Today is a good day for a brief update on the Piggeries Orchard. As many of you know, we hit unexpected problems caused by an exceedingly high water table and unexpected water flow through the site, but we are happy to report continued progress and plans for the next steps:
The site has been cleared of brambles, many rocks and heaps of rubbish. The pond has been dug, fencing along the towpath and the path through the site is installed. This is already very popular with walkers and dogs!
Some of the rubble has been used to construct a newt habitat by the pond, and we are waiting to see small amphibians move in. Bird boxes for blue tits and robins have been installed in the trees surrounding the site. A composting area has been constructed (and will disappear from view as the hedges surrounding it grow).
100 metres of edible and prickly hedging plants have been planted along the fence and the back wall, and many already show signs of growth. We recently added a dozen of summer and autumn-fruiting raspberries along the fence by the canal, and a number of gooseberry and black currant bushes for everyone to come along and sample some of that soft fruit deliciousness.
We will seed the meadow and pond borders later in March or April to give a boost to grass and meadow flowers. Many dozens of bulbs of native bluebells and daffodils have been planted around Christmas, and some are beginning to emerge already.
We are short of a fruit tree orchard at this time, however. Thames Water has recently fixed water mains leaks in Studley Grange Road and St Dunstan’s Road, with the almost immediate effect that the water flow through the Piggeries is now back to meet expectations. There is planned water flow due to a slow-releasing surface water storage tank, which we expect to reduce further during the dry months and with continued improvements to surface water drainage from the nearby streets. This will turn the pond into what we originally planned: a seasonal water feature.
For now, we monitor the ground water levels. We missed the 2017 fruit tree planting season on purpose and hope to be able to plant fruit trees in 2018. We are already making designs for plan B to ensure that the Piggeries Orchard will live up to expectations.
Throughout this year, we’ll keep the site pristine, watch the water levels, monitor fauna and flora on site. We will have several activity days to dig out brambles, fight giant hogweed and nettles, and similar activities.
This is your chance to come join the fun. Watch this space for announcements!
(See what I mean? Nothing happens at the Piggeries but here I am, enumerating the improvements already done in an article longer than my arm.)