Tuesday, 29 September 2015

September 2015

A productive final weekend to September...

A fine sunny day at the Autumn Malvern Show and some good conversations with fruit growers, interest groups and equipment suppliers, as well as some fine produce on display.

Onwards to Marlborough for an overnight stop and relaxed start to Monday, then cross-country past Stonehenge and to Dulford Nursery to pick up replacements for the parent variety apples that got stolen at my field (Malus sieversii and Malus baccata).
A couple of relaxed stop-offs on the journey northwards and home.

College at Reaseheath has started for year 2 of the conservation and countryside course I'm doing.
A contact from college put BBC Radio 4 on to me for a couple of minutes on Farming Today, promptly followed by a quick TV feature on BBC Northwest Tonight.

Out and about, I had the chance of a guided tour around The Old Medicine House, hosted by The Blackden Trust at the home of author Alan Garner.
A fascinating insight into his and Griselda Grimes work on things landscape and history related since the 1960s.
The tasteful translocation of an old timber frame house and a further insight into reading historical clues in landscapes and the characters associated with them.

My orchard has had a profoundly productive year (I should have been more aggressive with pruning, as smaller trees and branches have a bit of weight damage).
Tydeman's Early Worcester has been my favourite apple so far, although plenty more varieties on their way for cooking, juice and cider...

Thursday, 13 August 2015

August 2015

Another 2 occurances of fly-tipping, one reported whilst 'in progress' by a neighbour, building waste dumped across the adjoining field gate.

I did a talk for Shocklach Gardening Club for their July meeting. "Starting a traditional orchard from scratch"
It seemed to go down quite well - slide presentation with a few supporting props and a bit of local history thrown in too.

Things seem to be growing pretty well - a reasonable amount of fruit on still relatively young trees.
Annoyingly I've had a couple of wheelbarrows stolen (despite being secured with a lock and chain) and a few bags of compost and some young trees in pots that I had put ready to plant.
I don't tend to leave anything around, so an opportunistic theft by someone with a van and bolt-cutters, overnight on Friday 31st of July...

More positively, the castle across the river has had a make-over with improved public access, including steps onto its upper level and better information boards after a community focussed archaeological eexercise.

I also had a brief spell in North Devon looking at a woodland project and a nosey at some established traditional orchards.

Next task is trying to brew some meadowsweet ale before the flowers are past it...

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

May 2015

A blustery start to the day and woken up by the rain.

A couple of hours in the orchard checking the younger fruit trees aren't flappkng about too much.
Most of the blossom is still on fortunately.

Mixing in some course sand and topsoil, ready for the next couple of tonnes of old stable manure to dress around each of the fruit trees.

The sun is out and weather quite pleasant, at least the trees and plants would have welcomed the rain in the night...

Monday, 27 April 2015

April 2015 - Gardening Against The Odds

After a mild but damp ground winter, a couple of weeks of sunshine seems to have brought a quick start to spring...

The pear trees were first to blossom in the orchard.

The grass has suddenly started its spring growth and mowing around the rows of trees has begun.
This is to minimise competition around the trees and to make access easier.
It still leaves over an acre of low management meadow grass, but in slightly regimented 4 to 5 metre square blocks.

Wildflowers are already noticeable, particularly Lady's Smock / Cuckoo Flower in the long grass and wood anemones and dog violets in the hedgerows.

Last week, my orchard project made it to The Conservation Foundation' Gardening Against The Odds awards as a finalist.
A very positive scheme that promotes the outward looking benefits of gardens...

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

December 2014

The year draws to a close with the first flood of the winter.
An automated call from the Environment Agency last Saturday (for the River Dee, Llangollen to Eccleston), but I've just about managed to get by with just a large puddle developing in a low spot and the access track.

During the recent days of rain I've been busy now and then indoors with paperwork for some new project ideas - mainly concerning a large number of young trees, Forestry Commission / Natural Resources Wales detail, agri-environment registration details and legal aspects.
The new year could prove to be quite interesting...

A bit of a wait now until April, after a recent surprise mention of my orchard in The Sunday Telegraph and making the finals of 'Gardening Against The Odds' with a trip to The Grand Conservatory of Syon House pencilled in.

A rather positive end to an initially uncertain 2014, after health aspects reduced areas of activity on several fronts.

Friday, 1 August 2014

August 2014

An interesting and mildly challenging few months...

After little trouble for a while, an incident of fly-tipping along the access track / footpath.
Normally I'd use the local council reporting pro-forma which initiates some minor forensic i.d. attempts and appropriate disposal,
Most of this was food waste / kitchen contents and stinking on a very warm day, so it went on a green waste bonfire in my field. Last bag on the fire revealed some significant i.d. details, so they have been passed on appropriately...

The meadowsweet flowers were harvested and 10 gallons now brewing / fermenting to the recipe in Nick Weston's book 'The Tree House Diaries'

 This year as well as reasonable fruit on its way in the orchard, quite a few sweet chestnuts and hazelnuts, including filberts (a corruption of 'full beard' from the husk around the nut...

Because of some previous health aspects (mainly Crohns Disease secondary issues), I hadn't made any great targets for the field this year, apart from subtle incremental management and seeing how wildlife was doing.
Quite a noticeable number of owls in the evening and leaving the main grass area in its entirety for a few weeks longer, there is certainly evidence of small mammals and a few frogs and toads in the long grass.
Now the meadowseet is beyond the best of its flowers, the mower and tractor will be put to use in the next week or so (as well as a simple hay-turner / mounted rake).

The possibility of some interesting extended projects around the corner, but as they involve initially third parties, there are some aspects and a look-ahead to define and sort, before I get too involved...

Friday, 4 July 2014

July 2014

Some long spells of sunshine throughout June, causing a little concern for watering of the less established fruit trees in the orchard. Just enough rain for new growth to flourish quite prolifically (as well as the grass coming on well, but layering slightly in breezes and odd spells of dampness).
For the first time some (fortunately minor) rabbit damage around the graft line of a couple of trees.
The meadowsweet seems a little earlier this year, so brewing of the flowers will have to get going next week.
I managed a trip to the Malvern Spring Garden Show. I bought a Medlar from Mr Darcy's Heritage Fruit Trees, variety 'Royale'
Another recently acquired tree was Malus sieversii - a historically interesting variety considered a progenitor for the modern apple. A more adventurous blog by others here...

Curiously I've had a take down request regarding an inoffensive and neutral / positive blog reference to a local high quality greenhouse manufacturer who was exhibiting at RHS Hampton Court in 2012 and is at most of the major garden shows. Most people will know I am enthusiastic about supporting local business, particularly if there is a good level of quality and service, social responsibility in local employment and skills training and retention.
Unfortunately there was no reason given by http://www.integrityseoexperts.co.uk and I don't think they expected me to wander a mile up the road to the company referenced in the post to discuss the matter, who then contacted them within 30 minutes.
In terms of reputation management and how the internet works, their initial style of approach could be quite damaging if they provoke anybody who has made legitimate negative comments about a client.

Moth Mallow

Rabbit (or vole) damage

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

May Eve

As night falls before the 1st of May tomorrow, sounds of youth frollicking in the enclosure of the ruined castle across the river, on a relatively mild night.
Not sure a Maypole would be a useful addition to the meadow and orchard?
However, heavy rain and maybe frost is expected over the next couple of days and nights.

Spring has been relatively mild and the ground drying out a fair bit. Everything has really greened up over the last couple of weeks.
The field and trees are mainly looking after themselves, my own level of activity is still a little reduced due to ongoing Crohns Disease problems. The opportunity of a large green space to relax in as nature cycles through the seasons is a pleasant distraction.

Early evening view from the south west corner of the orchard:
Hedgerow dog violets 
Cuckoo flower / Ladies Smock (Cardamine praetensis) 
Black Mulberry breaking into leaf (late compared to other species) 
Medlar fruit forming 
Malus pumila niedzwetzkyana - historic natural parent of most pink / purple fleshed apples 
Tom Putt apple blossom in foreground 
Doyenne du Comice pear fruitlets  
A row of 13 pear trees 

Saturday, 18 January 2014

2014 and a New Year

By the start of the year, the River Dee was in flood, peaking around 8.7 metres at the Holt / Farndon Bridge height gauge.
This is around the gate top for water level at the field,  but the trees seem to cope (an old established orchard at the same ground level near by, as well as mature ash, oak, lime, hawthorn, blackthorn and walnut give me no real longterm concerns).

The waters now back withon the river channel, the ground is walkable and the flotsam debris removed and burnt to ash from the gateway.
Unfortunately some fly-tipping on the lane at the top of the access track, but the council have a handy web page / app for reporting for investigation and removal.

A couple more hedging plants ordered for filling gaps and the final planning of the finished orchard layout to plod on with...

Winter 2013

Up until Xmas week the field had been reasonably dry until the rains and an expanding River Dee filling up from Wales...

Ongoing Crohns / health distractions have rendered most of 2013 a slow year.
I did manage to get nearly 30 litres of cider prepared from the orchard trees as well as a couple of litres of fresh apple juice refreshingly drunk soon after pressing.

A handy implement was acquired from a talented local blacksmith - a sturdy levelling ring for dressing over a couple of low spots in the grassland. Based on an old cartwheel iron tyre used for similar in one of Louden's old agricultural encyclopaedias.

Tree stock at home for transplanting has a minor backlog, but includes the interesting malus pumila niedzwetzkyana

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Autumn 2013

August and September came and went reasonably but a low level of activity due to continued health interruptions (Crohn's Disease).

A good year for the apples and the time of year for a few events and activities out and about (such as the Apple & Quince Day at Norton Priory)...

My orchard and grassland had done rather well this year.
The young pear tree that still had fruit, lost it to badgers, but the majority of the apple trees and some quince varieties have been quite productive.
The cider varieties have produced enough fruit to make some potentially good single variety fermentations and some blends and juice.

One early success from the couple of acres of grass, was a meadowsweet ale brewed (to an elderflower champagne recipe). Early appraisals by others are commending it.

Farmers weekly had a publicity push for agricultural environmental waste exemptions - onerous but important paperwork for even small scale activities registered with the Environment Agency. For me these include composting, using vegetation shreddings, chippings or ash, burning hedge trimmings etc.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

July 2013

A run of sunny weather not seen for a couple of years.
Not been up to much at the field recently whilst Crohns Disease continues to be a distraction to general levels of fitness.
Meanwhile, the trees and grass have been doing ok mainly by themselves...

One of the quince trees is reasonably abundant as well as one of the pear trees and the medlar.
A noticeable amount of apple trees are bearing fruit and a couple of mulberry trees have signs of fruit forming.

The grass has a few more wild flowers noticeable this year and the meadowsweet particularly has proliferated as intended (with s few gallons of meadowsweet flower ale now brewing).

As the hot spell commenced, I managed to get a couple of watering sessions done from a tanker behind the Landrover.  I use a dilution of Maxicrop to feed the fruit trees (as well as a kindly donation of a couple of tonnes of horse muck for around the tree bases).

Some interesting conversations with locals and passers-by. One farmer neighbour has got a hay crop in after losing last year to summer floods, although another neighbour has maize struggling this year.

The local history society and archaeologists have been busy across the river at the castle, as well as geophysics and trial digs on the English side. Quite a bit of local community engagement for them too. 

Thursday, 13 June 2013

3 Years

I've had the field three years now (from June 2010).
I'm quite pleased that I found a local plot of land to plant the collection of  fruit trees as a traditional orchard.
Enough time has passed to get a feel for the cycle of nature, minor mistakes erased and the introduced trees established without compromising the grassland and wildlife.

Monday, 20 May 2013

May 2013

Another month quickly passing...
The RHS Malvern Garden Show gave an opportunity to acquire a few more  trees for the orchard. From Mr. D'Arcy's Heritage Fruit Trees (Lincolnshire):
Quince, Isfahan
Apple, Grenadine (American variety, red fleshed)
Plum, Blaisden Red
The event seemed a little quiet compared to a couple of years ago... (preferable to RHS Tatton and Hampton Court). Also picked up a couple of Blueberry bushes, herbs and some watering / irrigation sundries and hand-tools, as well as viewing some interesting and inspiring displays and stalls.
Onwards further south and some perry pears to select from Bernwode Fruit trees.
Sharp's academic
Hellens Early
Also a crab apple (Malus sylvestris), of old provenance grafted onto M111.

Back to the field, a kindly donation of a couple of tonnes of well-rotted horse muck (and loaded too), from just over the border.
Quite a bit of local chat, interest and engagement with a wide mix of locals and walkers.
The pear trees were first in blossom this year, although the quince were first in full leaf, but only just forming flower buds now. Most of the apples have formed leaves and flower buds and some in blossom.
The walnuts have only just come into leaf and the mulberries are only just now breaking bud.
The hedges (including the gaps filled over winter) are all pleasantly green.

Monday, 22 April 2013


Another month quickly coming to an end, seemingly faster as the light nights get lighter at their equinox peak.
Mixed weather with quite a bit of snow at the start of the month, I was expecting a river flood, but the extreme snow in North Wales thawed so slowly that it wasn't a concern. In fact the ground has taken on its spring dryness and now the fruit trees are finally coming to life a couple of weeks later than last year, some additional watering may be necessary (hopefully Dalefoot Composts sheepwool & bracken mix will keep things going.

A few anti-social things going on in the village - some feral teenagers causing damage getting mentioned in the Parish Council minutes and on the Cheshire Police Western Rural web-page.
A couple of neighbours mentioned some odd goings on. One morning I noticed a quantity of loose hay & straw across the access track - turns out someone was trying to mask fly-tipping of other debris out of the back of a horse-box trailer, but got spotted and despite attempts to obscure their registration plates an incident was able to be recorded.

A couple more pear trees added to the orchard, varieties Uvedale St. Germain and Maxstoke Nibbler from Bernwode Fruit Trees - a slower than normal task due to a hiatus hernia making digging problematic.

The grass and herbage is starting to go well after a wet previous twelve months, quite a bit of meadowsweet through too, so hopefully some interesting brewing options from it this year.

Friday, 29 March 2013


Quite a quiet month for me due to the weather and a few other things.
Lots of stuff coming out of winter stasis at the field though.
The hedges are in bud, as are a few of the orchard trees (pears mainly, so I suspect further frosts will wipe out this years fruit potential).
In the base of the hedges, quite a bit of green undergrowth, including a reasonable amount of wood anemones.

In the grass, quite a bit of meadowsweet starting, as well as buttercups and celandines.
An early light harrowing during a rare dry spell lifted a bit of thatch from last years disjointed mowing due to 2012 being so wet.

Lots of robins in the hedgerow, buzzards occasionally above as well as another kestrel type bird of prey (possibly larger).
A cormorant is along the river by the castle quite often. Also woodpeckers and kingfishers in the ditch along the trackway.
One of the barn owls is noticeable early evenings.

A few visitors dropping by: locals, landowners, local history society and the Environment Agency (pleasant chatting all around) - a few unwelcome ones included 5 persons arrested by Cheshire Police for theft, after suspicious vehicle activity in the lane above. Also a few feral teenagers nearby causing a bit of nuisance and vandalism.

A sunny morning and hopefully a proper start to spring now the snow is melting...

Monday, 18 February 2013

February: A quieter than anticipated few weeks

Another seasonal minor inundation from the nearby River Dee across the meadow / orchard at the weekend.
Although the level wasn't too extreme
Unfortunately a dead brown badger on the main road near by.
Lots of water-fowl on the surrounding flood-plain fields.

Managed a brief stroll around to check for debris and damage and to check the mature trees. This week has seen a few days with sunshine and no rain, but I've been unable to take advantage, being laid up with a particularly aggressive turn in the Crohn's Disease I got diagnosed a few years back (hence my enthusiasm for decent, natural local food and produce).

Only really managed a bit of seed and cutting preparation at home with respect to plans for 2013.
In between planned and unplanned visits to hospital and writhing around in agony, I've been browsing through Twitter at what other like minded folk are up to around now and what their ground conditions are like (surely things will dry up a bit one day)?

Quite looking forward to getting a few native seeds in the patched up bits of hedge, including some extra hops (a few growing wild). It'll be interesting to see how well the meadowsweet has proliferated after deliberately leaving the flowers to seed (I'm suspicious I might have missed opportunity with moist ground conditions to run a cambridge roll over to see if that helps germination of extra patches).

Considering I spend 2 weeks of time away with my proper job, I'd underestimated how much of an outdoorsy type I am when stuck inside with no choice...

Monday, 4 February 2013


January came and went, partly uneventful at the field due to more winter flooding from the River Dee.
A few things pottered about with at home:
Owl boxes, plants for transplanting into the field when ground conditions are better and greenhouse preparations. A few more heritage variety apple pips germinated in a propagator, giving the slight chance of a credible hybrid variety or more likely some mildly interesting crab apples.
A few more interesting books acquired and read, or partly read with respect to the vast tome of J.C. Louden's Encyclopaedia of plants from the mid 1800s.

Hopefully the weather for February and the months ahead will be more conducive to horticultural activities, grassland management, tree-planting and wildflower and wildlife proliferation...

Friday, 11 January 2013

looking ahead

The ground at the field is still a bit too wet for much at the moment, but I'm pleased that the seasonal floods have gone for now and that the hedging plants that went in last month haven't been washed away.

On Wednesday evening I went to the Nantwich Walled Garden AGM.
A project that has been running a few years now to highlight awareness of forgotten, but historically significant remains of a walled garden under threat from development.

This Saturday I'm off to another walled garden for an orchard wassail near Bristol at The Ethicurean.

Back at home, I await the arrival of a few orders:
Owl & wildlife boxes
5 European olive plants
3 Cornish tea plants

The time of year to be getting on with a few maintenance and servicing jobs of tools and equipment back at home and to go over the stock of stuff for transplanting down to the field...

Tuesday, 1 January 2013


The River Dee at Farndon briefly went out of flood warning conditions over Xmas with the monitoring station near the old Holt / Farndon bridge.
Back at 'warning' status and probably over a 1 metre of water on the field...

I'm away with other work (my full-time job), but doubt the land will be dry for much soon.
The last couple of days nearer home ended up with a quick evening pint in The Bull at Shocklach and some interesting talk about historic landscape features near by.

Meanwhile I have bought a print of the old bridge at Farndon - not as topographically inaccurate as the comment suggests.
I'm wondering if the young tree by the people is actually the now old hollow oak at the end of the board-walk / bottom of Meadow Lane?
I think the artist may have sat on the sandstone outcrop in the field to the south-west of Appleby's Brook.

From http://www.theowlbox.co.uk/ I've ordered owl and dormouse boxes.

Time to review the to-do list and plant list for the year ahead...

Sunday, 9 December 2012


The River Dee was going down reasonably well until some rain and a hint of snow last Thursday. At least no more heavy rain fell, so I was able to walk back onto the field after last months inundation:

I'm not a big fan of putting signs up here and there, but hopefully one on the access track might put off a few of the unwelcome visitors:

Reasonably handy timing, as it looks like fly-tippers are active again in the area. A load of household rubbish / building debris has been dumped across the access to the allotments just over the border...

Not much work done on the land due to the weather and wet ground, although the last couple of days have been pleasant enough to prepare for replanting a gap in the south hedge (and clearing the remains of an old ditch).
Mainly hawthorn to go in, but with random blackthorn and the odd dog-rose, as well as a reasonable sized oak salvaged from the neighbour.

The grass isn't looking too bad, although i'm sure the wet year and extra flooding have exacerbated historical contours.
Also a different mower to try behind the small tractor, particularly for around the orchard trees.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

catch up

I'd overlooked how long it has been since last writing anything in my blog...
(I post a few things on Twitter @meadowcopse although not always just on my meadow and orchard musings).

Since August, some extra distractions with extra time spent in relation to my proper job (not the most environmentally sensitive occupation) and a few social events, excursions and notably for 2012 interruptions due to rain.

Back to the field, trying to manage the grassland, particularly around the orchard trees in the wet weather proved problematic - particularly with an inundation from the River Dee at the end of September.
Again this year I've left a proliferation of meadowsweet in the open grass area to go to seed.

A noticeable quantity of voles were nesting, but also several owls locally and a fox.
I do wonder how wildlife survives and recovers after flooding? The plot is in a floodplain, but hedgerow and grassland wildlife is noticeable, although I have spotted a couple of drowned moles.

A modest crop of cider apples have gone off for a trial brew, It will be interesting to see how the larger transplanted trees perform next year.
A start on filling the gaps in the hedgerow with hawthorn, some blackthorn, dog roses and an occasional oak and ash. The latter are from my own local seedlings, although the Chalara fraxinea problem has some sobering implications on plant movements we take for granted in a horticultural context.

A couple of signs of minor anti-social activities along the access track, but otherwise quiet probably due to wet weather and poor ground conditions.

Still a few gaps in local history to fill between the Chancery Deeds from 1150-1450, the estate enclosures map of the 1700s and tithe map of the 1800s. At least one of the boundaries is 400+ years and a marker stone from between a corner tree roots was rather heavily hauled to Chester Grosvenor Museum for a look over.

Over winter a couple of projects to get on with, including a planting backlog of a few more heritage variety fruit trees.

Trips out and about have included walks in The Peak District, Wharfedale, Witney Wood Fair in Oxfordshire, Bristol, Derbyshire - interesting landscapes, historic houses and fine food and drink along the way.

Saturday, 25 August 2012


Work, weather and other commitments have reduced my recent time down at the field. The rain has meant the grass and other herbage has grown to the point where it needs some prompt management since the last tractor cut in May.
Too late and too far gone to make hay, any length has layered with the rain and a return of extra buttercups has seen a proliferation of black mould underneath.
There looks to be a proliferation of voles and a few field mice. (Regardless of the grass acreage, I try to keep a 2 metre circle clear around each of the orchard trees.
The leaves on these here and there have moisture related fine moulds / mildew and rusts, otherwise a reasonable quantity of good new leaf growth.

The underpass by the bypass next to the field got its first bit of significant graffiti since I repainted it over a year ago, application with a scourer and a bit of petrol has got most of it away - just needs a light wash over with a bit more masonry paint. (I wouldn't mind so much if there was any hint of artistic talent,  skill or wit).

Some archaeology work has been going on at the castle the other side of the river, but back on the English side, some geophysical field survey work. (For my own interests, I've been looking back at yet more ancient deeds from the National Archives web portal.

Late the other evening I could hear owls and foxes very close. Ended up working quite late with the Austrian scythe - excellent for sorting the grass where the tractor topper would fail and even the Allen Scythe struggle a bit.over

Thursday, 26 July 2012

juggling time

A disjointed couple of weeks...
Unpredictable and often intense or continuous rain has left me behind on a few outdoor tasks at home and at the field.
The grass (and weeds) have grown a fair bit and the longer grass has layered a bit with all the rain.
I took some time out for visits here and there, noseying through relatively local landscapes.

The National Vegetation Classification grassland study day locally was excellent. I'll definitely be looking at more courses - handy being less than a couple of miles from my plot too.

An independent survey carried out on the orchard, a few more tasks to carry out correcting and protecting whilst things are still relatively young. (A few more apples on the trees than I would have liked so early in their life-span, I'm sure I nipped more buds out).

A decent book picked up after coffee & cake in Oswestry - A Northern Marches Pomonia.
Whilst over that way, a visit to some woodland I helped replant and look after.

The Austrian scythe is excellent, I'm really pleased with it and it has proved quite useful at the field.

A weekend away at The Secret Garden Party Festival - not much gardening (initially a lot of rain on the Thursday), but quite a scenic and interesting setting and a good lecture on alternative modern farming in one of the fringe tents.

Back at the field and it has been intensely sunny for a few days. Some time spent clearing vegetation from around the fruit trees, ther looks to have been quite a bit of vole activity.
At home some more of the tree stocks potted on and a minor bit of machinery and implement tidying and maintenance.
Next week another big mow if we have a few sunny days on the run...

Saturday, 7 July 2012

time marches on

I've had the meadow 2 years now, although planning and preparation to be a custodian of a small project plot of land has been over a longer period...
Two summers in succession appear quite different, last year was rather dry, the newly planted fruit trees requiring additional watering. This year there are flood alerts at what should be the height of summer.
I'm stuck at work at the moment, some weather delays and other issues could overlap into next week's shift change, I'm hoping the travel backlog rapidly clears.
Uncle gave the field a look over, certainly increasing grass growth and a bit damp. The trees with apples on seem to be doing well.
I had a quick look at The Hampton Court Flower Show on T.V. There were a few locally made Gabriel Ash glass-houses in various show gardens.
Timing and my work rota means I haven't been able to visit many shows this year.
Locally, I looking forward to be on a habitat / vegetation course, near to the field with Wildlife Workshops.
The weather will dictate what I do for the rest of June outdoors.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Forestry Panel Report

After the public outcry last year at the proposed Forestry Commission break-up and sell off, the 72 page Independent Panel Report was published today.
The 'Save Our Woods Campaign' has also published a response...

On Twitter and in the media, at least one NGO The Woodlands Trust, has been quick to comment at the report publication.
It is a shame that NGOs were reluctant to comment at the proposed forest estate sell-off until the public disquiet had reached a noticeable critical mass.
Some have speculated a general silence at the time on the issue by major conservation organisations was because of an interest in carve-up opportunities.

It will be early 2013 before (if) the Government act on what are at present recommendations in the report.
I have singled out The Woodland Trust above, as I'm seriously considering my membership. Their inertia regarding a stance on the proposed sell-off and more recently their corporate sponsors.
These include Ikea and Forest Holidays.
Controversial revelations suggest Ikea's timber extraction business has compromised swathes of former USSR forest in an unsustainable manner.
Forest Holidays (this years corporate sponsors of the Woodland Trust) have a controversial planning application for holiday homes in Delamere Forest here in Cheshire.

Working full-time in the oil & gas industry, I must consider all this from a pot and black kettle scenario with respect to looking after my own 2 acre plot with conservation leanings... One thing is certain, money doesn't grow on trees, so I understand the need of an organisation for fund-raising above just membership subscriptions. Alternative funding shouldn't compromise principles though.

Another swathe of public estate that changed this week (almost un-noticed in various media) is the former British Waterways which has become the Canal & River Trust.
There have been various proposals to sell off and fragment the canal network since it's nationalisation and commercial / industrial decline.
In recent years it has seen a boom in leisure business and like the Forestry Commission more than broke even in it's entirety. I cynically wonder what will happen to potential development land along Britain's canals and properties which at present endow the canal network in a financial level of sustainability?

Closer to home (or at least the plot), there are proposals for a 1 giga-Watt gas power-station on the Wrexham Industrial Estate.
The first I had heard of it, trying not to be too N.I.M.B.Y.istic, I couldn't help but look if large gas-lines or power-lines were going to plough across my field.
The east side of the Industrial Estate around Ridley Wood / Bowling Bank might end up with some large gas-main excavations.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

work and weather

Busy on a remote island with the proper job at the moment.
Back at home, the rain continues and the grass continues to grow. At least the River Dee level remains sensible.

There seems to be a small rural crime wave.
From Cheshire Police Western Rural web pages:
Friesian cows stolen
Tractor thefts
Also, actor Ricky Tomlinson's caravan stolen - this from just up the river from the meadow.

A little more background research on some of the more obscure fruit trees I've planted and some revision through the old established books of J.C. Loudon.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012


Being as mid-summer has just passed, some photos of 2012 so far at the meadow and orchard:

Tuesday, 26 June 2012


Back in Cheshire after an extended weekend away (and a busy week before reducing lush grass at the field after the almost endless rain).

From a very windy wild-camp in The Peak District, I watched the summer solstice sunrise; from Pym Chair above the valley of Thursbitch, also the title of a novel by Cheshire author Alan Garner.

A scenic early morning drive south in less than mid-summer weather and a fine full breakfast at Heyford Wharf alongside the Oxfordshire Canal. Not much spare time to drop into the historic gardens at Rousham this time, but across to Bicester and Bernwode Fruit Trees.
A pair of interesting pear trees and an apple tree that is red throughout (stem, leaves, apples, juice...)

Next stop in progressively wetter weather, Pangbourne.
Edulis Nursery and despite their plant hunting, two specific forms of native Sorbus domestica acquired.
Onwards south of Newbury and through Andover and ironically passing Stonehenge on the longest day, into Devon.
After weeks of rain, everywhere was rather wet. Another scenic setting for a wild camp then an easy day in Devon, stopping by Thornhayes Nursery for yet more native Sorbus trees.
Having experimented with a traditional English scythe back at the meadow, a drop in at The Scythe Shop for a quick well informed practical session and chat regarding the use of an Austrian scythe. I've acquired one for grassland management...

A pleasant evening meal in Exeter and a quick look at the Cathedral frontage which is about to have its first phase of new landscaping.

Friday night saw camp being set up at Rackenford at The Bulworthy Project in their woodland. A relaxed and well presented charcoal course from sustainable wood on their site on the Saturday and a pleasant evening before shutting down the kiln on the Sunday morning.

Further forays across Devon on the Sunday, including a 6 mile Lyme Regis to Seaton coastal walk in sunny weather, then a steady drive north to home with a stop off at Salisbury for food.

Back at the field, I must be one of the few folk in England happy with the weather (although recent river levels of The Dee at Farndon were almost at risk of flooding).
Last Novembers large transplanted cider apple trees would have been a worry if things were dry. An impressive amount of lush leaf an new stem growth on all the orchard trees.

A pleasant chat with a few neighbours, further discussions with the Holt Local History Society and the landscape on the Farndon side in its wider context with respect to the near by castle.
Interestingly a metal detectorist has been seen around the fields (and unconnected with organised surveys of the area), he seemed a bit 'vague' about which field(s) he had permission to dig in.

Back at home I've been going through the stock of fruit trees and native broadleaf trees to transplant at the next opportunity, the remainder of the year will be quite busy.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

shopping spree

Briefly separated from the land due to my 'proper job' - relieved there has been a bit of rain (although not much fun for anyone with outdoor engagements and events over the long weekend).
A quick bit of further research before bed-time on Sorbus trees...

I'm interested because of the Sorbopyrus inter-generic hybrid I have as an unusual fruit tree in the orchard. I've since found mention of Sorbo-Aronia hybrids and looked at getting a couple of Aronia (choke berry) bushes out of interest.
Conveniently, Edulis Nursery near Reading have:
Aronia melanocarpa 'Hugin' and Aronoa prunifolia 'Viking' as well as two named forms of the Sorbus domestica - 'pomifera' and 'pyrifera'

Sorbus Domestica has an interesting 'localised' history as The Old Sorb Tree as well as interesting brews (cormier, a cider like drink) made from the berries (more precisely 'pomes') and recently medicinal research regarding diabetes control.

From Foyles Bookshop online, I've ordered Whitebeams, Rowans and Service Trees of Britain and Ireland: A Monograph of British and Irish Sorbus L.
This will hopefully consolidate what I've read from various .pdf files and websites into a coherent overview.

Whilst I was in a tree-buying mood and foregoing a preferred 'local provenance' stance, I spotted a few more Sorbus domestica (as well as a few trees I was after for the field corners and hedges) as cell-grown young trees from Planfor:
10x Prunus avium 30/40cm
5x Sambucus nigra
2x Sambucus racemosa (red berried elderberry)
1x Sorbus intermedia
1x Sorbus aria
10x Prunus spinosa
2x Sorbus domestica

A return down south at the end of the month conveniently puts me near Reading for the trees from Edulis Nursery, so another visit to Bernwode Fruit Trees whilst north of Oxford will take the orchard area to near maximum capacity with:
Apple, Joanating (early fruit)
Pear, Maxstoke Nibbler (small fruits all ripen and drop around the same time)
Pear, Uvedale St Germain (rather large fruit)
Cherry, Nimble Dick (historic variety)

Whilst down south, a weekend towards the end of June using a kiln to make charcoal at The Bulworthy Project, Devon.
If anybody down there has a legitimately spare Sorbus devoniensis sapling I'd be rather interested...

Sunday, 27 May 2012

More trees and mowing

A mixed few weeks for weather and events.
The last few days has seen the more positive side of people out and about around the fields who are genuinely interested and care about the outdoors and countryside, compared to the ignorance and irresponsible actions of a few. The neighbour in the field to the north confirmed that the fence damage they suffered leading to the horse fatality was deliberate, blatant and by someone determined to remove the section of fencing.

I took advantage of the rain and moist ground conditions in my first full week off work to transplant more young native trees from pots into the field corners.
After a brief spell walking in Snowdonia, a turn in the weather to intense sunshine.
I also gave the Green Fair at Whittington Castle a look in, always an interesting calendar of events.

A few nights with the tent and dining al-fresco back at the field.
Out with the tractor and mower to cut about 2/3rds of the field area - particularly the orchard area, which seems to carry more general weeds in the grass.
The remaining 1/3rd seems to have better grass density and a lot of Meadowsweet which I have useful plans for.
Next year I hope to progress to proper hay-making...

This last weekend I travelled south again, initially to Bernwode Fruit Trees and picked up:
A historically interesting Medlar 'Senlac' which has suggested origins from the area around King Harold and Hastings.
A Quince, Little Ickford Pineapple.
A Plum, Manaccan (Traditional Cornish variety) on rootstock VVA-1.
An Apple, Tydeman's Early Worcester on rootstock MM111.
Just a case of transplanting and adding to the orchard layout plan

Onwards for a relaxed lunch by the Oxfordshire Canal at Heyford Wharf, then a couple of hours in the historic gardens at Rousham.
From Oxfordshire, an overnight stop at Salisbury and then a quick look at a managed habitat on Pepperbox Hill - always interesting to see other projects...
A relatively new independent wine merchant in Salisbury had some interesting ciders and a Kingston Black brandy type blend.

Back home and a week without rain at the field, so out with the water bowser to give each of the fruit trees and recently transplanted saplings a few gallons before returning to work.
Reassuringly, after last year's safety related hedgerow tree-work - one of the more ambitious re-pollarding attempts has signs of regrowth.

Most of the apple trees are coming to the end of their blossom and have developed fruitlets, nothing significant on the plums, but suddenly almost everything has burst into leaf including the walnuts and mulberry trees.

Friday, 18 May 2012

A post of mixed thoughts

Almost an extra week away with work and a minor river innundation seeped away, leaving the ground moist for the trees and vegetation just as they needed it.

A hurried 'rescue' of  a number of willow trees from a local redundant filter-bed that has an impending appointment with a JCB for clearing out. These have gone in a mixed planting scheme of native broadleaf trees in a couple of field corners.
The grass has grown somewhat over the last few  weeks, but so have a multitude of dandelions and buttercups. A noticeable increase in Cuckoo-flowers in both the open grass as well as field margins.
The orchard trees have all had an extra strim of the grass in a 2 metre radius and most stuff now in leaf bud if not already bearing blossom.

The hedges where cut back have noticeable clusters of new growth, as well as established hawthorn and dog-roses doing well.
A couple more trackway trees became uprooted with the increased water levels.

Annoyingly, another scrambler bike has been to  the edge of one boundary in the neighbour's field as well as damage / vandalism to an adjoining fence - this has been a previous problem with teenagers thinking they are out of the way and wayward walkers roaming away from designated and clear paths.
This has since led to a fatal accident to livestock, due to the careless unthoughtful actions of whoever decided the fence was in their way!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

onwards through springtime

Still busy with the full-time job, but a couple of things in the post back home.
A little surprised that the three 'sale' fruit tree plants from T&M had two packaged as bare-root with a sprinkling of compost, fortunately Father has intercepted them into his care and with rumours of grapes already formed on the vine...

Importantly, the River Dee flood level has reduced.

Quite keen for a couple of relaxing days doing odd-jobs on the land (and probably some river debris / drift-wood to untangle). I'm anticipating minimal (if any) damage, and considering how dry the soil was a couple of weeks ago and it's structure I suspect at this time of year the innundation has done some good.
It'll be interesting to see what species are flourishing in the grass, although fewer dandelions would not be a disappointment.

Staring at an aerial view of the plot and it's surrounding land, I'm piecing together some ideas around the significance of the old track along the east boundary.
Observations by others regarding tree lines and boundaries and the nearby castle and older landscape features may link together nicely in a historical context.
Hopefully some overlap with the local history society may lead to further insights...

Monday, 23 April 2012

from a remote island...

Steadily busy with work and with a bit of extra wildlife here 150 miles from land.

Too late for bare-rooted trees now, but Thompson & Morgan had some fruit trees on offer in pots, so I got a Cherry 'Sunburst' and a Victoria Plum and a grape vine for novelty.
No need to worry about water for the trees in the field for now with the rain back at home. The River Dee levels up too for the first time since January's mild flooding.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

A quiet week...

A noticeable 'greening' of vegetation at the field.
All of the pear trees are in blossom, the quince not far behind and the 30+ varieties of apple varying from just about to break open buds, through to leaves and blossom. The mulberries and walnuts are still without leaf but the hazels are progressing. The hawthorn and willow in the hedges are well into leaf, including those newly planted.

Quite a few things still to plant throughout the year ahead from stock in pots, including some stuff donated by friends from local seed. A couple of visitors during the week - always pleasant to have a chat about what's happing with the field and also generally locally in the village and just over the border on the Welsh side of the river.
One negative event was local teenagers up and down the footpath on a mini-motorbike and then riding around through a neighbour's crop and disturbing the horses in the next field, the police are apparently aware...

The 'copse' part in the name meadowcopse (a northern European term for pasture / woodland margin) has had some further planting on the narrow east shadier side of the field - this opens out onto a common hazel hedge, before the 6 metre grid planting of the orchard starting with nut trees...

A few more low spots in the grass levelled from last months lorry of topsoil and some work along the gateway planting up gaps with more hawthorns and reducing the spread of soil onto the access track, then reseeding bare soil with a native northern hedgerow wildflower seed mix. The first proper cut of the grass for the year, mainly as with last April to reduce dandelion seeds proliferating, partly backed up by root extraction. 1/2 an acre of grass is left long to the west side, for cutting later in the year (with patches of meadowsweet already breaking through as well as cuckoo flower in a couple of places).