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Conservation Work - Past
We started our winter programme of tree thinning and branch removal today. We cut the coppiced hazel on the bank, and immediately we could tell more light will be getting to the ground to help the flowers. A key aim is to allow more light onto the ponds, to this end we wanted to remove some of the large over hanging branches from the ash trees. The task wasn’t without its excitement - high and heavy branches - but we have made a successful start and will continue when we return in January.
The university removed 3 skip loads of fly-tipped waste last week. The banking is looking much better, but there is still rubbish to clear on our next visit.
A mixed day, split between cutting the first floor meadow and cooking chutney in the kitchen.
Three builder’s sacks were filled with the arisings from the meadow. Removing this organic matter will help the wildflowers thrive amongst the grasses, and we plan to sow some more wildflowers to increase the floral mix. The vegetation next to the car park was also cut and raked, along with a large amount of litter removed.
In the kitchen we started with the most important bit – a cake to share. Actually more of a pudding, Apple Sharlotka came out of the oven in time for lunch. Meanwhile we prepared the apples, veg and spices for apple ‘cheese’, apple and green tomato chutney and a sweet apple chutney with date and a pinch of cayenne. These will all be on sale at Shipley Alternative, Kirkgate Centre on 2nd December.
In the morning we finished off this section of the work at the canoe and kayaking club. We cut back some of the side growth of the trees on the bank. On the bank side near the spilings we planted some willow sticks, firming them into holes made by the crow bar, making sure they were the right way up! They should take root and form another section of protection for the banking.
After tidying away all the willow debris we set off to the orchard for our afternoon’s work installing the timber bed edging for one of the veg beds. The shaping spaces team had started the job but it hadn’t been as easy I suggested as the timberlocks did not go easily through the lovely oak sleepers. Instead we used site pegs to nail the timber in place, once we had positioned and squared it. Some of the well-rotted compost was added to the soil and garlic was planted in one section of the bed.
In the grass near the greengage we planted a small packet of crocuses, adding to some Amanda planted with Shaping Spaces last week. The final bulbs to be planted were some Allium spaerocephalon; along with the crocuses these will provide nectar for the bees and butterflies. We choose to buy ‘ecobulbs’ to avoid planting flowers with systemic neonicotinoids.
This is the first time we have worked here, on a bend in the river near Dowley Gap. The Canoe and Kayaking Club asked us to help with some of the remedial work that they are under taking following the floods in 2015. Forest of Bradford volunteers have constructed spilings to reinforce the bank on the bend in the river. This consists of two willow fences infilled with horizontal willow and topped off with soil. We finished off the addition of soil, shaping the bank above and applied some grass seed (knowing it is a bit late in the year we have saved half the bag to reapply in the spring).
We raised the canopy of some of the trees on the river bank to enable better sight lines into the water. The plan is to add some extra planting in some sections. We worked on an island in the river to secure some of the woody debris that has amassed at times of flood and high water. We pegged these piles into the ground to reduce the chance of the logs floating off and causing trouble downstream. Whist we worked we found a number of very old bottles, but also signs of a mass of Himalayan balsam that will need attention over the next few years.
We haven’t been to the Reserve much this summer, with none of our regular schools groups visiting due to the anti-social behaviour that we have had to deal with. So when we arrived it was looking a bit unloved and abandoned. However, it was amazing what we achieved – all the meadow areas and paths were cut and raked, and over hanging branches cut back.
We decided not to remove vegetation from the pond as it was quite sparse in relation what we normally experience at this time of year. However, the lower pond was covered in a film of oil so we did need to address this. We used newspaper and paper towels to absorb the oil. We didn’t have enough to finish the job, but made a good start.
Whilst sitting for lunch we were aware of the lovely autumn sunshine, but none of it is reaching the ponds or grassland (or us). We will schedule a couple of days in the winter to coppice hazel on the bank and remove a few other trees. The long-tailed tits kept us company all day.
Today was the day for the annual meadow cut and pond clearance. The cutting task was quite daunting with no power scythe, but we set to work with our three scythes and several sickles. Without the help of the YBS staff team, who were present today as part of their commitment to allow staff to volunteer in community settings, we probably wouldn’t have got finished. However all areas were cut, raked and the arisings removed.
The pond was equally successfully cleared, and it was great to work from the bridge we installed earlier in the year.
Final touches before Apple Day. The last bench, for the moment, was installed, and another had new legs installed. Final bits of grass cutting, weeding and removal of fallen apples made the orchard vaguely presentable. More apples were harvested – we had to take these away as the shed was full of ones ready for the juicer on Sunday. They will come back on Sunday. If only we had a storage shed for the apples….!
We had another couple of bags of hardcore delivered today and have finished levelling the shelter area. We will assess how it goes on Apple Day, perhaps we will run a whacker plate over it when we get a new one or can borrow one. Bothe the tables/work surfaces are finished under the shelter and we are looking forward to them being transformed into cake and falapple stalls next weekend.
Three of the four news benches were installed by the espaliers. The timber legs are rather larger than ideal but we worked with them and the space is looking inviting.
Most of the grass has now been cut though we will need to finish this off next week. Despite not having a mower we are doing a good job. We also did the inevitable job of collecting windfalls and harvesting from the trees.
This is our second visit to the school this year, working in the wildlife area. Today we gave the meadow a thorough cut, including cutting back brambles that have grown out across the grassland. All the arisings were raked and removed. The meadow is dominated by grasses as it has not been cut often. We plan to return I n spring to give a further cut, and hope to introduce some more flowers.
The pond had not ben been cleared for many years so there was very little open water. A mat of roots had formed and these were cut with a knife (very carefully!) to enable them to be cleared. Hard work.
Lots of frogs today, including some very big ones.
A great few days during which we have managed to make a big impact on the state of the orchard. The path through the main part of the orchard has been cleared of bark (this has been reused near the shelter) and vegetation and replaced with hard core. Thanks to Forest of Bradford Volunteers who were a great help getting the majority of the stone barrowed up from the gate. We may top it off with some fine stone but that will have to wait until after Apple Day as we still have a few other jobs on the go which we need to complete.
We have almost finished the construction of a couple of work tops/tables under the shelter. These will be useful for events, school groups and just in general. Let’s hope they don’t attract the attention of the fire starters.
Progress has been made with reducing the height of hedges to the permitted 5 foot, this should be completed on our next visit. Already we can see how much more light is getting to Katy. We have prepared a bed to plant with nectar rich flowers, and made a start on cutting the grass. There have been quite a lot of apples falling from the trees, many before we would expect that variety to be ripe. We have cleared a lot, hoping some will last until juicing at Apple Day.
I really feel we have a significantly smaller harvest his year, so make sure you get along to harvest sessions, work sessions, Shipley Alternative market or Apple Day if you want to buy some apples.
Keep a breast of dates on the Operation Orchard page.
We will add more photos to the gallery as we progress