_mg_8883I enjoyed our little conversation about local place names in the history department a few weeks ago. The question of St Margaret produced a detailed response while Billets Hart remains a challenge for some while.

So how about Elthorne?

Is it the old common name for prunus spinosa, now commonly known as Blackthorn? Is it in reference to John Elthorne the Elder, local parish priest 1683 – 1692, or the old measure for the amount of clay needed to make one dozen stone bricks?

Fictionary Dictionary is great fun, but no.

Elthorne is a subdivision of the historic county of Middlesex. The Elthorne Hundred roughly corresponds to today’s Borough of Hillingdon and the western half of London Borough of Ealing. That’s quite a stretch of land for a hundred. A hundred?

I also learned that a hundred is an old administrative subdivision of a region, with an “exceedingly obscure” etymology according to the Oxford English Dictionary.

I like the exceedingly obscure.



We’re Thriving!

london-in-bloom-2018-lowresOur multi-award winning orchard trail has done it again: London in Bloom awarded us level 4 of 5, thriving for the Piggeries Orchard!

We are collecting the awards like, like, … like lots, and we like them lots. Like, it’s really nice to get that recognition, so thank you to London in Bloom, thank you to all the volunteers to help, and of course our huge thank you to the park rangers who support us all the way with guidance, hands-on help and inspiration.

We’re thriving on it.

Scything Course

IMG_20180915_161821For those who took part, as a memory. For those who didn’t, as a reminder on what they missed: here are some photos and a timelapse video from last week’s scything course.

10 participants enjoyed relaxed expert tuition under scything instructor Clive Leeke. Once background knowledge was established and everyone was fitted with tools, we moved on to  cut approximately half an acre of mixed-vegetation meadow in St Margaret’s Open Space.

Even Ealing Council officials were impressed!

Our thanks to the Fox for use of their premises for the opening and closing parts, and our thanks to Ealing Council and contractors for their support in this effort.



IMG_20180904_190059Just in case you didn’t know: Nature is amazing!

Its been one month to the day when a small grass fire burnt some of Blackberry Corner in the Hanwell Meadows.

First came the fire. Next came the local volunteers with water buckets, followed by the fire brigade, followed by more bucket-carrying volunteers.

Next came flocks of pigeons, which were enjoying seeds or insects among the burnt grass.

Look at it now. It’s been only four weeks and you can barely see where it was! The meadow is already lush with regrown grass again, only those parts with poor soil still expose some of the burnt surface. One of the burnt trees shows signs of life. Truly amazing.


Hot Stuff


This week brought fire to the Hanwell Meadows, only a day before the rain came that would have prevented it naturally.

It was amazing to see so many people fighting the fire before the fire brigade arrived, including local residents and a couple of the young men who have been socialising nearby.

Thankfully most of the grass in the affected area had recently been cut, so the damage could be limited to a relatively small area and small damage to some trees. Because of the quick response by many people and the fire brigade, no more harm was done.

Our sincere thanks to everyone who helped preventing further damage!

Why don’t you come join us today, Saturday August 11th, in Blackberry Corner from 11:00?

We’ll clear more dry vegetation to further reduce the fire risk, cut remaining grass and nettles back and use remaining woodchip for mulching around the fruit trees.

Chipping News

DSC_0962Three hours, six volunteers, two rangers, one noisy bastard of a chipping machine, and one huge pile of dead wood and brambles dating all the way back to the initial clearing at The Piggeries Orchard produced a larger than anticipated pile of premium quality artisan woodchip for mulching within the same orchard. Self-sustained an all.

A Saturday well spent.

Our heartfelt thanks to everyone who helped to get this done as swiftly as possible, and our thanks to neighbours who didn’t quite have their usual peaceful Saturday morning on this occasion.


Open, Opener, Openest

IMG_20180626_182540At the risk of repeating myself: The Piggeries Orchard is now officially open!

We sort-of opened it when planting the fruit trees on February 10th, 2018.

Richard “Scissors” H cut the ribbon and really officially opened it on June 2nd, 2018: Time to Celebrate.

I do now declare it truly and officially and complete opened, as open as can be, and I promise it shall not be any more open: the noticeboard is in!

The noticeboard was the last remaining item from our list of deliverables. The sign, albeit not the one made from locally grown oak envisioned, was installed this past week. The installation was complete just in time before the London in Bloom inspection. Such is the way of miracles and wonders!

From the bottom of our watering buckets, wheelbarrows, wellies and from the bottom of our hearts: Thank you so much for supporting this project! It has been the most delightful journey so far.

We appreciate loads of positive feedback whenever we work within the Piggeries Orchard. Many people stop by and share their appreciation. Thank you! It keeps is going. It really does, and it will keep us going well beyond this official completion of the projects. Plans are flying high and wild. Always.





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?

The Busy Trap

IMG_20180210_120943686_HDROnce again, we felt into it: we were almost too busy to take pictures at last week’s 2018 tree planting, can you believe it? You’d think we’d know better by now.

First we were too busy getting started, sorting 38 trees and bundles of hedges, tools and volunteers out. Then we were too busy planting trees and hedges in two planting parties covering the entire stretch between Osterley Lock and Blackberry Corner. Then we were too busy finishing the job with tree planting at The Piggeries and St Margaret’s Open Space, all while dodging the pretty persistent and unpleasantly cold rain.

We thank everyone who came to help regardless of the less-than-ideal weather. The trail looks really great right now and we can’t wait to see the new trees come to life in a few weeks.

Thank you, James, for taking these snaps.


IMG_20180113_122914775.jpgWe thank everyone for helping with a successful 2018 winter pruning – in record speed as evident from this little video: https://photos.app.goo.gl/1cBuxzffoFuIr9xx1

Here are some pictures from the 2018 orchard activity kick-off.

Our next date is Tree Planting Day, February 10th. If you can’t wait until then and still promise to come help us on the 10th then you might be interested in Cultivate London’s Hanwell Community Orchard Trail. Click here for their flyer (pdf).