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

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Old orchard survey at Aylestone Meadows

Hi botanists

The weather forecast for this weekend is good, so how about joining us on a field visit to survey a derelict orchard at Aylestone Meadows? 

Helen O'Brien (Leicester City Council Nature Conservation Officer) and Aylestone Meadows Appreciation Society are considering a project to regenerate this site as a community orchard, so they'd like to know what is actually there. We can ID some fruit trees and hopefully help ourselves to some free plums and apples. 

Here's the Doodle link for more info, parking details, grid ref, and so you can vote on your preferred date and start time.
NB: A majority of you have now voted to start the meeting at noon on Saturday, so hope to see you then.  

And here is the link to the Wildlife Trust's recent report on Aylestone Meadows - note how many BSBI members were involved with the survey work!

The orchard is in a corner of the meadows which we have never visited before, so let's see what's there, grab some free fruit and maybe head to the Black Horse in Aylestone for a pint after? 

Posted by Louise

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Botany courses in VC55.

Plant ID students in Derbyshire 2013
The first year of our 'Botany for Beginners' course has just ended, with a dozen students attending the final module on Trees.

We are now preparing for the Plant ID course, which is due to start up again on 1st October. 

The Plant ID course is nearly full, but if you are interested in joining it and would like to put your name on our waiting list, chances are there will be a few last-minute cancellations. 

Full details of our botany courses are available on the Botanic Garden website here.

We are also taking enquiries already about next year's 'Botany for Beginners' course, and it's very gratifying to see how many of this year's 'Botany for Beginners' students are going on to study on the Plant ID course. 

I hope these photographs of lovely botanists enjoying both courses this year give a hint as to how much fun the courses are! 

Many thanks to all of you who have supported botanical training in VC55 this year. 

If you would like to know more about either course, add your name to a waiting list or receive a prospectus, just get in touch with me at

Posted by Louise