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St Mary's Church Field Orchard
Work parties January - June 2020
click here for July - December
thanks to Paul Arthur for all reports

Our annual meadow scything event took place on the early morning of Tuesday 23rd June. We had absolutely perfect conditions, with sunshine, warmth, no wind and a light dew on the grass which makes for ideal scything. We were also pleased that the grass was standing upright, only one small area had been flattened (probably by somebody sitting on it!) so this too, added to the ease with which the scythes cut through the grass.

Two early risers started scything at 6.30 am, and were later joined by four more enthusiastic volunteers. We left three discrete areas to the northwest of the meadow from the central elder down towards the beehives. This long grass will be a useful refuge for any wildlife, invertibrates, butterflies etc. We can scythe this area in the late summer or early autumn.

This morning two teams, armed with rakes, forks and wheelbarrows collected up the grass. We piled as much as we could into compost bays one and five, with the remaining grass stashed neatly underneath the hedge to the right of the compost bays. This will rot down quickly, and we can add it to the bays as and when space becomes available.

The area now looks fantastic, and we received several positive comments from people as they walked past.
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Sunday 14th June
Our first routine orchard work party since early March, due to constraints imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. We arranged for three separate 90 minute sessions, with 15 minutes breaks in between, and with just six people per session. We followed the social distancing guidelines, and cleaned tools and equipment where appropriate. After a cloudy start, the sun came out and provided us with glorious conditions to undertake the work. So achievements included:
  • All tree circles (except those in the meadow area) and paths were mown with the petrol mower
  • The hedge between the orchard and allotment was tidied up, with wayward branches removed
  • Compost was used as a mulch around some fruit trees, mainly the pear espaliers
  • The pollinator bed was weeded
  • Plug plants (ox-eye daisy and corky-fruited water-dropwort) were planted in the pollinator bed and meadow area
  • Compost was turned, where compost in the outer bays was moved to the inner ones
  • The strip of grass immediately in front of the hedge between the orchard and allotments was scythed, and the grass composted
  • Some tufts of grass that had been missed by the mower last week were scythed off
  • The grass all around the pollinator bed was cut (sheared and scythed) and composted (we cut the grass right up to the mulberry tree)
  • Fruit was thinned out on two of the apple trees
  • A large pile of compost that had been to the right of the compost bays was added to bays one and five
  • Some brambles were removed from the pollinator bed and grass in front of it trimmed back
  • Some clumps of grass that had been left from the recent mowing were raked up
  • The grass was cut back from around the edge of the pond
Although conditions were somewhat different this time, everybody thoroughly enjoyed themselves and as usual it was a pleasure to be getting the votes of thanks from passers by and even the people undertaking the work! The orchard is looking absolutely fantastic, a credit to all the volunteers and Town Council mowing.
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Monday 4th May
We had a most enjoyable work party in the community orchard on Monday afternoon and completed all of the jobs we had set out to do. All the tree circles are now cut, using a petrol mower, scythe, and shears. We raked up and composted the cut grass. There are a small number of tree circles in the meadow area we didn’t cut, as we had previously agreed that we would leave these, though at least two had such long grass (and one had a good crop of chard around it!), that we trimmed them back to stop the trees being totally smothered!

We also mowed all of the grass paths.

Further jobs included weeding the pollinator bed, and planting lady’s bedstraw, two wild basil, knapweed, St John’s wort and self heal, and weeding along the row of apple cordons.Overall, the orchard is looking an absolute picture at the moment, helped greatly by cutting the grass paths.
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27th April
A small team of committee members turned out yesterday evening to cut the grass in the tree circles in the orchard. It proved to be a very successful session! 
-We cut 10 tree circles (to the left of the main path coming from the church) in half an hour, and scythed five tree circles (towards the hedge between the allotments and the orchard) in 45 minutes! We raked up the grass, and stashed it (mainly) in compost bay number 5. 
-We weeded along the line of cordons.
-We have about 10 to 15 tree circles still to do. For most of these the grass wasn’t quite as long, so we felt we could afford to wait another week before we tackle them. One or two of these are in the meadow area, and we had said we wouldn’t trim the grass around these, but at least one did look a little in need of some tidying up. So, another hours' worth of work should easily cover it. We are therefore suggesting a similar session on Monday 4th May.
Sunday 8th March
We had a very successful and very well attended work party, with 22 people turning out to brave the showers and cold wind. Despite all that, several important jobs were completed, and we are now back up to date following our cancelled work party in February. Jobs completed were:
  • Cutting back the brambles behind the pond, and some piled at left hand end to deter people from walking behind the pond
  • The drowning bins have been relocated about three feet behind the compost bays, on a wooden surface. This will allow easier access to the compost bays from behind. The soil that was removed to level the surface was used to ‘bury’ the dilapidated wooden seat that had previously been removed from close to the Tom Putt apple tree
  • Weeds removed from along all of the cordons and espaliers. Also some weeds and chard were removed from around the Lord Lambourne and Bardsey Island apple trees
  • The whole of the meadow area and all the tree circles were mown
  • Grass and brambles were trimmed back from around the hazels at the top southeastern corner of the orchard
  • A start was made on weeding the bog garden
  • The hawthorn in the wildlife area was trimmed back
  • The hedge between the allotments and wildlife area was trimmed down
  • Some very useful compost turning. The middle bay was emptied (mostly into bay number two), and others turned and spread between bins two and four, incorporating some freshly mown grass cuttings.
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Sunday 12th January
We had a very successful work party yesterday with an excellent turnout of 20 people. The weather was dry, with some sunshine, rather windy but very mild. Achievements included:
- Tree pruning. The two apple trees nearest to the gate into the wildlife area were pruned. Several tree team members helped, aided by a briefing and training from Christine
- Further weeding of the pollinator bed
- Some further trimming of the hedge between the orchard and allotments, this time reducing the height to ‘fence height'
- Compost management: bay 1 was transferred to bay 2, bay 5 transferred to bay 4, and the remainder to bay 2. Bays 1 and 5 are now empty
- Some wooden debris (prunings etc) was burnt on a bonfire, though this had been very reluctant to get going, so not much was burnt!
- The bird boxes were cleaned out
- A branch of the sycamore that was just below the bat box was removed to allow easier access for the bats
- Some preparation for Wassail, logs sawn up for the firebowl, some garlands made, and 15 areas of dog poo were cleared up!
- A chiffchaff was spotted in the wildlife area.