Pruning Workshops – help needed in November and December

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: enquiries@winterbournewillows.com to discuss cost, transport and for any other information.

Red Mason Bees at Longney Orchards – 2018 results

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.

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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

Longney Barn Update

posted in: Longney, orchard, orchard history | 0

Work on the barn in our Longney orchards is almost complete (thanks to the hard work of Kelly Carpentry Services of Cheltenham, funded by a grant we had from Heritage Lottery Fund).

Here’s what it looked like before (left) and below are a few pictures of how it looks now:

 

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Work begins on the barn at Longney

Martin Hayes discussing the barn works with Pete the builder

This week, after lots of planning, work has begun to restore the barn at Longney, with our building contractors Pete and Rosco preparing to put up scaffolding before taking the roof tiles off.

The work will involve jacking up the roof timbers, repairing and replacing timber where needed, repairing the brickwork of the walls, re-building the interior room at the north end and putting all the roof tiles back again.

The open part of the barn will become an exhibition space and shelter for visitors and volunteers working in the orchard and the enclosed room will become a tool store and toilet.

Before work began we needed to clear the piles of material stored in front of the barn. Our regular visitors, students from the Apperley Centre (part of the Shrubberies School) in Stonehouse, have recently been learning how a human chain works, helping move the big pile of bark chippings using buckets:

Success with Red Mason Bees at Longney

Red Mason Bee (not at Longney) constructing a nest site in a uPVC window vent (with the front removed).

Despite very poor spring weather, efforts to increase the population of Red Mason bees in our Longney orchards have been rewarding. We are increasingly confident that the small relic population of these “super pollinator” insects, which were found in 2017 remains and, thanks to help from Mason Bees UK, may now be multiplying.

One of the artificial nesting sites provided at Longney

The Red Mason bee is a delightful species. Much smaller than the ubiquitous Honey bee, and having a pretty, dusky red colour (and NO sting!), Red Mason bees emerge in April and May from their over-wintering cocoons, or pupae. They immediately search out early blossoming fruit trees, especially apples, and are able to pollinate far more efficiently than most other bees on the wing in spring.

Research has shown that even though, usually, they do not forage more than about 50 metres from their nesting location – usually small natural holes within the trees -they are able to pollinate more blossom, under more inclement conditions, than almost any other bee species. Which is why they are probably among the most valuable of insects to orchard owners.

In 2017, with advice and help from Mason Bees UK, around 16 artificial nest pipes – each  holding special cardboard tubes for egg laying and storing pollen food –  were placed in Long Tyning and Bollow. These would help to ascertain whether there were Red Mason bees present among these long established trees. At the end of the season, 4 of the 15cm cardboard tubes held within several of nest pipes had been used by the bees. Clearly we had a small active population. These filled tubes, each containing up to 5 pupae, were sent to Mason Bees UK to be opened, inspected and stored over the winter. Healthy pupae were then returned to us this spring, together with additional 40 pupae and 2 release boxes, for redistributing among the trees in order to try and boost numbers for the future.

Release Box and Nesting Site at Longney
Red Mason Bee carrying mud to construct nest.

The year’s results have been most encouraging. A total of 11 nest pipes contained 39 “sealed” (with characteristic clay – type soil plugs) cardboard tubes – a most encouraging result. These will again be returned to Mason Bees UK for the winter, with a new consignment of pupae arriving in Longney in March/April next year. We hope this will result in another year of significant increase during 2019, beyond which we could be well on the way to achieving a healthy self – sustaining population. We will, of course, be liaising closely with Mason Bees UK, as their objective is to substantially increase Red Mason bee populations nationally to the point where stocks can be offered to commercial orchard owners to boost fruit yields. And of course, help secure the future of this valuable native species. We will keep you posted!

Our great appreciation to Mason Bees UK for their advice, support and encouragement. Do have a look at their website at masonbees.co.uk.

Keith Turner

August 2018

 

Longney Updates, June 2018

A few snippets of news from last month in our Longney orchards – including the new signboards, barn, the plums, the community and the wildlife.

We are hoping to do repairs to the barn, on the boundary of Long Tyning and Bollow orchards, this summer, and have been clearing the vegetation around it in preparation for this. Particular thanks are due to Martin, Alison and the Monday special needs school kids for clearing the wire and vegetation on the north and east sides and to David and Martin for additional clearing on the southern end.

There has also been much remedial pruning of the plums in Bollow orchard, carried out by Martin and David in recent weeks.  Summer pruning of plums helps to reduce any further infection with Silver Leaf Disease.

Meanwhile, in Longney village, we have been promoting GOT and explaining our involvement in the orchards at the Longney village school fete, where Alison and Martin found Trust Juice to be a real draw that led to lots of conversations about the orchards and their wider value.

New sign boards have recently been designed (thanks Jane) for the orchards, one for each of the three entrances – from Longney, and North and south from the river path. These will be installed soon.

And, last but not least, John Fletcher has been recording wildlife, particularly birds, at the orchards.  His most recent bird lists include Barn Owls, Buzzard, Swifts (circling the orchards all afternoon), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Dunnock, Green Finch, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Song Thrush, Bullfinch, Collared Dove, Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler (one pair busy taking food to a hidden nest to some very noisy young) and Reed Warbler.  Some of John’s excellent photos of his Longney sightings are shown in the slideshow below (all pictures copyright John Fletcher):

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Dawn Chorus at Hartpury

Jim Chapman writes:

On one of the best mornings of this spring, 17 folk arrived just before dawn (5am) to ramble round the Hartpury orchards and listen to the birds waking up.

It was a superb morning – there was a low-lying mist to start, then a huge sunrise.

Led by Keith Turner, we heard (and he identified) 31 different birds, including the rare Cetti’s warbler again – they are becoming regular visitors and at least one pair is probably breeding.  As usual the cuckoo made its presence known – one of the orchards has always been known as the Cuckoo Pen.

Toast and hot drinks rounded off the morning – sitting at the picnic tables, overlooking Catsbury hill, with perry pear orchard in the foreground – and all before 7am!!

Magical!

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Blossom time – a few pictures from Longney and Days Cottage

posted in: apples, blossom, Longney, orchard, pears | 0

Well, it’s been a odd blossom season so far, many trees flowering later than usual and others flowering at the right time.

 

At Days Cottage last weekend the Blossom Afternoon had less blossom than expected but, as the brief animation on the left shows, everyone enjoyed themselves!

 

There are a few more pictures from the event below – including some of the musical interlude. We do have a video of some of this, and may upload that soon.

Meanwhile, down on the riverside at Longney, the situation is similar, with some trees in full blossom and others yet to gain full glory.  Pictures below:

Others are already over and done – it all depends on the variety: The picture below shows a tree on the hill above Wick Court, photographed today.  Some is in full bloom, some has finished flowering, indicating that this tree is a grafted tree where the original rootstock has developed its own branches, making a half and half tree of two varieties, each with a different flowering time:

AGM round-up

Our AGM on 14th April took place at the Anchor Pub, Epney in the morning, followed by a walkabout in our orchards at Longney after lunch..

After the official AGM business was concluded we spent an hour or so discussing the future of GOT. While celebrating the success of our work at Longney we were looking forward – discussing what GOT could do next, how GOT could create mutually beneficial relationships with others such as orchard owners and other organisations with relevant interests. Five discussion groups came up with a series of suggestions, many complementary to each other. As with any voluntary organisation, we can’t do everything at once but these bright ideas have opened up lots of possibilities. (Thank you Alison Parfitt for masterminding the discussion groups)

The walkabout in the afternoon was blessed with beautiful weather, with wonderful views down the river and across the new plantings at the orchards.

Some pictures, courtesy of Paul Bloomer, below, showing the AGM itself, the discussion groups afterwards and finally the walkabout…

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