Dangerous Liaisons

It’s the ripening season!

Blackberries are still going strong, plums are juicy and sweet as we speak, apples and pears are ripening with early varieties ready in a week or two. But not just fruit is ripening…

We had a rare opportunity to observe adult Oak Processionary Moth emerging from the nests. While the moth itself is not dangerous to humans, it will of course lay eggs and start the next cycle.

Watch the spectacle if you like, but watch from a safely distant and upwind location. Please take care not to touch affected trees and do not disturb the nests.

The area and the air around the nest continues to be full of the caterpillar hairs. The hairs can trigger a mighty itch or a mild rash lasting days, and can even trigger severe asthma attacks in some individuals.

Orchard In Isolation

With huge regret and for the now well-known reasons, this is to confirm that all volunteer activities and gatherings with Hanwell and Norwood Green Orchard Trail are cancelled until further notice. Maintaining proper hygiene, distancing and other precautions is generally impossible while “out and about,” and we would violate the “no gatherings” rule.

We are happy to help coordinate individuals or people from the same household who wish to perform their daily exercise in orchard maintenance. For example, you could exercise with our popular self-guided walk and get in touch if you discover any issues that might need addressing. You could also seek a more vigorous exercise as we still hope to deal with bramble, nettle and hemlock growth and other essential orchard maintenance tasks over the coming weeks.

Get in touch through our volunteer email system if you are able and interested to help, but remember that you must observe official COVID-19 guidance and rules at all times. Most of all, you must stay safe and healthy!

We also recommend that you check out Ealing’s volunteer coordinating site if you are looking for more opportunities to help locally at https://ealingtogether.org/.

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 🙂

An Inspiring Day Out

DSC_0289It isn’t a publicly accessible community orchard, but the house, extensive gardens and, most of all, the walled garden of Hughenden Manor are an inspiration to orchard and garden lovers alike, and make for a great day within easy reach from West London (at least if you have a motorised vehicle).

Hughenden Manor, a National Trust Property, is just outside of High Wycombe along the M40 corridor. The former country home of Victorian statesman Benjamin Disraeli is in the middle of Red Kite country with an interesting house and extensive gardens, park and woodlands. There’s a picnic orchard with apples and pears, a lumberjack’s playground which would please certain park rangers local to us, and a walled garden with herbs, vegetables, greens and more apples, pears, figs, mulberries, apricots, cherries, gooseberries, blackcurrants and redcurrants, and just about everything else, very nicely maintained by a group of volunteers in collaboration with the National Trust.


Oak Processionary

DSC_0261Oak Processionary is a moth whose caterpillars are often found in oak trees (also in some other species), and unfortunately several trees around Ealing, including the Hanwell Meadows and surroundings, are affected.

The caterpillars have poisonous hairs which can cause severe allergic reaction and trigger asthma attacks. Because the hairs can become airborne, you should stay well clear of any infected trees, especially in a downwind direction. Read more about Oak Processionary moth (OPM) on Wikipedia.

Please take care not to touch affected trees and do not disturb the nests.

Ealing Council has issued a renewed warning. See their June 2015 article for more details, identification help and health advise. Sightings can be reported via the Forestry Commission’s website at www.forestry.gov.uk/opm, by email to opm@forestry.gsi.gov.uk or call the Forestry Commission on 0300 067 4442.

Wilderness Warning

Poison Hemlock (Conium Maculatum)Please stay on the beaten path when visiting the Hanwell Meadows or similar open spaces.

However, if you must enter the tick growth right and left of the path, please be aware that a myriad of insects including ticks and midgets will be waiting for you, supported by brambles, thistles and a particularly vicious breed of nettles, growing on generally uneven ground dotted with hidden rabbit holes to challenge every part of you.

You can face these challenges at small risk of pain and blood, but here’s one you should definitely not try out:

Poison Hemlock (Conium Maculatum) [Wikipedia]

We have quite a lot of it in the meadows, currently growing as tall as a grown person. It is very poisonous and even small amounts of leaf, root, stem or sap can kill an adult person. So, do not touch it, or if you do, wash and don’t bring your hands or other areas which were in contact with the plat near your mouth, eyes, nose.

Do not panic though. The plants do not actively attack visitors and the Wild West of London is still a fairly safe place to be out and about, but we feel that you should know about this particular danger.

Did I mention that it is best to stay on the beaten path?

Staying on the path is your safest option and your highest chance for an enjoyable walk over the meadows, and also allows all the wildflowers and wildlife to flourish. Most of it is rather nice and best looked at rather than trampled upon.