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!

All is safely gathered in

This week we harvested the apples from the two large trees in the orchard. One is a Bramley and the other Blenheim Orange. The apples are not at full ripeness at this stage but we wanted to get them safely off the trees to make sure the apples were not wasted or the trees damaged. it felt very good to harvest them. These two trees will be ten years old in February and this is the first year we have had a substantial crop. We are making the apples available to the community by means of tables outside a few of the houses in Emersons Green.

News from our bat survey with Ed Drewitt, we detected noctule, serotine and common pipistrelle bats flying on the edge of Green Lane around dusk. Some of these bats, especially the noctule, live in holes in trees, either where a branch has fallen or in a hole made by woodpeckers. Others live under the eaves etc of buildings. They can eat up to 3000 insects per night.

For those of you who can make it, we have our orchard workshop this Saturday Sept 5th at 10am just for two hours. Slight change of plan in regard to tools – suggesting shears, trowels and spades and to wear long-sleeved tops, long trousers and gloves if you have them, to ward off the stingers.

More news of the Painted Stones Garden coming shortly…

Painted Stones Garden gets the all clear

We are very pleased to announce that we can go ahead with our  plans to create a Painted Stones Garden in the Park. It will be sited near the rectangular formal garden and will be prepared in the next few weeks. Our first aim will be to make a home for the trail of stones by the Johnson Road art installation that so many people have contributed to.

IMG_2479This little chap introduces the next step in our ecology survey.

Moths, birds and bats – join us for our second session with Ed Drewitt, developing our ecological survey of the park. On the evening of 24th August, starting at 7.30pm we will set up a moth trap, go out in search of birds, then as dusk falls, we will tune into our local bats.On the morning of the 25th at 8.30am we will survey the moth trap. Meet at 50 Guest Avenue, Spaces are limited –  please contact Chris  if you would like to come via the Contact form or otherwise.

Also to say that our next working party on the orchard will be on Sept 5th, 10am as usual for two hours. Please bring your own tools. A rake and a barrow may be particularly useful this time in addition to other tools. We will split into two groups and work different parts of the site if we have more than the current limit of six people.

To close here are some pics of nighttime visitors to one garden in Emersons Green that I thought you might like to see.

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A revealing day

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Working with Ed Drewitt is truly fascinating. Our ecological survey of the park and surrounding area got off to a great start on Friday.  We were astonished to discover the variety of wild flowers already present in the wetland areas of the park and also on the Green next to Emersons Green Lane. The Green has developed a rich showing of wild flowers this year.vilgreensm

And as you walked through the grass you discovered that the place was alive with insects. We discovered some extraordinary creatures with our sweep nets, but this one you will recognise.

grasshoppersm

Grasshoppers have apparently been around on earth for about 250 million years! They look a bit like ancient monsters, don’t they?

We shall be continuing our survey on August 24th and 25th when we will be studying local moths and bats. I will let you know more nearer the time.

Meanwhile I am glad to report that this Saturday July 18th, with lockdown easing, we plan to have our first orchard working party. 10-12 noon as usual. Please let me know if you can come because numbers are limited by government and South Glos guidelines.

I am also pleased to report that I think we have found a home for the painted stones – more shortly.

Join in our Ecology Survey of the Park

autumnsmallI am delighted to announce that, following the loosening of restrictions on assembly, we are now able to go ahead with a project that we have been longing to do.

We have invited the local naturalist Ed Drewitt to help us do an ecological survey of the Western side of the Park including Green Lane and Emersons Green.  The idea is that a small group of us work with Ed so that we learn the ins and outs of ecological surveys and can continue to monitor the wildlife in and around our park afterwards.

Our first session is to take place on Friday July 10th from 10am – 3pm with a break for lunch and will  focus on sweep netting, pond dipping and making plant transects. (transects are a way of dividing up the area for study). We may split into a morning and afternoon session if numbers dictate. Please book your place on Eventbrite or let me know personally if you would like to be involved.

Everyone with a wildlife interest is welcome to join in but please note these sessions are not particularly orientated towards children. We will do other events for them in due course.

covid19pebbles

Also The Snake is seeking a home –  I am glad to report that the Covid 19 snake of painted stones that has been developing around the art work in Johnson road has now grown to be 500 stones long! The family that began it all have asked whether the snake might find a more permanent home in the park as a lasting sign of these strange times we have lived through and a mark of respect and thanks to all those who have worked to keep us safe and well.  it sounds like a great idea and we are exploring with South Glos whether this might be possible.

After the sun, the rain

It was so dry for so long that I feared we might lose some of our young trees in the orchard. The raspberries died back in the heat of May, their fruit hard and small. But when the rain came everything changed. Here is a tayberry, just coming ripe.

tayberrysm

 

Raspberries are filling out and turning red now and the damson tree is bearing fruit for the first time. The damsons should be ready around the end of July.

 

 

damsons

 

I am sorry we have not been able to do our usual work parties so far this year, but the magic of a ‘forest garden’ approach is that it all goes on without much attention. The Frampton Magnum plum, nearest to Emersons Green Lane was carrying a terrible bacterial disease after our wet winter and I feared we might have to take it down, but the drought seems to have resolved it and it is looking better than ever and bearing fruit.

 

moth

Wandering away from the orchard one day, I found this rather lovely insect on a leaf near the middle pond. Anyone know what it is called?

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Finally, I thought you might like to see this racing pigeon, who landed in our garden just before the thunderstorms. It has rings on its feet which allowed me to trace its owner and I gather that it was released from Frome and was aiming for Birmingham before it was overwhelmed by thunderstorms everywhere. He walked around our garden for a day and was so friendly and bedraggled we took him in and fed and watered him. He is looking much brighter and I will send him on his way when the rain clears this afternoon.

Best wishes to you all