Splish Splosh

Barley StrawWe are fascinated by the ups and downs of the Piggeries pond. In the beginning, we had much too much water, as reported with the Piggeries Report. Water leaks in the adjacent streets were fixed, reducing the water feed into the pond significantly. The remaining feed was still stronger than anticipated given what little rain we had. Surface water drainage in the local area is subject to ongoing investigation, but in a recent and rather unexpected development, the water flow into the pond stopped all together. Now we didn’t have enough water!

Rainfall earlier this week raised the groundwater levels and water levels in the pond again, quicker than we expected.

We remain fascinated, puzzled and intrigued by the ups and downs of The Piggeries pond. Investigation of various aspects of local surface water drainage continues. However, we are most fascinated and most grateful to see just how many people stop by, inquire or simply enjoy the views of the pond and its tadpoles. Most tadpoles have been rescued and were re-housed locally during the recent water shortage.

We meant to create a natural habitat with seasonally changing water levels. In addition, we seem to have created a focal point for visitors of all ages, two and four-legged ones.

Why not stop by the Piggeries Orchard during one of your canalside walks, and watch nature do its thing in the middle of the metropolis?



Meadow Mulching Extravaganza

Please join our

Meadow Mulching Extravaganza
Today from 10:00.

We’ll be moving and applying woodchip and straw for mulching all across the Hanwell Meadows and, headcounts permitting, the Piggeries. Mulching suppresses weed growth, helps preserve moisture and composts down into nutritious food for the tree.

We can take any help we can get!

All you need is wear sensible clothes and sturdy shoes. Bring gardening gloves, digging forks, buckets or wheelbarrows if you can. Bring a friend, a packed lunch and a bit of sunshine. We’ll be done in time for the Hanwell Hootie!

Meet with us at 10:00 in Jubilee Meadow by the railway crossing (map), or find us at any time somewhere in the meadows.

Update 09-May-2017: Here are some photos, thanks to James:

Suntan Studio, Gym and Social Club

IMG_20170411_191954Did you know there’s still plenty of opportunity for everyone to get that suntan, to join our very own free-of-charge outdoor gym and social club in Hanwell’s Grand Union Canal corridor? Join us for your chance to explore Hanwell’s most beautiful hidden gems on your very own hands and knees!

A small yet determined taskforce met for last Saturday’s Piggeries informal opening, mulching and weeding. We entertained ourselves with the removal of many bramble roots and pulling of horsetail shoots, applied woodchip mulching and top-soil to hedges and rockeries. The hedges were weeded and watered, even more rubbish found and removed, stones and rubble collected. We spread meadow seed to boost growth. Glorious sunshine was enjoyed by all, with a celebratory slice of cake or two.

Every Tuesday evening and every first Saturday in a month present perfect opportunities to come out and join in the fun. We always have a variety of tasks for all abilities and ages, whether you can spare an hour or an entire day, whether you have a green thumb or two left hands. No experience necessary!

Please check the sidebar for details (bottom of the page for mobile phone users).

Happy Easter!


Who We Are, What We Do

The best way to find out who we are and what we do is to head down to The Piggeries Orchard right now. Today, Saturday 8-May-2017,  we’ll be mulching, clearing and sowing, and celebrate the event with a speech, a cheer and a slice of cake!

Our resident videographer Steve Haskett has produced a new short clip about our group and our work. Take a look if you need some extra motivation, if you can’t join us today or if you are reading this at a later date.

Thank you, Steve!

Spring Dates

tttThe events are rolling in for the Spring 2017 season; please mark these dates for fabulous opportunities to be involved. It’s never to late to make new friends, meet the orchards or to take it out on some brambles and nettles!

Sat 8-April 10:30 – 15:30, Piggeries Celebrations

We’ll be pulling more weeds and digging more brambles, apply woodchip for mulching the hedges along the fence and the back wall, and sow the meadow and wetland areas with native grasses and flowers.

We’ll also celebrate the opening of the Piggeries Orchard with a slice of cake and a speech!

Sat 6-May 10:00 – 14:00, Meadows Mulching

Mulching in the beautiful Hanwell Meadows, with an early start and finish on account of the Hanwell Hootie. This is the first event in our new Saturday Orchard Love series, and we need every hand we can get with this one!

Sun 14-May 12:00 onwards, Spring Orchard Picnic

The big event in every local orchardist’s calendar, the popular spring orchard picnic in the heart of the Hanwell Meadows by the sheep! Bring something to eat and drink to the sharing table, bring a smile, a child, a friend and join us for a relaxed social event in the centre of this most beautiful hidden treasure.

1st Saturday in each month, Saturday Orchard Love

Starting 6-May at 10:00, normally at 11:00. Your regular opportunity to apply orchard love in varying locations along the trail. See the right sidebar on our web site for details of every event (at the bottom of the page for mobile phone users), or follow our Twitter.

Every Tuesday evening, Tree Tending Tuesday

Tree Tending Tuesdays are back! A grand reason to finish work and get out into nature, apply some general tender love and care to the orchards, the orchard trail and its surroundings, and (optionally) finish with a refreshment at a local public house.

As always, be sure to check our web site,  Facebook or Twitter for details or last-minute announcements and changes. See you soon!

The Piggeries Report

_mg_9291Today is a good day for a brief update on the Piggeries Orchard. As many of you know, we hit unexpected problems caused by an exceedingly high water table and unexpected water flow through the site, but we are happy to report continued progress and plans for the next steps:

The site has been cleared of brambles, many rocks and heaps of rubbish. The pond has been dug, fencing along the towpath and the path through the site is installed. This is already very popular with walkers and dogs!

Some of the rubble has been used to construct a newt habitat by the pond, and we are waiting to see small amphibians move in. Bird boxes for blue tits and robins have been installed in the trees surrounding the site. A composting area has been constructed (and will disappear from view as the hedges surrounding it grow).

100 metres of edible and prickly hedging plants have been planted along the fence and the back wall, and many already show signs of growth. We recently added a dozen of summer and autumn-fruiting raspberries along the fence by the canal, and a number of gooseberry and black currant bushes for everyone to come along and sample some of that soft fruit deliciousness.

We will seed the meadow and pond borders later in March or April to give a boost to grass and meadow flowers. Many dozens of bulbs of native bluebells and daffodils have been planted around Christmas, and some are beginning to emerge already.

We are short of a fruit tree orchard at this time, however. Thames Water has recently fixed water mains leaks in Studley Grange Road and St Dunstan’s Road, with the almost immediate effect that the water flow through the Piggeries is now back to meet expectations. There is planned water flow due to a slow-releasing surface water storage tank, which we expect to reduce further during the dry months and with continued improvements to surface water drainage from the nearby streets. This will turn the pond into what we originally planned: a seasonal water feature.

For now, we monitor the ground water levels. We missed the 2017 fruit tree planting season on purpose and hope to be able to plant fruit trees in 2018. We are already making designs for plan B to ensure that the Piggeries Orchard will live up to expectations.

Throughout this year, we’ll keep the site pristine, watch the water levels, monitor fauna and flora on site. We will have several activity days to dig out brambles, fight giant hogweed and nettles, and similar activities.

This is your chance to come join the fun. Watch this space for announcements!

(See what I mean? Nothing happens at the Piggeries but here I am, enumerating the improvements already done in an article longer than my arm.)


Fruity Fruity

_mg_9276Never mind the damp conditions surrounding The Piggeries orchard, we are delighted to report a successful planting day this last Saturday.

Over twenty volunteers worked hard, sometimes almost back breaking, to collect rubble all over the site. These stones, bricks and rather large and heavy blocks of concrete now enjoy a second life and form a habitat for newts and other reptiles and amphibians.

The old advertising sign for the adjacent housing development was taken down, dismantled and re-purposed for our first on-site composting and leaf-mulching areas.

Many more brambles were removed all over the site, and last not least, between 400 and 500 fruiting hedge plants were planted along the fence by the towpath and along the back wall. Varieties include Hazel (corylus avellana), Quickthorn (crataegus monogyna), Blackthorn, also known as Sloe (prunus spinosa), Dog Rose (rosa canina), Ramanas Rose (rosa rugosa), Black Elder (sambucus nigra), Cherry Plum (prunus cerasifera myrobalan) and Crabapple (malus evereste).

All along the orchard trail, rabbit guards were reinforced and enlarged to give our young trees that extra bit of protection from hungry rodents.

Our heartfelt thanks go to all helpers on the day, everyone who stopped by or otherwise expressed their support, and of course to the Tree Council, who donated the hedge plants. A surprisingly mild, sunny and impressively productive Saturday!

We plan to add more soft fruit such as gooseberries, redcurrants or raspberries, and we can’t wait to see it all grow.

Watch this site and join us for the next steps at The Piggeries in February or March (planting of soft fruit, sowing of meadow flowers and grass).

Water Drainage Problem

20170115_155644Many people have noticed the recent increased water flow through The Piggeries Orchard into the canal which has caused the towpath to become eroded, wet and muddy.

We thank the many towpath users and neighbours who brought the issue to our attention.

While the increase in water flow appears to coincide with work at the orchard we believe the cause lies in a long-term issue with surface water drainage further uphill. Recently a water mains leak in Studley Grange Road appears to have added to the problem.

We are working with Ealing Council to identify the source of the water and arrange for necessary repairs or improvements to the drainage system responsible . We hope that the Canal and Rivers Trust can then restore the towpath surface to improve it for pedestrians and cyclists.

The Piggeries

img_20161215_140931Join us today for the next big step at The Piggeries: our first official

Piggeries Planting Day

Today, Saturday January 21st, 2017
10:00 to 14:00

We will be planting edible hedging along the fence by the towpath and along the back wall. We will be gathering rubble and construct a newt habitat by the pond, prepare a small area for leaf mulching and composting, and apply general tender love and care.

As you may know already, we will not be planting fruit trees just yet due to the ongoing investigation into the unexpectedly high water table and possible solutions, but we will begin The Piggeries’ transformation from an eyesore to a gem by the canal today.

Please join us if you can.

Wear sensible clothing and shoes, possibly wellies. Bring gardening gloves. A pair of secateurs or a spade might be useful. Human-friendly children and well-behaved dogs are all welcome if under supervision. [map]

Later in spring, we will add more fruiting hedges, sow the wildflower meadow area and sow and plant around the pond. Check this website and our Twitter for further announcements and future opportunities of getting involved.

Happy New Year

aptyeHappy New Year to you!

Time and nature don’t stand still and neither do we.

Members of the committee are busy preparing to join an exhibition and event by the Museum of London later this year. Others were busy planting lots and lots of bulbs over the Christmas season, including a considerable number of native bluebells at Osterley Lock. Some members of the committee are still trying to get Waitrose West Ealing and Green Redeem to release funds we were promised a considerable time ago, and we are busy finalising arrangements for the upcoming planting days detailed below. The levels of activity around watching a few tree grow can be quite astonishing, really. Here’s where you come in:

Piggeries Planting Day
Saturday 21-January, 10:00-14:00

Join us at the Piggeries. Wear sensible clothing and shoes, bring gardening gloves. A pair of secateurs or a spade might be useful. Check this website and our Twitter for last-minute changes. [map]
More about the Piggeries status below.

Brent Meadow Orchard Planting
Saturday 28-January, 10:00-13:00

Help Trees for Cities and Ealing Council plant a new community orchard in Brent Meadow alongside Uxbridge Road, opposite Ealing Hospital. See their web site for details at http://www.treesforcities.org/projects/brent-meadow-ealing/. Let them know you’re coming by registering for the event to ensure sufficient supplies of cake and refreshments: http://bit.ly/2iPa6Fw.

Osterley Lock and Elthorne Waterside Planting
Saturday 4-February, 10:00-14:00

Join us at Osterley Lock, wearing sensible clothing, keeping dogs on leash and small children under supervision as ever. Gardening gloves, watering cans or spades will all come handy. [map]

Last but not least, here’s an update on the piggeries:

The site has now been cleared, the path constructed, the fence installed. We think it looks marvellous, and people often stop and tell us the same. The pond has been excavated and tree planting locations have been identified, dug out and filled with shingles for drainage and top soil for growth.

We discovered that the site suffers from an unexpected and unusually high water table, only a foot beneath the surface. We have now decided to postpone the planting of fruit trees until the situation is understood better. We are working with local authorities and Thames Water to identify cause and solutions. Those include improving pond overflow and site drainage, diversion of water flow, slightly raised trees or identification of more suitable tree planting locations around the perimeter of the site. We are confident that the issue can be solved or worked around in a reasonable manner, it just needs a little more time and investigation.

Until then, we plan to proceed with general site preparations and planting of flower bulbs, hedging along the back wall and towpath, and seeding of a wildflower meadow.