Sunday 29 September 2013

New owners on site

We officially visited the site for the first time yesterday as the new owners and changed the locks on the gates. The gates are iron farm gates and not mounted. There are two gates to the plot, on the road gate the sandstone hinge post is broken and needs repair. The inner gate is totally missing the hinge post so we'll need to install a new post fairly soon. It gave us a chance to try out the 4-wheel drive on the old Freelander we bought last month as we drove off-road for the first time.

Fortunately we'd come armed with bolt cutters, a couple of new padlocks and a few metres of new chain. We were able to improvise temporary locking arrangements and cut away some of the old chains. A local farmer has a right of access to his field through our entrance, so over the next few days we'll visit his farm and give him a set of keys.  

I walked around the field and found some evidence of dumped rubble, so there may some work necessary to deal with the unwelcome present from the previous owners. Up on the road side hedge there's evidence of a car accident which has caused some damage to the hedge and also left the front wheel and axle of a car on the embankment. We're thinking of installing a low wire chainlink fence at the roadside to provide some security while we work on rebuilding the hedge.

The first task is to cut down the grass and thistles, this awaits the delivery from Estate Machinery of a brand new Kawasaki Brush Cutter tomorrow, then we can start work. We did slash down a few weeds and shrubs to open up the path, but didn't make a lot of progress, but we felt when deserved some refreshment at the local pub the Railway Inn just down the road. It was well worth the visit.

Some of the blackthorn and wild plum saplings in the meadow area will be cut down carefully so we can save the wood as shanks for walking sticks to be sold on Ebay to hobby carvers some time next year. They seem to sell for about £3 each so this create a small income, particularly if we also harvest the ash and hawthorn in the wooded area.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

Wild Plum (Bullace) jelly from the Turnditch orchard


We cooked the Bullace mentioned earlier to make a delicious jelly.  It will also go well with the turkey at Christmas. It is quite fragrant,  apparently this year has been a vintage for wild fruit.  We also made some "Sloe Gin" with a proportion of the wild plums (Bullace), this will no doubt be a welcome sight on the sideboard during Christmas evenings as the guests arrive.

Monday 23 September 2013

Plans for use of the land at the Turnditch Orchard Project.

We've been asked what we are planning on the Turnditch Orchard Project.

The long thin rectangle shape of the land is not good for agricultural machinery techniques. It would be great for property development, but we've absolutely no intention of following that route. The land will remain agricultural and we intend to take a regular harvest from the land.

Present conditions

The site appears to have been neglected for many years. The level part is overgrown with uncut grass, extensive thistles and Alder shrubs. Many ants nests have made the ground very uneven. The road embankment, which forms part of the property is covered with unmanaged native tree, mostly English Ash and some Hawthorn. The hedges are unmaintained and ineffective. some of the trees tower over the Ashbourne Road (A517). Many of the fences are in poor condition and the stone posts to the entrance gate are damaged.

Planned actions
  • Clear the grass and weeds with a scrub cutter;
  • Create natural compost area
  • Repair the gate posts and gates;
  • Make the access secure;
  • Create a temporary tool store;
  • Take advice on the large old Ash tree;
  • Clean out the undergrowth and unwanted trees in embankment area;
  • Cut the chosen trees for coppicing;
  • Trim trees overhanging the road;
  • Restore the hedges;
  • Cut the wood into logs and store for seasoning
  • Turn unwanted wood into chips;
  • Turnover the level ground soil with Rotavator & check drainage;
  • Plant meadow seed, herbs and crops;
  • Restore fences;
  • Set up bee hives;
  • Create safe access to the river.
  • Select orchard trees for planting.
When these action are largely complete we'll discuss providing access to local villagers. The intention of coppicing is to provide greater nature diversity on the embankment and also provide a wood crop in the future years. It will look a little stark initially, but will provide some great benefits.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Fruits of the Orchard Project

We've already been able to gain some fruit from the Orchard project. Even though the gound is an overgrown jungle there are some native wild fruit bushes. Yesterday we were able to pick up 2.5 Kg of wild plums (Bullace) and 0.8 Kg of Dog Rose hips. The Bullace are quite sour, so they'll be turned into a form of Sloe Gin. The hips will be turned into syrup. Both a fragrant gift in time for Christmas.

Friday 20 September 2013

The seeds of a plan to create an orchard in Turnditch.

Welcome to the Turnditch Orchard Project. Turnditch is a small village in Derbyshire

We recently saw a small plot of agricultural land on the eastern outskirts of Turnditch village for sale by auction. It adjoins the Ecclesbourne River at one end and the north side has the Ashbourne Road (A517) as a boundary. At the east end the boundary is the Ecclesbourne Valley Railway. The land is about 0.8 acres (0.3 Hectares) in area. A footpath crosses the westerly end of the plot next to the river.

We've recently moved to Belper as semi-retirement from busy careers in London. When we saw the land we thought it would be a ideal plot where we could create an orchard. On inspection the land was found to be overgrown and shows years of neglect.

Site of the Turnditch Orchard Project

We made a bid at the auction and won the plot. After the usual legal palaver and a handover of a cheque the land is now ours. Now the hard work starts to clear the land and begin the process of creating an orchard. 

This blog will be a record of the progress. We've no intention of developing the land other than the orchard and will be looking at ways to provide access to the local primary school.