At last our allotment is coming to life. Fruit trees are in bloom and shoots are peeping through the ground. We have even found an abundance of wild garlic on the site. Apart from its potential use in salads, garnishes and cooking, the children love to nibble on the leaves.
My energies have been mainly spent on erecting a shed/shelter (one end is completely open)out of recycled pallets; well, I say shed but actually it’s more like a personal tribute to Heath Robinson, there’s not a straight line, level or square angle on it anywhere.
Pallet wood is not nice stuff to work with; it’s very hard and brittle, loves giving you splinters and is filled with nails that cannot be removed. Having said this, it was all free; so I spent a quite a few lunch hours at work dismantling these nasty spiky items, loading up the car and piling the planks up on site.
Then I set about creating a carefully designed plan, with the help of a fully qualified architect, created a level base out of high grade concrete and fully treated all the timber before measuring twice and cutting everything to exact lengths (this part is all a big, fat lie).
To be truthful, I basically hammered several posts into steeply-sloping, uneven ground and then stumbled around trying to nail various planks of uneven sizes onto them; very much doing everything by eye and making plans up as I went along. I’m definitely not a qualified builder but I’m quite good at improvisation and the family and I will be pleased enough with the end result, especially if we get caught in a sudden shower.
We are organising an impromptu Blossom Walk in the Mansbridge Community Orchard this Saturday, May 18th. Apologies for the short notice but the late Spring and erratic weather has not helped. Also, as the next two suitable weekends fall in half-term, many will not be able to make these dates.
Everyone is welcome (including children) but we will be walking over rough and potentially muddy ground and possibly through some woods. We will meet on the old (A27) stone bridge over the River Itchen, between the White Swan Pub (where parking is available) and the Pitch and Putt course at 2:00 pm (whatever the weather).
Wear sensible clothing and footwear, and please remember that this is an informal event and everyone is responsible for their own (and their children’s safety).
If the weather is good, we will have a lovely walk through the fruit trees, which are far easier to spot when they are in blossom. Feel free to bring a picnic blanket, cucumber sandwiches and lashings of lemonade.
During the walk we will collect contact details of anyone willing and interested in volunteering any time or skills to help the orchard as we continue progressing with this lovely project.
Thanks to backing from Southampton Airport Community Fund, we have been able to buy new tools and equipment for use in the Mansbridge Community Orchard. We may also need to get some professional training.
We have purchased pruning equipment; loppers, saws etc as well as picking tools. Renovating a neglected orchard, with many mature trees, will be a lengthy and on-going commitment. It will take several years to get the main trees into a decent state and longer still to sort out the less accessible areas.
In the Autumn, the real fun begins. We will begin to reap the rewards of the project; we will need to buy more fruit picking and collecting gear to help us gather the apples. We also aim to purchase processing kit, like a nice big fruit crusher and a lager cider press.
The Orchard is beginning to flower now and we must organise another Blossom Walk (provided these gales don't blow it all away). Last year we had perfect weather for the walk and had a great turn out. It is the ideal way to get to know the orchard and to familiarise the locations of all the various trees. It is much easier to recognise the fruit trees, when they are covered in bloom. It will also be a good opportunity to recruit more volunteers who want to help manage and get involved with all the other activities in the orchard.