Can’t help myself, I feel very excited about the start of Tree Tending Evenings every year. So much to look forward to; It means Spring is here, and we will be able to stay out and enjoy the evenings in the orchards.
We hope to see many of you this year. Remember, there are many tasks (big and small) you can do in an orchard. You will learn on the job. And if you don’t feel like working… it’s perfectly alright to join us for a chat or just for the company. We are a friendly, international bunch and always happy to meet new people.
Dates for the diary
Upcoming Tree Tending Evenings. We alternate between Mondays and Wednesdays to give as many people, as possible, an opportunity to join. If you want to receive a weekly -email- reminder, please register here. We collect tools from the allotment next to The Piggeries Orchard at 19:00 and work till dark. Most of us will go to The Fox after, but there’s no obligation to do so.
The winter months are usually quiet in our orchards, there are only a few winter-tasks to be done. The last two months, we have planted some trees in Blackberry Corner, on the Elthorne Terraces and in Osterley Lock Orchard, to fill up gaps caused by fire and disease, . We have also done most of the pruning of the apple and pear trees. -The plums and other soft fruits have to wait till Summer before we prune them.-
Dates for the diary
This Saturday March 11th we will try to finish all pruning tasks. Please come to the allotment next to The Piggeries around 10:00 o’clock to collect tools.
Since the second Saturday in April (Saturday April 8th ) is the Saturday before Easter we moved our working Saturday to the 15th of April. We’ll be mulching, watering or weeding … all tasks depending on the weather.
Sometime after Easter, we will start our weekly, evening sessions again, beginning with a tidy up of the orchards closest to The Piggeries. Please register as a volunteer if you want updates on where we’ll be working.
We can’t believe it’s the end of Summer already. Sorry for keeping a little quiet over the last months. We have been so busy,…. just couldn’t find time to post about the jobs we did.
Greening together The Ealing rangers have been invaluable in supporting us with advise on creating and maintaining our orchards. It is great to see that this is recognised by the Council. A big thank you to ‘Around Ealing’ for using one of our flagship orchards ‘The Piggeries’ in a lovely article on greening together. The video, accompanying the article, can be watched here !
Pictures below show 1) Aerial view Piggeries site 1951 2) Piggeries map 1960 with current situation combined 3) Winter 2016/2017 4) Summer 2022
Summer Cut Over the summer months, we give all our orchards a summer cut. Most years we had to do quite a bit of weeding before it was time to cut all the grass, but this years drought stopped the weeds from getting in the way too much. So during our work-evenings we cleared around trees, watered our younger trees and did some litter picking when necessary. In August, when most wildflowers had set seed -or when the fire-risk became too high-, we cut the whole meadow in one go and removed the cuttings. This practice, which is common in wildflower meadow management, enhances bio diversity by creating a habitat less favourable for grasses, brambles and nettles. To connect more with other local nature conservation groups, we helped cutting Perivale Wood wildflower meadow and the cuttings were feed for the cows on Horsenden Farm.
Dates for the diary
Saturday work morning: 10th September 10:30 at the allotment next to The Piggeries. We’ll split the group, depending on numbers. If you want to get familiar with our most Western part of the trail (30 min walk from the allotment) this is your chance.
Monday work evening:12th September 6:30 at the allotment next to The Piggeries. -Tasks to be announced-.
Upcoming Saturday work mornings 8th October and 12th November
‘Time flies when you’re having fun’ is one of our favourite sayings. It’s just so true…. Loads of fun we had the last couple of weeks. Fun with weeds growing above our heads -we’re not complaining-. Fun with overflowing ponds and (a little less) fun with tidying up some badly damaged trees.
But most fun we had with our side-project, financed by The Freshwater foundation; the replacement of the sheep in the meadows. The sheep are made by Mick Burns, who is also the creator of the old sheep . The bodies of the sheep are sculpted from rot resistant, Monterey Cypress wood and their legs are solid oak. With help of our amazing Ealing Rangers Jon and James, we managed to replace the rather tired pair with some lovely new sheep. (And there’s even a little addition to the group.)
Last week some of us took part in a small side project. We helped Ealing rangers spreading Mistletoe berries, to support Ealing’s biodiversity action plan. We have also started our tree tending evenings to keep up with the -now very fast growing- weeds and grasses.
Mistletoe (Viscum album) is a very scarce plant in Ealing and a priority species under the borough’s biodiversity action plan. It has a hemiparasitic life cycle, growing on trees from which it extracts water. In nature the seeds are spread by birds, notably Mistle Thrush. Last week we gave Ealing park rangers and nature a helping hand by spreading Mistletoe seed onto apple trees, a favoured host species.
The seeds are surrounded by a thick mucilaginous slime that literally glues them to the bark. In time we hope they will germinate and grow into mature plants which can then seed and spread naturally. We don’t know exactly why Mistletoe was almost lost to Ealing, but we aim to work to bring about the return of unique and remarkable species.
If the seeds germinate and grow into new plants, we will record them on this map (Mistletoe in Ealing)
In addition to the Mistletoe project we have started to document the old fruit trees in the area covered by our trail. Map (Veteran fruit trees in Ealing) Some of the old trees are already looked after by us. We take away dead and damaged wood and protect them against rabbit damage if we can.
Not all old trees are easily accessible, but some are part of our existing orchards and you can take some fruit from them if you wish. In the coming months we will add information about the old trees to the map, e.g. if the fruit is for cooking or can be eaten raw (dessert).
And last but not least……
We are very happy to have welcomed new volunteers in the last couple of weeks. If you want to help us keeping our orchards healthy, you’re welcome to join us anytime. Please register as a volunteer to get regular updates of when and where we work.
The last couple of weeks have been busy for us as volunteers. We transformed a small piece of land along the canal into an orchard. Planted lots of whips and made a start with the planting of native black poplars.
Along the canal, on the East-side of St Margaret’s field, we created a new, small orchard. With the help of one of the Ealing park rangers, we planted 5 trees -one Mulberry and 4 varieties of apple-. This orchard is very special to us, as we planted it to commemorate one of our founding members; Bernd Gauweiler.
For the last two years, we have been able to apply for free whips from The conservation volunteers . The whips received are a variety of native, fruit bearing, hedge whips, like dog-rose (rosa canina), blackthorn (prunus Spinoza) and hawthorn (crataegus) . This year we used most of the whips to fill up gaps in existing hedges in St. Margaret’s, The Piggeries and in Blackberry Corner.
Black poplar and buckthorn whips.
Special mention is deserved for a couple of other whips we planted along the orchard trail. First special mention is for the 4 black-poplars we planted. This tree is native to north-west Europe and a declining species in the UK. According to the Forestry Commission, black poplar is the most endangered native timber tree in Britain. It is the food plant for the caterpillars of many moths, including the hornet, wood leopard, poplar hawk and figure of eight. The catkins provide an early source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, and the seeds are eaten by birds. ‘Our’ whips have been propagated from cuttings from a poplar on Horsenden Hill. One of our volunteers has kindly cared for them for a year and a half. We will plant some more later in the year.
Second special mention is for some buckthorn whips that were gifted to us. Purging buckthorn is the main food plant of the brimstone butterfly, whose caterpillars eat the leaves. Its flowers provide a source of pollen and nectar for bees and other insects, while its dense growth makes it a valuable nesting site for birds. By adding these plants to our orchards we are hoping to give the brimstones, that are visiting from the Chilterns, a place to stay and breed.
After a long, cold winter we’re happy to be back with a Spring update on all things orchard.
We hope everyone is well and that you’ve been enjoying the orchard trail on your daily walks. (If you have not yet walked our trail, please download our walk brochure here.)
Our group activities have been very limited for the last couple of months, but that doesn’t mean we have been twiddling our thumbs. During winter our volunteers have been busy pruning the trees. Most of the trees are looking good and we can’t wait to see the first flower-buds arrive. A lot of time has gone into planning activities for the coming season and we are happy to announce that we’ve got some nice events ahead of us.
This Saturday we will be adding some shrubs to the fruit bearing hedges in three of our orchards. Unfortunately, due to current restrictions, this is a non-public event. Pictures will follow.
Next on our list is a remembrance orchard for Bernd Gauweiler. In collaboration with Ealing Park Rangers, we have found a space where we can plant all of Bernd’s favourite trees.
Again the planting day will be a non-public event, but hopefully we can officially open the new orchard in Summer, with more people present.
Remember the sheep (or what is left of them) in the Hanwell meadows? We took pity on them and, although not typical orchard work, decided to ‘do something’ about the sorry state they are in. We are happy to announce that we managed to secure a grant from freshwaterfoundation to replace the sheep with new chainsaw sculptures. Due to Covid restrictions and the very wet fields replacement might take a little longer than anyone likes, but we promise that some new inhabitants for the meadows will be coming this year.
Trees for Cities organizes socially distanced tree planting workshops at Elthorne Park. These workshops are running for the next 2 weeks and are open for small groups (ideally household units) of up to 5 people to come and plant a tree.
Individuals or volunteers sharing a household and small groups, subject to the more recently evolving rules and guidelines, kept up the good work: pruning trees, picking litter, controlling weeds and caring for orchards and meadows in many other ways. Over 100 work hours were volunteered since March 23rd, covering all 11 locations along the orchard trail.
Our huge THANK YOU to everyone who has helped so far.
We are now planning safe activities for the near future, hoping to engage with new volunteers and reconnect with old friends.
Orchard maintenance has continued thanks to a dedicated team of volunteers and activities performed by individuals or thouse who live together in the same household. Spring meadow cut, general clearance, weeding, weeding and more weeding, mulching and watering was carried out, all in all adding up to more than 60 hours since March 23rd, 2020.
That’s pretty cool!
We continue to monitor the public advise on lock-down rules and will call for more volunteer participation as soon as the law, health & safety and common sense permit.
Here’s how you can help right away:
Water a young and desperate tree next to you.
Make it part of your fitness regime to carry water to a newly planted tree next to you even to one a little further away foir extra fitness.
Ealing Council brought many new trees into the area, but the current situation leaves some trees desperate for water. While most of the HANGOT trees are doing fine, many trees recently planted in public spaces are desperate. Newly planted trees do not yet have the deep and far-reaching root system of a well-established tree and need a little help.
Even a small amount would be better than none in this dry season!