It’s always hard when a workday starts with rain, or with an almost 100% guarantee of rain, but we were lucky, as it held off until after we had unloaded all the tools, done the introductions and the tools/safety/risk assessment talk, and chosen which of the tasks on offer we wanted to do. And it stopped around lunchtime so we didn’t get too wet in the end.
In spite of the poor weather we had a good turnout at this lovely old orchard on the edge of Lincoln, which for many years has been looked after on a voluntary basis by a local resident, Richard, with the help of others who live nearby. It is a popular site and there were 19 of us over the day, including 4 new volunteers, so we got a lot done, for which Richard was very grateful.
Vigorous briars (brambles) grow fast and although the large clumps of them are good for wildlife, in some places they are encroaching on the fruit trees, so they were cut back to give the trees more space. Similar work was needed on three thickets of blackthorn, so we coppiced them, cutting them right down to ground level. There will be new growth next year, so they will continue to provide their white flowers in early spring, followed by the blue-black fruit – sloes (which are used to make sloe gin).
There are increasing numbers of self-seeded elder trees springing up and in some places they will become too big and compete with the fruit trees, so they were removed. There are plenty still remaining in the orchard, and their flowers and fruit are an important source of food for insects and birds.
A very large tree that had grown as a sucker from a plum tree was also felled, as it was shading and crowding out some of the smaller fruit trees – a demanding task that took a couple of volunteers most of the day.
A few intrepid volunteers battled their way through gaps in the hedge along the boundary near the school, to trim or cut down some hazels that had been beyond the reach of Richard's hedge trimmer from the front. Some of these had grown into small trees that were shading out pear trees in the orchard.
And then there was the pond … It has been dug out in the past but had become rather overgrown again, and there was no variation it its depth, meaning that it did not provide the variety of habitats for frogs and other pond creatures that a combination of shallow and deep areas can offer. Jonathan led the energetic team that dug the pond out more, creating a long shelf along one side of it. It looked very impressive at the end of the day, and it should soon fill with water again over the winter.
Finally, thanks to Nick for getting the bonfire going in the rain, and managing it throughout the day, and to Richard for providing lovely biscuits.