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Conservation Work - Past
What a change in a few short days. Never have we had a display of blossom like this for Blossom Day; most of the trees were in full flower. Belle de Boskoop was a blousy white and ladened with flowers, Winston is still emerging and slightly pink (mostly the blossom seems very pale this year). Dog’s Snout is looking attractive, and this is really the time to admire the quince which no doubt will deteriorate as the summer develops (is it suffering from quince blight?). It looks like the Bramley may be having a restful year with a smallish crop, and Blenheim Orange and Pitmaston Pineapple seem to have fallen into a biennial fruiting habit, with this being their off year.
We could hardly tell the mower was in use last week, so we gave the paths a further mow, and carried on with barking other paths and seating areas. But today was really about enjoying the space, eating apple and rhubarb cakes and apple and parsnip soup, doing a bit of drawing/investigation.
This was the start of the next phase of work at the orchard, an intense period that should see a conclusion to infrastructure improvements of Operation Orchard.
As part of operation Orchard, our project funded by the players of the Postcode local trust, we are visiting places that can help us increase our knowledge about environmentally sensitive gardening; what to plant. Andrew and Pippa have a garden in Steeton which includes flower meadows, veg area, forest garden and orchard. Both professional gardeners with RHS training, they have spent many years working out what they feel is the best way to garden sympathetically and effectively and productively. Andrew showed us their flower meadows which include plants, both native and ornamental, to attract bees. We saw how encouraging a balanced ecology created a successful fruit garden. The fruit bushes are less prone to mildew if their roots don’t dry out – a consequence of bare soil – so they allow the grass and other vegetation to grow below the bushes. The same with the fruit trees; they are planting guilds amongst the grass in the understory below the trees. These plants include early flowering comfrey (great for pollinating insects) and large leave Trachestemon which help to mulch more invasive plants.
We had started our visit under shelter, enjoying some lovely cake, whilst Andrew explained how they preserve their crop by dehydrating and juicing. We tasting some delicious dried fruits, and were shown some of the pumpkins that that they have bred – developing taste but also storage properties.
The rain did not dampen our mood; this was an inspiring visit with plenty of information and ideas to take away and consider at the orchard.
P.S. We returned a few weeks later to buy some plants which we will plant under and around the trees. Brunera, Symphytum Hidcote Blue (the early flowering comfrey), Trachestemon, Chaenophyllum roseum (a pink flowering chervil) and Primula japonica (a candelabra type primrose, quite fancy!)
What a difference a few days can make. Long johns give way to sun cream in a blink of an eye. Boar’s Well is best enjoyed in the sunshine, so it was nice to have a good day for our first visit in ages.
We were cutting back some very robust bramble from the path, as well as overhanging tree branches. We also gave a spring cut and rake to the meadow – maybe a bit later than ideal but as the meadow is now dominated by common hogweed, it felt better to do it than not.
We saw both Comma and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies whilst eating lunch (a fine looking picnic) and are pretty confident that female brimstone flew past. The robins and warblers were singing away, and the wild cherry and blackthorn blossom were looking pretty.
We returned to back Sydemham Place after a bit of a gap to help the residents group continue to create the community garden and wildlife space. We were moving bricks and weeding areas for future planting and to sow wild flower seed. We refilled the paths with bark, and extending the path further down the slope, where we started to make improvements to a small seating area.
Dennis made good progress on the dry stone wall at this bottom end, and is considering the possibility of making an entrance here, which will be great.
Our last day tree planting this season. We returned to Odda Quarry to help Forest of Bradford with this 7000 strong planting scheme.
Whilst contributing to planting about 800 trees today, we also watched a pair of buzzards, kestrels and a red kite flyby when we setting off home. Northern Forest, we are on to it…
Sorry, no task today. Happy Easter.
Forest of Bradford have been undertaking a massive planting scheme on the edge of Odda Quarry, Hawksworth this winter. A small band of BEES volunteers contributed by panting about 250 trees today – a mix of field maple, hornbeam, alder, rowan, sycamore and beech.
Some of these species we are more familiar with removing form woodland mixes (sycamore and Beech), and hornbeam is new in our planting mix this far north. It’s all about resilience and finding a mix of trees that will withstand the increasing number plant diseases that have arrived in Britain due to the globalisation of the plant trade, and a lack of biosecurity measures.
We had postponed our weekend at the beginning of the month due to adverse weather and roads closed with snow. Although it was a big shame not everyone due to go could make the rearranged dates, we couldn’t have been more pleased with the weather conditions this weekend. Warm enough to take several layers off at points, lovely views across to the Lake District (and Ingleborough from the trig point). Being a bit later in the month, the days were longer than normal, which gave our depleted group the chance to achieve as much work as we could have expected.
We were widening a footpath and creating a ride through the woodland and adjacent limestone pavement, essentially to allow more light in for the ground flora and open the canopy. It’s all about the butterflies; two of the key species, the High Brown Fritillary (if there are any left) and Dark Green Fritillary, need violets for their caterpillars. Wal and Issac from Cumbria Wildlife Trust made a great impact with the chain saws, whilst we followed with our bow saws and sorted the timber in to piles for further use and to feed the fires. As ever we were kept fed with potatoes on the fire, but we also cooked up some beans this year for a proper Sunday lunch.
Long days, clocks going forward, an afternoon too nice to miss out on a walk to the trig point, and noisy guests at the hostel, all amounted to a tiring, though thoroughly satisfying weekend helping out at this national nature reserve. As ever, there was mention of what we can tackle next year! Get your diaries ready.
Another hedge today, which will create a great shelter belt on the high exposed fields near Oldfield, looking over the valleys towards to Haworth. A line of Hawthorn had been done yesterday by Forest of Bradford volunteers and we were planting a mix of hornbeam, blackthorn, spindle, field maple and alder buckthorn.