Revitalising the Allotments – December 2019

Weather
As a nation we love to talk about the weather. It’s too hot, too cold, too wet. And gardeners are even worse. However, for once it would seem as though something very odd really is going on with our weather and more particularly, our climate.

As I write this, the river is again overflowing its banks, the playing field resembles a lake and the allotments are getting soggier by the hour. The poor folk of Fishlake are trying to salvage possessions from their flooded homes and it is snowing in Gloucestershire. Just two months ago I dug down two spade depths and the ground was as dry as a bone. For two years now we have had a bumper crop of grapes, the fig tree is flourishing and we’ve just picked the last of our beefsteak tomatoes from the allotment. In the near future we are likely to reap both the benefits of a Mediterranean climate and its drawbacks (including a whole host of little beasties that do nasty things to our flora and fauna).

I guess if there is any lesson to be learnt from all this it is be ready for ‘change’ … and plant more grapes!

Trees
The community orchard goes from strength to strength and the trees we planted just a year ago are looking in good health. Several of the orchard volunteers are about to embark on pruning workshops and they will then be wielding the saw and secateurs on the trees, creating an even better, well shaped orchard for the coming Spring.

I was fascinated to read an article in the Prattler some months ago about a local resident who had successfully grown trees from fruit stones and pips. It is a fascinating thing to do but does not necessarily result in producing good ‘true’ fruit.

All named fruit trees come about as result of something called ‘grafting’. This is a process whereby a young branch from a good, productive tree is fixed onto a vigorous rootstock from the same genus i.e. apple branch to apple rootstock (you can’t mix apple and pear or plum and cherry). The two cut pieces are spliced into each other and sealed with tape during February/March. Providing the two cut surfaces meet smoothly a ‘graft’ is achieved and the result is a tree with all the fruiting characteristics of the good, productive tree and all the vigour of the rootstock. Next time you see a fruit tree, particularly a youngish one, take a look at the trunk near the ground. You’ll see a knobbly knuckle. That is the graft union. Earliest records suggest this practice has been going on for thousands of years, although it is likely that it first occurred by accident when two different trees simply rubbed against each other, wore down the bark and fused together.

Grafting isn’t really complicated and if you have the right growing material, a sharp knife and little patience you can do it yourself. Whilst the bulk of the wonderful trees in our community orchard came from specialist grower Andy Howard, several have been grafted by us. It is as cheap as chips to do … £3 to £4 for a vigorous dwarfing rootstock and the rest is free or easily available in your shed or garage. Within a year you’ll have a tree that is a metre tall!

Community Cut Flower Patch
Following on from the creation of the community orchard and jam patch, work has now started on the community flower patch. Digging was hard when it was dry and it is harder still now the ground is wet (I told you that gardeners obsess about the weather). However, the beds are starting to take shape. With the kind donation of paving slabs from our local Bowls Club we will be able to divide the beds so that flowers are easily accessible. The flowers we have on offer will be a mixture of annuals from seeds collected or donated, some perennials and both spring and summer bulbs. If you can help in any way by letting us have unwanted seed or plants you have lifted/divided, do let us know. We are keen to cover the soil; that is good for the environment and stops the weeds from having a nice bare patch to colonise.

Allotment Holders
It is so good to see that more plots on the allotments are being cultivated and that many of the new allotment holders represent the younger generation. Growing your own fruit and veg is for old and young alike and all are welcome. If you want to join us here are the usual telephone contacts: Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707. They’d love to hear from you.

Wildlife
Dave, Pauline, Mark and Mary, our wildlife enthusiasts, have written quite extensively in the past about the wildlife area they have created on the allotment and I have no doubt they will be keeping you all briefed about future developments. However, I must just mention the wonderful pond they are in the process of creating within this area. It is going to be a huge asset to the allotments as a whole, as good ponds encourage a host of beneficial wildlife. We look forward to our first batch of frogs, newts and toads.

Mike Langrish

“When eating a fruit, think of the person who planted the tree”
Vietnamese Proverb

Heyford Singers & Allotments – September 2019

We’re neither pure nor wise nor good;
We’ll do the best we know.
We’ll build our house, and chop our wood,
And make our garden grow.
The final chorus from “Make Our Garden Grow”
from “Candide” by Leonard Bernstein 1955

Normally Jill Langrish writes a piece for the Prattler on behalf of the Heyford Singers and Mike, her other half, waxes lyrical about the joys of allotments, orchards and all things green. For this September article we thought we’d combine what little talent we have and write about the effect that both music and growing things can have on making us feel good. So this article is a sort of a dialogue; a chance for us to share that sense of contentment, happiness, belonging, achievement, and well being that we believe comes from both activities. Easy? Just read on……

Jill. Music is a very social activity. Whether you play in a band or orchestra, sing in a group or a choir, sit or stand in the audience for a concert, you are sharing that unique experience with lots of other people. You are helping to contribute towards the collective outcome, a shared achievement. As well as the social benefits of music, it also contributes hugely to our physical and mental health. There has been considerable research recently about the value of doctors giving a “social prescription”. In July, Naomi Paxton hosted a BBC Proms panel discussion on music and wellbeing with epidemiologist Dr Daisy Fancourt and GP Dr Simon Opher. Both are enthusiastic advocates of social prescribing and of using music to support health.

“Social prescription is a fairly new idea,” says Dr Opher. “A doctor might give a normal
prescription for a medicine, but they can also give a prescription for an activity.
That could be singing, music, art, poetry, exercise or anything – but not a medicine.
Music can help everyone, but it can specifically help certain conditions – and we
know this from research. One of the areas of the brain that really lights up when you
listen to music is the pre cortical area. That’s one of the last areas that is damaged
with dementia – so people with dementia, for example, retain their ability to enjoy
music. I’ve seen more effect with music for patients with dementia than any kind of
medication.”

Mike. Gardening, whether it be wandering round the tiny patch of ground outside your back door or maintaining an allotment or huge vegetable patch, vastly improves both our physical and mental health. And the sort of evidence that applies to music is to be found in abundance when it comes to digging and weeding. Kathryn Rossiter, CEO of Thrive, one of the UK’s leading charities in disability and gardening says that

“as well as the strong therapeutic value of gardening it can help people connect with others, reducing feelings of isolation. It makes us more active, gaining both physical and mental health benefits.”

Jill. Then there is the intellectual side of music. Listening to a new song or unfamiliar piece of music demands attention, it keeps the brain’s cells active. And whether it be trying to make sense of all those dots and squiggles in music notation, learning new songs, understanding the different voice parts, learning and playing an instrument, all these are essential in keeping the “little grey cells’ active.

Mike. Now this is a generalisation, but doctors believe that gardeners have lower
levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, leading to improved sleep patterns, relaxation and mental wellbeing. Although sometimes I think it is just exhaustion that makes me sleep!

Jill. And what about the fun side, the enjoyment of it all. During August there was
delightful series on the radio entitled “A Singer’s Guide to Britain” which explored different aspects of British culture through the songs we sing. In the first episode the presenter said that, “a song is like an imaginary magic carpet. You climb aboard and it flies off, it takes you on an adventure”. Now this can be interpreted in so many ways. Special places, special people or special memories are all evoked by the song. It is powerful stuff.

Mike. That first snowdrop can make you feel really good. The flowering of the rose you pruned, a lettuce you grew from seed, the blackbird singing just for you. These are small things but all positive and have healing powers that medicine sometimes tries to mimic. It is no surprise that, like music, doctors are seriously considering prescribing gardening as a cure for some conditions. Monty Don, the man that appears on our TV screens on a Friday evening accompanied by two dogs and who isn’t bad at gardening either, says in a telling way that “When you plant something, you invest in a beautiful future amidst a stressful, chaotic and, at times, downright appalling world”

Apologies if we have just taken this opportunity to indulge in our two great passions. It doesn’t matter if you think you can’t sing a note in tune (something we dispute) or you kill everything you plant (also disputable), there is so much to be gained from both activities. A good way to start would be to join Heyford Singers and/or get an allotment.

Jill. The next rehearsal of Heyford Singers is on Friday 6th September at 7.15 pm in the village hall. It will be an Open Evening and everyone is very welcome. Come and meet us, watch, listen, join in and I guarantee that you will go home feeling energised and happy, having sung, laughed and made new friends. If you feel that you would like to know more then please do contact Mary Rice, myself or someone you know who is already part of this community choir.

Mike. If you are interested in trying out an allotment contact either Sue Corner on
01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707. We can offer a range of allotment
sizes, to suit every need. Help is also on hand to offer advice and encouragement.
There you are, two articles in one

Jill & Mike Langrish

____________________________________________________________________________________

If you would like to find out more, visit the Heyford Singers page or our website:

www.heyfordsingers.org

 alternatively come along to one of our rehearsals in Nether Heyford Village Hall.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Jill Langrish

The Story of Heyford: Scrumping… V1C13

Do you remember . . . .
– Ben’s Orchard, and scrumping therein?
– The orchard on the Manor grounds, opposite Ben’s orchard (harder to get into for scrumping)?
– The dutch barn next to the orchard where the apples, having been scrumped, were eaten?
By the way, who was Ben?

~~

Extract from “The Story of Heyford” – Local book series published in the late 1990’s

Volume 1 of 4 | Chapter 13 of 13 | Page 32

TheStoryOfHeyford_NetherHeyford_Footer

Heyford’s Historical Heritage  |  How the books were created

Index  |  Covers

Nether Heyford Community Wildlife Area – July 2019

Take the time to just stand back and watch the bees in your garden and you will be amazed at their variety. Its the sound they make that is so wonderful, from the high pitched hum of a bee swimming in the stamens of a poppy to the deep drone of a queen bumblebee.

On the wildlife patch on the allotments I have counted ten different types of bee so far. They come in all shapes and sizes ranging from the tiny “hairy footed flower bee” (I think that is the best name ever) that darts about and hovers in front of flowers. The females are black with orange hairs on their back legs for collecting pollen. Red and buff tailed bumble bees on the other hand seem huge in comparison, and the flowers bend under their weight. Honey bees and bumble bees are social insects, where the queen lays eggs and daughter workers do all the work. Solitary bees work on their own and make their own nests in different locations, from a hole in the ground or brick or cob wall. You will often find their holes grouped together but each nest is completely separate.

Amongst the bees that I have spotted so far are two that are called nomad bees that on first sight appear to be tiny wasps for they have bright yellow and black markings, but in fact they parasitise solitary bee’s nests. They lay an egg inside host’s nest and the nomad grub then destroys the host’s egg or grub and proceeds to feed on the food store.

The best thing we can all do for bees is to grow a variety of flowers in our gardens particularly those which flower early and late so providing nectar for the longest possible period. Different species of bees have tongues of different lengths so need flowers of different lengths of tube. This doesn’t stop some short tongued bees from cheating. You can see this happening if you stand by a clump of comfrey; not all the bees will be entering the flowers but some will bite a hole at top of the flower to get the nectar. This unfortunately prevents the flower from being pollinated.

For the allotment holders having such a number and variety of bees in the wildlife patch is good news for they will be out and about pollinating the fruit and vegetables. The best crop of runner beans we ever had was when the beans were planted next to our lavender bushes (a good reason to grow some flowers amongst the vegetables, which also looks beautiful).

To make a solitary bee nest site:
1. Cut the top off a plastic drinks bottle.
2. Fill the bottle with lengths of hollow woody plant stems, reed stems or bamboo cane to make lots of tunnels for the bees to crawl into and make their nests.
3. Hang the bottle up in the garden (at a slight angle so the rain doesn’t get in) where it will get some sun but not be baked all day..

Mary Newstead

Revitalising the Allotments – July 2019

Tasty
I know it sounds a bit ‘holier than thou’, but gardeners and allotmenteers will all agree there is nothing quite like picking and eating something you have just grown. Some would also add that taking an item of fruit or veg from the freezer in the middle of winter and reflecting on the fact that it was grown on your patch of land during the warmth of summer is even more satisfying. There aren’t too many food miles (or nasty chemicals) involved in that and as for taste, nothing compares.

Caring for what we have
Bearing that in mind, we on the allotments are aware that our little patches of borrowed land are not hidden behind high wire fences or locked gates. Indeed we have actively encouraged the community to join us and to eventually share in the fruits of our labour on the community jam patch and in the community orchard.

However, the produce from the individual plots that fellow allotmenteers have nurtured remains the fruit of their labour and we would ask everyone in the village help us ensure that applies. If you see someone on the allotments who looks as though they should not be there, or is using it for purposes for which it was not designed, either report the incident to someone from the Parish Council or Allotment Working Group or, if you are feeling confident enough simply ask them what they are doing. As with Neighbourhood Watch we can all do our bit to help eliminate vandalism and theft if we work together.

Community Orchard
The trees continue to grow on well and the recent rain has been a blessing, even if it has meant more work cutting the grass. We are keen to add some signage to the allotments, particularly the community areas and, following on from the previous section, we hope that will help steer villagers towards the shared areas that we can all enjoy. Watch this space for more updates.

Thank You
A special vote of thanks goes to those good people who continue to mow the pathways and open spaces on the allotment. Your hard work really is paying off and makes the place not only look good but also a joy to work on.

Tester Plots and Renting and Allotment
If you are interested in trying out allotmenteering contact either Sue Corner on 01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707. We can offer a range of allotment sizes, to suit every need. Help is also on hand to offer advice and encouragement.

Food For Thought 
‘I was just sittin’ here enjoyin’ the company. Plants got a lot to say, if you take the time to listen.’
From Winnie the Pooh by A.A Milne.

Mike Langrish

Revitalising the Allotments – June 2019

A lot to do
There is so much to do on the allotment (and in the garden) at this time of the year that writing is a luxury I can’t afford at the moment. So I’ll be brief.

Community Orchard
The trees continue to grow on well. There has been a good deal of blossom and all the trees are now in leaf. Fingers crossed things stay that way. Several new trees have also been added to our collection, now bringing our total to 31 (plus a further 7 trees in the hedgerow between the orchard and new playing field).

Those of you who have been down to the community orchard may have noted that the ground around the trees is now sprouting a collection of grasses and wild plants – some might even call them weeds. Once this undergrowth has established itself a little more we shall begin mowing it. Like the community area we created alongside the orchard, this will become a meadow that we will further enhance by creating pockets of wild flowers.

Looking Good
A villager who lives near to the allotment spoke to me the other day and commented on how attractive and cared for the allotments had become in the past year or so. Paths are mown, edges trimmed, sheds erected and, most importantly, plots are being cultivated and fruit and veg grown. This welcome news was completely unprompted and a real indicator of just how much progress has been made in in refurbishing the village allotments. Again, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all those allotmenteers who continue to tend their plots and make the site such a productive and well managed space. Not everyone can spare the time to join a working party or attend a meeting, but their vital contribution, caring for the plots, is just as important.

Notice Boards
Do keep an eye on our allotment notice boards (situated by the gate on Watery
Lane and by the last gate on the access road to the playing fields). We try to keep allotmenteers and villagers informed about what is happening. If you would like to impart a horticultural message that fellow growers might find of use then do feel free to use the board. Free produce? Seeds or plants going spare? Equipment you no longer require? Already we have had one allotmenteer who mislaid a well loved garden tool reunited with it as a result of a message on the board board.

Wild Life Area
Thanks to the hard work of Dave Musson and Mary and Mark Newstead, our
wildlife area is developing well. Dave has written an informative piece about this for the current edition of the Prattler so I will not steal his thunder by waxing lyrical about it here. Needless to say, the area is another positive feature of the work being carried out on the site.

Tester Plots and Renting and Allotment
If you are interested in trying out allotmenteering contact either Sue Corner on
01327 342124 or Lynda Eales on 01327 341707. We can offer a range of allotment
sizes, to suit every need. Help is also on hand to offer advice and encouragement.

Food for Thought
A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall
never sit in.— Greek proverb

Mike Langrish

Nether Heyford Community Wildlife Area – June 2019

Some readers will be aware that a group of vacant allotments have been taken out
of commission to be used as a “Wildlife Area”. In the same way that the Community Orchard is a project undertaken on behalf of the community as a whole, this Wildlife Area is also a Community Wildlife Area. The following is brief explanation of the “Hows and Whys” of the project to bring readers up to date with progress and to outline plans for the future development of this area.

Who is doing this? Under the umbrella of the NHPC Allotment Committee Mark and Mary Newstead and Pauline Musson with me overseeing are using our knowledge and expertise to plan, manage and develop this project from concept to fruition. We expect to involve others when necessary as appropriate as the project develops.

What are we doing? We are providing a safe area where local wildlife will be able to live, flourish and be enjoyed by our Community.

Why are we doing this? A recent study by 30 scientists has concluded that Right now our Natural World is at more risk than at any time since Human Beings first walked this Earth. Whilst we cannot change the world, we can change a bit of Nether Heyford to form an area where our local wildlife (plants and animals) will be safe and able to increase rather than decrease. Not only will this benefit our wonderful wildlife but it has been proven that being able to spend time in such an area (however small) benefits our own health and well being.

Where are we doing it? A patch of about 5 vacant allotments forms a rough triangle toward the Sports Field end of the Allotment field along the Watery Lane Hedge Border. This patch has been taken out of allotment use to form the Wildlife area.

How are we doing this? It is a known fact that if one provides the habitat, the wildlife will move in to make use of it. For example, nesting boxes were in use within hours of being put on our site. With this in mind we have chosen to provide a range of connected habitats that seek to restore the area to a state in which it may have been many years before it was ploughed or became allotments.

We know that a brook ran down that side of the field. We cannot provide a brook so we have planned a Wildlife Pond in the Area. There will be three other main
habitats. Sown along the length of the hedge, to a depth of up to 3m will be plants associated with hedgerows. This will be mown once a year. Other areas will be Wildflower Meadow which will also be mown once a year. We intend to establish “Tussock Areas” which will not be mown at all. These latter provide invaluable habitat for small mammals with many insects and other invertebrates benefiting from the undisturbed life. There will also be a wildflower lawn square with seating, surrounded by small trees to provide a peaceful area. This will all be achieved by using purpose designed seeds mixtures which are readily available on the open market and good management.

When will we do all this and how long will it take? We have already started the work and are busy recording the current Flora and Fauna for future reference. The area has been fenced off and pathways cut into the grass and the seating area has been mown. We have no wish to destroy any wildlife that already occupies the area and all development will be gradual, enabling life to move to suitable areas as patches become bare before replanting. If you were to visit this summer there will be an allotment size patch of old fashioned Arable Field Wildflowers in bloom. This patch will be re-sown with a Meadow Mixture in autumn to grow on in 2020.

The Pond should also be in place and some planting and landscaping around it.
There will be areas covered in plastic sheeting. This is to kill the present flora in order for us to sow these areas with appropriate mixtures in autumn 2019. We don`t expect the whole area to be sown till the autumn of 2020 or even 2021.

Unfortunately we have not yet established safe and sensible, unescorted public access to the Wildlife Area. This will come in the future. In the meantime we would be very pleased to welcome interested visitors. If you would like to visit the area please feel free to contact me on 01327 344461 or e-mail davemusson073@gmail.com

I would be glad to arrange an escorted visit with myself or another team member.

Dave Musson