Annual Summer Picnic

Please come and join us for our

Annual Summer Picnic at Jubilee Meadow (by the sheep)

28th August 2021 from 13:00 -16:00

Jubilee Meadow (by the sheep)

Bring you own food and drink to the sharing table, bring your own children and friends. Bring your own smile, a kite, a blanket or camping chair.

Please be mindful of plastic waste and food waste though: bring only as much as your own company would consume, avoiding plastic where possible. Please be prepared to take back leftovers. Please bring your own glass or cup so that we can avoid plastic cups – or drink straight from the bottle 😉

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

How To Pick an Apple

How, or rather when to pick an apple, seems a challenging question given how much fruit is taken from publicly accessible fruit trees well before it is ripe.

Perhaps some fruit enthusiasts want to ensure their fair share (while deploying a rather liberal interpretation of the fair share in some cases), perhaps other friends of the fruity delight simply don’t know. Whatever the reason, here is the simple rule:

When ripe, the fruit will come off at a light touch.

That’s it!

Apples, pears, quinces, plums or raspberry. If it needs a yank then it is not ready to go. Fruit colour, presence of windfall, time of the year and other indicators don’t matter.

Fruit harvested before it is ripe may ripen on a shelf but won’t be as delicious as its cousin that was allowed a fulfilled life in nature.

Our friends from The Orchard Project described it in more detail but to the same effect.

Scythe With Confidence

Did you know that members can get free safety instructions and basic usage training for the scythe with us, with practise opportunities almost every Tuesday evening?

It’s it true!

We now offer this free to our members and volunteers. Speak to us during one of our Tuesday or Saturday activities and we’ll make individual mutually convenient arrangements.

Safety and usage instructions take approximately one hour, but you should allow for a fair amount of practise. We cannot teach you how to scythe your lawn or scythe to competition standards, but we can teach you how to manage a meadow with the scythe safely and efficiently.

The scythe is silent and sustainable, surprisingly efficient and astonishingly meditative. Come, join us and find out!

Off Kilter

Sometimes we wonder whether we are doing the right thing when cutting naturally occurring vegetation to encourage naturally occurring vegetation.

We do!

It doesn’t take very much to find motivation locally.

Over at Fitzherbert Walk, cleaver has completely overgrown and is suffocating a dozen trees planed not long ago, 50 steps away another group of trees is falling victim to nettles and bramble. Bindweed dominates even trees and bramble over at “the mount” by St Margaret’s Open Space. In Elthorne Waterside, Hemlock is enjoying a spectacular year with record density and size. We see Burdock covering and dominating large areas elsewhere.

Letting things go just lets things go to into the wrong direction. The natural balance is off kilter, but we are here to help! In our small way anyway. Click here to volunteer your assistance.

Don’t Look Away

Don’t look away! I can’t recommend it. We did, for a few weeks only, look away from Blackberry Corner Orchard. When we returned, we found that the nettles had grown over 4 feet tall, Hemlock over 6 feet, in abundance and with strong support from bindweed and cleavers. So much that we actually had to search for our trees!

The trees in Blackberry Corner Orchard are doing fine, thanks for asking.

We gave the orchard an emergency clearing this past Tuesday, opening up a circle around each tree and clearing the connecting paths. This prevents the trees from being suffocated, deprived of nutrients and improves airflow, which is important to prevent disease.

The photo shown here was taken in late April. We were so astounded by the recent growth that we forgot to take pictures (again!). But there is more work to be done, with more photo opportunities!

Join us this Tuesday June 4th 19:00 at the Piggeries for preventive clearing, and please give us a hand in finishing the job on Saturday June 8th from 11:00 at Blackberry Corner. Now is the time to act before this years Hemlock sets seed.

Our friendly volunteer email service provides reminders and details, up to the very last minute.

Natural Battery Charger

A picture is worth more than a thousand words, it is said. Here are several thousands of words worth of pictures recently taken in the beautiful evening light in the Hanwell Meadows.

We find it quite wonderful, right in the middle of London’s suburbia! You can forget being in big city, with the sound of the occasional train in the distance (while ignoring the occasional aeroplane going overhead).

Join us to recharge your personal batteries, meet old and new friends while doing something useful with our weekly Tuesday Tree Tending activities. See here for detail.

Yellow Rattle Inventory

DSC03603_1Last year we harvested Yellow Rattle seeds from the meadow in St Margaret’s Open Space and then sowed them in the Piggeries knowing that their parasitic habit would retard the growth of course grasses and help other smaller wildflowers to flourish.

We went to see if any Yellow Rattle seedlings are coming up – half expecting not to find any – but there are lots!

We now just have to let them flower and set seed and they should hopefully self-propagate across the site. If so this would be splendid!

We’ll delay the spring meadow cut until late summer to allow the Yellow Rattle to establish, although it’s possible that we need to cut excessive grass growth with a scythe in the coming months.

Next time you’re there, take a look!

There are lots around the nearest fruit tree to the wood chip pile.

One of Two

img_20190511_105341I commented earlier on the Trumpers Crossing and the now disused Trumpers Crossing halt, but did you know that Trumpers Crossing is only one of two remaining foot crossings of its kind in London?

The second crossing of this type is the Angerstein Wharf foot crossing, east Greenwich, which was brought to our attention thanks to its planned closure. Protests from Greenwich council and locals made Network Rail re-open it subject to review of their plans, according to The Charlton Champion.

I hope we can hang on to our Trumpers Crossing whether it might soon be one of its kind or remain one of two. I like that the crossing requires use of common sense and care from its users, and thankfully there is no risk that trains held at a signal straddle Trumpers Crossing, as it appears to be cause for concern over in Greenwich.

Biodiversity ‘r’ Us

DSC02374Cowslips were once common British wildflowers but changes in farming practices and habitat loss over recent decades lead to their becoming scarce.

When we took over the far end of Blackberry corner as an apple orchard it had been unmanaged for many years and dominated by a few large and tough plant species such as hemlock that shaded and out-competed more delicate wildflowers.

We’ve been cutting the area several times a year since. It’s sometimes said that to get a meadow you just need to manage land as a meadow. This seems to be true here as each year we see less hemlock and more grasses and wildflowers.

We have now been counting over 30 cowslips. We don’t know exactly where they came from. It possible that the seeds might have been present in the soil all the while. But we also scattered mixed wildflower meadow seeds several years ago after the initial clearance and these may have been the original source. Now we hope they will flower and set seed, and so spread naturally.

Having native wildflowers in the orchard is an achievement in its own right – improving biodiversity is one of our key aims. But it also helps us in a practical way by encouraging pollinating insects such as solitary bees that also help with pollination of our fruit trees.

It’s worth a visit especially to see the cowslips while they are in flower this month. They are quite easy to find as we’ve marked them with a stick stuck in the ground near each plant to reduce the risk of their being accidentally trodden on. See if you can find any we missed!