…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.
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.
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.
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.
I hear a lot of people holding out for spring at the moment. All these lockdown restrictions, post-Christmas blues and fears of what the future holds, I totally get it – we need something good to look forward to. But let’s not miss out on life in the meantime, because I’m going to let you into a hidden secret that is happening right now: The sap is rising! (Well, if not now, very soon)
This February, whatever you do, however restricted you may be, I urge you to get out for your allowance of exercise as much as possible. February isn’t quite spring, but it isn’t just about daffodils either – it’s a mover and a shaker of a month! With the warming earth it is the time of life quickening, energy is rising, and the trick is to be outside to tap into it. This works especially if you do something physical for a while, do anything: walk; run; rake leaves; sweep the patio; pull some weeds; pick up that litter that’s been annoying you in your village all winter….and of course this principle of “just get out there and do it” breeds positivity at any time of year.
February is the time when it all stirs, the songbirds start singing, courting and making nests – it’s no accident Valentine’s Day is in February, in fact February 14th was known in Sussex as Bird Wedding Day! Rumour has it the first bird seen by a maid on this day indicates the character of her future spouse – well well…
…If that’s true Great Crested Grebes are a good bird to see if you’re looking for a slick mover – they put on such a romantic show you might think you are watching an episode of Strictly! The Dernford Reservoir (near Stapleford) is a good little lockdown walk for bird lovers, you may well see a Grebe and certainly many other birds – many sporting their finest feathers around now.
Winter aconite, primroses, wood anemones and snowdrops are flowering. Frogs and toads may be seen spawning already, if you have ever witnessed this event, you’ll know it is not a sight for the prudish! Butter-yellow Brimstones may flash past at this time, apparently these are the reason butterflies are called as such. Queen buff-tailed and early bumblebees may be seen flying slowly about, seemingly defying the laws of aerodynamics as they dozily crash about. Hazel catkins, rich with pollen hang like little yellow lambs tails – look really closely and you’ll see bright red flowers – the male parts – looking like miniature sea anemones!
After the hardship of winter, a bit of February sunshine is meltingly delicious, relished by all. This is the time you might find an unusual animal basking in a south facing spot, occasionally a deer or a snake may be seen, more likely a dog or a cat, perhaps even granny! Whichever it is you can still enjoy the bliss on their face!
In lockdown, luckily for us, walking and gardening count as exercise and more, we are allowed to do it alongside another. The 2 metre distance is close enough to hear another’s voice; we can help, encourage and support each other. During this time, if you find yourself inspired, research your local gardening or wildlife groups in preparation for when restrictions lift a bit – see list below, please also let me know about other local groups that work outside, including gardening groups with outdoor activities.
If The News makes you despair, move your focus instead to something local, something you can actually affect, even if that is just your garden! And look for opportunities to meet outside, be active and interact with people in your community in a socially distanced way. We’ve got some healing to do and that has to start locally.
Some (not all) local outdoor nature-based volunteer groups for when restrictions lift:
When this latest lockdown ends, we will be on the field the first and third Fridays of each month and would love it if you would join us!
We hope to eventually use these sessions for teaching new skills and learning about the flora and fauna, but we also need your help to improve and maintain the site. Above all, we want these sessions to be enjoyable and fun – the Friends of Duxford Green Spaces (FODGS) community is growing all the time.
Of course, you don’t have to be a FODGS member to come along on Fridays, but we would love it if you would consider joining. 100% of your small membership fee will be used to improve Duxford’s green spaces and in return, we will keep up to date with all the goings on.
The jobs that need doing right now are mulching, weeding and planting and there will always be someone to help you get started. Bring along gardening gloves, your spade/fork/trowel and even a wheelbarrow if you can – if not, come along anyway!
Autumn is here and we are working hard to make sure that the nectar garden will be ready to burst into bloom for spring and summer next year. Many of us have been growing on cuttings, and thanks to the soil improver donated by Amey, the ground is almost ready for planting. Over the next few weeks we will add a ring of mulch around all the trees on site, to make sure that the grasses don’t compete with them for water next year. If you have cottage garden type pollinating plants you could donate, please email email@example.com
We have some wonderful new benches located around the field – now you can rest and enjoy the lovely views in between your exercise. We will eventually put another bench next to the petanque court, as the 2 junior benches are a bit low for those who are not quite so fit as they used to be!
We will soon put up some signs for ‘volunteer Fridays’ – these will be held on one Friday afternoon a month, when we hope you will come and join us to do a bit of weeding, mulching or planting. Seeing results of your work is so rewarding and gardening is certainly good for the soul!
If you are on social media, don’t forget to check our Instagram and Facebook pages (search for “Duxfordgreen”) – there you can see all our progress photos and some of the wonderful shots taken by parishioners. Thanks to Adrian for the evening shots above and to Malcolm for the rainbow.
It is so encouraging to hear how much you all enjoy the space when we are working on the field – it seems that our new community space really does lift people’s spirits in these strange and worrying times.
If you would like to join our team, please get in touch and consider becoming a “Friend” – it is £25 per year for a family and £15 per year if you are single.
The photos above show the pond, surrounded by poppies, just after it was topped up to overflowing – thanks to Russell Smith farms!
I’m sitting watching the rain and hoping that it will rain all night and all day tomorrow! Duxford seems to have its own microclimate with little rain, even when there are black clouds all around us. We continue to water the new trees and have applied for another grant to bring water on site – this would make it so much easier for volunteers to help – following the tractor around with buckets is strenuous work and not for the faint-hearted, but if we didn’t do it, the trees would surely fail.
Water on site would eventually enable us to have a drinking station where you could refill your bottles and help reduce the use of single use plastics.
We have added some safety equipment and signs around the pond and will soon be putting some more seating around the site – there are definitely not enough places to relax and enjoy the views!
The gravel beach is perfect for paddling, but please stay out of the rest of the pond – we know it’s tempting when the temperature rises, but cool off feet only please!
Hortiservices have made a great job of the 2 new sections of path – these should make it even easier for those of you taking your exercise on the field.
If you spot something interesting, please add it to our new blackboard on the dipping deck – and if you have a smart phone, take a photo and email it to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are keeping a log of all the flora and fauna seen on site, so don’t forget to add your name and date of siting.
We have decided to rearrange the open day only when we are certain that it won’t be postponed once again, so expect a really special event next spring, when we can all mix and celebrate together!
Even though the trees are coming into leaf and the orchard is in blossom, we have had to postpone our open day (which would have been in 10 days time) due to the COVID-19 virus. Just think how good the field will look when we can have our day.
Sarah measured the circuit and it is almost exactly 300m and it’s wonderful to see how many people take their daily exercise on the field.
We might not be able to have our fun day out together, but we have been doing a fair bit to keep the project on track.
Our butterfly expert, Mike, has planted the mound with plants to attract particular butterflies;
Our ecologist Ashley has seeded the mound with a special chalk loving mix of native wild flowers;
We have fixed a lovely new water butt to the bike shelter, to take advantage of the little rain that falls in this region;
We will soon install a third dual waste bin at the back of the field to try to encourage more dog owners to pick up after their pet;
We are planting up the nectar garden with plants that will attract pollinators;
We are watering all the newly planted trees to give them the best chance of thriving;
We are creating a wood pile at the rear of the field – this will eventually be fenced off to provide habitat for mammals;
We have been checking the pond for amphibians – so far without success;
As soon as we can, we will bring some more soil in for the swale, and we will get the 2 sections of gravel path done. Who knows – the pavement from the Elms Close corner to the entrance might even be completed too – we do at least have 2 telegraph poles up, but Openreach can’t complete the wiring.