…and suddenly we’re in September!

After the driest, hottest summer for many years, there’s a lot to report. We had around 3 months with almost no rain at all, combined with unprecedented temperatures. The pond was more like a puddle.

The trees and shrubs were failing, as was the strength of the few volunteers who were valiantly lugging buckets of water around in ridiculous temperatures.

Something drastic was needed and thankfully Duxford Parish Council agreed to fund a borehole on the site. Careful negotiation and super quick service from Anglian Pumping Services meant that just 2 weeks after the decision, we had water on tap – it was nothing short of miraculous! We bought a generator (to work the underground pump) and 100m of hosepipe, and now we can water whenever we wish – what a difference 2 weeks made. For those that are interested, they hit water at 9m and drilled down to 20m.

Thanks to Russell Smith Farms, who once again topped up the pond for us (we have a limit on the amount of water we can draw without an abstraction licence).

Most of the goldfish have been caught and re-homed, but some remain and the goldfish lobby is fighting back, putting up signs that caused much hilarity – as well as a little hysteria – on social media!

Our orchard has produced some lovely fruit and hopefully next year the trees will be strong enough that we won’t need to remove so much of it.

The recent rain has helped us enormously and now we are fully prepared for the next dry season!

Glorious June!

Our fabulous new info sign is now in place – thanks so much to Caroline Merrifield our talented local artist for providing the artwork.

The pollinators are busy doing their job in the nectar garden, which is in full bloom and glorious colour.

Outside the garden, the orchard is beginning to fruit and as well as the poppies, we have many different native wild flowers, to attract the attention of butterflies and bees.

Three goldfish have been caught, including one that was pregnant, big thanks to the local lads who fished them out – please have another go and get rid of all of them. The water level is very low at the moment, but our local farm manager (Russell Smith Farms) has kindly promised to top it up when he has finished irrigating the nearby potato field.

We hope to be able to hold an open event in September and hopefully at the same time we can unveil “The Brewers” a set of sculptures created using art fund money by a local artist, using a chainsaw and little else – watch this space!

Too little water and too many fish!

Where is the rain? Sarah and Barbara planted more pollinating plants in the Nectar Garden about a month ago, and since then we have had no rain. Even the trees are looking a little peaky and they should be strong enough by now not to need watering.

I went with the trolley and trugs to collect water from the containers attached to the bicycle and teen shelters, only to find that the one on the teen shelter had been emptied (for the 3rd time!) and much of the guttering had been pulled down. The one next to the bike shelter had had its lock broken, but still had enough water for me to water the plants and a few of the orchard trees.

This is the third time we’ve lost all the water and our plants are suffering. Any ideas how we can engage our youngsters’ interest so that they look after the space instead of hurting it?

We can repair the guttering, but the loss of water is a problem – we get so little rain here in the Duxford micro-climate and we have no natural water source, so collecting what little rain we have is essential.

Still on the subject of water, one or two well-meaning people have been adding fish to the Brewery Field wildlife pond – this is not a good thing.

Fish dramatically change the dynamic of a pond, eating the larvae and generally muddying the water. We have taken the advice of our experts and want to keep the Brewery Field pond evolving naturally.

Please don’t add wildlife to the wildlife pond!

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/environment-agency-warns-of-dangers-of-releasing-ornamental-fish-into-the-wild

Happy New Year!

Wishing all our readers a very happy new year and a great 2022. It’s all been a bit Groundhog Day lately, but hopefully next spring we’ll be able to have our open day event. We’d like to thank all of you for your support and encouragement over the last 2 difficult years.

With your help, we have vastly improved Duxford’s green spaces: Brewery Field will continue to evolve as our trees and hedges grow, our meadow blooms and the pond matures. We have already seen a huge increase in biodiversity and wildlife is reaping the benefits.

I’ll leave you with these thoughts from Habitataid – hang on to the fact that we – and you – have played your part, long may it continue!!!

https://mailchi.mp/habitataid/year-end-newsletter?e=6735183163

Wishing you all the best for 2022 – love & hugs to all of you – keep being green!

Fantastic help from our volunteers!

This month we were lucky enough to be offered 10 – yes 10! – staff from Duxford company SMT (Volvo). Together with our loyal volunteers from the village, they spread 2500 litres of mulch around the trees, added the cleared turfs to cover the new hibernaculum by the pond, strimmed and scythed the mound and planted a brand new hedge (100 saplings donated by https://www.tcv.org.uk/communities/i-dig-trees) around the woodpile and compost area.

We were extremely lucky to have great weather on both days. The mulch is all gone and the trees are going to thrive now that they are protected and fed.

Huge thanks to SMT, to all their staff who put in so much effort, and thanks as ever to members of our core volunteer team, Barbara, Paul, Toshi and Joanne, guided expertly by Sarah.

SMT have created their own nature reserve on their site – our next project is to see how we can create a wildlife corridor between Brewery Field and SMT.

Duxford IWM airshow weekend

The rain held off (most of the time!) and the airshow went ahead the weekend of July 23/24, with a limited number of tickets being sold.

Duxford village – and quite a few visitors – came together on both the Recreation Ground and on Brewery Field, to watch the wonderful flying displays, including spitfires, the Sally B (B-17), the thrilling typhoon and the amazing Red Arrows .

All the superb photos that follow were taken by local photographer Adrian Powter.

Thanks to DUFC for offering parking on their pitch and thus reducing congestion in the village. Although there was general disappointment that the school had not been able to open, the facilities at the new Community Centre were very much appreciated.

We had so many compliments about how the village has improved, particularly from the visitors, who only come on airshow days. The new exercise equipment on Brewery Field was very well used by all the children and many people said how interesting the space is now and how much they were enjoying the different areas.

A cold wet May…

…followed a cold dry April! After around 6 weeks with almost no rain at all, we installed 3 large water containers, some of the neighbours kindly filled them up for us and at that point almost to the day, it started raining again and hasn’t really stopped.

The cold has delayed not only the germination of the new seeds, but also the flowering of the many self-seeded poppies and the young pollinating plants in the nectar garden. When we finally get a bit of warmth and sun, we will have a fantastic display!

We have left un-mown most of the site, and will cut the various areas at different times throughout the year to encourage the best display of wild flowers.

We’ve had some boisterous teens in the pond again, resulting in the lifebuoy being broken into 5 sections (they still float so have been left until we can replace them with a new one), and one of the waterlilies coming out of its pot and floating to the surface. With a bit of luck the new shelter and exercise equipment that will be installed in June will give our bored teens something else to do!

Our volunteer Fridays are going well, with a small core team doing most of the work. The next urgent job is to weed the petanque court – the people playing on there yesterday didn’t find a very smooth surface! We don’t allow chemical weedkillers on the site, so we’re going to try using horticultural vinegar instead.

All pictures on this week’s blog were taken by local photographer Adrian Powter.

Want to know how to sex a cowslip?

If you saw a strange group of people on their hands and knees in St John’s Churchyard this week and wondered what we were up to, a few of the Friends were responding to a call from Plantlife to survey the nation’s cowslips.

You can do it anywhere where cowslips are growing wild – once you’ve looked inside a few cowslips, it’s quite easy to tell the difference! Apparently a healthy population should have roughly 50:50 male to female. For a bit more information on how to do it, and to download the survey app, follow this link

We did get to roughly 50:50, so it seems all is well in the Duxford cowslip population! We also found a few diverse colours among them and sent Plantlife the photos with our report.

Thanks so much to our helpers, Barbara, Malcolm and Mike.

A bit of TLC…

The Millennium Garden has been a bit neglected in recent years. The front part is an asset to the village, laid to lawn and with a bench and some fine trees, but the rear part behind the hedge has become overgrown and looks unloved.

With a couple of wonderful volunteers – thanks Barbara and Paul – we had a go at the flowerbed today, removing nettles, ground elder and grass that had taken hold. It is so dry at the moment that even the friendly robin didn’t make it down to catch the worms that we turned up, but it looks so much better, and all in a couple of hours.

Kings and Queens of our Little Kingdoms

Many of us may feel we have little sense of control over our own lives… what with politicians… big business, not to mention the Coronavirus restrictions “…but in the garden or allotment we are king or queen! It is our piece of outdoors that lays a real stake to the planet.” Monty Don.

If you care to embrace this metaphor, we can look at our own little garden kingdom and choose how to rule it: choose what we plant or build in it and what we take away from it. There are plenty of gardening rules to follow – it makes sense to use them, but don’t forget to use your humanity. As king or queen you can choose to consider all the living things on your land as your beloved subjects, not just the plants. You could be a great ruler! Hospitable and nurturing, but also tough and decisive when you know what needs to be done for the greater good. You could allow your subjects a place to shelter and a place to forage, and during hard times you might even lay out food and water for them.

In the olden days gardens were places of sanctuary from the wild scary beasts over the hedge, now there are barely any wilds, instead mostly human development: houses, roads or agriculture.

How we decide to rule our gardens does matter; our gardens make up a huge area of Britain, and together we could make such a difference to our dwindling British wildlife.

Sarah Ashworth, Designs For Life

http://sarahashworth.co.uk/