Time To Celebrate

piggeries-openingIt’s time to celebrate the Piggeries Orchard official opening!

Please come join our opening party and casual bring-your-own spring picnic

Saturday June 2nd from 12:00

The Piggeries Orchard (map)

Dignitaries have been invited, fine weather has been requested, the speech is prepared. All that is missing is you!

Bring a friend, bring a smile, bring yourself. Bring some food or drink to the sharing table if you like, but please bring no more than your party would consume and be prepared to take packaging and leftovers back so that we can keep waste to a minimum.

The Piggeries Orchard is wheelchair accessible from Studley Grange Road.

Please be aware of the proximity to the Grand Union Canal when you bring young children, dogs or ducks.




It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

DSCN2324Songs have been sung about the fact that it’s the most wonderful time of the year. The song does not refer to spring when life returns in abundance, or summer when living is easy, or autumn when we harvest much of the year’s produce. It is of course about Christmas but for me, right now most certainly is one of the most wonderful times of the year.

Many trees are still in flower and the meadows are a sea of green, waving in the breeze and dotted with yellow, white, blue and purple flowers. Life emerges in abundance and with vigour wherever you look. There’s almost no holding back on the nettles or bramble, Giant Hogweed or indeed on apples, cherries, pears, plums or quinces, or anything else.

Why not explore the orchard trail this weekend?

Alone and in peaceful silence, with friends, with dogs, with kids. We have tried all these variants and everyone came out thumbs up and with a smile, every time.

You can view or download our brochure here for guidance.

You will also notice that the spring meadow cutting is under way across the orchard trail, an important and invigorating step in managing a meadow’s annual life cycle. Volunteers are always welcome!  We offer perfect opportunities to work up a sweat, to get stung, to get a suntan, to do something good, to be part of it. And we are very nice people (according to us). Why not join our ranks, once, or twice, or sometimes, or regularly?

Not Funny

not-a-deerThis is not funny. Not funny at all.

In my weekly desperate search for this week’s article, I turned to orchard jokes. A desperate move, I know. I sampled a few of the suggested sites and read a number of jokes. Not a muscle twitched, no grin emerged, but quite a few eyes started rolling. I gave myself a meal and a drink, then read some more. Still nothing.

No matter where my personal humour levels rank between 0 and 100 from your standpoint of view, surely there has to be one truly funny orchard joke that needs to be remembered for all times?

I look forward to reading your offerings. The comments on this post are open for 14 days after publication.

Something For Your Diary


We’ve got a number of activities coming up and hope to see you at all of them. OK, perhaps some. Or at least one…? No matter how much or how little you can or want to help, no matter how much or how little experience you bring, we’ll take it!

Saturday 12-May-2018 from 10:00

Mulching at The Piggeries orchard. Please note the early start due to the Hanwell Hootie starting in the afternoon so that you can do both!

Saturday 2-June-2018 from 12:00

Casual bring-your-own spring picnic in The Piggeries orchard. No kite flying this time but the grand opening ceremony and official completion of the project shall not be missed.

Saturday 9-June-2018 from 11:00

Mulching, starting with Blackberry Corner in the Hanwell Meadows, then onward the orchard trail until we run out of energy, fine weather or wood chippings.

Saturday 14-July-2018 from 11:00

Wood chipping at The Piggeries orchard with the rangers and their big wood chipper for self-sustained local mulching.

… And of course there is

Tree Tending Tuesday, Every Tuesday from 19:00

Your weekly chance to get involved with light activity and a lively discussion over refreshments. Location varies to meet demand; please see our schedule, join our volunteer email system or follow our Twitter for up-to-date announcements.

We recorded 167 volunteer person hours this year already. Will we reach a thousand? With your help we might.

Some Degree!

DSCN3180_kindlephoto-159357232Many of you will have stood upon the 0° longitude line, our very own Meridian in Greenwich. Quite a few will have crossed the 0° latitude line, the equator. Some will have heard of the 47th parallel, famous for defining part of the border between the USA and Canada.

Many have drawn a right angle and some view everything under a different angle.

But do you know the magic of the 137.5° angle?

A 137.5° angle is known as the golden angle, because it occurs when cutting a circle into two pieces under the golden ratio: 360° – 360° / φ ≈ 137.5°, where the golden ration φ ≈ 1.61803, or (1 + sqrt(5))/2 precisely.

Many plants grow according to the golden angle, for example by growing a new leaf rotated around the stem from the previous leaf by 137.5°. The effect is that the leaves grow with minimum overlap, therefore maximising sun exposure on every leaf. Not just little overlap but the minimum overlap mathematically possible. Isn’t that clever?

I don’t think our fruit trees show much appreciation for the golden angle, but one might still find other more mathematically-minded plants out there. I am inclined to give the nettles a closer look, or the Giant Hogweed and its relatives, also the horsetail’s thin leaves, raspberries and blackberries, or the dandelion and hop flower maybe?

Get It While You Can

DSCN3958We were out and about in the Piggeries Orchard this week, with the usual agenda of looking after things in general and looking after re-emerging bramble, enthusiastically growing bindweed and the new horsetail growth in particular. All in all we collected two wheelbarrows of the unwanted flora.

Most importantly though, we learned what to do, and what not to do, with the Giant Hogweed that grows in the back right corner.

Giant Hogweed, or Heracleum mantegazzianum, is an invasive plant. The phototoxic sap causes severe skin burns in contact with sunlight, sometimes with lasting scars. Burns can occur several days after contact with the sap and are quite unpleasant at best and horrific at worst. Wikipedia has more details about the plant and the skin reactions, which are called phytophotodermatitis.

The bottomline for us is fairly straight-forward:

  • Remove the plants as early as possible using a spade, taking as much root with you as possible. The plants die easily and compost.
  • Never touch the sap, a broken leaf stem or root. Use gloves and touch only the leaf itself. Don’t lick your gloves.
  • Don’t hack at the plants, shred them, or use a power strimmer of any sort as these can spread sap uncontrollably.
  • When in contact with sap, rinse, stay out of sunlight and seek medical advise.

It all sounds more dangerous than it is if handled with care, but the danger is not to be taken lightly and a good dose of careful responsible handling is prudent.

Similar risk and precautions apply to related “friends”, the Common Hogweed and Hemlock, also common in the Grand Union Canal corridor.

I don’t actually know the statistical risk profile but I would feel confident to say that you are more likely to stumble across a rabbit hole and break an ankle than suffer from severe phytophotodermatitis caused by accidental contact. But still, when you’re out there chasing the bramble invasion or chasing after your dog, whether you are taking a sunbatch in the meadows or flying a kite with your children – just be careful, OK?

No Orchard Love

daffToday is Orchard Love Saturday, our monthly activity Saturday. While we are all full to the brim with orchard love, there will be no public display of our passion today. Our activity Saturday for today April 14th has been cancelled.

Please do not meet us at 11 o’clock.

We cancelled today’s activity due to lack of necessity, but avoiding entry into a major mud bath also appeals, as we find much of the terrain to be very boggy right now.

We made a first round cutting Hemlock and vegetation surrounding the fruit trees across Elthorne Triangles and Terraces, Osterley Lock and the Hanwell Meadows already, and plan to do the same in The Piggeries Orchard and St Margaret’s Orchard over the two coming Tuesday evening activities.

In other words, we are on top of things, ready to watch trees and fruit to grow.

There will be no shortage of future opportunities to become involved, to express your love for publicly accessible community orchards and share our dislike of bramble roots, littering or vandalism. Join us every Tuesday evening and every second Saturday of each month, just not today.

No Appointment Necessary

DSCN3941We anticipated vandalism in certain areas and got very little, but suffer a series of minor and sometimes larger damage in unexpected areas. The beautiful terraced slopes between Elthorne Park and the Grand Union Canal, which we call Elthorne Terraces, seem to be the hotspot.

Trees are snapped off, branches are torn. Fires are lit, sometimes with the least appropriate fuel of green wood, and of course there’s a range of litter from drink cans and bottles to shoes and garments. Most baffling and frustrating is the repeated theft of rabbit guards. Rabbit guards. Really. I am serious. The prompt return of the little critters and subsequent damage from rabbit bites is guaranteed. Some of the bites marks look more like penknife practise to me, but whether the damage is done directly or by proxy makes no difference to me.

I cannot summarise my exact thoughts and feelings in language suitable for a public web site posting, but I am happy to dispense explicit lectures upon request. No appointment necessary; you’ll find us every Tuesday evening tidying up after you along the orchard trail.



Climate Change


First I want it cold, now I want it warm. You’d think I am in a hormonal transition! But truly, we need climate change, and we need it now.

We got through the winter all right, even though the Beast From The East threatens with a chill over the Easter weekend.

Our next challenge is pollination.

Trees are very sensitive to cold weather at flowering time and a night of frost can wipe out a large proportion of the crop. Even without frost, damp and outright wet conditions prevent many pollinators from flying: While bees can fly in the rain for limited distances, they like cold rain about as much as you or I. And there is the temperature to consider:

Pollen germination requires at least ~5 C, and the all-important pollen tube grows very slowly below 10 C. When it grows too slowly, the pollen deteriorates before fertilisation occurs.

So, we need 10 C at least, and reasonably dry conditions for the pollinators to fly and do their job. Honey bees fly from ~16 or 18 C, bumble bees and solitary bees begin 5 degrees earlier.

In other words: we need climate change.

We need a warm spring with just the right amount of rain, followed by those sunny long summer days and balmy evenings before a glorious golden autumn awaits us, full of sunshine and full of fruit which somehow managed to grow and ripen against all these odds and challenges.

Having said all that:

Happy Easter!

Join us after the Easter celebrations for our first Tree Tending Tuesday of the year!

We’ll meet Tuesday April 3rd, 18:30 o’clock at Elthorne Triangles by the Trumpers Way Scout Hut. No tools or experience necessary!

Tree Tending Tuesdays

tttTrust me. There is no better excuse for getting away from work on time, for catching a breath of fresh air, for getting involved, for doing something useful for the good of all, and for having a lively discussion (and a drink) than our Tree Tending Tuesdays!

Tree Tending Tuesdays are back after Easter, starting

Tuesday 3-April, 18:30

(We will start at 19:00 as soon as we can find our way back to the Fox without torchlight.)

Everyone is most welcome to come and join us in these weekly activities. We prune, pick litter, fix rabbit guards, replace tree labels – oh yes, and we cut a bramble and nettles, later in the growing season. A lot of brambles and nettles. No experience is necessary, all abilities welcome (if you can navigate the terrain), and all training given.

See our volunteer schedule for the location (which is normally finalised at least 24 hours beforehand), and join our volunteer email list for updates straight into your email inbox, into your smart phone, your pants pocket or handbag!