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.
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.
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.’
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.
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.’
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.
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!
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.
‘It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man’ Henry David Thoreau ‘Wild Apples’ 1862
Apples & People is a digital response in a time of great uncertainty, bringing the astonishing and international story of the humble apple to all. Symbolising global connectedness, individual achievement, happenchance, and people and nature working closely together, the apple eaten today offers hope as well as nourishment. Over the next eighteen months, this online exhibition programme will release over forty short stories illustrated with art works from internationally significant collections. Each story explores different aspects of humanity’s relationship with the apple through history, science, and culture. Apples & People reveals just how significant and iconic this humble fruit found in everyone’s fruit bowl has become. From the garden of Eden to the Isle of Avalon, the fruit forests of Kazakhstan to the walled gardens of Ancient Greece, the apple tree rooted itself around the globe and the apple has become the symbolic fruit, embedding itself across cultures within folklore, art, and literature. David Marshall, Associate of the Brightspace Foundation said: “Ignited by research published on the genetic geography of the apple, the idea for an art-based exhibition to explore the apple world, and provide context for England’s orchards, transformed in response to the pandemic. The digital approach of Apples & People has enabled distance relationships with apple experts and access to fascinating cultural collections around the world.” The exhibition programme is the result of a partnership between the Brightspace Foundation, Hereford Cider Museum, and the National Trust in Herefordshire, where more apples grow than anywhere else in the UK. David Bailey, General Manager for National Trust Herefordshire said: “The apple is so important to our work on the National Trust properties in Herefordshire, so much so we are restoring traditional orchards at many of our places to allow enjoyment and relaxation amongst beautiful blossom and bountiful harvest. This partnership exhibition puts the apple at the centre of our world as we realise the global connections of this remarkable fruit and its shared relationship with humanity.”
The UK is part of the global story of the apple. This online exhibition programme has been able to draw upon many art collections and the expertise of friends of apples all around the world. It has been supported by an international advisory panel of leading apple scientists and historians, from USA, China, New Zealand, Italy and across the UK.
James Bissett, a Trustee of the Cider Museum said: “Everyone’s life has been touched by an apple at some time – but where did that apple come from? what is its history? how was it grown? Apples & People will help you answer these questions and discover how this seemingly humble fruit has shaped the world we live in today and will continue to do so into the future.” Originally conceived as 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, this online digital engagement has been launched in response to the global pandemic. It acts as a prelude and teaser to the physical exhibitions, partly funded by the Weston Loan Programme with Art Fund, that will take place as soon as circumstances allow. The new website will allow users to explore many different aspects of the apple’s journey through time and cultures. Based upon the first ever commissioned map of The Apple World by illustrator Helen Cann, the website will reveal a network of stories about the apple from the ancient world to the present day. (detail shown below) Stories such as Johnny Appleseed planting seedlings across America, the poisoned apple in the Snow White folk tale, and Isaac Newton discovering gravity will highlight just how significant this fruit is to people, and how vital people have been in creating and selecting the rich variety of apples that are enjoyed around the world today.
Apples & People includes a varied collection of art images from collections around the world and will also feature new commissions across all art forms. It launches on the anniversary of the birth of the French post-impressionist painter Paul Cézanne who famously declared ‘with an apple I will astonish Paris’, challenging himself and the art world to re-think the painting rule book as he captured the humble fruit. Cézanne’s apples are the subject of the first short story and will be accompanied by his exquisite ‘Still Life with Apples’ shown with permission from Kings College, Cambridge. Antonia Harrison, programme curator, said: “The apple is culturally laden with meaning and symbolism. The fruit has inspired such a fascinating cross section of art and culture including sculpture, poetry, painting, film, and photography as well as cultural events and customs. The totemic fruit has been handed down throughout the history of art and continues to inspire artists today. It truly is a global, cultural phenomena”.
They are so short, these winter days. Cold, bleak, grim, stark, dreary, grey – however you describe them, there is not much love given to them. Especially from us gardeners. And then suddenly, there is half an inch of snow and everything changes. The snow asks us to look at the world differently. It simplifies outlines, and draws our eyes towards the smallest of details; a single gold-brown leaf, the one patch of green grass left visible. It resets our eyes, our thoughts, our state of mind. It makes me think of fairy tales – when I was little there was a wonderful version of Snow White on the television. It was made in Eastern Europe and it was set in a forest of the tallest, straightest trees I had ever seen. And the snow was so deep, and so real. Something of that survives in my heart even when I am trudging through the city slush. Which is all a way of saying – look, look how lovely the orchard is at the moment.