Living Willow

Willow is an unusual wood. Stick a nice fresh cutting in the ground and more times than not it roots and grows. It turns out that its bark contains lots of rooting hormone and salicylic acid (related to aspirin). This means that you can create sculptures of living willow like this one a team of us recently did in the lower part of the orchard. Let’s see if it grows! Many thanks to Christine who designed and led this project.

Which reminds me that this Saturday 17 from 10-12 we will be doing our first orchard work session. We have a few places left at this stage, please let me know via this blog if you can come.

Meanwhile let me leave you with two interesting sightings from the park. The first is wood anemone spotted near the seasonal pond by Tony.

The second, a little egret seen by Bobbie near the Langley pond. I love these birds but I fear that our ponds are not to their liking just now, with all their silt. Hey ho – soon to be mended I trust.

See you soon.

Divers in the park

An unusual, but welcome, site in the park yesterday as divers came to inspect the penstocks (like sluice gates) that lie on the outlets to our main ponds. I had heard these things existed but was delighted to see them for myself. They can be adjusted to regulate the water flow. These guys have also been sampling the silt to check its depth and assessing contamination near the footbridge.

With the hedgerows now in bloom with all the various prunus (plum related) trees, Thanks to Tony for some lovely pics of some less obvious stars of the season. This dark-edged beefly was seen on the wet weather pond near the orchard. And Tony also found this Common field speedwell.

As lockdown has now eased we are looking forward to doing some work on the orchard in groups of six.

And this is to invite you to come to our first regular work session on Saturday April 17th at 10am when we shall be preparing the orchard for the new season.

We also have one place left on a special willow sculpture session on Wednesday April 7th at 2pm. If you would like to learn how to cut and plant willow cuttings to make into ornamental shapes. We shall be making a small willow feature in the damp, lower end of the orchard. Thanks to Chris Griffiths for this workshop.

If you would like to come to either of these please let me know via this blog or otherwise.

Chris

Nature is busy – Spring is here

What a glorious few days we had last week! The Great Spotted Woodpecker was in the Tree of Heaven. The frogs beneath were laying down copious quantities of frogspawn in the Langley pond. And Spring was truly in the air. It is cold again for a few days now and the grind of lockdown continues, but Spring is with us and with it the hope that soon we will emerge, all jabbed up and friendly like.

I hear much on the airwaves about the Newlands bridge (between Lyde and Emersons) and its refurbishment. It seems we can look forward to the approaches to the bridge being substantially improved, plans are being developed and we will shortly be consulted.

There is also to be some work in the Park. The ponds are to be desilted later in the year, after the breeding season, so we should have some water again in the middle ponds. I walked around the streams with John Morris of South Glos recently and we saw four rats in half an hour! That is slightly worrying and underlines the importance of minimising food sources of all kinds in the park. We are also expecting some works around the footbridge area, which I know many of us have wanted to be improved.

Thanks to Venetia – these happy frogs were in the Emersons Green Lane pond

Two pieces of other news;

Bristol City Council are offering an online conference entitled Love Nature, Love your park on March 20th. It will include sessions on meadows, ponds etc and is open to folk from South Glos. Some of us might like to attend. You can dip in and out according to what interests you.

I am sorry to report that there was an unpleasant incident involving a cyclist near the Langley entrance to the park last night (Thursday 4th March at about 5.30 – 5.45. If anyone saw this please let us know through this blog.

Finally our Friends management committee meets shortly (on March 15th) so if you have any particular interests or concerns you would like to raise ,please let us know via this blog or otherwise.

One familiar place

Everything seems so strange these days, but I am sure that many of us have found comfort in the park. I am heartened by the birds calling out the coming Spring, even though the ground is so wet and the air cold.

I

I hope you like our new noticeboard. I hope it will mean that people understand more about what is going on in the orchard and why we do what we do. They may also feel more confident to take the fruit. The orchard has never been tidier, after some serious brushcutting in the autumn. We have also managed to do a little pruning despite the lockdown, so we are well set up for the new growing season.

Since we are all spending so much time at home these days I thought you might be interested in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch which is taking place over the weekend of Jan 29-31st. The survey just takes an hour and it doesn’t matter if you don’t see anything! They have decided to focus on gardens this year, because of the lockdown and I know that some of you have been enjoying the birds from your windows. The Woodpecker has already been seen!

Talking of Woodpeckers, I was delighted to hear a ‘Zoom talk’ at Bristol Naturalists Society recently by Ben MacDonald, who has been studying wildlife associated with some ancient orchards in Herefordshire. He was thrilled to find the rare Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in one of these orchards. (Ours is the Greater Spotted variety) and talked about developing orchards for wildlife. If you like books you may be interested in his book Orchard – A Year in England’s Eden.

Best wishes, especially to those working with the sick, keep safe.

The times are changing

I always look for these little white lanterns on the strawberry tree this time of year. They turn into strawberry-like fruits shortly – but they are not much good to eat!

We are delighted to publish today Ed Drewitt’s report about our survey of the park and surrounding area. Working with Ed has been a privilege and has resulted in a report of great interest with recommendations about future care of our area that you might enjoy. You can access it here.

You may have noticed that we have been doing lots of clearing in the orchard recently. The idea is to clear off the scrub once each year and make compost which can then be added to the trees and bushes the next year.

It is also to get the orchard ready for its tenth anniversary in 2021! The first trees were planted in February 2011 and we are hoping, lockdowns permitting to have a celebration some time next year.

I am afraid that we had to cancel our work session this Saturday Nov 14th for obvious reasons but if anyone would like to do some work on their own on the orchard, please let me know and I can offer some ideas of jobs to do.

We placed this little plaque on the painted stones garden this week. It has been beautifully hand made by Genevieve Whittle Ford of Gennywren Silver. We are very grateful for her work.

Best wishes for the lockdown. i am sure your spirits were lifted, as mine were, by news of the vaccine. Better times to come.

Larry the lockdown snake is now in his forever home

Last weekend young people decorated the new garden in the park with the many hundred stones which had been lovingly painted during the lockdown period this Spring. The garden is now nearly ready. Take a look. it is just to the Medical Centre side of the formal rectangular garden. We are planning to add some more plants and a small plaque. We hope it will evolve over time as people add more stones and it becomes an ongoing piece of community art.

I am also delighted to report that we have, at last, received the long-awaited information board for the orchard and I hope to install it very shortly. The orchard has missed out this year and could do with some looking after, so I plan two working parties at

10am on Wednesday October 21st

10am on Saturday November 14th

If you can join us you would be very welcome. If you can let me know through this site or otherwise if you are coming then I can keep an eye on numbers and regulations.

We are grateful to South Glos and Councillor Judy Adams for a grant towards the costs of the new garden.

Best wishes and stay safe

Some reflections on an extraordinary year

We thought we were so well set up. A Festival of Nature to be held in May in association with the library with a local acoustic band with an interest in Thomas Hardy and the natural world, lots of stalls with a nature interest, plant sales etc. Then, like everyone else, we had to cancel it down. We couldn’t even get onto the orchard for the first part of the year. One passer-by commented at the time ‘This used to be an orchard you know’. I smiled and told him some more about it.

The great thing about the orchard is that it was designed to feel wild and so has suffered little as a result of our neglect. We even made some progress, thanks to Neville, in clearing a large bramble patch at the North End, which now has two plum trees planted and more to come this autumn.

Our Facebook profile is ably managed by Amparo and now has more than a hundred followers. It was also Amparo who alerted us to the painted stone snake in Johnson Road that needed a new home. This lovely piece of community art was created by local young people to commemorate the key workers who have helped us during the pandemic. The stones will shortly take pride of place in a new garden in the park supported by a grant from Councillor Judy Adams.

The park continues to be an extraordinary asset to the neighbourhood with its lovely combination of formal space, play space and wild, we need to make sure it remains good for all its users and that includes all the plants, insects, bats, moths, foxes, hedgehogs and other wild creatures who use it. To that end we were delighted this year to take our first steps in monitoring the wildlife in the park as small teams of us worked with Ed Drewitt learning for ourselves how to identify and quantify all that lives in the park and its surroundings. One delight of this process was to see how the triangle of meadow bordering Emersons Green Lane has become a haven of wildflowers and insects. Ed says it is a prime example of meadowland. And what did we do to achieve this? Almost nothing. It just happened. Therein is perhaps the lesson of the year. If the wild is left to be wild it flourishes. Ed’s survey report will give us pointers as to how, with minimal intervention, we can make sure the wildlife in the park remains as abundant as it is.

If you have any comments or questions about the park and the Friends group please join our AGM which is to be held online by Zoom at 8pm on October 5th. If you let us know via this website that you want to join the meeting, we can make sure you get an invitation.

Ecological survey – 3rd Session – Birds

This is just to let you know that our next session with Ed Drewitt will be next Tuesday 22nd September at 7am. The focus this time will be the birds of the park. If you would like to join us please let me know via the contact form or otherwise. We are limited to five people plus Ed because of the pandemic, but please apply anyway and we will see how we are placed. We will meet at 50 Guest Avenue, outside The Langley Arms.

Annual meeting by Zoom

Greetings all on what may be the last really hot day of the year. I am delighted to report that we gave out thirty or more bags of apples from tables around the community. Our first real community harvest!

I thought you might be interested to see some of the more unusual delights of the orchard this week. This is known as a purple chokeberry, rather like a blackcurrant.

While this pretty is an autumn olive, not really for eating, but the first time this bush has borne fruit. It is the one on the bend as you go round the path.

I am afraid the grapes this year are a little small and variable. I think some of this this may be because we suffered from a late frost.

This is particularly to invite you to our AGM which will be held online this year, for obvious reasons. It will take place on Monday October 5th at 8pm and we will use Zoom to do it, which is very easy. All that is needed is for you to let me know that you would like to come eg using the contact form on this site. I will then send you an email invitation to the meeting. The AGM is a chance to talk over anything of interest to you about the park as well as deal with the formal business like accounts and elections. We would be very pleased to welcome you to the meeting – and you don’t even have to leave your own house!