A Chilling Thought

daffThey forecast another cold spell for this weekend as I write these lines. After this past week’s balmy weather, this could spell trouble for early opening buds.

But did you know that cold is good, if done right, for fruit trees and biennial plants like cabbage, sugar beet, celery or carrot? These plants all need to reach deep sleep through a cold period before they can blossom. Much like we rest through the night, apple trees, for example, typically need 1000 hours below 6 or 7 C, and not too much below 0 degrees through the dark season.

Of course we all know that much below freezing is called “freezing” for a reason! It’s no longer a chill, and much above 6 or 7 degrees makes some boys peel their shirts off. A chill is between 0 and 6 or 7 degrees, give or take.

1000 hours, that’s 42 days or a month and a half to you and me. The chill units don’t have to be sustained just like we don’t need to slumber through 6 to 8 hours of deep sleep every night (scientifically known as NREM Stage 3). It seems obvious, but is not clear to me, just how much fluctuation in temperature the trees can take before they are stuck in light sleep and fail to reach full dormancy.

Please let us know if you are a local fruit tree whisperer.

Different varieties and different species have varying chill unit requirements. Local weather records shows that most of February, much of January and some of December should qualify for plenty of apple tree chill hours, albeit not always continuously.

A third of the orchard trail has been planted three years ago and trees are looking fabulous, so we should see those trees bear a reasonable harvest thanks to the lovely cold. Provided the bees will fly at the time of blossom, and no hard frost will hit late, and the many other factors that make successful organic fruit growing a bit of a game of chance won’t come to fruition. Fingers crossed!

At least it’s nice to know that we have been shivering for a good cause, don’t you agree?


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 Race Is On!

p20160522132521You’ll have noticed the only red fruit and green foliage today is within our logo, but you have also seen Daffodils and Crocuses emerge and announce the next season.

Surely it is still too cold and early in the year for apples, pears or quinces to blossom, but with a bit of sunshine and a sheltered location the apricots or even cherries might not be all that far away from coming into bloom.

May I suggest that you take a camera or smartphone with you as you walk the real or hypothetical dog along the orchard trail? We’d love to see your snaps of signs of spring. Any sign, but those of budding buds and blossoming flowers would be of particular interest.

The race is on!

apricotUpdate 15-March: the race is over. Thanks, Tim, for submitting the Apricot at Osterley Lock:

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!

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 🙂

Pruning In Equilibrium

img_20170114_131602742_hdrThe forecast promises a dull but rain-free day, so why not come  and brighten-up the Orchard Trail with Mirjam’s guided audio-visual walking experience, or get those cobwebs out of the old bones and help with the winter pruning?

Absolutely no experience is necessary as we strive to achieve pruning knowledge equilibrium: we will teach you what you need to know unless you are in a position to teach us. All levels, ages and abilities are welcome.

We hope you’ll join our first activity of the year, followed by a discussion of all things orchard over some fruity refreshments at The Fox.

Come meet us today Saturday January 13th, 2018, 11:00 at the Osterley Lock Orchard.


Winter Pruning

j-m-01Welcome back from the festive season, and a very Happy New Year to all!

Here’s a great opportunity to start with those new year resolutions, to be an active part of the orchard trail, to help improve our local area and preserve some of our local nature gems. It’s easy, it’s fun, and it’s free!

Come and join our

Winter Pruning & Guided Tour
Saturday January 13th, 2018 11:00

Meet 11:00 at the Osterley Lock Orchard and join a guided tour, or join the active workforce for the 2018 winter pruning. No experience necessary but suitable clothing for either activity is recommended.

The guided tour is the perfect opportunity to explore the orchard trail if you haven’t had a chance in a while.

The pruning group will look after apples, pears, quinces and medlars from Osterley Lock to Blackberry Corner. We’ll have some tools but you’re welcome to bring your own pair of secateurs, gloves, and so on.

Both groups hope to retire to The Fox ~14:00 for refreshments.


Points Mean Prizes!

picnic-kidsWe must have ticked some boxes with the judges and are now pleased and proud to report that London in Bloom awarded the Osterley Lock Orchard with thriving in the It’s your Neighbourhood category. 

Thriving, we are proud to add, is just one tiny little step short of outstanding.

Our thanks to everyone who encouraged or helped with this fabulous project. Why not come and help celebrate at

Saturday October 21
Autumn Picnic and Birthday Party

in Jubilee Meadow by the sheep, from 13:00.

Bring a friend, a spouse, a child or a neighbour. Bring a drink and something to eat for the sharing table if you like, but please be prepared to take leftovers back with you as we hate waste. You’re also welcome to come empty handed, as there’s always plenty and more to go round.

Most importantly, bring yourself. See you there!

City Next Week

_mg_8669Have you always wanted to know how the Orchard trail started?

Are you interested in what we do week after week, month after month and year after year to maintain the orchards along the canal?

Do you want to know what other projects are featured in the museum of London exhibition?

Come to our lunchtime session in the London Museum! Full detail at http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/event-detail?id=122408

… and maybe have a walk around the City Now City Future exhibition afterwards to  explore how others shape the city: http://www.museumoflondon.org.uk/museum-london/citynowcityfuture