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.

The Squatter Communities of West Gloucestershire

Ann Smith writes:
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.
Photos by Ann Smith

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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Days Cottage Apple Day

Some notes from the events at Days Cottage on National Apple Day, Sunday 21st October 2018.  Apple Day, originally launched by Common Ground in 1990, has become an essential part of the orchard calendar.

Helen Brent-Smith and her papermache apples

At Days Cottage scores of visitors came along to see the Orchard and Rural Skills Centre, just south of Gloucester, to enjoy the sunshine in wonderful old and young traditional unsprayed orchards.

 

People could have fruit identified, order and buy heritage fruit trees, juice apples, appreciate the wildlife, listen to musicians, try spoon carving, and taste and buy juice, cider and perry and rare apple varieties.

 

Apple Pear Portraits

There were activities for children too, including making the longest peel and sitting for a most unusual portrait! Folk could relax in the cosy yurt or roundhouse and imbibe mulled apple juice or eat from a range of delicious apple and pear cakes.

 

GOT was on hand to sell orchard books, including Charles Martell’s apple, pear and plum pomonas (also available to buy from the GOT online shop).

For more information on Days Cottage visit their website at www.dayscottage.co.uk

Photos by Paul Bloomer and Ann Smith.

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

 

Plum Day and Plum Festival

This weekend saw the first ever National Plum Day, recently established as being the 2nd Saturday of August each year.  The aim is help restore plums to the top of the British fruit charts. The Day has been set up by the Pershore Plum Festival, the Three Counties Traditional Orchard Project and The Vale Landscape Heritage Trust.

Commenting on the launch of National Plum Day, event organiser, Angela Taylor said:

“Plums were once the nation’s favourite fruit and for good reason, they even helped win WW1 as jars of plum jam kept the troops in the trenches going. Plums are packed with nutrients and antioxidants, said to help control obesity and diabetes, aid digestion and are great for skincare – to name but a few benefits. What’s more, we grow them here in the UK, yet many plum orchards have fallen into neglect. We want to see this versatile fruit top shopping lists and restaurant menus again and National Plum Day is the perfect place to start”.

It may be too late to celebrate Plum Day (it finished yesterday!) but the Pershore Plum Festival happens throughout August. It celebrates its long association with plums of all varieties and sees this riverside market town become a sea of purple and yellow, reflecting the colours of its two most famous plums – the Pershore Purple and the Pershore Yellow Egg Plum.

The main events of the Pershore Plum Festival take place from Saturday 25 – Monday 27 August.  Full details are available on the festival website: www.pershoreplumfestival.org.uk

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