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

Working morning, Sunday 10th September (thanks to Paul Arthur for this report).
For our work party yesterday, 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!
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