Working sessions July - December 2019
thanks to Paul Arthur and Jenn Baker for these reports and photos

Sunday 8th December
We had a very successful work party yesterday. Twenty people turned out to brace themselves against rather windy conditions, and with the odd shower too. Much accomplished, and achievements included:

  • The tree pruning was started, and some branches marked for treatment during the course of the winter season
  • The pollinator bed was weeded, several large docks removed, and the grass edges trimmed. It now looks considerably tidier!
  • Some pond maintenance done, leaves and other debris removed
  • Compost management; bay 2 was emptied, the less well rotted material going into bay 1, and the well rotted compost going into bay 3
  • The lavender near the church entrance was trimmed back
  • Some wooden debris (prunings, etc.) was burnt on a bonfire
  • Leaves raked up and stashed in the leaf bin, which is now full
  • The hedge between the allotments and orchard was trimmed, just the sides, not the top which will be done at a future date.
Sunday 17th November
We had a dry morning, if mostly cloudy, and virtually calm conditions for our work party yesterday. Ideal working weather! Despite the favourable conditions, we had just nine people turning out. Our achievements included:
  • some wild flowers planted in the pollinator bed (knapweed, ox-eye daisy)
  • some weeding of pollinator bed
  • some blanket weed and other debris removed from pond
  • compost turning - the two extreme outer bays (1 and 5) turned into adjacent bays (2 and 4), and some leaf mould from leaf bin incorporated too. Some new plant debris added to bay 5
  • the leaf bin was emptied, grass clipped around the outside, and two barrowloads of freshly fallen leaves added to start a new batch of leaf mould
  • the hedge behind the quince, Exeter Cross, and at least one other tree was cut back to prevent encroachment of growth (mainly bramble)
  • grass underneath the cordons was cut back, and the strip lightly dug over
  • fallen leaves (potentially harbouring disease) from quince and mulberry were bagged up ready to be taken to the tip.
Sunday 6th October
This month's session was held on the first Sunday of the month rather than the usual second, as we have Apple Day next Saturday so will probably be too exhausted to be in the orchard again the following day! We had an excellent turnout of 20 volunteers, including 3 newcomers (welcome Vee, Adam & Jacqueline).
A lot of the tasks were aimed at getting the orchard looking its best for next week. The Town Council had kindly mowed everything during the week, so we raked, collected and composted the cuttings. The last of the orchard apples were picked ready for juicing on Apple Day and we have a really good crop of decent fruit that we'll add to the Ploughman's Lunches and also sell by the bag.
The hedges and trees were checked for any sticky-out bits, and a very old bench that had become unsafe was removed.
The weather was kind, with only a sprinkle or two of rain, and by the early afternoon it was warm enough for people to be peeling off layers! It was a good, productive session so well done and thank you to all our hardworking volunteers!
Report: Jenn Baker
Sunday 8th September
22 volunteers turned out for our work party. An excellent day weather wise, with lots of warm sunshine. Perfect conditions for undertaking all the orchard tasks, which included:

Pressing 32 litres of apple juice, all from apples gown in the community orchard. This has been taken away to be frozen, and will be used for Christmas Cheer and our 2020 Wassail event;
We scythed, raked up and composted all of the remaining long grass in the meadow area;
Some compost management, new compost including the apple pulp and freshly cut grass;
Put up a bat box on the sycamore tree, facing in a southeasterly direction;
Mowed the grass around a lot of the fruit trees, though not all were done. This is ahead of the next mowing by the Town Council;
We did some weeding and general tidying up around some of the fruit trees;
We tidied up and re-potted some of the plug plants that had been kindly donated by Dorset Wildlife Trust.
Sunday 11th August
A very productive monthly work party yesterday. The weather was ideal, plenty of sunshine but still quite breezy. We had a really good turnout of 21 volunteers this time. We did the following:

Completed scything the meadow area, tackling two areas we’d not been able to do on 26th July. We left one patch at the northwest of the meadow area for wildlife.
The whole of the meadow area that has been scythed was mowed, with the blade set at its highest setting, and the cuttings removed.
We mowed around most of the tree circles, and the strips down the sides of the central path.
The grass under the Ribston Pippin was scythed.
The edge of the pond was tidied, and unwanted blanket weed and other plants were removed from the pond.
Brambles were trimmed back from behind the pond.
We started work on removing water shoots from the fruit trees.
Summer fruit tree pruning, including the cordons.
The grass in the bee enclosure had been previously cut by Jim . 
Collecting windfalls and picking the early apples (Beauty of Bath and Exeter Cross).
Turning the compost heaps.
Trimming the hedge between the allotments and the orchard.
Trimming the suckers from around the base of the ash tree.

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Friday 26th July, 6.30 a.m.
Annual early morning scything event
13 volunteers offered their services for a 6.30 a.m. start. We benefitted from perfect working weather, where it was dull and dry (apart from a brief light shower at one point), though very warm and humid.
The purpose of this annual activity is to scythe the grass in our wild meadow area, and take away the hay so that nutrients don’t leach back into the soil. Our objective is to reduce the fertility of the soil, to encourage a diverse range of wild flowers, most of which flourish in poorer soil conditions. We scythed and raked up about 80% of the meadow area, which was a great achievement. The cut grass was stashed in our compost bays, which are now full to bursting, and we have a separate pile nearby which we’ll feed into the compost bays as it all rots down.
We added some water to the compost bays to enhance the rotting down process.
Sunday 14th July
  • Two wildlife habitats were created from the branches of the hawthorn tree that had been pollarded on 5th July. One behind the pollinator bed, and one behind the pond in the wildlife area.
  • Goosegrass was removed from the hedge and ‘leaf bin’ in the wildlife area.
  • A small amount of blanket weed was removed from the pond.
  • Further fruit thinning. This job is now nearly complete, we are about 90% done.
  • The stone fruiting trees were pruned.
  • Barley grass was removed from the meadow area, bagged up and taken to the tip.
  • A strip of grass, one metre wide, was mowed down the side of the main path to demarcate the meadow area. Also, all the grass paths were cut with the mower.
  • The long grass in the wildlife area was scythed and removed, including that growing around the hazel trees there.
  • Much cut grass was stashed in the compost bays.
  • Long grass, brambles and goosegrass was removed from around the six hazels in the top southeast corner of the orchard, and stashed behind the compost bays ready for burning.
  • Hogweed seed heads were removed from the meadow area, bagged up and taken to the tip.