Thursday 25 June 2015

Help in the Orchard

A pleasant change to the routine yesterday evening. We had a volunteer helping out. This young man, who lives locally, is helping as part of his voluntary service for his Duke of Edinburgh Silver Award Scheme. We started him gently with using the field trimmer to cut down a large area of grass and weeds. He probably now has a good feel for the unevenness of the ground. He discovered the powerful motor (5.5 HP) can be stubborn when it comes to starting on the recoil cord.

He did a great job and was learning fast. As preparation prior to starting work he'd spent a couple of hours viewing safety videos on YouTube. The objective is for his assistance to help us improve safety so we can open the Orchard to the local community.

Saturday 13 June 2015

Himalayan Balsam at Turnditch Orchard

The River Ecclesbourne which runs along the foot of our orchard is a conduit for the seeds of the Himalayan Balsam (HB). This is an invasive weed which needs to be controlled. Over the  past couple of years we've been removing any HB we've found growing on the land. It is under control now. You have to be very ruthless about its removal before it has the chance to go to seed. The seed pods pop and explosively scatter seed over quite a distance when they are ripe.

However the adjoining field and the river upstream of our site are full of this resilient weed and provide a source of new "infections" of HB. I noticed some growing in the silt at the edge of our river a few days ago, so I donned some waders to deal with the weed. It is fairly easy to uproot the  weed roots and all by gently pulling on the stem. If you leave any broken off weed stems they soon regrow.

Here's a picture of before and after:

Himalayan Balsam at the Turnditch Orchard

Himalayan Balsam removed from river bank
Note I removed the pile of weeds shown in the lower photo, they'll be incinerated. There's useful leaflet about controlling the weed from the Derbyshire Wildlife Trust here.

Wednesday 10 June 2015

Respect for the Landowners

I visited the orchard in Turnditch yesterday afternoon to trim back some weeds and to check the trees. Those familiar with the site will know there's a public footpath across one end of the land adjacent to the river bank. I've no problems with allowing the public to walk across that part of the land and generally the public are well behaved, except for a couple of dog owners who do not clear up their dog's shit from the land. 

The longer term objective of the project is to open up the orchard area as a permitted recreation spot for the local inhabitants/school kids from Turnditch, Shottle and Cowers Lane. At present it is not safe thanks to debris dumped during the previous owners tenure, but we're working toward the target. We also need to undertake some work to make the river bank safe but accessible. 

When I arrived I noticed someone had wrapped bright red marker tape around the top bar of the roadside gate. They'd also affixed an A5 sized red plastic notice on the inside of our gatepost announcing the name of an Ashbourne running club. I can only presume they are planning some event which follows the route of the public footpath. They'd made no attempt or the courtesy to contact us to seek permission to place these markers on our property. It's not difficult to contact us; this blog address and a contact phone number is shown on the same gate post.  The notice makes it clear the orchard is private land but the public footpath remains open.

Normally when someone wants access we'll bend over backwards to help out, but this lack of respect does make us wonder whether we should be so free with permission. I removed their litter from our land. Let's hope their event causes no further damage.