Saturday, 28 September 2013

Derelict orchard survey, Aylestone Meadows.

Sampling the fruit in the old orchard:
by taking specimens home for ID and by eating some of it!
Image: R. Rogers
Glorious summery weather today for our field meeting at Aylestone Meadows

Thirteen of us turned up - a smaller group than usual, and commiserations to five local members who voted for a Sunday slot for this survey of the old orchard.

It was really more of a preliminary nosey around the perimeter with a few brief forays through the undergrowth and into the odd patch where more light could penetrate - very C19th plant-hunter!

There's a silty wet ditch in there with (probably) sticklebacks but very shaded and botanically quite bleak - could be opened up in places to create different micro-habitats and encourage more flora and fauna to move in? 

You'd really need to go back with billhooks for a full survey, but I did a quick total from today's recording card. We identified and recorded 72 plant taxa and yes, we found several kinds of fruit tree - pear, apple, damson and plum - especially towards the eastern side of the site. 

Very little fruit, presumably due to lack of management, but some trees are quite old. Regenerating old fruit trees can be a difficult job and you may never get a great yield, according to my admittedly limited experience, but IMHO that doesn't mean it shouldn't be attempted and it would be fun trying!  

I'm sure that Neill Talbot (LRWT) and Helen O'Brien (LCC) will be able to give AMAS some more considered advice once the site has been surveyed properly, and I hope our group will be glad to help out with this if required. 

It would be great to see a community orchard here - we ran into loads of local people today, out blackberrying in the sunshine, so I hope they'd support the plan. They might bemoan the loss of some berries, but some of those bramble patches are too dense for successful foraging and there are loads of other good spots on the Meadows.

Great to have Neill with us for a while today, showing us the scrapes that have been created and talking us through current management in this part of the Meadows. 
We also benefited from the presence of Graham and Anona Finch, our local lepidopteran (is that a word?) experts who showed us larvae of, and signs of damage by, some fascinating micro-moths in that amenable stage, before they get their wings - larvae are nice because they can't fly away before you have time to get the book out. 

One reason I love botany: the specimen stays put while you peer at it! Graham and Anona have kindly offered to pass on their records to us for circulation amongst the group.

Many thanks to all of you who came out recording today, and a special welcome to three of you who were out with us for the first time. Great to hear that you enjoyed the afternoon and would like to join us again! Many thanks also to Richard Rogers, who took the photographs on this page - what a nice man!

We'll put the species list up on our Google page once it's typed up, and copies will go to Helen, Neill and Anne at AMAS. I hope they will keep us posted on how things develop.

Posted by Louise

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