Winter’s gone…. Spring is here

After what felt like a long winter, we are more then ready to start the orchard season again.

Winter tasks

Although the winter felt long, it was a relatively mild and dry one. This meant that we could do most of our planned tasks this winter. In February, we spent our working Saturday pruning our apples and pears. We also planted a Bramley tree in Bernd’s orchard and replaced some trees in the meadows that were vandalised. In Blackberry Corner we extended the existing hedge, that we started two years ago. For this hedge we used whips given to us by I dig trees. The hedge will be an important addition to the mixed habitat that’s already in place. All the hedge plants are fruit bearing and beneficial to small mammals, birds and insects as hiding place and food source.

Mulching

Our March working Saturday was all about spreading mulch. Mulching is a great way to slowly release nutrients to the roots of trees and at the same time suppressing weeds. We enjoyed the sunshine and blue skies and being outside made us really aware of the first signs of Spring. Our Apricot in St. Margaret’s orchard is in full bloom and the blackthorn hedges at The Piggeries are starting to turn white with blossom.

Dates for the diary

Please feel free to join us for any workday or evening. Even if it’s just to say hello, we’re really happy to have a chat and explain what we’re doing.

Saturday workday April : 9th April

We’ll be starting our regular working evenings in April (exact date to be announced)

To receive updates on tasks and where the volunteers will be working each week, please register for our volunteer email list here.

Give your tree a pint of cider.

This year, every garden- or Christmas program seemed to mention ‘wassailing’… Not knowing much about the customs around it, I decided to have a browse. This article is a compilation of some of the information I found. Full articles here: How to wassail correctly. and here: CultureUK_Wassailing

What Is Wassailing?

Wassailing has been associated with both Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. It was an ancient ceremony that involved singing and drinking to the health of trees. It was also a way of passing on good wishes among family and friends.

Wassailing was originally a pagan practice: ensuring the fertility of fruit trees by offering them mulled cider, and hanging pieces of the toast in the branches. The celebrations vary from region to region, but generally involve a wassail King and Queen leading the assembled group of revellers, comprising the farmers, farm workers and general villagers, in a noisy procession from one orchard to the next. In each orchard the wassailers gather round the biggest and best tree, and as a gift to the tree spirits, the Queen places a piece of wassail soaked toast into its branches, accompanied by songs such as;

“Apple tree, apple tree we all come to wassail thee,
Bear this year and next year to bloom and blow,
Hat fulls, cap fulls, three cornered sacks fills…”

The wassailers then move on to the next orchard; singing, shouting, banging pots and pans, and even firing shotguns, generally making as much noise as possible in order to both waken the sleeping tree spirits, and also to frighten off any evil demons that may be lurking in the branches.

‘Wassail’, from Old Norse Ves heill, is a toast: ‘your health’, to which the answer is ‘drinc hael’: ‘I drink to your health.’ A toast is a piece of toasted bread put into a drink as a sop which you could eat but might also act as a filter for the solid matter in the bottom of the cup/glass/goblet. If you toast someone, you raise your cup/glass/goblet with the toast in it to him/her and say ‘Wassail!’

We would like to raise a glass and wish you all a Happy New Year

WASSAIL

and lots of happy hours in the orchards.

Here’s a toast to seeing everyone in person again soon.

Dates for the diary:

Working Saturday January: 15th of January (moved from the 8th)

Working Saturday February: 12th of February

You are all invited…

It’s a quiet time in the orchards, so let’s have a……

XMAS get together!

Saturday 11th December

from 19:30

17 Cambridge Road

Hanwell W7 3PA

Feel free to bring something for the sharing table.

Hope to see you all

Annual General Meeting

H_NGOrchardTrailLogo.jpg

AGM

INVITATION & FORMAL NOTICE

Notice is hereby given of the Annual General Meeting of the Hanwell & Norwood Green Orchard Trail, which will be held on 

Wednesday 3th November, 2021

 72, St Margaret’s Road, Hanwell W7 2HF.

Start-time 19:30

All members of the Hanwell & Norwood Green Orchard Trail are entitled to attend and vote at the AGM. Please email hanwellorchard@gmail.com to confirm your attendance. There is no charge for attendance at the AGM.

By order of the Management Committee
Mirjam van Bentum
(Chair)

Hanwell & Norwood Green Orchard Trail
2021

The end of Summer

Although our weekly, tree tending evenings had to stop because of fading light, our work is nowhere finished (is it ever?). Luckily for you, we’ve got some interesting events lined up for the coming months and we hope to see many of our members attending one or even more.

Apple day at Horsenden Farm

This Appleday -Saturday the 25th-, we’ll be at one of the stalls to tell you all about the plans for a new community orchard at Horsenden Farm. Orchards are a priority habitat for biodiversity, providing food and shelter for a wealth of wildlife. Working in an orchard reduces stress and anxiety. We are available this Saturday to answer all your questions on all things orchard, our orchard trail and the benefits for nature and people.

Saturday Orchard working days

The second Saturday of every month (except December) is ‘working Saturday’. Usually, we take on a task that needs more hands and time than our evening sessions. If you want to know where we are working, please register here Volunteer Email and you will receive an email with all the information, closer to the date. The planned activities will sometimes change last minute because of weather or other unforeseen circumstances and our volunteers email is the best way to stay in the loop. The planned dates are the following;

  • Saturday 9th October (Blackberry Corner),
  • Saturday 13th November (renewing labels, recce of trees and pruning needed)
  • Saturday 8th January 2022 (Pruning / Mulching)
  • Saturday 12th February 2022 (Pruning / Mulching)
  • Saturday 12th March (to be announced)

Annual General Meeting 2021

It’s nearly that time of the year again, the time for our genuinely important and not quite so terribly serious AGM

 Wednesday 3th November, 2021

 at 72, St Margaret’s Road, Hanwell W7 2HF.

Start-time 19:30

I am happy to announce that this is our fifth AGM. None of the founding members expected the project to fail quickly, but I suppose we all share some pride in the fact that we made it so far, and the project still is very much alive and ticking after 7 years.

All members of the Hanwell & Norwood Green Orchard Trail are entitled to attend and vote at the AGM. Come along and cast your vote, share some nibbles, thoughts and suggestions, catch up with the latest plans, craziest ideas and help us continue to function as an organisation. (Please email hanwellorchard@gmail.com to confirm your attendance. There is no charge for attendance at the AGM.)

Annual Summer Picnic

Please come and join us for our

Annual Summer Picnic at Jubilee Meadow (by the sheep)

28th August 2021 from 13:00 -16:00

Jubilee Meadow (by the sheep)

Bring you own food and drink to the sharing table, bring your own children and friends. Bring your own smile, a kite, a blanket or camping chair.

Please be mindful of plastic waste and food waste though: bring only as much as your own company would consume, avoiding plastic where possible. Please be prepared to take back leftovers. Please bring your own glass or cup so that we can avoid plastic cups – or drink straight from the bottle 😉

Out with the old, in with the new.

New sheep in the meadows.

‘Time flies when you’re having fun’ is one of our favourite sayings. It’s just so true…. Loads of fun we had the last couple of weeks. Fun with weeds growing above our heads -we’re not complaining-. Fun with overflowing ponds and (a little less) fun with tidying up some badly damaged trees.

But most fun we had with our side-project, financed by The Freshwater foundation; the replacement of the sheep in the meadows. The sheep are made by Mick Burns, who is also the creator of the old sheep . The bodies of the sheep are sculpted from rot resistant, Monterey Cypress wood and their legs are solid oak. With help of our amazing Ealing Rangers Jon and James, we managed to replace the rather tired pair with some lovely new sheep. (And there’s even a little addition to the group.)

Pictures: Dagmar Gauweiler / James Morton

Mistletoe in May

Last week some of us took part in a small side project. We helped Ealing rangers spreading Mistletoe berries, to support Ealing’s biodiversity action plan. We have also started our tree tending evenings to keep up with the -now very fast growing- weeds and grasses.

Mistletoe (Viscum album) is a very scarce plant in Ealing and a priority species under the borough’s biodiversity action plan. It has a hemiparasitic life cycle, growing on trees from which it extracts water. In nature the seeds are spread by birds, notably Mistle Thrush. Last week we gave Ealing park rangers and nature a helping hand by spreading Mistletoe seed onto apple trees, a favoured host species.

The seeds are surrounded by a thick mucilaginous slime that literally glues them to the bark. In time we hope they will germinate and grow into mature plants which can then seed and spread naturally. We don’t know exactly why Mistletoe was almost lost to Ealing, but we aim to work to bring about the return of unique and remarkable species.

If the seeds germinate and grow into new plants, we will record them on this map (Mistletoe in Ealing)

In addition to the Mistletoe project we have started to document the old fruit trees in the area covered by our trail. Map (Veteran fruit trees in Ealing) Some of the old trees are already looked after by us. We take away dead and damaged wood and protect them against rabbit damage if we can.

Not all old trees are easily accessible, but some are part of our existing orchards and you can take some fruit from them if you wish. In the coming months we will add information about the old trees to the map, e.g. if the fruit is for cooking or can be eaten raw (dessert).

And last but not least……

We are very happy to have welcomed new volunteers in the last couple of weeks. If you want to help us keeping our orchards healthy, you’re welcome to join us anytime. Please register as a volunteer to get regular updates of when and where we work.

New additions to the trail…

The last couple of weeks have been busy for us as volunteers. We transformed a small piece of land along the canal into an orchard. Planted lots of whips and made a start with the planting of native black poplars.

Bernd’s Orchard

Along the canal, on the East-side of St Margaret’s field, we created a new, small orchard. With the help of one of the Ealing park rangers, we planted 5 trees -one Mulberry and 4 varieties of apple-. This orchard is very special to us, as we planted it to commemorate one of our founding members; Bernd Gauweiler.

Whips

For the last two years, we have been able to apply for free whips from The conservation volunteers . The whips received are a variety of native, fruit bearing, hedge whips, like dog-rose (rosa canina), blackthorn (prunus Spinoza) and hawthorn (crataegus) . This year we used most of the whips to fill up gaps in existing hedges in St. Margaret’s, The Piggeries and in Blackberry Corner.

Black poplar and buckthorn whips.

Special mention is deserved for a couple of other whips we planted along the orchard trail. First special mention is for the 4 black-poplars we planted. This tree is native to north-west Europe and a declining species in the UK. According to the Forestry Commission, black poplar is the most endangered native timber tree in Britain. It is the food plant for the caterpillars of many moths, including the hornet, wood leopard, poplar hawk and figure of eight. The catkins provide an early source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, and the seeds are eaten by birds. ‘Our’ whips have been propagated from cuttings from a poplar on Horsenden Hill. One of our volunteers has kindly cared for them for a year and a half. We will plant some more later in the year.

Second special mention is for some buckthorn whips that were gifted to us. Purging buckthorn is the main food plant of the brimstone butterfly, whose caterpillars eat the leaves. Its flowers provide a source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, while its dense growth makes it a valuable nesting site for birds. By adding these plants to our orchards we are hoping to give the brimstones, that are visiting from the Chilterns, a place to stay and breed.

Long time, no see.

After a long, cold winter we’re happy to be back with a Spring update on all things orchard.

We hope everyone is well and that you’ve been enjoying the orchard trail on your daily walks. (If you have not yet walked our trail, please download our walk brochure here.)

Our group activities have been very limited for the last couple of months, but that doesn’t mean we have been twiddling our thumbs. During winter our volunteers have been busy pruning the trees. Most of the trees are looking good and we can’t wait to see the first flower-buds arrive. A lot of time has gone into planning activities for the coming season and we are happy to announce that we’ve got some nice events ahead of us.

This Saturday we will be adding some shrubs to the fruit bearing hedges in three of our orchards. Unfortunately, due to current restrictions, this is a non-public event. Pictures will follow.

Next on our list is a remembrance orchard for Bernd Gauweiler. In collaboration with Ealing Park Rangers, we have found a space where we can plant all of Bernd’s favourite trees.

Again the planting day will be a non-public event, but hopefully we can officially open the new orchard in Summer, with more people present.

Remember the sheep (or what is left of them) in the Hanwell meadows? We took pity on them and, although not typical orchard work, decided to ‘do something’ about the sorry state they are in. We are happy to announce that we managed to secure a grant from freshwaterfoundation to replace the sheep with new chainsaw sculptures. Due to Covid restrictions and the very wet fields replacement might take a little longer than anyone likes, but we promise that some new inhabitants for the meadows will be coming this year.