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Working Days in the Orchard
August - December 2016

Sunday 11th December
A great turnout of 22 volunteers on a chilly, misty but dry morning. Our tasks were:

Identification of some tree branches that are to be removed by the tree team at a later tree pruning session.
Pruning and tidying up of two fruit trees that had suffered some malicious damage.
Planting of wildflower plugs in the main meadow area.
Reviewing of the pond wildlife. An expert offered advice, and three tasks are suggested for our January work party. These are the removal of the patch of bullrushes and grass, and re-establishing just one or two rushes (they are vigorous growers), the lowering of part of the pond edge to give us a broader transitional border, and the removal of two species of alien pond plants, Canadian pond weed and a similar related plant.
Removal of a lump of clay from the middle of the wildlife area.
Cleaning out the two nest boxes on the hawthorn (each had nests in from the spring).
Tidying of the lower shed (it now looks much tidier).
A very useful and informative tool sharpening training session, led by Mitch and Malcolm.
The group also enjoyed a lovely cup of excellent mulled apple juice supplied by Jill, and a mince pie or two, supplied by Jill, and some expertly made by Ian!
(Thanks to Paul Arthur)
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Click on the rows of photos below to enlarge and scroll through

Sunday 13th November
Seventeen enthusiastic volunteers turned out on a perfect sunny Autumn morning, to carry out a range of tasks to keep the orchard looking its very best, and preparing it for the long dark days of Autumn and Winter. The following was achieved:
  • A large swathe of grass in the wildlife area was scythed. The cut grass, and some ash leaves, were stashed in our compost bays
    • The apple store was dismantled, and will ultimately be disposed of
    • Various off-cuts of wood were added to the wood store, ready for our fire on Wassailing Day
    • Nest boxes were cleaned out
    • The metal tree guards were removed and disposed of at the metal recycling area of the tip
    • Tree posts were checked for sturdiness - some may need replacing - this is an ongoing job
    • The pond was cleared of ash leaves, which were added to the compost bays
    • Mowed around most of the trees to the right of the main path
    • Mowed the performance area ready for Wassailing
    • Weeded the pollinator bed
    • Planted five wildflower plugs in the bank at the west entrance
    • Weeded and tidied around espaliers and cordons
    • Smoothed over the area of rough soil that had been left when Town Council re-surfaced the gravel path - stones removed - it now looks much better
    • Compost bays were tidied and compost watered in
Thanks to Paul Arthur for the write up and David Hawkins for the photos
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Thursday, 20th October
Our last apple pressing session of the year, which produced 24 litres of apple juice. We used the remainder of the apples collected for Apple Day together with the remaining apples on the Adam’s Pearmain trees. The juice will be carefully frozen in preparation for Wassailing in the New Year (January 15th 2017).
Sunday 9th October
12 volunteers turned up on this sunny morning with little wind, and it soon became quite warm; a perfect day for working! The main achievements were:
- Repairing the bench to the left of the gate that leads into the allotments
- Smoothing over the patch of soil and debris that had been left behind when the path had been re-surfaced some weeks ago
- Removal of old compost bins in the wildlife area, and the gathering together of some excellent compost thereby revealed, into a pile for future use. Six newts discovered in the process!
- Trimming and general tidying of the two hedges that border the allotments
- Scything the grass in the bee enclosure (or as much as the active bees would allow!)
- Used the petrol mower to mow circles around all of the trees to diameters that will avoid the Town Council mowers damaging the tree branches
- Removal of weed from pond to prepare it for pond dipping on Apple Day
- Composting cut grass in second bay from left (used hose to add some water to aid decomposition)
- Picked apples to be used for juicing
- Jenn and Colin cleaned all the plastic chairs stored in the wildlife area in front of the shed, ahead of Apple Day.

Overall, a very successful morning, and the orchard is now well prepared for Apple Day on Saturday.
Thanks to Paul Arthur
Sunday 2nd October
Ten very able bodies had a fantastic morning at our extra curricular orchard work party this morning. We scythed the remaining area of long grass at the bottom of the orchard. It took four scythers about one hour to complete the job. We also had an enthusiastic band of rakers to gather all of the cut grass. About half has been stashed in the second compost bay from the left. Composting takes a lot of time: moving bay 1 residue into bay 2 in layers - the existing brown bulk, apple pulp from juicing and fresh green grass watered, then another layer and another layer. The remaining cut grass is stored in a pile to the left of the bays waiting for another session of juicing for more apple pulp.
After a welcome tea break, we went over the scythed area with our new mower which worked admirably. This took just 20 minutes to do. The mower is working perfectly, and can now be started with the aid of the new battery purchased and installed by Charles. Other tasks completed today were the further collection of ripe apples (led by Christine), and the removal of blanket weed from the pond (Gill). All in all it was a very enjoyable and successful morning, and the glorious sunshine was the final icing on the cake!
Sunday 11th September
A gloriously sunny and warm early Autumn morning, and eighteen volunteers turned out to undertake a number of maintenance tasks that included:
• Fallen apples collected, and good ones saved for a future juicing session
• Cut grass and discarded apples added to compost bays
• Grass raked up and stashed ready for composting following the Town Council grass cutting last Thursday
• Banks at west entrance weeded
• Wildflower plugs planted in bank and meadow area
• Grass around all trees scythed and collected up
• Brambles behind pond cut back
• Picked and shared out 9.1 Kg of Williams pears
• Redundant folding ladder collected by Jenn’s neighbour

Thanks to Paul Arthur for this report
Wednesday 24th August: a very warm evening with some rain. Seven of us joined in with Christine for the summer pruning of the cordons and espaliers. A good and satisfying session at the orchard.
Sunday 14th August
A perfect sunny summer’s day encouraged a near record number of 22 volunteers into the community orchard to complete a whole range of tasks. A phenomenal amount of work was done, with great enthusiasm by all. The main achievements were:
The main hedge, which was laid in February 2015, was trimmed back to clear the pathway, and the grass beneath it was cut
The compost in the bins was turned, the newly emptied bays were filled with grass that had been scythed last Thursday, and watered to give some moisture to aid decomposition. The recently scythed meadow area was cleared of all remaining cut grass, the whole area was mown with our new petrol mower, the area was then scarified and finally sown with yellow rattle seed, fortified with seeds from other wild flowers growing elsewhere in the orchard, such as the banks at the west entrance. The new storage box was positioned next the shed and filled with bulky items from the shed The wildlife area was scythed, the grass raked up ready for composting, the surface scarified and yellow rattle seed sown. The bog garden was weeded. The wildflower banks at the west entrance were weeded. The shed, now devoid of some bulky items, was reorganised and tidied. The gate into the top allotments was re-hung. Beauty of Bath apples were picked as they were fully ripe. Grass was cut from around the hazel shrubs near to church entrance. Much bramble was cut from around the pond, and grass trimmed in front of the pond (dragonflies were seen hunting for prey over the pond).
Paul Arthur
Early morning scything - August 11th
At 6.00 am sharp, the scythers and rakers converged on the St Mary’s Orchard from every direction and quickly set about slicing through the long grass on the wild flower meadow. Despite the fact that the sward was laying in every direction, making it a challenge to cut, it was not long before the fruits of their labours was evident and the pile of cuttings was rapidly growing beside the compost bins. Refreshments at 7.30 were well earned, and the bacon and vegetarian rolls provided a much needed energy boost for the second session. By 9.00 the grass had all been scythed and the majority raked up and wheelbarrowed away The photographs show the synchronised scything team in full swing and the rakers frantically trying to keep up..