Once upon a time, in a land far far away, there was an allotment site tucked away down a littery lane. Now these allotments were a thing of beauty with plenty of flowers, and fruit trees, and chirruping birds. The sun shone, the river didn't (often) flood, and the allotment holders were happy.
But ill-fortune befell some of the plots, and land was abandoned. In the place of flowers and vegetables grew a large hedge of thorns. Every year the brambles grew higher and thicker, 'til at last the abandoned plots were covered and hidden, and not even the greenhouses and swings could be seen.
Rumours abounded throughout the land of how beautiful a place stood behind the thicket of thorns down the littered lane. It was said that flowers had once bloomed with abandon and palm tree fronds would rustle in the breeze. After some years there came a group of intrepid souls who were not afraid, and thus it came to be that one fine Sunday morning in January a fearsome army of GoodGymers met outside the Redbridge Household Waste Recycling Centre (oh yes).
Armed with secateurs, and thick gloves, and loppers they toiled tirelessly under the blazing sun (as blazing as it gets in January) to vanquish the brambles and return allotment plots 204 and 275 to their former glory. For eons (2 hours) they battled thorns and brambles, ruthlessly weeded and pruned, and discovered such treasures as crutches, broken glass and rusty chairs beneath the thicket of thorns. As the sun passed high noon the GoodGymers retired from the fight for the day, retreating to refuel and tend their wounds (a few minor bramble snags - nothing worthy of the accident book!). Undefeated and undeterred they will surely return to continue the battle another day.
Last night we blitzed the tidying and organising tasks at the Oxford Mutual Aid food bank. As a 7-days-a-week operation there's rarely time to pause and take stock due to the overwhelming need to get the food parcels prepared, so a GoodGym flash-mob every now and then helps to get everything back in order.
This week there have been lots of large donations in from other food banks and larders which needed sorting into crates of similar items then stored properly. Also, now that we're into the New Year all the leftover Christmas items needed to be organised so that they can be stored off site instead of taking up precious space in the hall.
We divided into teams and got to work:
* Lorenzo headed up a group sorting through all the recent food donations, crating them up with like-items and stacking them away in a more organised fashion.
* Rachael took her team to the kitchen to sort through the fresh fruit and veg and dispose of any that were too mushy/mouldy to send out, organising the fridges into expiry-date order, and giving the whole area a good clean, before moving on to portioning up bulk bags of pasta.
* Bethan's crew sorted through mountains of Christmas gifts, categorising by age of recipient, and then picking a few crates to remain at the hall as birthday gifts and labelling everything else up for off-site storage.
* Holly, Vicky and Ben did the heavy lifting, re-organising the tin-can corner to make more storage space. Hope your arm muscles aren't too achey this morning!
* Last, but not least, Dan tackled cardboard mountain, flattening the pile of boxes and crushing as many as possible into the recycling bin.
We've already had effusive thanks from the Oxford Mutual Aid organising team:
"This is is so, so helpful! Thank you thank you!"
"Thank you SO SO MUCH"
"I've just been in and everything looks like a dream."
Great work team. Well done!
Oxford Mutual Aid have asked for a GoodGym flash mob at the Richard Benson Hall food bank tonight.
There’s lots to do:
* Sorting out the remaining Christmas gifts ready for storing or shelving.
* Restocking the food shelves.
* Sorting through the fresh food and throwing out food waste.
* Breaking down cardboard boxes.
* Helping load up food parcels for delivery.
We ask that you wear a mask inside the food bank.
Tonight we will meet at the task - Richard Benson Hall, 276b Cowley Rd - at 6pm. It’s next door to St Mary & St John church. There won’t be a run to the task but there will be a 5k run after we finish at the food bank. We’ll also provide a run-walk option for those starting Couch-2-5k this month. All welcome, so come in your running kit if you fancy a social run.
Tonight we'll be litter picking around the circumference of Florence Park and along the Boundary Brook cycle path. There is always a lot of litter around this area which spills into the surrounding park, nature reserve and allotments. Tonight we'll do our best to sort that out.
We know you love a good plog - one of our most satisfying tasks - let's get to work!
Litter pickers and bags will be provided but please bring your own gloves. As the evenings are dark please wear hi-vis if you have them, and headtorches would be helpful for everyone. I'll bring a couple of spare head torches.
* Anyone wishing to run to the task as a group please meet in the car park of the Richard Benson Hall, 276b Cowley Rd at 6pm. There won’t be a bag drop available but we can use the toilets. It is less than a mile to run to the litter pick location, and we plan on there being a walking option too. We can take a longer route back so that you feel like you've had a good leg-stretch!
* If you would prefer to meet at the task please meet us at 6:15pm outside Larkrise Primary School on Boundary Brook Road, OX4 4AN
South Ward Allotments is a 5 acre plot on the Southern edge of Oxford. After the 2nd World War the allotments here spread from the Old Abingdon Road all the way over to Hinksey, but unfortunately the site now has a teeny bit of an image problem: It's a little out of the way and with around 50% occupancy there are quite a few neglected plots gradually succumbing to bramble inundation.
The allotment committee have asked us to help get some of the vacant plots cleared of brambles and long grass to make them more appealling to potential gardeners.
We cleared one in September and now we’re heading back for round 2!
Please bring sturdy gardening gloves (we have a few spares if you don’t have any), and long trousers would be best for avoiding nettle stings/bramble scratches. (Is it even a GoodGym gardening task without some combination of those two?!)
please meet us on the opposite side of the road from the Redbridge Household Waste Recycling Centre OX1 4XG at 10:20am (glamorous, I know!), and we will walk the last stretch as a group. It is a 10 minute walk from there.
PLEASE NOTE: If you are making your own way to the task the entrance is off Old Abingdon Road. Postcode OX1 4XS. Please be careful not to go into the static caravan site at Redbridge Hollow, but take the track to the right of the caravan park entrance. Let me know by commenting if you are likely to arrive after the main group as there is a padlocked gate so I will need to pop out to let you in. Probably best to park at the Redbridge Park & Ride, which is a 10 minute walk away.
On an super sunny sunday a group of goodgym walkers followed a 9km route. We saw little cheeping birds (coots apparently!), CS Lewis's house, ponies, speedy cyclists with enviable legs, and mud mud mud!
Welcome Maria - great to have you join GoodGym, we hope to see you again soon!
...AND WE'RE BACK ON THE SATURDAY SHIFT!
After a couple of weeks off over the Christmas period we returned to our Saturday food bank shift this week. New Year, but same challenges getting enough volunteers to meet the rising need at the food bank! With many people self-isolating due to COVID infection, as well as the seasonal rise in demand as people struggle to afford to heat their homes and put food on the table, the parcel packing sheet was as full as ever.
After a quick briefing we set to work as quickly as possible to finish preparing the dozens of regular parcels due to leave at 4:30pm, as well as the significant number of emergency requests.
Happy to report that we were all set by the time the van arrived to collect the 2nd lot of deliveries for the day, and we even had time to sort some stock, check over the fresh fruit and veg, organise the fridges, and a bit of cleaning and restocking.
Well done team - another really useful couple of hours' work which will have a huge impact on those struggling in our community.