Isn't the internet wonderful? Searching for a snappy quote to accompany this image we have just discovered - "A bad day woodworking is still better than a good day working". We like that.
Looking very pleased with themselves, and grabbing a prime spot at Lugg's Mill Orchard are (left to right) Martin, Carolyn and Les. This is a new bench that they, and other COG volunteers, have hand-crafted using timber from our Herefordshire-based wood suppliers - Say It With Wood - from whom we buy our posts, rails and other timber materials. See https://www.sayitwithwood.co.uk/
Their products are usually fashioned from untreated chestnut which is locally sourced, free of man-made chemicals and durable.
Returning to those woodworking quotes - another favourite - "I cut it twice and it's still too short..." Priceless.
We hope that you get time to enjoy the bench at Lugg's Mill and we intend to add further seating at this site and at Colwall Village Garden over the coming months.
What do you do when you have a pond with tadpoles and you have spare materials from orchard works - tree stumps, twigs, logs, stones, mulch, turf and soil?
Build a hibernaculum...
This is a home for amphibians to find cover and to lay up in during the winter. We've created it near our pond at Colwall Village Garden and hope that it will provide a refuge for newts, toads and frogs.
The construction involved creating a tree stump framework to which we added a loose mix of stones, logs, twigs, branches and coarse mulch. The structure was capped off with a covering of logs and turf to make a snug home. There are plenty of holes and cavities for amphibians to crawl in, and to burrow down to find shelter and safety.
All of the materials used were recycled from the site.
And here's the finished article with Andy, Julie, Rita and Wendy proudly showing off their handiwork.
Thanks too to others who helped with this work including Bella, Alan and Laurence.
We already know that we have frogs, toads and newts at the site so here's hoping that there are some new residents in this structure in due course!
This was one of the many varied orchard and wildlife related activities that we regularly perform every Friday morning. It's a relaxed and fun way to help the environment, to learn new skills, meet people and get some gentle exercise.
Please contact us if that's of interest and you'd like to join in as one of our volunteers.
Pictured are the results of our latest piece of creativity at Colwall Village Garden. Using left over materials and the brash from a recently completed length of hedgelaying we have made a small section of dead hedge. The brash is simply laid in between vertical hazel stakes to provide a surprisingly strong structure. This will provide another type of habitat for wildlife, uses up waste materials and will eventually rot down to feed the soil.
For those of you intrigued by the metal tank in the background this site was, before the 1960s, previously an orchard and the tank was understood to be part of an extensive spray main system that was used to distribute and store some very noxious chemicals then used as fungicides and pesticides in the production of fruit. Needless to say we are now managing our trees on organic principles.
The recent unseasonably warm spell has brought on the developing blossom in our orchards and hedges.
We are involved in a scheme run by Visit Herefordshire to promote the orchard delights that Herefordshire has to offer. Herefordshire remains an important orchard area with over 15,000 acres of orchards and around half of all cider production coming from our county. The Visit Herefordshire website includes a section - In The Pink - that provides a guide encouraging us all to explore, walk, cycle, drive and picnic in local orchards.
We are participating in this project so if you visit either Colwall Village Garden or Lugg's Mill Orchard then please send us your blossom photos and we can post them online to share with others.
In The Pink will include a weekly guide as to where the best blossom can be enjoyed so we should all get out into the fresh air and enjoy this Springtime treat.
More detail at https://www.visitherefordshire.co.uk/inthepink
Part of orchard management is the act of 'gapping up' the orchards. This is the replacement of trees which have either failed to thrive or that have simply died. At Colwall Village Garden, after 10 years of orcharding, we had lost some trees due to drought stress, mechanical damage by sheep or deer, or some that had just sat and sulked in the ground without growing very much. Young helpers Rowan and Maisie helped us plant this replacement tree.
We replaced 20 trees this winter. That's about 8 per cent of the total number of trees in the main orchard. Gapping up is also valuable since it provides succession of planting so that the orchard isn't all of trees of a single age. We were indebted to a grant from The Tree Council which enabled us to purchase the trees and to youngsters Freddie and Tristan for their hard work getting this one in the ground.
Our efforts to help to extend, gap up and regenerate local traditional orchards over the winter came to a close recently with the last of 10 trees (9 walnuts and a pear) being planted.
Our final venue was at a wonderful elevated and sloping orchard in Colwall with panoramic views to the West towards Wales.
This was typical of the wonderful local landscape that we enjoy in Herefordshire and was a fitting ending to a programme of planting 69 trees in various locations within our parish.
The gentle ringing thud of a post rammer striking fence posts rang out across the vicinity as Lindsay and Andrew (pictured), together with Wendy, finished off the planting to include tree protection against sheep and browsing muntjac deer.
A big thank you to all of our volunteers who helped with this project, in particular to Wendy (pictured), who helped get the project up and running and whom has done all of the essential behind the scenes work to see this project moved on and completed. She has also been involved with all of the practical planting work.
A big thank you too to our friends at Malvern Hills AONB who were our partners in this venture, and whom provided the funding.
Finally we must also express our gratitude to the local landowners who gave us permission to plant trees on their land. We hope that the trees provide many years of pleasure and delight, and that they are fruitful in years to come.
TOFI has been a project that fully meets our charitable objectives to restore, promote and celebrate traditional orchards and we hope to repeat this work again next winter.
We are starting to see some tantalising signs of spring here in our wonderful corner of Herefordshire. On brighter days there's warmth in the sun and we are sensing that some of our orchard trees are stirring. In the hedgerows there's some early blossom and a pair of blue tits have already moved into a bird box on one of the tree cages at Colwall Village Garden.
There are signs of life in our meadows too. The cowslip plug plants that we planted at Colwall Village Garden have survived the winter well, augmented by some more recent plantings, and we hope to see some cheery yellow flowers emerging in the next week or two.
Our meadows are a thing of trepidation - will they, won't they?! We are new to this game and meadows are notoriously inconsistent - a good year for a plant one year may be followed by several poor ones, or vice versa. Meadows wax and wane, and then surprise you! That is part of their joy. We are hoping for a repeat of our excellent first year of orchard wildflower meadows at both Colwall Village Garden and Lugg's Mill where we are piloting two one acre patches. Both sites had fantastic amounts of yellow rattle last year which is a parasitic plant that helps reduce the growth of stronger grasses thus creating space for the more desirable wildflowers. We trust that they will return in similar quantities again this spring.
Do we sound like experts? Probably not, but we are learning and the message is spreading. Many people that we know have been similarly inspired to try something similar on their patch of land whether that's leaving their modest sized garden lawns uncut during the spring or sometimes creating wildflower meadows on a grander scale.
Lockdown has seen a surge in entertaining web-based training material and if you are interested in meadows the webinar produced by the Centre for Alternative Technology - Reviving Our Wildflower Meadows - may be of interest. It's just over an hour long and is an excellent introduction to the subject. You can access the video below.
Reviving our Wildflower Meadows - A webinar organised by the Centre for Alternative Technology (CAT).
We've recently learnt of a new digital resource - Apples and People - which essentially covers what is says on the tin... Recommended.
Apples and People is a digital response to a time of great uncertainty, bringing the amazing global story of the apple to all. Symbolising global connectedness, individual achievement, happenchance, and people and nature working closely together, the apple we eat today offers us hope as well as nourishment.
Based upon a newly commissioned map of the apple world that traces a network of stories about the apple from the ancient world to the present day, apples and people highlights just how significant the fruit is to people, and how vital people have been in selecting the rich variety of apples that are enjoyed around the world today. These stories will be released throughout 2021 and 2022 on key dates in the apple’s own calendar.
Herefordshire grows more apples than anywhere else in the UK, and the UK plays an important part in the global story of the apple. The exhibition programme is a partnership between the Brightspace Foundation, the Hereford Cider Museum and the National Trust in Herefordshire. It is being helped by a panel of some of the world’s leading apple experts – from USA, China, New Zealand, Italy and across the UK.
Funding has been received from the John Ellerman Foundation, Howard Bulmer Charitable Trust, Hereford Cider Museum Trust, East Malling Trust, Hereford City Council, Friends of Herefordshire Museums and Arts, the Becket Bulmer Fund managed by Herefordshire Community Foundation, the Worshipful Company of Fruiterers, individual donors, Heineken and Thatchers Cider.
This online digital engagement preludes a programme of exhibitions at four sites in Herefordshire, UK, to bring together visual art & culture, sound, community engagement, science, and the natural environment to explore the fascinating history of this symbolic fruit. It will be a resource for all those interested in the history and future of the apple as well as its culinary uses – with suggested reading and links to other information and networks.
Click on the button below to go to the Apples and People website.
It's said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and we were very pleased to learn that a new woven willow structure has recently been created in the playground at Colwall CE Primary School.
This was the inspiration and work of one of the allotment plotholders from Colwall Village Garden - Juliet and her family - and is an approximate copy of our willow worm, which features in the communal area of our main site.
The new willow structure looks to be a very tidy piece of work and we hope that the schoolchildren at the primary school enjoy this as much as young people do when visiting and playing in the willow worm at Colwall Village Garden.
Okay, so there's a little poetic licence in the title for this news item. It's actually the southern boundary of our land to Colwall Village Garden which, strictly speaking, adjoins a plantation.
Andrew and Martin (pictured left to right), alongside several of our other keen volunteers have been busy this winter doing some hedgelaying. This is part of our planned maintenance work for the hedgerows that have been planted on our site since we purchased it over 10 years ago.
This particular hedge has established exceptionally well and winter is the time to lay the hedge so that it can regenerate and regrow. We hope to complete about one third of this southern boundary this season. Next year we will move to the next third, before completing the work the following year. Then we'll move onto another hedge to the east boundary. That way we create a succession of habitats, at different stages of growth, for the benefit of the wildlife that visits and lives on our site.
As another benefit some of our orchard trees were starting to get over-shaded by some of the more vigorous trees within the hedge line so they will benefit from higher light levels.
It has also been great fun to do and it's remarkable how therapeutic it is to work on a relatively simple, yet engaging task.
It has to also be said, the results look fantastic - so thanks to Lindsay, Martin and Andrew who've led on this activity. Next year we hope to use the hedge as a teaching resource and we intend to do some training sessions for others in this skilled and entertaining activity.
Part of the way of trying to deal with the mental challenges of the current lockdown is to find small steps forward every day. That's how it has been with the creation of our interpretation panel at Lugg's Mill. It has been on our 'to do' list for some time and the design of the panel, the production of the artwork and the commissioning of the construction of the lectern that houses the panel all takes time.
We were pleased to get this job finished recently, and the new panel, in a style that matches our existing one at Colwall Village Garden, looks great at the main entrance to Lugg's Mill Orchard by Old Church Road.
As ever, various thanks are now called for. We are grateful to those who contributed to the design process including Wendy and Andy from Colwall Orchard Group, professional help from Orphans Press Ltd from Leominster, and for the production of the panel and lectern - Shelley Signs Ltd of Harlescott, Shrewsbury.
Thanks too to Andy, Wendy and Lindsay for getting the lectern installed in the ground on an incredibly blowy day!
For funding we were fortunate enough for this to be a joint venture between Colwall Orchard Group, private funding, Colwall Parish Council and Malvern Hills AONB. Our heartfelt thanks go to all involved.
This is a great result, that provides a friendly and welcoming initial introduction that encourages visitors to explore the lovely Lugg's Mill Orchard site. Enjoy!
Colwall is a lovely place to live and is a great place to explore with some wonderful hidden gems for all to discover. One such treasure is the Downs Light Railway an integral part of the The Downs, a local preparatory school, and a part of Malvern College. This miniature steam railway is in an area of the school grounds and is an important part of the school teaching resources run independently by a charity - the Downs Light Railway Trust (DLRT).
The railway is almost one hundred years old and Colwall Orchard Trust was delighted to have been approached recently by the DLRT with a proposal for a mutually beneficial partnering arrangement.
We will be working with the DLRT, and the Downs school community, to re-establish a traditional orchard that's located in the school grounds; to plant new trees and prune existing ones; to hold an autumn orchard-themed event to harvest fruit from the orchard, transport it using the railway to a pop-up fruit juicing and bottling plant, before using the railway to deliver bottles of fruit juice to a pop up sales venue.
These activities are directly in line with COT's objectives to restore, promote and celebrate traditional orchards.
We are very enthusiastic about the opportunities and benefits that such a joint venture will provide for COT's membership, the DLRT, the Downs School and the local community so it's all aboard for an exciting journey in the coming months...
More details of the DLRT via their website at https://dlrtrust.co.uk/ .
To get this project underway the DLRT have setup an on-line crowdfunding appeal.
You can find out more detail, pledge funding, and watch an excellent 3 minute introductory video using the button below.
Sometimes we receive messages from our members or the general public that simply make us stand back and say 'Wow!' That was the case recently from a very generous local family who approached us with a request for some tree sponsorship plaques to be erected on our trees at Lugg's Mill Orchard.
We use our tree sponsorship scheme to raise funds to be re-invested into our work to restore, promote and celebrate traditional orchards. We charge £75 for this service and we commission and install a tree sponsorship plaque which is displayed on the chosen tree. The messages vary and can simply record the sponsoring of a tree by an individual, or may commemorate a member of the family or a beloved pet.
We are used to getting requests from people for one or two plaques but in this recent instance we had a request from six plaques in one go.
That was exceptionally helpful to us in a year when our income has been compromised by the pandemic and we are having to raise funds from as many different activities and income generating sources.
Winter has definitely arrived in our area of Herefordshire and doesn't it look lovely? There's something quite exciting about being amongst the first people to traverse an area of freshly fallen snow so we made a determined effort to leave the house early and visit our local traditional orchard this morning.
The snow accentuates the shape of these lovely veteran trees which have previously been pruned into excellent shape and form for fruiting during their commercially productive years.
Now they are in decline but they've provided birds with apples for food this autumn and the lime green of the mistletoe provides a splash of colour in what is otherwise predominantly a scene of black and white. We heard the sound of woodpeckers drumming on nearby trees simultaneously from three different directions whilst in this orchard. That was a contrast to the silence elsewhere.
This all sparked memories and conversations with others about how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful environment and how deeply the drifting snow was gathered in the local lanes a couple of years ago! So there's much to be positive about during the depths of winter.
As a charity, run entirely by volunteers, our most valuable asset is without doubt...our volunteers!
Every year we receive a fantastic amount of volunteer input adding up to several thousand hours of time. This contributes a significant equivalent cash value, in labour cost terms, from our volunteers and helpers across an exceptionally broad spectrum of activities.
These include governance to include finance, communications, strategy, and health and safety; through to practical work including orchard work, tree and hedgerow management, buildings maintenance, mowing and strimming, jam and juice making and sheep husbandry! Wow, that's quite a list!
In September last year we undertook a short and simple on-line survey of some of our regular volunteers using Survey Monkey, to which we received replies from over a dozen respondents.
QUESTIONNAIRE QUESTIONS AND RESPONSES
Q1 – How appreciated do you feel by COG?
A. All respondents picked the most favourable two of five categories - ‘Extremely’46%, ‘Very’ 54%.
Q2 – Overall, are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your practical volunteer experience with COG?
A. All respondents picked the most favourable two of five categories - ‘Very satisfied’ 85%, ‘Satisfied’ 15%.
Q3 – How likely are you to continue volunteering with COG in the future?
A. All respondents picked the most favourable two of five categories - ‘Extremely likely’ 83%, ‘Very likely’ 17%.
Q4 – What do you enjoy most about practical volunteering with COG. Please describe up to 3 items.
A. A very diverse set of answers but standout words/phrases included ‘Meeting people’, ‘Exercise’, ‘Achievement’, ‘Community’, ‘Being in the great outdoors’, ‘Learning’.
Q5. What, if anything do you dislike about volunteering with COG. Please describe up to three items.
A. Most people said ‘Nothing’.
Q6. Do you feel that you are given sufficient training and instruction to undertake practical work tasks?
A. All respondents picked the most favourable of three responses ‘Yes, I feel that I receive sufficient training and instruction’ 100%.
Q7. Do you feel that you are given sufficient tools, equipment and PPE to undertake practical work tasks?
A. All respondents picked the most favourable of three responses ‘Yes, I feel that I receive sufficient tools, equipment and PPE’ 100%.
Q8. What are your favourite practical volunteering tasks? Please tick up to five items.
A. From a mixed selection of our activities the most popular ones included helping out at events, meadows creation and maintenance, preparation for events, tree planting, and fruit tree pruning. The least popular were mowing and strimming.
Q9. How could we make the practical volunteering sessions better?
A. There was a significant statistical bias towards responses advocating the re-introduction of cake into the proceedings(!) - sadly something that's currently on hold due to Covid. Other standout responses made reference to the benefit of having prior knowledge as to what was going to happen at a work party, plus one comment was
‘ Maybe have occasional theory/classroom sessions related to various activities’.
Q10. We regularly hold practical volunteer sessions every Friday morning and on the third Sunday of each month. Are there other times when you would prefer us to hold these regular practical volunteer sessions? Please specify.
A. All those who commented (5 respondents) wished to continue with the Friday mornings as being the most suitable.
Thanks to everyone who took part. The responses have been enlightening and we will act upon them in the future, and we also hope to repeat the exercise in a year or two.