Sunday 23 February 2014

Where's a northerly wind when you want one?

We were working to clear some of the trimmings from the hedging process yesterday. We needed to burn some massive piles of hawthorn and blackthorn branches. Unfortunately we really need to have the wind coming from the North West so the smoke from the bonfires does not drift across the Ashbourne Road. Mostly this winter it has been coming from the South West.

We'd gathered a large pile of Ash branches fallen from the large old tree and dragged them to form a bonfire, as yet unlit, to form the nucleus of heat to burn the thorn bush branches. We'll need a large hot fire to get the process going, but once it has started it will just be a matter of feeding the fire with branches. We think it is about two days solid work to move all of the thorn branches. We've located the bonfire site on a patch of Alder which had grown up during the period of the neglectful owner. This will be an easier way to destroy these "weeds" rather than dig them up.

We've now planted some of the fruit trees in the orchard site. We chose the bare root saplings as Spring is rushing toward us and the sap will soon be rising. That leaves the saplings in pots to be planted. While we we there we tidied some of the heavy boughs fallen from the large Ash tree in the autumn storms. Those were converted into logs with our chainsaw and as they were already dead on the tree they are nicely seasoned and we were able to use them on our open fire kitchen range 

The Ash wood is a really nice fuel. The logs split easily, the fire is hot and almost smokeless and there is only a tiny wood ash residue afterwards. It is indeed a welcome bonus from the orchard site.

Sunday 16 February 2014

A break in the rain

Snowdrops in our orchard
Snowdrops in Turnditch orchard

Sunday was a clear sky day so we took the opportunity to visit the field. There are snowdrop flowers breaking out in many places. It was the first time we'd let our German Shepherd pup free to run on the field, she had great fun splashing in the puddles.

Elka the GSD in the puddles

Hopefully we can start to plant the fruit trees if the soil is  not too waterlogged. In the background of the above picture you can see the hedge laying has progressed despite the poor weather.

Monday 3 February 2014

Riparian owners in an orchard.

We did some research on the responsibilities and rights we gained when we took on the plot of land at the edge of the Ecclesbourne River. Officially at the place of our orchard it is a watercourse and not a river. The following is a summary and not necessarily correct legal advice on our part.

Riparian Owners 
You are known as a riparian owner if you own land or property adjacent to a watercourse. By virtue of being a riparian owner you have rights and responsibilities.

Your rights as a riparian owner are

  • You are presumed to own the land up to the centre of the watercourse, unless it is known to be owned by others.
  • You have the right to receive flow of water in its natural state, without undue interference in quantity or quality.
  • You have the right to protect your property from flooding, and your land from erosion. You will in most cases need the prior consent of the Environment Agency and Local Authority for any works, however. In the case of The Ecclesbourne at Turnditch it is Derbyshire County Council.
  • You have the right to fish in your watercourse, although this must be by legal methods and with an Environment Agency rod licence.
  • Without needing a licence, you can abstract a maximum of 20 cubic metres of  water per day for the domestic purposes of your own household or for agricultural use, excluding spray irrigation, from a watercourse at a point that directly adjoins your land. Most other types of abstraction will require a licence from the Agency. 

Your responsibilities 

  • You have the responsibility to pass on flow without obstruction, pollution or diversion affecting the rights of others. 
  • You have the responsibility to accept flood flows through your land, even if caused by inadequate capacity downstream, as there is no common law duty to improve a watercourse.
  • You are responsible for maintaining the bed and banks of the watercourse (including trees and shrubs growing on the banks), and for clearing any debris, natural or otherwise, including litter and animal carcasses, even if it did not originate from your land. 
  • You must not cause any obstructions to the free passage of fish. 
  • You are responsible for keeping the bed and banks clear of any matter that could cause an obstruction, either on your land or by being washed away by high flow to obstruct a structure downstream. Watercourses and their banks must not be used for the disposal of any form of garden or other waste. 
  • You are responsible for keeping clear any structures that you own such as culverts, trash screens, weirs and mill gates. 
  • You may have flood defences such as walls and embankments on your property, which are vital for the protection of both yourself and others. You should discuss the maintenance of such defences with the Environment Agency office. 
  • You are responsible for protecting your property from seepage through natural or man-made banks. Where such seepage threatens the structural integrity of a flood defence, it may become the concern of the Environment Agency. 

Snowdrops at Turnditch Orchard

There's signs of Spring already at the orchard. We found these snowdrops poking their heads above the soil on the first day of February. Behind the flowers you can see the Ecclesbourne swollen by the recent rains.

Snowdrops beside the Ecclesbourne
Snowdrops by the Ecclesbourne