St Mary's Church Field Orchard
Working party reports 2021: thanks to Paul Arthur
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Sunday 9th May 2021
After some overnight rain, the sun came out and made for a very enjoyable morning completing a range of tasks. Although rather wet underfoot, we were delighted to see our first swifts of the season! Job completed were:
-Weeding of three tree squares
- Weeding apple cordons on both sides the fence (this job not yet completed)
- Scything a swathe of grass next to cordons inside bee enclosure
- Removed Bryanston Gage tree stump so that mower is not damaged
-Bagged up some tree prunings that had been piled in wildlife area. This large white bag is now in front of other tree prunings and ready for collection by Town Council staff. There are also three smaller bags containing weeds dug from around the cordons, much of which is couch grass!
-Spanish bluebells were dug up from far end of wildlife area, and put into white bag for eventual removal from site
-Southern boundary hedge saplings were checked. Most are doing well, but five are looking rather poorly, and may not survive. Some fresh spring lush growth was removed from around several saplings
-Pollinator bed weeded. Removal of mostly grass, buttercups and docks. Quite a few ox-eye daisies coming up in this bed this year
-Blanket weed removed from pond
-Grass, ivy and brambles removed from around hazels in coppice at south east corner, by use of scythe
-Brambles and other growth removed from area to the left of the bug hotel
And, at last, yellow rattle is coming up in the me
adow area!
Sunday 20th June 2021
16 volunteers turned out, which was a good number given the recent Covid restrictions. A good number of tasks were achieved, and included:
  • Bog garden - large weeds removed, grass trimmed back from edge to more clearly define the edge, and the hawthorn was trimmed back to show off a large foxglove currently in flower
  • Pond - edge trimmed back with shears to make it more clearly defined, and a swathe scythed in front of pond
  • Wildlife area - a swathe scythed to right of main path
  • Compost turned and the middle bay was emptied and bagged up ready for use on community allotments
  • Hedges trimmed up and debris composted
  • Archway over gate into wildlife area tidied; the flowering rose is looking especially good at the moment
  • Some docks and hogweed dug up and removed from meadow area
  • Grass scythed around all tree circles to right of the main path, though we left the trees that are in the meadow area. The cut grass was raked up and stashed to the left of the wildlife area gate
  • Two sturdy wooden posts were installed in front of wall to the left of the yellow shed, ready for some wires and espalier type fruit trees (maybe cherry)
  • Espaliers and cordons were weeded
  • The donated peach tree has unfortunately succumbed to leaf curl, and will probably be destroyed 

Everybody enjoyed the morning, it was great for us all to get together again, and get some useful jobs completed!

Sunday 11th July
We had a very useful work party in the community orchard yesterday morning, with 14 volunteers in attendance. It was cloudy and muggy, and there were occasional bursts of drizzly rain, but not enough to deter the enthusiastic workers! Jobs done were:
- we completed the apple thinning that had been started on Thursday and Friday
- the southern boundary hedge was checked. There has been a massive amount of growth recently;
it wasn’t worth clearing weeds from around the saplings, the few that were visible seemed fine.
Much of this new growth is in the area where the non-native cotoneaster had been, so it was very pleasing to see a much broader range of native plants now taking its place. A walnut tree (18 inches tall) was discovered on the hedge edge 
- some paths were mown
- eight tree circles to the left of the path (approaching from the church) were cut
- another swathe of the meadow area was scythed, continuing up the right had side (viewing it from the bottom western end). The grass was raked up and added to the pile near the quince tree, and the area was mown with the petrol mower. We are hoping to have a further scything session next week or the week after 
- compost management; mown grass and a small amount of seed-free scythings were added to bays one and five. One ‘drowning bin’ was added to the compost
- dismantled decking beside pond; the decent wood was saved, and the rotten pieces added to the pile near the quince tree. The non-slip strips are now stored in the shed ready for the Town Council to collect. Scalpings will eventually be laid in place of the decking
- stray branches emerging from hedge between allotments and orchard were trimmed back
- cordons were weeded
- docks removed from grass area of orchard
- cut back growth from around edge of pond, and trimmed back tree that is overhanging the bench in the wildlife area

There were quite a few very positive comments from members of the public who enjoy the orchard as a haven of tranquility in the town. Everybody was saying how much they appreciate our hard work!

A ringlet butterfly was flitting about, despite the damp conditions. This is one of the few butterflies that fly in dull, and even drizzly weather.
Sunday 8th August : photos below
We had a most enjoyable work party in the orchard yesterday. We’d had rain overnight, so it was quite wet underfoot, but it stopped just in time for the 9 am start, and stayed dry for the rest of the morning. Jobs completed were many and varied, and included:
  • Trimming of basal shoots around the ash tree in the wildlife area
  • The southern boundary hedge was trimmed and tidied - mostly brambles
  • Tree circles around the four weakest apple trees were weeded and grass cut
  • Another large swathe of meadow grass was scythed, the grass raked up, and finally mowed with the petrol mower. The remaining patch of long grass will be scythed at the September work party
  • All of the grass paths had been mown during the week
  • The pollinator bed was weeded, and the front border scythed and cut to give it better definition
  • In the pond area, the tree and brambles overhanging the bench were cut back
  • For the compost bays - one drowning bin was emptied into bay 5 and bays 1 & 5 were filled with layers of scythed grass and hedge/tree clippings
  • Litter picking, mainly from hedge between allotments and orchard
  • weeded under espaliers
  • Apple thinning of the two Laxton Superb trees, which hadn’t been done in July
  • Wildlife seen included a fully grown frog, found whilst scything, and a goldfinch nest complete with eggs. (This means pruning in that area is delayed until the young birds have fledged).
  • …I think that covers it!
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Sunday 12th September
We had a very successful work party in the orchard yesterday morning (Sunday 12 September), and enjoyed the superb sunny and warm autumn sunshine! We had a total of 13 volunteers, two of which were new and enthusiastic recruits! There had been quite a heavy dew overnight. Jobs done were:
  • The final part of the meadow area was scythed and the grass was raked up; some stashed to the left of the gate into the wildlife area (to be used in later composting) and the remainder left in a pile near the quince tree ready for removal.
  • The long grass in the wildlife area was scythed. Two patches were left, one at the southern end where a number of wildflowers were flourishing, and another in the middle where a large patch of hedge bedstraw has become established. Several anthills were found. The bank was scythed too. Grass removed and stashed as above.
  • The pollinator bed was weeded (mostly dandelion, couch grass and creeping buttercup) and the grass around the edges scythed and sheared.
  • The pond area was tided up. The grass at the front was trimmed back to create a more clearly defined edge, and the brambles at the back were trimmed.
  • The bog garden was weeded and grass at the front edge cut.
  • For composting, bay 2 was turned into bay 3.
  • Some stray branches in the hedge between the orchard and allotments were trimmed back (mainly wild rose) as was the hedge at the southern boundary.
  • The remainder of the apple cordons were pruned.
  • The espalier pears were pruned, and a pear leaf gall was found (which is also hosted by juniper!).
  • One tray of apple fallers was collected.
  • There were many bees and wasps flying around the willows, and were thought to be attracted to the sugary sap released by willow aphids.
  • Sunday 10th October
    Sunday 10th October
    14 volunteers turned out for this work party, to enjoy a fantastic autumnal morning of sunshine and warmth - ideal conditions for getting jobs done, of which there were many, including:
    - trimming some branches from around the green shed to prevent any damage to the paintwork during the winter, and ahead of applying some protective paint next spring;
    - weeding the bog garden, including trimming back brambles and cutting the grass in front of the pond to make the edge clearly defined
    - trimming the hedge between the orchard and the allotments
    - removing stray brambles and branches from the whole of the southern boundary hedge, especially from around the quince tree
    - scything grass around the mulberry tree
    - scything grass underneath 8 or 9 fruit trees where the branches are hanging low
    - weeding the cordons
    - weeding some tree circles
    - adding some cut grass to compost bays 1 and 5
    - picking some apples
    - some tidying of hazel coppice at the south east corner nearest to the Church
    - creating a pile of grass and hedge trimmings near to the southern hedge for the Town Council to remove at their convenience.
    A most enjoyable morning with a good atmosphere and everybody enjoying the sunshine!
  • Sunday 12th November
    We had a most enjoyable work party in the orchard today, with 12 volunteers turning out to make the most of a bright sunny morning, though with a chilly breeze. Achievements included:
    • Weeding of a few tree circles
    • Planting out several ox-eye daisies in the meadow area
    • Compost turning - bay 5 into bay 4, and bays 1 and 2 emptied into bays 4 and 5, so that new pallets around bays 1 and 2 can be easily replaced
    • Bog garden weeded and brambles removed from around hawthorn tree
    • Grass at front of pond trimmed, and brambles behind pond trimmed
    • Scythed grass from around 8 fruit trees, the elder, and on front two sides of pollinator bed
    • Scythed grass in wildlife area leaving a patch at southeast corner where there is a large anthill, and seed heads of wild carrot and knapweed and a large ladies bedstraw plant
    • Reduced the height of the bottom (western) end of the hedge between the orchard and wildlife area, and tidied ‘archway’ over gate into wildlife area
    • Raked up cut grass and stashed in pile near quince tree
    • Raked up ash leaves and other leaves scattered through the orchard and added to compost
    • Sheared grass from around some further trees that hadn't been scythed
    • A much-appreciated break at 11.00 a.m. when hot apple juice was served!
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