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St Mary's Field Working Sessions: July - December 2017

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Sunday 10th December
16 enthusiastic and hardworking volunteers turned up on a wet and windy morning! Our achievements were:
- Weeding the cordons bed, and removal (where possible) of the decaying membrane that had previously been used as a mulch.
- Collection of several barrowloads (at least nine) of hops from Palmers brewery. This was then used as a mulch around fruit trees, being placed on wet cardboard around the trees. All of the cordons were done in this way (though the rear of the bed will need further mulching material), and the remainder of the espaliers.
- Fallen leaves from the mulberry tree were collected up and bagged, ready for safe disposal. This is a precaution against a disease that can attack mulberries, and the process has been shown to work in the past.
- The brambles behind the pond were trimmed back significantly, and the cuttings piled up to the left of the shed in the wildlife area.
- The laid hedge was trimmed down to a height about level with the top of the wire fence to its rear (about three quarters of the hedge was completed), and the trimmings stashed in a pile at the bottom right hand corner of the orchard.
Tea, coffee, hot apple juice and hot mince pies were very much appreciated and enjoyed at break time!
(Thanks to Paul Arthur for this report)
Sunday 12th November
Click on the first image to enlarge and scroll through (6 photos)
Our work party report
It was a breezy and chilly morning, with a couple of passing showers, but plenty to keep us occupied as we head towards the winter dormant season! The work included:
- Mowing all the tree circles with the petrol mower
- Laying down some wet cardboard around some of the fruit trees and covering with a compost mulch
- Greasing many of the trees
- Weeding around the cordons
- Raking up and safely disposing of diseased quince leaves
- Compost management, including emptying the middle bay (to use as mulch), turning the outer bays towards the centre, and introducing straw and green material to the right hand bay as the start of a new batch of compost
- The new shed was discussed (railway sleepers are now the favoured solution for the base). The site was cleared of twiggy growth, and nettles scythed and removed for compost
- Some weeds (docks and dandelions) removed from banks
- Pond edge tidied and better defined
- A pile of twigs was added to the log pile to the left of the pond, and ivy and bramble clippings, which had been left at the end of the wildlife area, were placed to the left of the shed to block the entrance.
Click on the first photo to enlarge and scroll through (4 photos)
Sunday 8th October
Yesterday we equalled our previous record work party attendance, with a total of 23 volunteers enjoying the most perfect autumn day, with plenty of warm sunshine. As we approach our all important Apple Day, there was plenty of preparatory work to do, along with some other ongoing support and maintenance activities. Our achievements included:
• Raking up cut grass that had resulted from the Town Council mowing of last week
• Scything and removal of grass in bee enclosure
• Removing some weed from the pond, and cutting the grass around it’s edge
• Planting quite a few wild flower plugs in the meadow area
• Light pruning of a few of the apple trees to facilitate easy access to stalls on Apple Day
• Picking apples (of which there were quite a few!)
• Digging over recently extended pollinator bed, and laying down of membrane to suppress weed growth
• Identification of tree branches that will need pruning during the winter
• Removal of docks, mainly from left hand side of orchard
• Cutting grass from around benches
• Scything and removal of grass from around the five hazels in the south east corner
• Mowing grass in wildlife area, and some key areas of orchard (strip in front of laid hedge, strip underneath cordons etc) with petrol mower.
(Thanks to Paul Arthur)
Sunday 10th September (thanks to Paul Arthur for this report).
We had an excellent turnout of 20 people, (all braving a very windy and cloudy morning, though thankfully the rain just about held off) including three new recruits, one of whom was a 10 year old boy who came along with his father.
Much was achieved on this most enjoyable morning:
- The whole of the remainder of the meadow area was scythed, and grass removed and stashed near the compost bays.
- Leaf debris, which appears diseased, was removed from around the base of the quince tree.
- Apple windfalls were collected, and some fruit picked too.
- The pollinator bed was extended. It was at least doubled in size. All turf was removed and stacked in front of the hedge.
- The gorse was trimmed back.
- The grass in front of the pond was trimmed back.
- All tree circles were mown with the petrol mower.
- The flower banks at the west entrance were weeded and tidied up.
- Further compost turning.
- The grass in the wildlife area was scythed and removed and added to the pile near the compost bays.
Sunday 13th August: click on the first photo on the left to enlarge and scroll through (6 images)
Working session, Sunday 13th August
Much was accomplished on this wonderfully sunny, warm and calm Sunday morning. Ideal for completing a whole range of tasks by the 21 volunteers:
  • Picked a range of early apples; Exeter Cross, Beauty of Bath, Discovery. Some were kept back for display at the Melplash Show, others for the taking by the volunteers
    • Apple thinning completed
    • Fruit tree pruning material that had been trimmed from trees a couple of weeks ago was gathered together, dried in the sun, tied into bundles and stashed behind compost bays
    • Some compost building
    • Grass from previous scything sessions was narrowed to the composting area, ready for putting into bays
    • A start was made on the preparation of the new shed site, by clearing vegetation (nettles, brambles etc) and pruning back of overhanging trees
    • Some maintenance in and around pond, including trimming back of grass around the edge
    • All tree circles were cut with the mower or scythed
    • A tree (Ellison’s Orange) was staked, having recently been blown to an angle by the wind. A substantial stake was knocked in, supported by a modified stake that had originally been supporting the tree. This will need further work (Malcolm planning to complete this during the coming week)
    • The table in the refreshment area was stabilised and made more sturdy
    • The lone Saw-wort flower was inspected, and as much ripe seed as possible extracted and scattered nearby.
(Thanks to Paul Arthur for this report)
Click the image on the left to enlarge and scroll through (4 slides). Photos: David Hawkins
Sunday 9th July: (thanks to Paul Arthur)
Fifteen volunteers put in a lot of hard work on a beautifully sunny, hot morning to complete a range of tasks, leaving the orchard looking in tip top shape! Completed jobs were:
All tree circles were mowed, along with the strips of grass either side of the main paved path
Fruit was thinned on many trees
Cordons were weeded
The Cornish Aromatic, and at least one other tree, were staked with new chestnut stakes that Malcolm had collected during the week
Brambles were trimmed back from around the pond and decking area
Shrubs were trimmed back from around the gate that leads into the wildlife area
Some algae was removed from the pond
One compost bay was (partially) emptied, ready to receive recently cut grass
Large area to south of hawthorn tree (previously identified by Nick) was scythed, and all grass removed and added to large pile to the right of the compost bays.
Friday 7th July: Scything at St Mary's Field, 6.30 a.m. (Thanks to Paul Arthur)
We had an extremely successful scything session this morning. The weather was superb, with not a breath of wind and plenty of sunshine. As the temperature rose, so the butterflies and grasshoppers became ever more active; a joy to see!
We scythed the whole of the eastern portion of the meadow area, i.e. on the church side of the path that runs north to south just this side of the hawthorn tree. We also started the area to the south of the hawthorn tree. We probably covered about 75% of all the grass we wish to scythe this year. We left a couple of small areas of standing grass for the wildlife to enjoy. We raked up about two thirds of the cut grass, with the remainder being left to dry and for the scattering of any seeds. We had a rotation of seven people on the scythes, and the two on grass collection did a valiant job! Jill provided a wonderful and much appreciated breakfast of bacon, sausages, veggie sausages, rolls, fruit and tea and coffee. The sustenance was essential to keep us going until our conclusion at about 10 a.m. We had many compliments from passers-by.
Overall, a very successful morning. Contrary to earlier thoughts, Nick and I concluded that we shouldn’t be mowing the scythed area with our petrol mower yet, maybe not for another month, to enable it to ‘green up’ a bit. So for our work party on Sunday, we should have a small band of people scything as much of the remainder of standing grass near the hawthorn as we can manage, but leaving a small area for invertebrates to enjoy. We can then use the mower to cut the usual circles around the trees.
During the course of our activities we found one fully grown frog, which got away completely unscathed!