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St Mary's Field: Working Days January - July 2016
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Sunday 10th July
Despite the mist and slight drizzle when we arrived, a hardy group of 12 volunteers were able to complete most of the tasks identified at the committee meeting.

- The final fruit thinning following the June drop was completed using the recently purchased ladder. The ladder was very well liked by all who used it and provided a much more stable platform from which to perform the task.
- The scything of the grass in the bee enclosure was successfully completed without a sting. The bees in both hives were increasingly active as the morning mist was burnt away and the sun began to shine.
- The weeding of the cordons was successfully completed.
- The goose grass smothering the allotment hedge was removed.
- The grass around the pond (to the left of the path that leads to the shed), and around the whips in the wildlife area were scythed, so the pond edge is much more clearly defined.
- The wild flower banks were carefully weeded. It was noted that when the weeds were being removed the bank tended to collapse so a decision was made to cut back rather than completely remove some of the weeds in order to maintain the structure.
- There was insufficient time to dig out remaining docks before they set seed, so the emerging seed heads were removed instead.
- The wire was removed from one of the tree posts leaving the post in place.
- The grass in the north east triangle of the wildflower area (opposite the pathway from South St) was sickled to remove all the seeding Meadow Barley to prevent it continuing to spread. As many seeds a possible removed from the soil. The arisings were stored in dumpy bags for later burning or drowning to destroy the seeds.
- The pollinator bed was given a quick check and some weeds removed.

The tasks that we were not able to complete included:
- Weeding the tree circles.
- Siting the new storage box. (Once the old compost bins have been cleared its current position is probably as good as any.)
- Collection of Yellow Rattle seed – it was very wet.
- Completion of the construction of the apple store
- Dealing with the contents of the drowning bin

All in all it was a very successful morning with another large pile of grass heaped up beside the compost bins, and ready to be added.
Ian Bark

12th June
The combination of the twinning weekend, the Green Craft Fair, the Vintage Tractor & Stationary Engine Club Rally, the final day of Dorset Arts Weeks, the Queen’ s birthday picnic and the forecast of wet weather led to only seven people turning up. But what a seven! What they lacked in numbers they more than made up for in enthusiasm.
Following the recent cutting of the long grass by the council, we set about cutting the remaining grass around the trees. In order to achieve this goal, Ian and Mitch taught three of the ladies present to use a scythe, and by the time they broke for refreshments, they were becoming pretty proficient - most of the tree circles had been tidied up. Others present set about raking up the newly cut grass and barrowing it down to the compost bins.
By the end of the morning, all of the standard trees and the pear espaliers had been scythed, sheared or sickled and there was a huge heap of grass ready to be added to the compost bins.
Thanks to Ian for this report

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8th May
Thirteen volunteers benefited from a warm and sunny morning while undertaking a number of tasks in the community orchard. Our achievements included:
The construction of an apple store attached to the side of the shed in the wildlife area. The moveable trays and housing were donated many years ago and the work was expertly undertaken by Malcolm.
The grass in the bee enclosure and in front of the old compost bins in the wildlife area was scythed, raked up and stashed in the new compost bins.

Work was started on weeding the pollinator bed, and trimming the grass around its borders.
Further weeding around some of the apple trees and in particular the cordons which are now looking quite spectacular!
Some weeding of the bog garden.
Compost was removed from the right hand old compost bin in the wildlife area, and stashed in the new compost bins in the orchard area. In the process, two slow worms and a toad were found!
The path beside the blackcurrants was levelled and made safe.
Some further wildflowers were planted in the wildlife area and pollinator bed.
Compost in the new bins was turned and moved towards the central bin.

10th April
We equalled our previous record of 23 volunteers turning out to help with the monthly maintenance of the community orchard. The weather was dry, with some hazy sunshine, though there was a chilly wind. Achievements included:
- scything a large patch in the wildlife area, to enable wild flowers such as yellow rattle to thrive;
- raking up the grass, removing and composting it;
- weeding around the cordons and espaliers;
- collecting several barrow loads of spent hops from Palmers Brewery, and applying as a mulch around the fruit trees;
- planting wild flower plugs such as oxeye daisy, betony, etc., in the meadow, the wildlife area, and on the banks of the western entrance;
- turning compost to accelerate the rotting process, and creating a new compost heap in the final fifth bay;
- tree post checking and removing as appropriate (the trees are now mostly mature enough to support themselves without the help of a post);
- removing dock from across the whole site;
- completing repairs to the new shed, and removing the unsightly temporary wooden struts;
- mowing grass paths near to bee enclosure;
- defining the boundary of the meadow area ‘triangle’, with markers (pieces of tape).

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13th March
Twenty one volunteers ventured out on a perfect early Spring morning to enjoy the sunshine and carry out some jobs in the community orchard. These included:
• Starting to tidy up our recently acquired second allotment, by trimming back a rather vigorous tree and tidying away some debris, most of which was burnt
• Tidying and levelling a shed that was on the new allotment
• Weeding the pollinator bed adjacent to the bee enclosure
• Weeding around some of the trees, including the cordons
• Collecting spent hops from Palmers brewery, and scattering around many of the trees and cordons as a mulch
• Checking and securing tree ties
• Re-inking some of the tree labels
• Planting some wild flower plants (including self heal) on the banks of the west entrance
• Erecting two bird boxes (constructed at the previous work party), one on the sycamore and one on the hawthorn
- Starting to prepare some timber that will be used to create a wood store in due course.
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14th February
The morning was cold, dry and mostly cloudy, with a few glimpses of the sun later. Eighteen people joined the work party. Our main achievements were:
- All standard apple trees and most of the cordons were pruned, an important task at this time of year.
- Two bird boxes were built to support the beginning of RSPB’s National Birdbox Week.
- The hedge which was laid last month - between the allotments and wildlife area - received its final tidying up. Some pruning was done to achieve the desired shape & some further stakes put in to secure stray branches.
- Blanket weed was removed from the pond.
- The bog garden was weeded, and a low branch of the adjacent hawthorn removed to give more light.
- Frog spawn found lying on a path elsewhere in the orchard was scooped up and carefully added to the pond - its undoubted preferred location!
- We made a bonfire to burn some thorny prunings recently cut from the two hedges.
(Thanks to Paul Arthur for this report)
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10th January
A dry, fairly mild and breezy morning, with some sunshine. 24 people turned out to help with some very important tasks - these included:
• The laying of the hedge between the allotments and the wildlife area. We removed the temporary fence (not to be reinstated) and laid the hedge towards the north. Mostly hawthorn, with a few hazel and elm saplings. The hedge was tidied on the allotment side with any stray twigs being trimmed off, and some stakes that had been retrieved from the old fencing used as stakes to secure the growth. At our next work party we’ll tidy and stake the wildlife area side of the hedge
• The two banks either side of the west entrance were weeded (not all weeds removed, as it was agreed that lack of plant growth could encourage soil erosion in heavy rain)
• The pollinator bed near to the bee enclosure was weeded
• Lower branches of the ash tree were removed
• A bird box was installed on the north facing side of the ash tree
• The hedge between the allotments and the orchard that had been laid last year was trimmed off at the top
• Fruit trees inspected and some pruning done
• A new post was installed at the end of the espalier trees near the church entrance and some new wiring attached to enable more effective training of branches
The newly planted Concorde pear tree was trimmed back and chosen branches were attached to canes.
Thanks to Paul Arthur for this report
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An additional working evening - Tuesday, 26 July 2016
Seven people in total came out on a cloudy but dry evening to attend to various jobs in the orchard, as recent weather conditions have encouraged much growth of fruit trees and grass in the last few weeks.
Achievements included:
- Removal of several teasel from the area to the right of the church entrance
- Cutting back of grass in the same area - Cleaning of developing plum fruits on a cordon just inside the church entrance (which have suffered a little from an earlier aphid infestation) - Inspection of fruit trees, and any maintenance carried out where necessary - Removal of some weed from pond - Weeding of the pollinator bed - Cutting back of grass in front of the bog garden
- Removal of some docks - Weeding around trees - Scything and removal of grass from around all trees except those in the meadow area - Scything of a strip of grass (about four feet wide) between the main path through the orchard and the meadow area
……and there is always plenty of grass to move to the bins for composting.