Group effort

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Many thanks to the magnificent team of Astra Zeneca employees who came down to the orchard and donated their own time and effort last week. They worked really hard, and the orchard looks amazing as a result. They weeded and mulched the circles around the trees, repaired the herb garden and waged war on the brambles. Astra Zeneca also donated some funds for the mulch and some other supplies, and we are very grateful for this help.

Bugs and Swifts at Trumpington Community Orchard

Bugs and Swifts for the Heritage Open Days Sunday 18 September 2022 14:00 Р16:00

Take a tour around our small plant-filled oasis designed to enhance the community and promote biodiversity and educate people about fruit production, wildflower meadows and conservation.

Innovation is not just technology, but the integration of sustainable food production with biodiversity and conservation is an innovative approach to a new way of living to minimize consumerism and maximize a positive environmental impact.

The visit will highlight how the community orchard and wildflower meadow contribute to biodiversity, illustrated by the bugs found. In addition the swift tower and observational beehive illustrate the possible contribution to conservation as both swifts and bees have been in decline (sadly this year swifts have been added to the red list, emphasizing the urgent need for action).

Trumpington Community Orchard illustrates how nature needs to be the central consideration in all INNOVATIVE community planning.

Juvenile swifts

No booking required, just turn up. Please park considerately in this residential area. The event is free but we rely on donations to keep the orchard going.

Making some bee time

You may have seen the wooden box on legs tucked into the orchard, and wondered what it was. A weather station, maybe? (No.) An illicit cider still? (Definitely not!) A bug house? (We have those elsewhere, good guess, but no.) It is in fact an observation hive for bees. It can be opened to reveal a glass front and back, not so the bees can see out, but so that we can see in. Recently our local expert beekeeper, Dave, noticed that some bees had built a honeycomb inside, and sent some pictures. Dave explained:

‘The pictures show the natural comb the bees have built between the two panes of glass. The bees have built the comb around two dowl rods inside to give it more strength, because if it is very hot weather and there is a lot of honey in the comb it can come detached without an anchoring point. By the time these pictures were taken (9th May), the bees had built so much comb around them that the dowels no longer show. This kind of hive does not allow a bee keeper to take any honey from the bees. Instead, if the colony ever dies out, wooden batons holding the glass in place will need to be removed to allow the hive to be cleared out ready for a fresh swarm to be introduced.’

You can ask to see the hive in action – just drop us an email or a message. It is often open if Dave or another volunteer is working in the orchard so look out for the notices on our board. We hope the bees have a great summer.

Here you can see the bees over the surface of their honeycomb.
If you look on the left hand side you can see the ‘capped’ cells which are full of honey or ‘brood’ (baby bees)

Wassail 2022 – small but beautiful

We took the hard decision not to hold a wassail (a traditional ceremony to honour the apple trees) this year. I know other orchards held large and enthusiastic wassails, but our space is small and we have to think about the potential risks.

But never fear, our Maintenance Session volunteers saw to it that the trees received their usual blessing of a libation of apple juice poured at their roots, and pieces of toast hung in the branches. When we started this orchard over a decade ago, our first wassail was three of the founders (including me) singing some kind of song and banging a saucepan, and a few neighbours came out to see what the racket was. Since then the wassail grew into a really sizeable and popular event, and we have had everything from lantern processions to a wheelbarrow orchestra to folk dressed as Green Men and Women, and as penguins. In the last few years wassailing has been re-discovered, re-invented and revived across the country (I think we were way ahead of the trend.) Wassailing is certainly a tradition of this orchard, and it will carry on, in some way or another, every year.

Bug hunting and bees

Our Open Cambridge event on Saturday 11 September was a great success. Susanna, who is one of our founder members, said, ‘Saturday went really well with sunshine and lots of happy families joining us at the orchard for the bug hunt and plant potting. Tristan did a stoic job leading the bug hunt and showing people how to use a key to help identify the ” beasties”. There were magnificent spiders , grass hoppers and a couple of fat crickets and every one had a fantastic time. Rosa was in charge of greeting our guests and selling apple juice as well as collecting donations. I led the potting up session with a selection of strawberries, sage and rosemary that I’d set up a few weeks ago from runners or cuttings from my allotment. Everyone took at least one plant home with instructions of how to care for them. One enterprising child found a rosemary beetle and then potted up some rosemary to take home so that she could keep the beetle as a pet ( with parental consent of course!) Chris has been busy again making a shelter at the entrance to the orchard (prompted by us getting soaked on Friday evening when we went down to set up the notice board). He has also painted the sign on the gate and re-varnished the wood so our kissing gate looks beautiful.¬†Dave has not had a chance to put bees into the observation hive this year but a colony has moved in anyway.’

Our new shelter – thanks Chris!
Bees doing their own thing, as they usually do, in the observation hive.

We’re going on a bug hunt

On Saturday 11th September 2021 from 2 – 4pm in the orchard, we will be searching for as many bugs and minibeasts as we can find. All creatures, once examined and recorded, will be carefully returned to where we found them.

Come along and see what you can find. No experience necessary, and no knowledge of bugs required.

Last time we did this, we found a lot of bugs!

This event is part of Open Cambridge It is a free event, but donations to keep our orchard going are much appreciated.

Vivid and lively volunteering

Trumpington Community Orchard cannot keep going without volunteer help and support, and we are so pleased that the Tzu Chi Cambridge Collegiate Society enjoyed their volunteering sessions with us, and are looking forward to more. The group have sent us these lovely photos, and one of the Society’s members, Yin, shared her thoughts:

“Contributing to environmental awareness is one of our objectives in forming the Tzu Chi Cambridge Collegiate Society. We are thrilled to start with volunteering in local community gardens. This week, we received a warm welcome from the Trumpington Community Orchard. It was blessed to have a sunny Sunday to put our hands in the soil. We happily meet new friends Susanna and Chris, our lovely local eco-warriors and knowledgeable green lovers. More than volunteering, we learned so much in the Orchard. It was our first time to know such varieties of Cambridgeshire heritage apples. The efforts that the Orchard team put in biodiversity and planting were much appreciated. Susanna also showed us how to recognize commonly seen plants in Cambridge, such as the cute yellow Buttercup, salad burnet, little white Yarrow, and Wood Anemone. It is interesting to see the small bird shed built for the swifts though now it is rented to the sparrows. By the place near Hobson Brook, we also learn about the Brook and Cambridge history. It is amusing to see so many fun things and activities happening in the Trumpington Community Orchard. We were surprised how vivid and lively the Orchard garden is after our volunteering session. We had a lovely time with Susanna getting ourselves close to nature and becoming more aware of our surroundings. We experienced a growth of a healthy mind to respect our environment and shared it with local nature lovers. We hope more friends will join us in the future. Step by step, we will adopt and share an environmentally friendly lifestyle as a community.”

‘The Tzu Chi Cambridge Collegiate Society is an active student society of Cambridge University. The Society is associated with the Tzu Chi Foundation, an international NGO and accredited observer of the United Nations Environment Programme. We share enthusiasm in nature awareness and in learning by doing through local community engagement. We believe that actions, however small, can make a difference and would like to create opportunities for like-minded fellows.’



Orchard minibeasts

We were delighted to show a group of walkers around the orchard and even more delighted when they showed us what they had found while exploring. Trumpington Orchard is looked after to benefit as many types of animals, insects and wild flora as possible, and it’s great to have some proof of all our hard work.

More information on these fabulous finds are linked to the titles. Warning – these images include a spider. We like spiders, but we recognise not everyone is keen on seeing one unexpectedly.

Photos taken by Paul Rule.

Goodens Nomad Beehttps://www.bumblebeeconservation.org/goodens-nomad-bee/#:~:text=Gooden’s%20Nomad%20bee%20(Nomada%20goodeniana)%20is%20one%20of%20the%20largest,lay%20their%20own%20eggs%20inside.
Flavous Nomad bee (probably)https://www.gedlingconservationtrust.org/species/apocrita-aculeata/flavous-nomad-bee/
Common Cornsaladhttps://www.ukwildflowers.com/Web_pages/valerianella_locusta_common_cornsalad.htm
Cricket Bat Spiderhttps://www.uksafari.com/cricket_bat_spiders.htm
Woundwort Shieldbughttps://www.britishbugs.org.uk/heteroptera/Pentatomidae/eysarcoris_venustissimus.html

Cambridge Festival 2021

The Cambridge Festival went ahead at Cambridge Botanic Garden this year. Our orchard was part of a display on Community Wildlife Gardening and it was good to see the orchard as part of an expanding network of sites. If you were not able to enjoy it in person, here are a couple of photos (thanks Rosa!) You can see the Trumpington Orchard poster centre left, together with (from top left) Orchard Park Wildlife Project, CoFarm Organic Garden, Cambridge Cyrenians Allotment Project Community Garden, Clay Farm Community Garden (also in Trumpington, of course) and finally Empty Common Community Garden (bottom right).

Don’t forget you are welcome to explore Trumpington Orchard and to picnic in it ,but please observe all the current Covid regulations, stay safe and take your litter home with you or at least put it in the bin!

Our poster is the bright green one in this colourful display.

Image

A cheeky visitor

A Muntjac deer was spotted strolling through the orchard yesterday. This lockdown has had some benefits for wildlife, with fewer people out and about. Not that these little deer are particularly shy, which is one reason for their increasing numbers.

Muntjac deer, properly called Reeves Muntjac, may have been introduced from the Woburn estate at the end of the nineteenth century, or possibly from Whipsnade zoo. They quickly adapted and have become widespread in urban areas where our native deer do not usually like to visit. They are certainly cheeky – One female used to lick the dew from the back door handle every morning, just the other side of the glass from me as I made my breakfast. And her fawn, no bigger than a cat, ‘laid up’ in a little scrape in the flower bed.

The Cambridge Natural History Society has found that Muntjac are very fond of wild flowers, especially oxslips, and I found they ate almost everything in my garden except hardy geraniums and mint. We shall check the guards around the orchard trees because in hard weather the deer will eat the bark. Still, I enjoy seeing them around, and even their strange, barking call, which I can only transcribe as ‘GRO – OH – ONK’ makes me smile.