the surface, meandered, and now feeds a complex of 4 interlinked ponds. This is one of the most heavily used urban green spaces in Oxford. We'll be working in the ponds with the Reserve's Friends group, under the direction of freelance ecologist Judy Webb to dredge invasive plant growth and re-establish areas of open water necessary for the local dragonfly population. If you'd rather not wade in, we'll also be digging out rush tussocks on the banks and margins of the pond. There's likely to be further work cutting back scrub in various parts of the site.
Leader: Chris SkepperDriver: Dan Moden

Tuesday 1 Sep 2020Committee meetingTown Hall
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The committee meets once a month to make sure that the group operates smoothly. Normally meetings are held in the town hall but for the time being these have been moved online. You don't need to be a committee member to join us, please email secretary@ocv.org.uk for details of how to join the call.
Contact: Jenny

Sunday 30 Aug 2020Grass RakingSt Mary's Fields, Kidlington, Oxfordshire
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As in recent summers, rain or shine, we'll be working with the determined group of locals who maintain this popular conservation area. It's owned and managed by the local parish council and lies between St. Mary's Church and the river Cherwell. The job is to rake off the mown material from the yearly grass-cut. This is important to keep the fertility of the soil low and so encourage the rarer plants and wildflowers. It will be hard, but straightforward work and important for biodiversity. It's a big site, and a big task, and given our Covid-19 measures, we'll have to do it without the benefit of the usual supplies of excellent home-made cake.
Leader: Phil HunterDriver: Dan Moden

Sunday 23 Aug 2020Willow PollardingAston's Eyot, Oxford
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Note that today's task has been changed! We hope to be back at Aston Rowant in September, but today we're much closer to home at Aston's Eyot in East Oxford. We'll be working on the willows that line the Shire Lake Ditch and the Cherwell. Pollarding will keep them healthy and in good condition, and will also allow sunlight to reach the water surfaces which should help with the long term plan to rejuvenate the habitat on this part of the site. If the willows are neglected their larger limbs tend to fracture and collapse, as you'll see today - we'll be hauling out a couple of big willow boughs that have crashed down.
Leader: Chris SkepperDriver: Tim Bletsoe

Saturday 22 Aug 2020Meadow Mow & Rake and Scrub ClearanceNorth Hinksey Nature Reserve
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Note that this is one of our occasional Saturday tasks. We've had such good turnouts of volunteers recently (thankyou everyone!) that we thought we might try a two task weekend with work in Oxford both today and tomorrow. So take your pick! A month or so ago we mowed and raked the community orchard here at North Hinksey. Today we return to mow and rake the grass meadow on the other side of the hedge. For the meadow we'll use scythes, but there will also be some more brutal work with the OCV slashers (the name is a pretty good clue to the tool and how to use it) to tackle the thick scrub that runs along the ditch. 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. We'll still be following our social distancing and hygiene measures, full details will be in the weekly task email as usual, or you can check them out on the FAQs page of the website.
Leader: Phil HunterDriver: Dan Moden

Sunday 16 Aug 2020Ragwort Pulling & Scrub ClearanceCrecy Hill LWS, Tackley, Oxfordshire
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Crecy Hill is a small reserve just to the east of the village of Tackley hard by the main railway line into Oxford. It's owned by the local parish council, and we've been making regular visits to reclaim the unimproved grassland from the invasive scrub that has come to dominate. We were last here in June, and managed to start work at the far northern end of the site, clearing dense hawthorn and bramble. Today, we've been asked to pay special attention to the ragwort on the reserve. The seed tends to drift onto the neighbouring pastures and if the plant material gets into the hay it can cause serious illness in horses. So we'll be pulling ragwort, which we haven't done for quite a while, and, if there's enough of us, also knocking back some more scrub. Note that we won't be using the minibus to transport volunteers, so you'll have to make your on way to the site. Directions will be in the weekly task email as usual. We'll be back in Oxford next weekend.
Leader: Chris SkepperDriver: Phil Hunter

Thursday 13 Aug 2020Socially distant social - 6pmSouth Park, Oxford
This month, join us for a socially distant social in South Park, Oxford. Under current government guidelines we can meet in any outdoor space in a group of up to 6 people from different households and we should have plenty of space in the park to socialize while keeping at a safe distance. But to keep track of numbers, please let me know if you're planning on joining. As usual, everyone is welcome but If you're in a high risk group, or you or someone in your household have symptoms of the virus, please stay at home. Hope to see you there! socials@ocv.org.uk
Contact: Anne

Sunday 9 Aug 2020Reed-Bed Cut & RakeIffley Island, Oxford
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A traditional OCV task for high summer: our regular cut of this SSSI by the Thames, on behalf of the Oxford Preservation Trust. Despite its name the site is not quite an island, but there are houseboats on an inlet to one side and the open river to another. We'll cut the sedge and reeds and rake the cuttings off so they won't enrich the soil. The end result is beneficial to the wild flowers on the site, and, in particular, to the fritillaries hereabouts. If the sun shines this is one of the high-lights of the OCV calendar. As last year we'll be using our set of Austrian Scythes. Look out for more details in the weekly task email, and check out the photos on our website page dedicated to the reserve (click on the 'Iffley Island, Oxford' button, top right!).
Leader: Tim BletsoeDriver: Ray Hitchins

Sunday 2 Aug 2020Reserve MaintenanceTrap Grounds, Oxford
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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. For more info see the Friends’ website https://trap-grounds.org.uk. The main task today will be to complete the low-level, willow-whip wattle fencing along the water courses to prepare for the dredging operation later in the year. The plan is to use the fencing to hold back the dredged silt, reinforce the banks, and thereby create a suitable habitat for water voles. There’s usually something for everyone at the Trap Grounds, so expect other jobs too – details will be in the weekly task email.
Leader: Jenny HillDriver: Tim Howard

Sunday 26 Jul 2020Site 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. Make sure you're on the OCV mailing list to receive details of today's task, and for more on Stansfeld Park see the Oxford Trust website: https://theoxfordtrust.co.uk/stansfeld-education-centre/. As in recent weeks, please note that we'll be following the OCV policies on social distancing and tool/hand hygiene.
Leader: Chris SkepperDriver: Dan Moden

Sunday 19 Jul 2020Meadow Cut and RakeNorth Hinksey Nature Reserve
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Note the change of task! This small reserve, created on what was once allotments, now borders a business park, and sees a lot of use. Despite its small size it has a good mix of habitats - a stream and pond, a small meadow, a splendid hedge, and a community orchard. The main job today will be to scythe and rake the grasses in the Orchard. If there are enough of us, we'll also do a little pollarding work on the willows round the pond. We're still following our social distancing and hygiene measures - full details in the weekly task email as usual, or you can check them out on the FAQs page of the website.
Leader: Phil HunterDriver: Tim Howard

Sunday 12 Jul 2020Reed Cutting and Willow RemovalCutteslowe Meadows
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This is a new site for OCV, and about as close to home as we can get. The meadows lie just to the south east of Cutteslowe Park, between the Cutteslowe Community Woodland, the A40, and the river Cherwell. They lie in the flood plain of the river, so are subject to seasonal flooding, and have a series of discrete ponds, so it's an interesting liminal habitat of mixed wet and dry conditions. The site is owned by Oxford City Council, and they've agreed to a collaborative management plan drawn up by the Freshwater Habitats Trust and the Oxford Botanical Gardens to reintroduce some native dry and wetland flora. The Trust have asked us to take on the preliminary work of cutting and raking the reedbeds, and digging out willow saplings from the margins of the ponds.
Leader: Phil HunterDriver: Tom Bulford

Sunday 5 Jul 2020Fen Cutting and RakingLye Valley, Oxford
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A second successive Sunday at Lye Valley. It used to be the case that we could rake both fens in the valley in a single day. It's a mark of the progressive improvement in the quality and extent of this relatively rare habitat that it now takes us two full days. The Friends of Lye Valley have been making constant improvements and the results are impressive. Come and see for yourself! This Sunday we'll be on, and possibly in, the north fen. As last week, if there's been rain, you'll need wellies.
Leader: Tim BletsoeDriver: Dan Moden