Our work at our Longney orchards is ongoing – and we are particularly pleased this season to finally have sheep grazing – which has been our ambition from the start. The grazing will improve the orchards considerably – from a management, biodiversity and landscape perspective.
Meanwhile the fencing has been completed, benches erected in the barn and interpretation signage is in place. Young people with special needs continue to visit most Mondays and a charity camps in the orchards in early summer.
We also now have our new composting toilet from Free Range Designs up and running – many thanks to volunteers Stuart and Pete for installing. It is already proving popular, particularly with students and staff who visit each Monday! You can find it behind the renovated barn. Some final details need to be completed but it is fully functional. For more about this design visit Free Range Designs here.
And, whilst we’re on the toilet (so to speak), could anyone please provide GOT with:sawdust or wood chip (preferably untreated)? And a large lidded storage bin or wheelie bin? Please let Ann know if you can help via email@example.com Thanks!
Our AGM last weekend, at The Anchor Inn in Epney, was well-attended despite indifferent and rather windy weather – which we feared might put people off coming, especially for the orchard walkabout later.
After the official business was over we enjoyed two presentations – one on the Fish House (in our Longney Orchards) and one on Mason Bees. Juliet Bailey led on the Fish House, summarising her review of the building last year, the changes in overgrowth since we took the site on and the options for the future. In an ideal world we would be able to restore the building and find a use for it – but without funding or, indeed, an obvious use, we may have to consider other options. Juliet outlined the main scenarios – from full restoration to letting it fall down completely. We had a lively discussion over the ways forward, particularly bearing in mind that we are an Orchard Trust and so must prioritise orchard conservation, and so finding a partner organisation more attuned to historic building work might be a way forward. Some early ideas of partnerships are already being explored.
This was followed by a presentation by Chris and John Whittles from Mason Bees UK (www.masonbees.co.uk) who promote the use of Red Mason Bees (Osmia bicornus) as pollinators for gardens and orchards. They talked about their research on Mason Bee life cycles and pollination abilities, comparing this favourably with the more conventional concept of honey bees or bumble bees – Mason Bees being much more efficient.
Their presentation was wide-ranging – covering also experiences elsewhere (e.g. the US in Californian Almond Orchards) with other mason bee species, and the intriguing issue of observable better fruit following mason bee pollination. This phenomenon is perhaps due to differing microbial interaction between bee and flower – with mason bee interactions different to honey or bumble bees. The issue of colony health and good husbandry was covered too – Mason Bee UK’s system involve participants (Bee Guardians) sending the bee cocoons back to them each year to check for parasites etc, with the healthy cocoons and new nesting tubes sent back to hatch on site in spring. This avoids the build-up of pathogens and parasites a permanent ‘bee hotel’ would suffer from. For information on becoming one of their Bee Guardians visit their website here: https://www.masonbees.co.uk/bee-guardians
After lunch most of the attendees travelled the short distance north to our Longney Orchards, to view the changes over the last 12 months – barn restoration, fencing completion, grazing begun, remedial pruning completed etc. And discussion continued about the Fish House – now almost invisible under its covering of ivy – and about Mason Bees – whose release boxes and new nesting sites could be seen on site.
Some more pictures from the day below (pictures by Ann Smith and Juliet Bailey):
A reminder that it’s our AGM (in a pub!) this coming Saturday, 27th April – where, as well as AGM business, we will be discussing the historic Fish House within our orchards at Longney, learning about Mason bees from the people at Mason Bees UK and, if you stay until after lunch, walking around the orchard at Longney to see the blossom and recent changes (incl the restored barn and some sheep!).
Last Saturday, 16th March, we held a networking event for community orchard groups at Toddington Village Hall. Far too much was discussed to be reported here – maybe later when we’ve digested it all – but here are some pictures of the many and varied impromptu presentations given to everyone as we toured round the various stalls and displays.
Many thanks to all who attended, and to those who helped. Especially to Alison Parfitt who conceived and masterminded the event.
Martin Hayes is leading pruning workshops at our lovely Longney Orchards on Thursday 29 November (update: cancelled due to the wind/rain) and Tuesday 18 December 2018, between 10am-3pm (or whatever time people can spare).
As well as people being shown how to prune we will need some people to help pick up brash into piles. If you can’t make these dates, then do come along any Monday in term time to pick up brash into piles supervised or any other time unsupervised. But please don’t do any pruning unsupervised!
On the workshop days you will need a packed lunch and all refreshments, something to sit on and appropriate weather attire/stout footwear. The ground is uneven and there are brambles, nettles and low hanging branches.
Martin has some tools but if you can bring gloves and any tools, that would be helpful.
Come and see the newly renovated barn and enjoy the views and wildlife (we have several species of owls)!
Please try to let Ann Smith know if you can make it. Martin’s number is 07900 985679.
This is a great opportunity to learn new skills or continue with already acquired skills, transferable to your own orchard!
For location details see our Longney Orchard page at https://glosorchards.org/home/got-orchards/ Please park sensitively near the white railings (near Bow Lane Cottage) at Longney. There is no vehicular access to the orchards – just continue on foot down the public right of way track at the white railings).
And in other news…
We also have been advised of a scratter for sale: (Update, 26th November: this is now sold) Scratter built by Workman’s of Slimbridge c1880. Refurbished to working condition and has been used at Winterbourne Barn in last four seasons.
Please contact Rob Govier at: firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss cost, transport and for any other information.
Historian Dr. Nicholas Herbert, former editor of the Victoria County Histories, gave a fascinating talk about 17th/18th century squatters and their role in shaping the landscape of West Gloucestershire on Tuesday 16th October 2018 at the excellent venue of Gorsley Baptist Church.
Thanks to all who came and assisted, including the local history societies. Jim Chapman (GOT and curator of the National Perry Pear Centre) gave an introductory talk, discussing the contribution squatters and smallholders have made to overall fruit production in 18th/19th centuries.
Thanks to the Three Counties Traditional Orchard Project for funding this. Karen Humphries, was also thanked for leading the project over the last three years.
Our friends at masonbees.co.uk have recently analysed the uptake of the Red Mason bee tubes placed at Longney this year (see our bee report from August here). These bees are important and efficient pollinators for many plants, including fruit trees.
The Mason Bee scheme involves the bee tubes being sent back each season for assessment and to ensure the bee cocoons remain safe and viable for next year. These are returned for the following season.
Our results for this season were impressive with 39 sealed cardboard tubes producing a total of 256 cocoons averaging 6.6 cocoons per tube. These were of ‘excellent quality’ weighing in at 26.75 grams per 250 cocoons. Only 4 cocoons were discarded because they were to small and unlikely to be viable.
This confirms their, and our, impression that the orchards are an ideal location for Mason Bees and we will be continuing placing tubes next year, returning our own cocoons to the site and perhaps expanding to cover more of the orchard.
If you want to know more, or would like to try Mason Bees on your own land or garden in 2019 do visit the Mason Bees website at masonbees.co.uk. If you sign-up to their Bee Guardian scheme (a single one-off payment that will cover many years) they will send you a stock of Red Mason bee cocoons and everything you need to support the population of bees that emerge next spring – and the spring after that, and the spring after that! Details at https://www.masonbees.co.uk/product-page/become-a-guardian-with-masonbees-2019