Spring Clean Finals

IMG_20180527_101322Please join us tomorrow

Saturday 9-June, 11:00 at The Piggeries Orchard (map)

to finish the spring clean in time for the London in Bloom
inspection.

There’ll be something to do for everyone. You can dig or snip bramble roots, pull horsetail, cut bindweed, collect rubble, rake grass. Or just come along to take a look, have a chat, or join us for a drink at the end.

Please dress appropriately; long trousers, closed shoes and gloves are highly recommended due to the mixed vegetation and uneven ground.

We expect to be done within two hours, and we are counting on you to do it!

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It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

DSCN2324Songs have been sung about the fact that it’s the most wonderful time of the year. The song does not refer to spring when life returns in abundance, or summer when living is easy, or autumn when we harvest much of the year’s produce. It is of course about Christmas but for me, right now most certainly is one of the most wonderful times of the year.

Many trees are still in flower and the meadows are a sea of green, waving in the breeze and dotted with yellow, white, blue and purple flowers. Life emerges in abundance and with vigour wherever you look. There’s almost no holding back on the nettles or bramble, Giant Hogweed or indeed on apples, cherries, pears, plums or quinces, or anything else.

Why not explore the orchard trail this weekend?

Alone and in peaceful silence, with friends, with dogs, with kids. We have tried all these variants and everyone came out thumbs up and with a smile, every time.

You can view or download our brochure here for guidance.

You will also notice that the spring meadow cutting is under way across the orchard trail, an important and invigorating step in managing a meadow’s annual life cycle. Volunteers are always welcome!  We offer perfect opportunities to work up a sweat, to get stung, to get a suntan, to do something good, to be part of it. And we are very nice people (according to us). Why not join our ranks, once, or twice, or sometimes, or regularly?

Something For Your Diary

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We’ve got a number of activities coming up and hope to see you at all of them. OK, perhaps some. Or at least one…? No matter how much or how little you can or want to help, no matter how much or how little experience you bring, we’ll take it!

Saturday 12-May-2018 from 10:00

Mulching at The Piggeries orchard. Please note the early start due to the Hanwell Hootie starting in the afternoon so that you can do both!

Saturday 2-June-2018 from 12:00

Casual bring-your-own spring picnic in The Piggeries orchard. No kite flying this time but the grand opening ceremony and official completion of the project shall not be missed.

Saturday 9-June-2018 from 11:00

Mulching, starting with Blackberry Corner in the Hanwell Meadows, then onward the orchard trail until we run out of energy, fine weather or wood chippings.

Saturday 14-July-2018 from 11:00

Wood chipping at The Piggeries orchard with the rangers and their big wood chipper for self-sustained local mulching.

… And of course there is

Tree Tending Tuesday, Every Tuesday from 19:00

Your weekly chance to get involved with light activity and a lively discussion over refreshments. Location varies to meet demand; please see our schedule, join our volunteer email system or follow our Twitter for up-to-date announcements.

We recorded 167 volunteer person hours this year already. Will we reach a thousand? With your help we might.

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?

No Orchard Love

daffToday is Orchard Love Saturday, our monthly activity Saturday. While we are all full to the brim with orchard love, there will be no public display of our passion today. Our activity Saturday for today April 14th has been cancelled.

Please do not meet us at 11 o’clock.

We cancelled today’s activity due to lack of necessity, but avoiding entry into a major mud bath also appeals, as we find much of the terrain to be very boggy right now.

We made a first round cutting Hemlock and vegetation surrounding the fruit trees across Elthorne Triangles and Terraces, Osterley Lock and the Hanwell Meadows already, and plan to do the same in The Piggeries Orchard and St Margaret’s Orchard over the two coming Tuesday evening activities.

In other words, we are on top of things, ready to watch trees and fruit to grow.

There will be no shortage of future opportunities to become involved, to express your love for publicly accessible community orchards and share our dislike of bramble roots, littering or vandalism. Join us every Tuesday evening and every second Saturday of each month, just not today.

Allied Forces

1454758625797Our March Saturday of Orchard Love is coming up soon. Thankfully there isn’t much work along the orchard trail right now, so why not help out our friends from Southall Transition with their big planting day for the Southall Orchard Project?

Please come help plant the Jubilee Park Orchard on Saturday 10 March 2018, 10:30 – 14:30.

They will supply tools, refreshments and the Mayor of Ealing. All you need do is let them know that you are coming (please register here), wear sturdy footwear and dress appropriate for the weather and the occasion.

(photo by Southall Transition)

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.

Crunchy Numbers

img_20170204_110306055_hdrWhile you are getting ready to head down to The Piggeries for our 2018 Tree Planting in time for a 10:00 start, I did some number crunching:

We will be adding 38 trees today, planting ten varieties of Apple and a total of eleven varieties of Cherry, Gage, Mulberry, Pear, Plum and Quince between the Osterley Lock Orchard and Glade Lane Canalside Park, including 14 new varieties.

The Orchard Trail will feature 13 different species of fruiting trees from 75 different varieties by the end of the day, not including preexisting adopted trees, a dozen of different  fruit and nut varieties in approximately 200 metres of edible hedging and over one thousand native flower bulbs.

Who says numbers are boring?

By the way, please remember to boost our numbers today. Planting 38 trees in a stretch over 2 miles takes all the hands, shovels and spades we can get!

Oh Deer

not-a-deerThe BBC opened its Winterwatch programme with a report on Muntjac deer, reminding us that our resident park ranger James reported a possible sighting of a Muntjac in the Hanwell Meadows some while ago.

Before anyone gets excited one way or another, let me say that that reported sighting was from a great distance and is as yet unconfirmed. Reeve’s Muntjac are a modern times invasive species without natural predators in Britain, and sightings have been reported all over West London.

It seems quite plausible that a some Muntjac made the orchard trail their home though. We have no shortage of thicket, some even safe from dogs behind fencing along the railway line in the Hanwell Meadows. Muntjac are small deer with a shoulder at human knee height, but they are certainly big enough to explain some of the rabbit bite damage we have seen and couldn’t quite explain the enormous size of the rabbits required.

Muntjacs live alone or in pairs and are shy, making them difficult to find. You might be lucky to spot one, or hear its laughter-like bark. Please let us know if, where and when you do. Dare I hope you snap a picture, too?

The picture accompanying this article does not show a Muntjac deer.

 

It’s The Season

img_20170204_130546233_hdrOh, not tree planting again, I hear you sigh.

I very nearly thought the same, but then I clicked and watched and loved it!

Our very own videographer Steve made a clip documenting how our Friends of Horsenden Hill planted over 7000 trees this December, complete with aerial footage, soup kitchen, spoon carving and face painting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=apMKGVbFlD4. Great job, Steve!

We have only 38 trees to plant this year and can’t hope to compete with some of their facilities and attractions, but nevertheless hope that you will come and help on Saturday February 10th, 2018, 10 o’clock, starting at The Piggeries.

And we make some pretty good cakes, too!

Oh, but one thing: we have a lovely ranger in our ranks, too, but we do not always do as he says 🙂