Mason Bees return to Longney

posted in: bees, blossom, Longney, orchard | 0

Despite the lockdown this year’s consignment of mason bee pupae has been installed at Longney.  Transporting livestock is, of course, permitted!

13 bee boxes containing a total of around 300 tubes, plus 4 release boxes containing around 200 pupae were placed a few weeks ago (in time for most of the blossom).

No pictures from this season, but here are a few from last year, showing Keith Turner installing the boxes and tubes:

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Longney in lockdown

posted in: blossom, Longney, orchard, wildlife | 0

A few pictures from our Longney orchard, taken by Martin Hayes this week.

Lockdown or not it’s still spring in the orchard, the trees are flowering, the butterflies are out, and the river keeps on flowing:

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Fish House discussions

Jim Chapman, Anne Mackintosh, Jonathan Briggs, Steve Hurrell and Stuart Smith in front of the ivy-covered Fish House at Longney. Picture by Ann Smith

We had a very useful, and thoughtful, meeting with Stroud Preservation Trust (SPT) at Longney on 2nd February.

The derelict Fish House, at the riverside end of the orchard, is very much on our to-do list – decisions need to be made about its future, whether to leave it derelict or try and get funding to restore it it.

We had asked SPT, who specialise in restoration of historic buildings, for their views.  They had visited the building before, but this was our first joint visit, with Anne Mackintosh and Steve Hurrell of SPT meeting Ann and Stuart Smith, Jim Chapman and Jonathan Briggs of GOT.

Lengthy discussions followed, on site and over lunch afterwards, but as yet we have no firm way forward.  The general consensus was that getting funding would be very difficult, so there is no immediate prospect of restoration.  Other options will have to be considered.  More on this in due course!

Display boards installed at Longney Orchard

Our display boards are now installed in the barn at Longney – following sterling work by Stuart, Pete, Ann and Keith who had to battle quite a lot of mud to get onto the site.  Our thanks to all of them.

These are the boards used at the Folk Museum two years ago – always intended for Longney afterwards, and now they’re there!

Picture by Pete Smith

Tales from the National Perry Pear Collection

Jim Chapman has sent these updates about some of the pears in the National Perry Pear Collection – plus, at the end, some new info on some dessert pears too:

The Earlies:

Charles Martell, in his 2013 book Pears of Gloucestershire and Perry Pears of the Three Counties, refers to early pears being used to make a quick fermenting sparkling perry ready for Christmas, quoting as authority the late Ray Williams of Long Ashton Research Station.

The orchards at Wick Court in Arlingham, Gloucestershire have an orchard planted in the first part of the 19th century specifically for perry, using the traditional layout of early ripening fruit nearest the mill and later fruit further away, but all their earlies were reworked at some time with the later ripening pear Oldfield.

Recently we have been repropagating these earlies and will be trying to recreate the quick fermenting sparkling perry that was presumably once made at Wick Court. These early ‘harvest’ pears were once far more commonly found on farms, but are now rare, with their fruit not picked, but allowed to fall unused. One of the Wick Court pears, Island Gennet has also been found growing in the GOT orchards at Longney

The Lates:

Another puzzle we hope to resolve concerns a group of three pears whose DNA matches the early Thorn perry pear, but which consistently ripen a month after other Thorn. Again, Charles Martell refers to a later Thorn in his Pears of Gloucestershire, tentatively naming it the Murrell pear. Whether ours is Murrell is unlikely ever to be established, but it is presumably a sport or mutation of the commoner Thorn.

And dessert fruit too:

Another Wick Court pear is one recently named Queen’s Wick View, to commemorate the visit by Queen Elizabeth I. If she had indeed slept in the room tradition specifies (unlikely as it was not built until 50 years after her death!) and if the tree was then growing (which it wasn’t), it would have been in her view from the window.

For the last few years I have picked this pear to try to identify it, and this year tasted it long after picking, when it had done the circuit of shows for over a month – what a transformation, from being a rather indifferent, but apparently perry variety, it had sweetened to remain an unknown but now very pleasant Bergamot type dessert fruit !

All I have to do now is to discover whether I can find a ‘lost’ Bergamot whose description matches. The DNA does not match any pear currently in the National Collection at Brogdale.Thomas Hitt in 1757 wrote “as pears are the best fruit the winter months afford, they are worthy of the greatest care in preserving”. He continued “many thought to be second rate become delicious if stored correctly, melting and rich, but dry and tough if left to ripen outdoors”

NOTE: the orchards at Wick Court are not open to the public, but GOT does occasionally arrange visits to them.

Snippets of Longney News – sheep and loo

posted in: Longney, orchard, volunteers | 0

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 info@glosorchards.org  Thanks!

Fish House and Mason Bees at GOT’s AGM 2019

At the Anchor Inn

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.

Juliet’s Fish House presentation

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.

Learning about Mason Bees

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):

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AGM, plus Mason Bees, the Fish House and an orchard walk

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!).

Full details here: https://glosorchards.org/home/event/got-annual-general-meeting/

New signs at Longney

posted in: Longney, orchard | 0

Visitors to our Longney Orchards will now be greeted by an interpretation sign and map at each of the three entrances.

Funded by HLF and the Three Counties Traditional Orchards Project the new signs provide links to find out more about GOT, explain the orchards and invite visitors to explore.

More interpretation will be placed in the barn soon.

Many thanks to Stuart and Pete Smith for erecting the signs.

Click the images to enlarge them.

 

 

 

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