Apple Festival Weekend and other news. Our festival weekend took place on 13th and 14th October.
After a lot of hard work by our volunteers getting all the displays ready, the cafe spic and span etc, Storm Callum intervened! Saturday 13th saw heavy rain and winds. Visitor numbers were low but we sincerely thank the 60+ people who braved the weather and came and supported us.
Sunday was a much better day and we could have the barn doors fully open to welcome visitors. The Orchard Tours were well attended. Jonathan gave a history of the Heritage Orchard and information about the different apple varieties we grow and gave advice about planting and pruning. The children enjoyed the quiz – finding apple varieties to match the clues e.g. a time of day – answer Sunset.
On Sunday we had over 300 visitors.
Children could bring back an apple from the orchard and watch it being crushed and juiced in our demonstration area.
One of the most popular attractions was the apple peeler, corer and slicing machine with both children and adults alike. An apple was speared onto the machine and by turning a handle the apple was peeled creating a long ‘string’ of peel, a spiral of apple was cut leaving the core behind.
Many people felt that the apple flavour was more pronounced once peeled.
We would like to thank everyone who came and supported us and we hope you enjoyed our festival. We would also like to thank all our volunteers who helped both before and during the event making the weekend possible. Joan and Paul from the Northern Fruit Group also came and provided valuable support in identifying apples visitors brought along and answering apple pruning, diseases and a variety of other questions.
Those of you following the story of our Top Bar Beehive will remember that a swarm of bees adopted the hive last July.
The bees seemed quite happy for several weeks but over the summer period beehives are very prone to attack from wasps. The bees need to be able to defend the hive and the more openings a hive has the more opportunities the wasps have to attack. With this in mind we taped up several gaps in the hive and tried to leave only one entry/exit but unfortunately we think the bees were eventually unable to defend their home and they left. We brought the hive back from Margaret’s Meadow for repair and found to our surprise this beautiful honeycomb construction inside.
At the end of September the weather was warmer and a few late butterflies were making the most of the last of the sunshine. This Small Copper was in the 5 Acre Meadow near the pond and in Margaret’s Meadow a Wall butterfly was spotted but unfortunately did not wait around for a photo!
Fortunately Storm Callum did not blow all the leaves off the trees, these autumn colours were on show last Saturday 27th.
Time and the weather have restricted our moth surveys but in mid October we put out the trap and attracted this beautiful moth – Merveille du Jour. Despite its name it is a resident species and fairly well distributed throughout England and Wales. A truly beautiful moth when its colour is still fresh green and it only flies September and October. A first record for the Reserve.
Rain brings a new lease of life. Our last Sunday walk of the year on 2nd September was to celebrate Autumn in the woods. As you can see from the photos in the entry below for July the autumn leaf colour and many autumn fruits arrived in mid summer.
On the September walk whilst we did see displays of autumnal fungi and fruits, the rain had brought a fresh flush of new grass and wildflowers.
We were treated to Purple Loosestrife, Meadow Cranesbill, Teasels, St John’s Wort, Rosebay Willowherb, Common Knapweed, Toadflax, Red Campion and this tiny Common Field Speedwell in the rides in Willowbank and Bluebell Woods.
Not a wildflower as such but growing wild, this Honeysuckle also put on a show of flowers.
However this cluster of Ladybirds hidden in an oak was a sign of the changing seasons.
We regularly feature different galls on our oak trees and this year we must have had an invasion of Andricus quercuscalicis gall wasps as Knopper galls covered nearly every Pedunculate oak tree on the Reserve. These wasps lay their eggs in buds on the oak trees resulting in a chemically induced distortion – a Knopper gall.
We are nearly at the end of our first year of our new small mammal survey and torrential rain early September meant not just ‘soggy’ Woodmice, Bank Voles and Common Shrews but a ‘soggy’ survey team as well! We were however treated to an unusually marked Bank Vole with a grey ‘bandit mask’.
We have refurbished our entrance signs and thanks must go to our workshop team for spending hours cleaning and re-defining the design and to our artistic volunteer Lelia who painted the signs in such striking colours. Our entrance certainly stands out more clearly now.
Don’t forget to come along to our Apple Weekend on 13 and 14 October, details of the event are on the Home Page.
Before and during the heatwave and bits and bobs.
At the end of May and beginning of June the grass was green and lush and wildflowers were vibrant
As you can see from the photos of our recent Meadows Day below the heatwave has parched the ground. In all our woodlands trees have started to shed their leaves in order to save water.
The sunshine has enabled many of the berries to ripen
and nuts to form.
If you have visited recently you may have spotted our giant Emperor dragonfly at Seldom Pond. This wood carving was donated by the late Peter Freeman and for several years it has sat on a post at the back of the pond. One of our very artistic volunteers, Lelia, has now painted it in the vibrant colours of a male Emperor.
When you visit look out for this giant spider’s web and see if you can spot the scary spider!
Last year one of our little oak trees in Margaret’s Meadow copse was a clear favourite with gall wasps as it had at least 7 different varieties of galls. This year would seem to be the same with some under-leaf galls forming and the start of this artichoke gall.
Once the drizzle stopped this morning and the sun started to appear so did the butterflies
Unfortunately this Common Blue has a small chunk missing from it’s wing.
This beehive was made by Fred G one of our volunteers 2 years ago and we put it in the copse in Margaret’s Meadow waiting for either a ‘natural swarm’ to adopt it or for when Brian, our local beekeeper could obtain one.
Well look what we have! This swarm arrived out of the blue on 6 July. Would it stay?
This waxy white formation is the remains of a storage structure built by young drones on the outside of the hive.
Good news there are still bees going in and out of the hive today 21 July so fingers crossed they stay.
Meadows Day bake. The exceptionally hot weather meant that many visitors to our Meadows Day on 1 July found the shade of Cabin Wood a welcome relief from the scorching sunshine.
The cabin cafe was decked out in bunting and was ready for the first visitors as the gates opened at 12 noon.
A maze had been cut in the 5 Acre wildflower meadow and we had activities for children and a Teddy Bear’s picnic. These two got the best table!
This photo and other photos and comments can be seen on Gorse Hill Twitter (link on home page).
Hilary led the wildflower walks round the meadow pointing out the different flowers and grasses. We not only had the flora to look at but we saw some froglets in the long grass, several butterflies especially Meadow Browns and a male Emperor dragonfly patrolling the pond.
The very hot weather had turned the meadow grasses brown and you can see from the pictures below at the end of May just how green and vibrant the meadow had been.
We thank our volunteers for their hard work on the day, Hilary for leading the walks and especially our visitors for their support.
April and May Catch Up. After the really cold March weather all our normal signs of Spring were delayed. Our first Sunday opening in April was entitled ‘Signs of Spring’ and our walk struggled to find very much other than some frog spawn and a few green shoots.
Colour appeared mid to late April and this Scarlet Elfcup (Sarcoscypha austriaca) fungi appeared in several woodlands.
The daffodils suddenly also came through and put on a great show down ‘Daffodil Walk’ to the Heritage Orchard.
Fruit also started to form on the Wild Cherry trees, this photo was taken in our car park.
Early May is a good time to see Orange Tip butterflies and they have been abundant this year. Usually they do not settle very long so this photo was a lucky shot!
Our Dawn Chorus event was held on 19 May. A dozen of us joined up with Graham at 3.45am to hear the first birds start to sing. It quickly began to get light and, as we reached the Outcrop Track, the first rays of warm sunshine broke through. We recorded a total of 36 species with plenty of Blackcaps singing in all our woodlands. In adjacent farmland we spotted 2 Grey Partridge, a really endangered species. As we were returning to Cabin Wood we were treated to the sight of a Tawny Owl with its breakfast in its talons! We finished our walk looking around Cabin Wood whilst our breakfast was cooking – bacon barms were very welcome.
The meadow grasses and wildflowers have really started to grow now the weather has warmed up after the cold and wet. Our 5 Acre meadow is accessible to the public from our car park and from Cabin Wood and we have just cut the first paths through the grass and, although it is currently a ‘sea of yellow buttercups’, some vetch and red clover are beginning to flower as is the ragged robin by the pond.
Our ‘pillar’ bug hotels are in nice sunny spots in the 5 Acre meadow and there is certainly an abundance of insect life to be found.
The 5 Acre meadow pond is also looking good with the fluffy heads of reed mace circling the pond and wildflowers beginning to flower. Damsel and dragonflies have also appeared now the sun is shining at both this pond and at Seldom Pond in Cabin Wood so there is plenty to look out for when you visit.
A very cold March day. The ‘beast from the east’ and ‘storm Emma’ didn’t deposit a lot of snow in our area, certainly compared to much of the country, but temperatures fell below zero, freezing our ponds and creating some winter scenes. Here are some photos taken on Saturday morning 3 March.
Three early events for 2018. We held our annual winter pruning days on 27th January and 3 February.
Unfortunately it rained both days but it was not too heavy to prevent us pruning the whole of the Heritage Orchard. We thank Paul from the Northern Fruit Group for his help and guidance as well as our volunteers and visitors who took part.
As a bonus to brighten the dull days daffodils are flowering in Daffodil Walk leading down to the orchard.
The Great Twin Pond Dig:
Helen Greaves is part of the UCL (University College London) Pond Restoration Research Group. This group uses scientific research to underpin practical pond conservation and restoration action, especially in agricultural landscapes.
Helen is currently completing her PhD research which aims to assess the value of pond management for biodiversity conservation. Her work focuses on macroinvertebrate community assemblages and water chemistry analysis.
The ‘Great Twin Pond Dig’ is twinning the ponds of North Norfolk with those of West Lancashire – two areas of the UK that are rich in “marl pit” ponds. This project trials “Adopt a Pond” approach idea and has the aim of re-connecting people and farmers with their local farmland ponds and with pond ecology and restoration and also explore new ways of getting people to interact with aquatic biodiversity.
Helen advertised her project in local media and her talk was staged at our Information Cabin at the Reserve on 17th February. Following her entertaining and interesting explanation of the project and early scientific results we walked through the Reserve to the adjoining farmland where the marl pits had been cleared.
The walk was extremely muddy in places but we all arrived safely and gathered as Helen explained the clearance, on-going monitoring and controls.
The wet and windy weather abated for our Snowdrop Sunday on 18th February and the sun did make an appearance. We opened at 12 noon and the cafe was soon busy with visitors. Over 100 visitors came that afternoon.
The snowdrop path was clearly signposted for visitors
but there is always more to see in any walk through Cabin Wood
We also had some snowdrops for sale as visitors usually want some to take home.
We hope all our visitors had an enjoyable afternoon and will come back to see us soon.
A view from the skies. Stratus Imagery Aerial Photography have shared this sunset video at Gorse Hill taken on 7 January. If you have been on some of our Sunday walks across the Reserve can you recognise where these images are taken? These are views across North Meadow, North Wood and Margaret’s Meadow. You can see more images on our Twitter feed, the link is on the Home Page.