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.
There is a definite whiff of spring in the air! Many of our young trees are showing signs of blossom and planning for our open day on Sunday April 26th is well underway.
We know that there is a risk we might have to postpone due to the Covid-19 virus, but we are going ahead with planning. It is after all, an open air event, and we reckon that everyone will be ready to come and have some fun in the fresh air by then!
So, what have we been doing? Our butterfly expert has done some planting on the mound and we have added lots of bee loving plants to the nectar garden.
We remain hopeful that the Elms Close entrance and pathway will be completed by the open day – who would have thought that a few yards of tarmac would prove so difficult to complete?
The dipping deck gate is now constructed and sitting in a garage somewhere in Duxford – it will be in place soon!
We have a great line up for the open day, with music, food, drink and games. The new community centre car park will be available and hopefully the weather will be kind.
We are still hoping to have a junior skate ramp, shelter and graffiti wall on site before yet another year has passed – we need your support to get these facilities in place!
We’ve done so well and made such progress, but now we need another £10,000 to finish the job and make Brewery Field truly a place that everyone can enjoy.
First, we need to complete 2 sections of the gravel path to connect with the circular path; one from the Elms Close entrance and the other from the decking under the rain/sun shelter adjacent to the pond. This will enable the less mobile among us to enjoy all areas of the site. We need around £2,500 to complete these 2 sections.
Secondly, we want to bring drinking water on site, so that visitors can fill their reusable bottles and to help keep Brewery Field plastics free into the future. Cambridge water have quoted just under £5,000 to connect the field to the mains, but we need another £1,500 to lay the pipes on site.
We are applying for funding for these 2 jobs, but if you could get friends to join as members and do all your shopping on line using the easyfundraising links, we could raise quite a lot ourselves. Please don’t underestimate the importance of these small ways to add to our coffers. Please ask your friends to sign up and always shop on line using our link! Thank you.
Today the orchard trees arrived and with the help of a few very determined volunteers, we managed to get them planted just as the sun was setting. We put in apples, pears, gages and plums, some of them of a really good size, so it shouldn’t be too long until Duxford has its own apple days.
The remaining planting will take place in the coming weeks and is mainly small bare rooted saplings that will go in around the mound and some plants for the nectar garden. We will put out another call for volunteers and try to make it on a weekend this time.
The Swale (the dip next to the pond) has been lined with plastic and will hopefully be topped up in the coming weeks to cover the edges of the liner. This will create a wet/dry area which should attract some interesting flora.
Today we saw a whole troupe of peewits, heard our large flock of sparrows and saw signs of a hedgehog! As we add to the planting, we will attract more and more wildlife and the Chair of the Cambs & Essex Branch of Butterfly Conservation is advising us on how to attract as many different butterflies as possible.