Wait…. Is it Autumn already?

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

Not all pictures were made by Hangot.

Out with the old, in with the new.

New sheep in the meadows.

‘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.)

Pictures: Dagmar Gauweiler / James Morton

Mistletoe in May

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.

New additions to the trail…

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.

Bernd’s Orchard

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.

Whips

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.

Long time, no see.

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.

Going Nuts Workshops!

Do you remember the plan for planting lots of new nutty trees in Elthorne Park?

Right behind our Elthorne Triangles orchard, 43 new trees including Hazel, Pecan, Sweet Chestnut, Walnut and Beech further up the slope will make a wonderful display and habitat in years to come.

Originally scheduled for April 4th, the big planting extravaganza was cancelled due to the ongoing pandemic along with everything else.

They are now back!

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.

You can register your interest and sign up for helping on their dedicated web site at www.treesforcities.org/elthornepark 

Orchard Care Update

As you will know or have guessed, we cancelled all group activities at the beginning of lock-down to help keep everybody safe.

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.

Please look out for related news online at this web site, our Facebook or Twitter, or through the volunteer email system.

Bring Me a Little Water

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!

Abundance London calls for an emergency tree adoption scheme, Trees for Cities asks that you become a Tree Watering Champion. There are no prices to win except for a local environment rich in trees with healthy habitats for diverse fauna and flora. What’s not to like?

Progress Report

This is an excellent time to rummage around the cupboard, get the old shoebox of photos and contemplate just how far Osterley Lock Orchard has come in just five years, but with the help of many, many, volunteer hours.

Our work hour statistics don’t reach all the way back to the beginnings, but an estimated 500 volunteer hours were spend at Osterley Lock Orchard since the start, not counting planning, preparation or taking of post-activity refreshments.

Everything begun with a site inspection June 13th, 2015. The site was completely overgrown except for a small picnic spot covered in litter, broken picnic table and remains of BBQ fires.

A joint effort of Canal and Rivers Trust volunteers and the park rangers provided the initial clearing October 15th, 2015.

We planted the front orchard January 30th, 2016.

Clearing of the back part begun December 17th, 2016, on a rather damp day, alongside the planting of 1000 native flower bulbs. Site care and maintenance has been an ongoing effort ever since. (Event invitation, more photos)

February 4th, 2017, brought the addition of 17 fruit trees to the rear of the orchard (event invitation, more photos), quickly followed by the installation of bird and bat boxes.

Osterley Lock Orchard now has 29 fruit trees, second only to Blackberry Corner Orchard with a collection of 44 fruit trees across the field. We give it ongoing care and maintenance with many Tuesday evenings and quite a few Saturday activities to help establish and maintain a clean, healthy and bio-diverse habitat and orchard.

Many small events followed, trying to keep Nettles and Burdock at bay, look after the fruit trees and keep the paths across the site clear and usable.

The most recent event at this time of writing was the spring clean at March 14th, 2020. A super volunteer turnout, assisted by the park rangers and their big boy toys. We coppiced and cleared to bring more light, airflow and clear lines of sight to improve the orchard site for plants, wildlife and humans alike.

(See the event invitation, report with photos).

Our heartfelt and warm Thank you! to everyone who helped with this project so far. We look forward to continued events in this and other parts of the orchard trail once the current exceptional conditions caused by the Coronavirus pandemic are a thing of the past.

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/.