The second very hot spate of summer weather saw us doing a quick, early morning walk around the community orchard at Colwall Village Garden to see what stone fruit was ready for harvesting. None of our apples or pears are quite ready for picking but by mid August the plums on some trees were fully ripe and already being enjoyed by plentiful wasps and flies.
Out of the many varieties present we found a few varieties definitely soft fleshed and ready for harvesting. 'Blue Tit' usually does well for us providing many small, blue plums and they formed our first bounty.
A pleasant surprise was the variety 'Belle de Louvain', a cooking plum, with our tree cropping well - with very big, juicy, blue plums. This is a traditional cooking variety originating from Belgium; hardy, disease resistant and very good for making tarts, pies or jam.
Our reliable and heavy cropping 'Victoria' plum tree yielded a few early fruit but most were still on the tree, slowly ripening. A tip with this variety is to thin the plums before they reach maturity. It crops so readily that the branches can tend to snap under such a heavy amount of fruit.
Finally we looked at the cluster of Pershore Yellow (syn. Yellow Egg) plum trees near our traditional Apple Packing Shed. The plums from these are especially good for bottling although in our experience they are somewhat lacking in flavour. Nevertheless they are prolific, always providing a reliable harvest and yet again our trees are laden with fruit.
Over now to the other talented members of our volunteer team who transform the crop into tasty products such as jams and chutneys.
We're finding large quantities of the Apple Ermine Moth caterpillar on our apple trees this Spring.
Their presence is obvious by areas of eaten leaves, brown foliage and a protective web which covers the caterpillars and their frass. The caterpillars are a light brown colour with a black head and rows of brown/black spots along the body.
Whilst the caterpillars can, in some cases, do what looks like considerable and unsightly damage, on older trees the trees will usually recover the following year. Therefore, human intervention is not usually necessary.
On younger trees it can be prudent to reduce the leaf damage and hence the loss of vigour to the fledgling tree, by hand picking off the culprits and disposing of them.
We're joining in a Colwall Village initiative to celebrate the Queen's Platinum Jubilee. Around the village over the jubilee weekend people are putting up displays depicting events - international, national, local or personal - from some of the 70 years of the Queen's reign.
Our chosen year is 2018 when the Government published A Green Future: Our 25 Year Plan to Improve the Environment. To see our display, and to see first-hand our local work to help combat the climate emergency and improve biodiversity, pop down to Colwall Village Garden, over the jubilee weekend. The site is located in Old Church Road near to Old Orchard Lane/Orlin Road.
If you wish to purchase maps to see where all of the displays are these are available from 2 Brighton Villas, Walwyn Road, Colwall which is close to Cafe Morso. The cost of the map is £1.00.
The money raised from this community event will help pay for tree planting at Colwall Primary School.
We fully appreciate the benefits of orchards as places for people and nature. We were therefore very interested to see some breaking news from The Orchard Project - a national charity dedicated to the creation, restoration and celebration of orchards. They have a particular enthusiasm for bringing orchards to urban areas and to less prosperous communities.
Working in partnership with the Ministry of Justice, The Orchard Project is assisting in the goal of having a well-maintained orchard in every prison in England and Wales.
This sounds a very interesting initiative and will play an important part in nature recovery, and will bring benefits to prison staff and inmates, alike.
Please click on the button below to visit The Orchard Project website to see more details.
Our county of Herefordshire is well known as a fruit growing area and our community orchards in Colwall are looking at their best with spring blossom at the moment.
Slightly further afield our friends and neighbours from the Big Apple Association have a two day event celebrating the orchards and countryside of the Marcle Ridge Area on Sunday 1st May and Monday 2nd May, 2022.
This promises to have something for everybody including drop-in printmaking, sales of plants for pollinators (by COG supporters Anne Crane and Amanda Lambourne), green ideas from Sustainable Ledbury, guided orchard walks, talks and orchard skills demonstrations, Morris dancing, teas, lunches and cider tasting.
For more details please visit The Big Apple Blossomtime 2002 event webpage.
We were fortunate to once again have good weather and trees in their full Springtime glory for this year's Blossom Picnic held in the amenity/children's orchard area of our Colwall Village Garden site.
The sun shone, bees buzzed and our guests enjoyed picnics, pizza and drinks with background music provided by Eddie (pictured).
This was one of a series of events planned for the year as we return to some normality following the Covid pandemic.
Other forthcoming attractions include a Dawn Chorus Walk, Meadows Walks, Art-In-The-Orchard (part of h.Art), and Apple Day.
For more detail please see our Events page.
Learning more about the flora, fauna and geology of our site
We are indebted to our friends at Ledbury Naturalists Field Club who kindly undertook field surveys of our sites at Colwall Village Garden and Lugg's Mill Orchard, during 2021. Please use this PDF viewer to read their excellent report in its entirety.
The warm mid March weather has brought the blossom on. The National Trust has a web feature on Bringing Blossom Back such as on the damsons at Brockhampton, near Bromyard (pictured).
The recent spate of three named storms within a short period of time has taken it's toll on some of the veteran traditional orchards in our village. A handful of old trees have been battered, shattered and toppled.
Such damage has provided a good opportunity to see the structure inside the trees. Recently on a TV programme a woman cider orchard owner described how apple trees in traditional orchards were like men - best between the ages of twenty and fifty!
Traditional orchard trees can live for a long time - 100 years or so for an apple tree, maybe over 300 years for a perry pear tree.
Pictured above is the inside of a veteran apple tree - probably around a century old. Whilst the trunk is still sturdy it is amazingly hollow inside. Such a cavity provides a wonderful opportunity for wildlife. A place to live, breed, shelter and hide. Therein is the value of trees in traditional orchards compared to those in modern, short-lived, commercial orchards that don't age in this way.
A cold, but fine, Saturday morning and we are hard at work planting trees at the school orchard at The Downs, Brockhill Road, Colwall.
We were very fortunate to have assistance from a group of children from the school, who usually spend their time at this time of the week working on the school's own miniature steam railway run by the Downs Light Railway Trust.
The children have helped us to plant 10 new trees which has gone a long way to gapping up the existing orchard.
This is part of a partnering project between Colwall Orchard Group, the Downs School and the Downs Light Railway Trust (DLRT).
The DLRT is involved with a significant project to revitalise the miniature railway which is coming up for it's centenary in the next couple of years. Their work will see brand new buildings added to the railway infrastructure.
The Grange, Downton Pippin, Red Ingestrie, Yellow Ingestrie, Breinton Seedling, Bringewood Pippin, Wormsley Pippin, Yellow Siberian, Foxley Apple, Siberian Harvey, Spring Grove Codling, and Herefordshire Gilliflower. These are all apple tree varieties attributed to the famous Herefordshire plant-breeder and former President of the Royal Horticultural Society - Thomas Andrew Knight (1759-1838).
Knight's achievements are celebrated on the Apples and People website in the article 'Gentleman Of Genius'. The piece includes artwork from local fine artist Chris Hellowell - a Colwall resident and Colwall Orchard Group supporter. His work was commissioned by the Hereford Cider Museum Trust.
Chris's artwork features the 'Four Faces Of Knight' in the form of digital collages.
Find out more about Thomas Andrew Knight and see the Four Faces of Knight artwork using the button below.
Winter is the traditional time for planting new traditional orchard trees. The trees are dormant and so long as the ground is neither frozen or waterlogged it's the perfect time to get trees in the ground.
Here Andy, Rita and Bella are adding a tree cage to a newly planted apple tree.
This is at Stamp's Orchard, an old orchard site in Colwall known to have been used for growing fruit trees since the 1840s, when this field was recorded as being an orchard on the local tithe map of that period.
The orchard has, in the past, had as many as 150 trees. We are pleased to be working alongside the current owners to gap up the orchard to provide continuity of habitat.
This year we've planted twenty trees which is a major contribution to regenerating the orchard where the existing trees are reaching the end of their useful lives.
The standing dead wood in Stamp's Orchard remains a very important habitat for wildlife to feed, shelter, nest and breed. As we worked we could hear the harsh drumming of woodpeckers nearby.
We've previously shared details of a wonderfully inspiring book - Orchard: A Year In England's Eden by Benedict McDonald and Nick Gates.
Nick recently did an on-line presentation to the Moor Meadows group based in Devon featuring the orchard that the book relates to, which you may wish to look at.
Overall it's longish video (over one and a half hours) but the prologue is a visual joy. Nick is an engaging presenter, and the final section on wildlife gardening has some good ideas.
Our county of Herefordshire has a quiet reputation for being unknown and undiscovered by the bulk of the UK population. The secret has lain comfortably with us whilst we've appreciated the beauty of this place, the wonderful lifestyle to be enjoyed and how lucky we are to live here.
Back during last autumn we had a chance meeting with a journalist - Phoebe Taplin - whom we met at Colwall Village Garden whilst she was walking our Orchard Heritage Trail and we were tidying up following a fruit juicing session with local schoolchildren. Phoebe kindly bought a bottle of apple juice and we talked generally about the Colwall Orchard Group project.
We are indebted to Phil, one of our members and volunteers, who let us know of Phoebe's resulting lovely article in the Guardian newspaper. The piece has some very good publicity for Herefordshire in general, and Colwall Orchard Group gets a very positive mention. You can read the article here.
Maybe our secret is out? We're looking forward to welcoming lots more visitors and to having to bumper sales of our fruit juice and our Orchard Heritage Trail leaflet!
We are always keen to manage our sites for people and nature and strive to improve the biodiversity of flora and fauna present. We also enjoy learning and improving our knowledge of the natural world.
We've recently discovered that Herefordshire Biological Records Centre is running a series of free natural history training events during the coming year. These are on diverse subjects such as amphibians, birds, butterflies, botany, grasses and earthworms - all of which should be present in a good traditional orchard.
The courses are being held at the Herefordshire Archives and Records Centre in Rotherwas or at other locations in Herefordshire. Sadly the one on traditional orchards, scheduled for Saturday 22nd January 2022, has been postponed but we'll keep an eye on any new dates for that.
To see a full list of the courses available and see more details please visit the Events page of the Herefordshire Biological Records Centre website by clicking on the button below.