Acrobats’ Advice

img_20160710_184605Early apple varieties are now beginning to ripen and the pears aren’t far behind, just looking for a little more time and sunshine.

While trees planted with our orchard trail do not yet bear a lot of fruit this year, more mature trees in the area carry a substantial amount of the delicious and versatile fruit. Good news for foragers on two or more legs!

It is however sad to see that some human foragers apply unnecessary force and rather shortsightedly use destructive methods when picking fruit. Some branches are torn and twisted, broken off and some trees left damaged and vulnerable to infections. Apart from lasting damage to trees, we also witnessed an eager forager falling from a tree. The young man got away without apparent lasting damage, but we were sure this was a close call.

The rule for picking fruit is quite simple: if it doesn’t want to come off very easily with a small twist or light pull, then it does not yet want to come off and is not yet ready for picking. There should never be a need for force, but you might want to bring a pole, a walking stick or a telescopic fruit picker to extend your arm’s reach without dangerous acrobatics.

Please use care and consideration for private land, nature, the law, other foragers and the very tree you are harvesting when foraging so that everyone can enjoy these resources in years to come. Oh, and take good care of yourself 🙂

Vandalism News

summersun-vandalisedThe vandals have been busy doing their mindless destruction once again. This time we mourn the loss of a Summersun Cherry, tree #55 on Elthorne Terrace, and the nearby Orleanne’s Reinette Apple, tree #60.

The Reinette was a poor thing to begin with, but did show good spirits and a strong will to live. The cherry was doing wonderfully well and could have delighted many in years to come, but has now been torn and broken.

We all share a sense of sadness and frustration in the face of these mindless acts.

Blackberry Season

blackberry-jam-and-ginYou will have noticed what an excellent Blackberry year we have, with an abundance of lush, soft, sweet and surprisingly large fruit. Many of us have been busy making jam, juice and flavoured gin over the past weeks.

Here are some Blackberry Muffins, the perfect way to start a Sunday. This takes 10 minutes to prepare and 15 to bake, so it is easy to make in time for breakfast:

100 g white wheat flour, 80 g soft butter, 75 g sugar, 80 ml whole milk at room temperature. One free range egg yolk, seeds from half a vanilla pod or half a teaspoon of vanilla essence, and one generous teaspoon of baking powder.

Put butter and sugar into a bowl, using the hand mixer on low gear to mix thoroughly. Add egg, vanilla, milk and baking soda, then gradually add the flour into the mix. Mix until smooth. You’ll find the mix will be fairly runny, maybe like a thick yogurt. Perfect!

Gently fold in one or two handful of Blackberries or Raspberries. Fill muffin cups to approximately two thirds. We prefer non-sticking silicone or paper cups, but you can of course get the old muffin tray out for the occasion.

Bake at 180 C (350 F) for 10..15 minutes. Use a wooden stick or visual judgement to determine when they are ready.

You’ll find that the Blackberries are very easy pickings along the canal towpath or in the Hanwell Meadows. The plants do a good job at defending themselves and growing back, but please be mindful and avoid damage to plants and surroundings when foraging.

Statistically Speaking

DSC_0611Statistically speaking, the average orchardist is a poor keeper of statistics. We plan on improving our habits, but I am sure someone can tell me how long this resolve typically lasts, statistically speaking.

In the absence of hard numbers, I estimated the time spent working in and around the orchard trail to be approximately 300 volunteer hours in 2017 so far. And we are only half way into the year!

My estimation is based on past dates in the diary, recollection and website articles about some events, group photos taken at the larger events. It does not include the social hours at a certain inn, our popular meadow picnics, training classes, ward forum meetings or committee meetings.

We’ll be turning three in October, and I reckon we might be looking back at something between 1500 and 2000 person hours spend clearing, cleaning, watering, pruning and rubbish collecting over that time. A big, big, thank you!

Here are some pictures of people at work in the orchards to bring back memories and inspire new volunteers.

 

The City is Ours

IMG-20170719-WA0003There’s more to life than weed bashing and tree watering, you know? To proof the point, we sent a delegation to party at the Museum of London, celebrating their City Now City Future season and their The City is Ours exhibition.

We are pleased to be part of the season, exhibition and the party. A digital display showcasing 25 initiatives to “fix the city” includes our project, and our very own Mirjam van Bentum will present the orchard trail on 31-August-2017, 13:00-14:00, at the Museum.

Visitors will be able to pick up copies of our self-guided orchard trail walk brochures at the museum. You’re of course welcome to find out who we are for yourself, right in the heart of Hanwell’s area of outstanding beauty. Come join us and help fix the city!

 

 

Volunteers ‘R’ Us

DSC_0404Volunteering at the Hanwell and Norwood Green Orchard Trail just became so much easier!

Check out the new Volunteer page from the menu on top of this page. You can view planned work and status of all sites, and you can join the active volunteers with our dedicated volunteer email list.

We hope this will help to keep volunteers better informed, and keep more volunteers informed. We also hope that it helps keeping us better informed: as you spot a problem or another noteworthy status update, or as you finished some guerrilla weeding perhaps, let us know through the volunteer email list so that we can update our records.

With all that technology in place, don’t you think it time to leave it all behind (after having checked the volunteer schedule page for last-minute changes) and come join us over by the canal?

We sincerely hope to see you soon.

Fruit Tree Care

fruit-care-course-billet-hartsThe Billets Hart Allotments Association kindly extends their invitation for a talk and demonstration about fruit tree care to members of the Hanwell and Norwood Green Orchard Trail.

Talk and discussion will be lead by renowned RHS Fruit Group Chair and Advisor Gerry Edwards, Wednesday 12th July 2017, 19:00 at the Communal Plot within the Billets Hart Allotments, Green Lane, Hanwell.

A donation of £4 for every non plot holder is suggested, fruit based snacks and drinks are welcome at the sharing table. Fruity, fruity!

Fruit Tree Care in Desperate Times

IMG_20170506_112350012_HDRWe liked this article about KEEPING URBAN TREES HEALTHY DURING DRY TIMES. It states that the

mortality of urban landscape trees frequently reaches 30% in the first year after planting, sometimes rising to 70%, with both lack of water and sub-optimal soils usually to blame.

Lack of water? Check!

Sub-optimal soil? Check!

Mulching? Check!

Our fruit tree mortality rate is approximately 1%. Yes, one percent. An additional two or three percent thanks to vandals. Not even the rabbits accomplished that much even though we all know full well that they were trying!

We must be doing something right, and we are a tiny little bit pleased about that.

We’ll be mulching today at Osterley Lock Orchard.  Why not come over to join the fun and help keep that mortality rate down? You’ll find us right here from 11:00 today.

Bring wheelbarrows or digging forks for mulching if you can, buckets for watering or scythes, slashers, gloves and secateurs for weed control. Or just bring yourself! No experience necessary; full training given right there and then in under one minute.

Did I just hear another record being broken?

Orchard Trail Walk

frontHave you seen our brand new

Self-guided Orchard Trail Walk  

yet?

We are often asked about the orchard trail. Brilliant, folks would tell us, we love the idea, but where is it? Can I walk along it?

You always could, but you can now follow the trail with our new the orchard trail brochure! The brochure breaks the walk down into four easy segments, and guides you through a series of different habitats and hidden nature treasures in Hanwell, Norwood Green and Southall.

You can download the brochure for free from here. We will distribute paper copies in the local libraries and similar locations soon, watch out for those, too!

We hope to see you along the trail soon.

You are of course very welcome to help with the maintenance tasks along the trail, too. We meet every Tuesday evening and every first Saturday in a month, at times and in locations published in the side bar on this website. Anyone is welcome to come along. No fees, no pressure, no experience necessary. Give as much time or as little time as you can, and you’ll be rewarded with the warm feeling of having done something good.

We’ll be a-working today, Saturday 3-June-2017, from 11:00 in Blackberry Corner (later also at Osterley Lock). Join us and earn your free paper copy of this fabulous brochure!

 

Community Payback

IMG_20170506_112458197_HDRThank you, Community Payback! 

Arranged with the London Community Rehabilitation Company, 8 rehabilitating offenders came to lend us a hand in moving woodchip from St Margaret’s Open Space to the Piggeries Orchard. This was then used for mulching approximately 100 metres of hedging along the back wall and the towpath. Mulching helps retains moisture, slows weed growth and improves the soil by composting in place. On a second occasion, a group of eight finished the mulching at the Piggeries and applied woodchip to the hedge surrounding the St Margaret’s Open Space Orchard.

We certainly promote compliance with the law at all times, but we really do appreciate the help we received last week! The troupe enthusiastically moved approximately 70 wheelbarrow loads of woodchip and certainly earned our heartfelt thanks for a job well done.

We hope for more help from Community Payback with tasks like mulching, help with weed control or rubble removal. A true paying back to the community and taken some burden off our volunteers and park rangers for the benefit of everybody.

(Photo shows woodchip mulching applied elsewhere along the orchard trail to protect the privacy of our community payback helpers.)