Thursday 9 May 2024

River restoration Project - Ecclesbourne

A possible explanation why the Winter flood levels were so high at the orchard this last Winter? We didn't get any consultation on these works. 


Wednesday 27 March 2024

Drone over the Orchard

 Yesterday I took my first training flights with my new drone over the Orchard. I was just exploring the basic moves, though longer term I'll be using the drone to document some of the maintenance work, such as pulling up blackthorn encroaching the grass area. I took a few shots of the surrounding area to check the quality of the footage. The drone is limited, by regulation to 120 metres above ground, though the landscape photo's I took were mostly at 30 - 40 metres above ground level.

This final picture is of the two bat boxes mounted in the large old Ash tree on the south boundary of the orchard plot. The boxes were given to us by the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust as few years ago to help provide homes for bats. It looks as though one of the boxes has urine stains under the entrance, so it may be that one or more bats have taken shelter in the box. It needs a ladder to reach the bat boxes, and I don't want to disturb any potential bat, but I was able to take the drone to within three metres and take a photo. 

Bats at Turnditch Orchard.

I had to be cautious when flying the drone because there was a buzzard flying in the locality not too far from me. They are known to attack drones in their airspace. The device is insured providing a replacement, but I want to only use that for accidents rather than avoidable damage.

Monday 1 January 2024

The Thorny Challenge: Controlling Blackthorn Bushes



In the world of gardening and landscaping, one formidable foe that often goes underestimated is the blackthorn bush. These seemingly innocuous plants can quickly turn into a prickly nightmare if left unchecked. In this blog post, we'll delve into the perils of controlling blackthorn bushes and share tips on how to keep them at bay while maintaining the beauty of your green spaces. We also mention why its a problem in Turnditch Orchard and what we plan to do.

The Blackthorn's Deceptive Charm:

Blackthorn bushes, also known as Prunus spinosa, have an attractive appearance, with their delicate white blossoms and dark purple fruits. However, beneath their charming exterior lie thorns that can cause real trouble. These thorns, capable of piercing skin and clothing, make controlling blackthorns a daunting task for many gardeners.

The Perils of Uncontrolled Blackthorn Bushes:

1. Garden Takeover: Blackthorns have a knack for spreading quickly and can take over a garden if not properly managed. Their vigorous growth can crowd out other plants and disrupt the ecosystem you've carefully cultivated.

2. Prickly Predicament: Attempting to prune or manage blackthorn bushes without the right precautions can result in painful encounters with their sharp thorns. These thorns make routine maintenance a challenge and can lead to injuries.

3. Wildlife Confusion: While blackthorn bushes provide food and shelter for various wildlife, their invasive nature can disrupt the balance of local ecosystems. When left unchecked, they can negatively impact native plant and animal species.

Tips for Controlling Blackthorn Bushes:

1. Prune Carefully: When pruning blackthorn bushes, always wear protective gear such as gloves, long sleeves, and eye protection. Use the appropriate tools and make clean cuts to minimize thorn-related injuries.

2. Timing Matters: The best time to tackle blackthorns is during the winter when they are dormant. This reduces the risk of spreading seeds and makes it easier to spot and remove new growth.

3. Chemical Control: If the infestation is severe, consider using herbicides, but do so with caution and follow safety guidelines. Consult a professional if you're unsure.

4. Vigilance Is Key: Regularly inspect your garden for blackthorn growth and remove any new shoots promptly. Early intervention can prevent a full-blown invasion.

Why is the Orchard suffering?

1. In a word "Lockdown." We were kept in isolation away for the orchard, and the Blackthorn we'd been intending to deal with  regained control of the land. Further distractions, such as flooding and family illness also kept us away from the land.

2. To help combat this we placed an order with a French company (Terrateck) via UK distributor  in August 23 to purchase a shrub pulling tool. The idea was for us to start work in October. Finally in late November the French company admitted  that there was no prospect of them delivering until Jan 2024 at the earliest. We didn't believe that date so we diverted the order to a Canadian company. They manufactured and shipped the product by the end of December.


Controlling blackthorn bushes can indeed be a thorny challenge, but with the right approach and precautions, you can keep these invasive plants in check. By staying vigilant and taking necessary steps, you can maintain the beauty of your garden while ensuring it remains a thorn-free paradise for both you and your local wildlife. In the Orchard we're going to resume the battle.

Sunday 15 October 2023

Careful with your coffee!

 Today, I was standing at the roadside gate to the orchard, facing inwards, as a "white van" drove past on the A517. The passenger in the van thought it would be hilarous to throw his MacDonald's cup of coffee at my back and shout insults as they drove past me.

I don't supposed they'd noticed that I was engaged in filming a video on my GoPro camera at the time. The video caught the image of the coffee cup just missing me, though some of the coffee splashed me. I swung the camera in time to catch an excellent 4K video image of the rear of the van, including its registration plate as it drove on to Turnditch.  A copy of the video, including GPS data and timestamp, complete with the offending coffee cup in a protective clear plastic bag, has been passed to the police with a complaint of assault.

Thursday 12 October 2023

Roadside hedge Trimming at the Orchard

 In an earlier post I mentioned the letter from the Derbyshire County Council, requiring us to trim back the vegetation on the roadside path. For pedestrians the vegetation had to be at least 2.4 metres above the footpath. For the road traffic there has to be at least 5.2 metres (16ft) clear of overhanging branches.

Clearing the pedestrian level vegetation was relatively easy with a petrol powered extended-reach pole hedge trimmer. Other than wearing PPE clothing and local traffic cones, no special precautions were required.

The high-level work was made more complicated by having to allow for passing traffic (Ashbourne Road, A517) and pedestrians. The blind spot caused the railway bridge meant we had to have mobile traffic control in operation. We wanted to minimise overall traffic disruption so we didn't have a traffic light system in place. Temporary traffic lights for the hedge work would have caused a traffic back-up  right to the Railway Inn crossroad junction traffic lights. The A517 is a busy road, and the 40 mph speed limit means that drivers have to be given good advance warning of the risks of falling branches.

We lined the side of the road with traffic cones, and when we were performing active works we moved the cones temporarily to close off one side of the road at the site of work. There were also large  "Tree Felling" roadside warning signs posted at either end of the works. As soon as the operations to cut a high level branch were complete, we moved the traffic cones back to the side of the road to allow free traffic flow.  We tidied up each branch immediately after cutting to reduce disruption to traffic. We found that that simply cutting the branch and allowing it to fall to the road, even with warning traffic cones in place, was too risky.  We modified our activity to ensure that cut branches were lowered, using ropes, to the ground in a controlled manner. The work involved in fixing the ropes and pulleys at high level for each branch to be cut, significantly increased the manhours needed to complete the work. We performed the rope work using a 24 foot extendible pole to position the ropes at high-level. We could have used a "cherry picker" truck for high-level access, but that would have caused traffic congestion, and would have be no faster than using the extendible pole. We used a separate pole marked at 5.2 metres to check the height of overhanging branches.

Some of the larger branches, mostly Ash and some Hawthorn, weighed in excess of 30kg and up to 12 cm diameter at the thickest point. All of the sawing work at high level was performed using a manual 6.3m Silky Polesaw (Hayauchi). When the branches were lowered to the roadside, we used a folding Silky handsaw and Fiskars XA23 brush hook to trim smaller branches from the main limb in preparation to chucking them on a log pile for later processing.

As the work approached the crest of the rail bridge, we had to have a look-out person deployed to warn of on-coming road traffic. All of us were equipped with walkie-talkie radios to faciitate communication above the traffic noise. Cutting and rope work would be paused until the vehicle traffic had safely passed by the site of work. In all, there was about 60 man-hours of roadside work to trim back the 150 metres of vegetation. Using a tractor mounted flail was not possible given the presence of a roadside wire mesh stock fence adjacent to the footpath.

I'd been planning to record some of the work on video, but given the council deadline,  I was too short on time to set up the cameras.  Here's an after the event video: 

Wednesday 13 September 2023

Interesting offer after Council Letter

 I was hard at work today trimming the roadside hedge of the Orchard. The Derbyshire Country Council had sent me a letter to trim it back so that it didn't encroach on to the footpath. Sure enough it had become overgrown and was narrowing the footpath. I'm presuming that someone local had made a complaint.

Trimming 150 metres of hedge to a height 3.5 metres is hot hard work. I was about one third of the way through the work, so I took a coffee break. I was sitting on the bridge parapet wall drinking coffee and a builder's wagon pulled up alongside me.  I thought he was going to offer to complete the trimming work  for a price.  It turned out that he's seriously interested in buying the land and wanted to know if I was interested in selling. After the Council letter and half a day's hard work cutting hedges I said "yes".  He'll be calling back later after I've discussed it with my wife.

He's interested in keeping horses on the land.

Tuesday 1 June 2021

Back on the Orchard after Covid-19 Lockdown

 We were able to get back on the orchard on Bank Holiday Monday after staying away due to Covid-19 Lockdown. I suppose this was about a 15 month gap. The grass and weeds have grown high, but the field trimmer will make short work of them.

Cutting the grass at Turnditch Orchard

We've purchased a new trimmer because our original Hyundai Field Trimmer never really recovered from being underwater in the Autumn floods a couple of years ago. The new one if a Chinese copy of the Hyundai, almost bolt for bolt, but it seems to work well enough.