Environmental Group for Groundwell (Brook)
Penhill Community Plan
@Penhill Park Plan
Seven Fields Nature Reserve
Penhill Forum Annual Report 2009/2010
Penhill Forum Annual Report 2012-2013
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Penhill Forum Annual Report 2011 - 2012
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Clivey Twist Youth Project* Community Policeman* Police Community Support Officer*, Fair Share Consultant* Fair Share Worker* Swindon Academy, Les Gowing House* Lillian Locke Gardens, Local Councillors* Justin Tomlinson MP* North Swindon Family Centre* Penhill Arts and Crafts Club* Penhill Lunch Club* Penhill Scouts and Cubs* Penhill Community Association, Penhill Surgery, Penhill Library* Penhill Nursery School* Penhill Players* Penhill Townswomen's Guild, Penhill Youth Group* Penhill Athletic Football Club* Penhill Primary School/ Academy* Penhill Orchard Group* Pinehurst Initiative Forum* SBC Community Safety Dept.* SBC Housing Dept.* Seven Fields Primary School* Seven Fields Conservation Group* St. Peters Church* St. Peters Church Guides and Brownies, St. Lukes School* Penhill United Reformed Church* United Reformed Church Guides & Brownies* Sure Start Penhill and Pinehurst* Community Learning in Penhill* Westlea Housing Association* Wiltshire and Swindon Community Foundation* Neighbourhood Wardens.
The objects of the Penhill Forum are to promote better communication, better community planning, mutual support, better liaison between local groups,
and the provision of a focal point for community debate.
Penhill Forum Annual Report
June 2011 – October 2012
Penhill Chair’s Report:
This year is Penhill’s 60th anniversary; it’s been an active community in all that time.
The Churches and perhaps the Scouts, Guides and Lunch Club being among the longest running groups. This year we were sorry to hear of the passing of Alf Roberts he is remembered for his contribution to Scouting and the United Reformed Church. Lorna Breslin our enthusiastic Media person moved and left the group and not to forget John Saunders our Church Community Worker who retired in July, there is a tribute to John’s work on the back page. This year, we seem to have only lost the Penhill Arts and Crafts Club, but craft sessions are popping up in all of our community halls - though mainly for youngsters. Bob Elwood – Chair.
Steering Committee Report:
Big Society: Town wide the Clusters morphed into Localities and Penhill is now part of the North Central Locality, along with Pinehurst, Gorsehill and Western Wards. In March we welcomed our new Locality Lead Andy Reeves and Locality Facilitator Michelle Matthews.
Councillors: We decided against holding Hustings for the 2012 local elections, the first after the change of Ward Boundary. Our new ward is Penhill and Upper Stratton and we have three councillors, Cllr Paul Baker lives in Penhill, Teresa Page and Joe Tray live in Upper Stratton, all have attended our meetings this year.
Gas Pipes: Over the period of this report, we experienced gas pipe laying around the estate and we kept a careful eye on the repairs made to the verges as the damage occurred.
Minety Road Rec. Refurbishment of the Aerial Runway turned into a replacement. We asked questions about the delay’s and it is still to be completed.
Academy: Helen Beardall, the Academy community worker has attended several of our meetings and was particularly helpful in including the Academy students in the No 21 Bus campaign, who sent letters in support of continuing the service.
Allotments: We continue to keep on eye on the allotment situation on Penhill.
Backlands: We are always looking for other opportunities i.e. the increase in requests for allotment land. This year Glynis Hales acquired permission to turn the Corsham Road Backland into a Wildlife Garden.
Braydon Court Redevelopment: We have failed to attract neither business nor residents attendance at our meeting. We are sorry to see that the Hairdressers has now closed.
Penhill Bus Services: We succeeded in reducing the No 21 route being cut to fewer buses per day. The times changed and though better than nothing, are not sufficient for the needs of the community, a small meeting was held in July 2012 to plan a campaign. However it will be exceedingly difficult this time either to get improvements or keep the service and we have asked the new Penhill Community Association to take over the campaign, they have many more contacts in the Valley and although the withdrawal of this service is an inconvenience for other areas, it was essential to the Valley. As we go to press we read in the paper that there are no changes to the No 21 for the coming year - yet.
Carnivals: 2 successful Carnivals were held in 2011 and 2012. Penhill Forum received funding for £500 for our contribution towards the 2011 festivities paying for the Britannia Majorettes, the live band at CLIP, and St.John’s Ambulance.
Climate Change Action/Environmental Action. It has been over two years now with so few paid workers to manage and promote our open spaces. We have not covered this subject much this year, although a few people have set out to plant and manage the Corsham Road backland as a community wildlife garden. The new PCA are in the process of setting up another sub group to look after the Groundwell Brook and will be paying attention to Val’s Garden at CCCC. It is fairly obvious that now the British Legion has closed down and lease handed back that we will have challenges ahead with that area.
CLIP: CLIP continues to provide excellent learning opportunities when funding is available and of course, have to deliver it according to whatever are the latest funding conditions. The Trustees also manage the John Moulton Hall for the benefit of the community. The Fair share funding for the posts of a centre manager, Mick O’Brien, and community worker, Ingrid Bernathova comes to an end in 2013, funding applications are being made to replace the two posts with a different staffing structure. Training sessions for the benefit of all Penhill group committee’s in a Fair share bid to help ensure they are sustainable into the future were held. Despite funding worries, there is plenty on at John Moulton Hall. Fair share also paid for consultancy to promote Asset Based Community Development to encourage more volunteers to come forward. This meant identifying people who ‘connect ‘with the community to encourage other people to volunteer with a ‘pebble in the water’ effect.
Community Association: The very good news is that a new group of volunteers were elected to the PCA this summer and set about decorating the Chippenham Close Centre and starting new activities. Our grateful thanks to the old committee who ran out of steam, but kept the Chippenham Close Centre in the hands of Penhill people.
Contact List: We continue to maintain and add to our contact list, whenever we capture a new email address we ask if they would like to be added to the list. Through this list we spread information whenever possible.
Cricklade Road Development: At last development has started, it is not known of the Badgers are still there. Persimmon Homes are the builders.
Cycle routes: New route along Cricklade Road. Unfortunately on the other side of the estate, some of the routes that run through Seven Fields is becoming overgrown and inaccessible.
Fair share Panel continued to meet. The fund comes to an end in March 2013.
Penhill Forum Banks Signatures: We were unable to change the signatures for the bank. We said it would be completed from this year’s AGM. It wasn’t!
Penhill History Project: The Penhill photos are now posted on Flickr. We helped with a CREATE project with Mr Beaney’s Photo collection. Others are on Facebook.
Library: We continue to watch with concern, discussions about Library closures and agreed to support our very popular library for as long as possible. There were concerns about Lone Working, so CLIP has found a volunteer dedicated to the Library, when only one paid worker is working. This volunteer does not replace a paid worker and is available to offer only company to the Library Workers. We would like to take this opportunity thank our Library workers for their quiet, dedicated service to our community.
Lunch Club: The Lunch Club continues successfully and has received a Grant from SBC and 4 stars on the door in all three aspects of the Award.
Swindon Multi Agency Team for Children’s Services have now moved to the old Uplands School at Leigh Road and renamed it ‘The Meadows’, they hold themselves aloof from the rest of the community. Placed on Penhill, it will not really help with the lack of structured play as it is a base for children’s ‘professionals’ rather than a community hub.
Penhill News: Now 10 years old! The Penhill News is under the wing of the Forum and has received a grant for 3 years. Due to an insurance issue, the Penhill News deliverers have been taken into CLIP structure, so that they can also have access to the training offered to all CLIP volunteers and insurance cover. Back copies of Penhill News have been copied for posterity and kept at the main Swindon Library and available online.
Penhill Orchard: Now 9 years old. The Orchard Group have, with a grant from Co-op Midwest, put in seats, refurbished the units, fences, gates, laid new hard standing outside the units added more soil for the raised beds, purchased new display banners and the all important insurance cover! In October a trip was arranged to Tenbury Wells Applefest. A celebration of Wassail, Easter, Mayday and Jubilee was held in one go at John Moulton Hall, due to appalling weather on the other dates. The gates have been locked at various times due to works traffic and vandalism. An amazing crop in 2011 was followed by a poor crop this year and disappeared within a few weeks.
Penhill Park: We were very pleased to see the Adventure Play Equipment replaced at Penhill Playing Fields and with plans for the Clivey Twist project well advanced, the only things missing from the community wish list for that area is the Splash Park. Grateful Thanks to John Saunders and Caroline Hunt, SBC Play Parks worker for their effort to find funding, and then match funding, to replace and upgrade Adventure Play. The starting a ‘Friends of Seven Fields’, to help protect the community investment of effort in the whole of Seven Fields over the years, failed to attract anyone to it. This group will need to be a partnership of workers, and communities that surround the area.
Pinehurst Initiative Forum, when the Ward Boundary changes were announced, members of the Pinehurst Forum and ourselves met to talk over what this might mean for our two committees, after much discussion, it was agreed that we would protest about being joined up and sent in a combined letter of objection. The Boundary commissioner agreed and Pinehurst remains in Gorsehill ward. Penhill joined with Upper Stratton - going back into part of the Stratton Parish as we were before Penhill was compulsory purchased after the war to build the estate. We also recently supported each other in the bid for a Forest School Project for Seven Fields.
Penhill Play and Youth Partnership Group: This Forum sub group has not met for over a year, pressure of work and lack of workers. As great shame, it was a partnership that helped bring back much of our play facilities at Seven Fields and Minety Road and kept play and youth work high on the agenda.
Relationship with the Borough: As the ‘Clusters’ morphed into ‘Localities’
Our representatives have attended Locality Meetings, and we have seen more of our Locality Lead and Locality Facilitator. However we recognise that their area covers 4 wards and they are indeed s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d. We felt that the communication was not all it should be and look forward to an improvement in that. Locality Meetings are held in one of the four wards in sequence. SBC Funding through them is now available. Two Penhill volunteers (with others from around Swindon) were asked to participate in meeting the applicants for the Locality Facilitator jobs
Road Safety Issues: Some roads have been resurfaced during the year and traffic calming is being reinstated. We note that potholes are repaired only for them to appear again after bad weather. We tried to find out which heavy lorries were using Corsham Road, against a promise made when the shop were rebuilt that they would use only Penhill Drive.
Penhill Royal British Legion Branch: The RBL was closed and the building has stood much of the year boarded up and becoming derelict and the victim of thieves. The Lease has been handed back to the Borough and we await news of its future. It is hoped that before any demolition of the building, the Cenotaph will be moved to a site outside St. Peters Church. We expect housing development on it and look forward to being consulted from the start! However in November 2011 the branch members still managed to organise a Remembrance Service around the Cenotaph and a Service will also be held this year.
Seven Fields Conservation Group: Although not undertaking practical work, the group maintains contact via email, there is a web page and Facebook page, gives talks and an occasional guided walk. They maintain contact with all the necessary people in SBC, Rangers and the Wildlife Trust etc. and are growing concerned about the future management of the Nature Reserve and to that end were happy to support Haydon Wick Parish Councils bid to take the Reserve into the Parish in the SBC Community Governance Review. The Parish has resources and a level of influence that we do not.
Splash Park: Still a community priority in our Community Plan. We have brought it back under the Forum from the PCA and hope that people will come forward to champion it’s cause and keep the idea in the limelight – or at least make sure it’s not forgotten when the opportunity arises to find funding or partnerships to make it happen. Funds of £900+ raised by a previous Splash Park group are held by the PCA. We have received in writing an idea from Stratton Parish that if Penhill would agree to go in the Parish, they feel they could deliver it within 5 years; it would of course be available to all in North Swindon.
St. Peters Church: St. Peters Church, still suffering from unwarranted vandalism, installed a roof alarm and is now protected by CCTV. The Church Hall is well used, including two chances a week to talk to a Health Ambassador!
Stitch in Time: Meets at the John Moulton hall, and continues to offer advice to stitchers and is producing an exclusive line of ‘Made in Penhill’ bags.
Sure Start: Congratulations of Sure Starts first 10 years. We hear the news that despite the massive cutback to funding, Penhill Sure start feel confident they can maintain frontline services. The staff will now work for Swindon Borough Council not for the Primary Care Trust.
Neighbourhood Safety Team meetings (NeST) have continued throughout the year working to priorities set in consultation with local people. Dealing again, successfully, with thoroughly unpleasant Anti Social Behaviour in the shop area.
The new 101 number was introduced, answered relatively quickly, but it still takes just as long to get through!
Penhill Voice/Media Group: The Penhill Voice Media group met with Shirley Ludford and agreed a 1 hour, once a month programme on Swindon 105.5 the intention being to find interested people and encourage young people to take part in the production of a broadcast. The initial idea of using one of the small rooms at JMH as a studio, proved impractical, too noisy etc. A laptop was purchased with the Loan Shark grant by CLIP to enable programmes to be produced in Penhill. The Penhill schools were approached to participate also Swindon College, unfortunately there was no take up.
Volunteering: Having a community centre with a worker based at JMH has helped greatly in this. Ingrid reports that throughout the year volunteers have come and gone, but on average we have more now than last year.
Penhill Websites: We have put links on the www.thisiswiltshire web site along with the Community Plan, the @Penhill Park Plan and the Annual Reports, View from the Hill and thisispenhill. There are several Penhill Groups, Penhill Orchard, Seven Fields, Penhill News, Penhill Youth, and Swan Majorettes, etc. on Facebook. It is hoped that these web pages will soon be linked via www.thisispenhill.co.uk
Community Matters: We continue to affiliate to the National Federation of Community Organisations – ‘Community Matters’ and make good use of it’s very informative web site, we encourage others to do likewise. Community Matters is about to merge with NAVCA (National Association for Voluntary and Community Action).
Planning Applications: We queried planning applications for more aerials etc. on Seagry Court and chemicals usage at Groundwell Industrial Estate.
Speakers at Forum Meetings: We invited speakers – Dave Potts of The Wellbeing Centre and Trevor Smith of Pinnacle People, an organisations that was finding placements for people on long term unemployed benefits.
Streetsmart: We have no direct news from Streetsmart.
Stronger Community Forum: A Borough led Forum, usually a place to pick up information on what’s new - Usually the news is less support. This was last year’s Annual report comment, this years is that is less and less support, in fact now we must rely on each other for support. The Stronger Community Forum has ceased to be called and no promise of a replacement.
Swindon Borough Council: Community Asset Transfer Policy: Despite continually mentioning this at meetings, and to senior politicians, SBC appear to be still no nearer writing and adopting a Community Asset Transfer policy. This means that anyone who has adopted a community building or any other asset, has a Licence at Will (ongoing but with short notice period) rather than a lease which is usually at least 7 years and that means it is impossible for groups to get funding to improve or extend premises. Chippenham Close Community Centre is one of only two community centres in Swindon that has a proper Lease. A reminder that this was because £20,000 of community money was released from the dormant Penhill Community Centre charity (now the Sure start building) those funds helped to pay for CCCC to be build to a better specification and therefore the longer lease.
Swindon Empower Swindon: Web site. http://www.vas-swindon.org/empower.html.
Does not exist due to no funding, but we are assured that it’s constituent parts still talk to one another in the hope that it can develop opportunities for the Voluntary Sector. One such is another embryonic organisation SKIP – Swindon Community Infrastructure Partnership, are in the process of conducting a survey of the Voluntary Sector and hoping to steer the next Swindon Strategic Partnership Conference.
Swindon Festival of Poetry: The first of its kind, in October the Festival Vintage Bus Tour came to Penhill – parked on the RBL car park and enjoyed two short poems about the Nature Reserve and met children scooting on the car park at the time.
Swindon Housing Stock Transfer: The ballot took place with Tenants who overwhelmingly agreed to stay with the Borough as their landlord.
Swindon News: The borough uses this newsletter to inform you of their actions, sometimes we do not get it, and so we try to find out who does and who does not.
One Swindon: The council’s plan for us all to work together.
Swindon Strategic Housing Land Availability, we had sight of this list for Penhill, a few years ago, mostly backlands and had made comment accordingly, we should live in daily fear of what is to happen to our open spaces, parks etc in Penhill.
Swindon Strategic Partnership Overview and Monitoring Group Plus: During the year this has discontinued to meet. It was a valuable place to meet other community people from around the town, hear news pertinent to our groups and communities and provided us with a voice in town-wide issues.
Swindon Voluntary and Community Forum: This is a regular Forum led by Voluntary Action Swindon, which our representatives attend, It provides a better explanation of what’s going on, what is available and it is a valuable networking tool.
The last page of this report was a tribute to John Saunders work on Penhill.
Penhill Orchard Annual Report 2012
Penhill Orchard Group
Chair Bob Elwood
10am to 12 noon
Secretary Marilyn Beale
Treasurer Gordon Foster-Blyth
The objects of the Group are:
` To relieve poverty by the provision of free fresh fruit for the people of Penhill who are in need through the Penhill Orchard.
` To advance the education and training of any person in horticulture at the Penhill Orchard.
` To advance the education and training of any person in healthy eating at the Penhill Orchard.
` To provide or assist in the provision of facilities in the interest of social welfare for recreation or other leisure time occupation of individuals who have need of such facilities by reason of their youth, age, infirmity or disability, financial hardship or social circumstances with the object of improving their conditions of life.
By far the worst feature of this year has been the weather, despite which, we managed to maintain our Saturday Work Parties. Also not helpful was the latest bout of vandalism and some time has been spent repairing what we put in last year. Thankfully nothing has been damaged that can’t be repaired. As our Annual report below shows that there has been an increase in people using the Orchard and we’ve been glad to welcome workers and councillors who take an interest in it. I’d like to thank those Volunteers that helped at our events and Ingrid Bernathova for her support. Thanks too, to Andy Field who has a talent for tracking down things we need for special jobs, i.e. the concrete mixer, ballast and generator and getting them for next to nothing or free!
I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank our families for their forbearance when we disappear on regular basis every Saturday morning, and our friends for their support. Penhill News for printing our announcements. Swindon Grounds Maintenance for their continuing support and of course, the Midcounties Cooperative Community Fund for the Grant. Bob Elwood
Annual Report 2011 - 2012
We no have 91 ‘friends’ on Facebook and a vast collection of photographs. We keep a weekly diary of tasks.
The Volunteers at Penhill Orchard continue to meet every Saturday 10am to 12 noon.
August and September 2011, we had a bumper crop of fruit, so heavy that plum tree branches were completely bent and had to be pruned as soon as the fruit was taken. The Oullin Gage was found to be particularly sweet. We had plenty of windfalls.
We saw and heard of more people using the Orchard, for picking, but also for resting on their way past to the Northern Orbital Centre and Seven Fields. Some used it for safely walking their dog and others bring their children and use it as an extension of their gardens, feeling safer enclosed by the fence, even though the gates are not locked.
School holidays always bring an increase in vandalism, usually small and irritating but damaging none the less and it always seems to involve losing a plant or a branch and someone, instead of taking sticks of rhubarb took a whole plant.
We have to think ahead and we applied for a grant for 2012, from the Co-op Midwest via the WSCF and that involves form filling and telephone interviews.
Our work in August was clearing strawberry beds, summer pruning and litter picking,
We were visited by the SBC Lead Member for Housing and Communities – Cllr Russell Holland.
September 2011: The raised beds were planted with gooseberries. We produced a 'what grows where and when' ‘ripe’ chart and these with our leaflets were displayed around the Penhill. Cutting back overhanging branches from outside. When rain stops play, we have coffee and catch up with community issues and plan future work.
The fence was damaged, paving slabs used as a hammer to bang the unit doors and apples used as ammunition, the first hour of a work party taken up by clearing up and sticking bramble cuttings in a hole in the fence as a makeshift repair.
We were visited by a young family and others picking up windfalls. A few late raspberries too.
Our bat event went well, thanks to Neil Pullen of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust who led the evening and brought bat sonar equipment, and took those who came, after dark with torches, around the Orchard up the Jungle Path to Penhill Copse and back and they heard and saw bats. Those of us who stayed behind, lit by candles, had bats flying around our heads. They were quite big, so we think they were Pipistrelles.
Penhill Orchard was’ name checked’ in the Marlborough Gazette and Herald. Being one of the first community planted orchards in the area, we often get questions from those hoping to set one up themselves. This follows articles in the past in Readers Digest, The Telegraph Magazine, Times on Sunday and a couple of books!
We pruned a few unruly trees and picked windfalls for our planned Apple Day event. Cut back overhanging branches and hung bird boxes in the big trees on the outskirts. Washing down the units because of the apples smashed on them.
Butterflies and dragonflies about. Our small library is well used to identify species.
Each week we have a diary of events on our Facebook page: Someone remarked “Just 2 let u know we made a lovely Apple and blackberry crumble using some of your windfall Apple. The kids loved going out 2 get the fruit and coming back home 2 make it all x”
October 2011 We were delighted to have a visit from Marlene and Gordon, two of our trustees. Gordon had survived a throat cancer operation and was as usual bouncing back. We managed to communicate through signals - most of them rude! It was hot, 31.3 degrees on one Saturday in October. We heard that we had been awarded the Mid Counties Coop Grant for a number of events, and educational trips, fencing and the all important insurance.
Because we have so few volunteers we are unable to carry out so much work by hand, so strimming around trees etc, now has to be done mechanically - until we couldn't stand the noise of the strimmer any more. More pruning this month and a ladder was needed now our trees are reaching their full height. Another raised bed was filled with soil, also carried out tool maintenance.
Buzzards overhead, Red Admirals and about 20 pigeons ground feeding.
Our displays were shown at the Lower Shaw Farm Apple Day, visitors to that were most impressed that Penhill has its own orchard.
Two youngsters who were caught dancing around on top the units were strongly advised about how dangerous it is.
We held a ‘Cooking with Apples’ day at Chippenham Close Community Centre and pruning lessons in the Orchard, both poorly attended. Weather not encouraging.
November 2011: Our annual 'burning of the prunings'. Unusually, we failed to attract the attention of the Fire Brigade. We attempted a bit of willow weaving. Strimming and pruning, taking Buddleia Cuttings and pruned the blackberry.
It was warm in the Orchard. We sent apples to the John Moulton Hall for the Halloween events there. Quite a jolly crowd passed as we worked, walking dogs and Christmas shopping at Northern Orbital Centre.
Our displays were shown at the Swindon Strategic Partnership Conference at the Steam Museum.
Greater Spotted Woodpecker. A black and white cat joins us most Saturdays!
A van driver used the Orchard to turn in, digging up the ground. The raised beds were turned over by creatures unknown, unfortunately digging up one of the gooseberry bushes. We have foxes and badgers in the adjacent Seven Fields Nature Reserve. One of the trees we planted last winter had been torn up. However the apple tree Reverend Wilkes, which was badly damaged in the spring, is still alive.
December 2011. We arranged to meet a reporter from BBC, no show- one day strikes!! The time spent waiting was used to cut back the last row of Blackberry. We were visited by Cllrs Sinead Darker and Joe Tray, (Upper Stratton)
The bins for the flats outside the Orchard are a constant problem, when they overflow the bits come into the Orchard, our volunteers clean up outside to prevent it coming in!
We found a dead hedgehog. The bird boxes have been vandalised by the Woodpecker. Another job is picking up after whoever is pruning. We noted there were no apples left in the Orchard, but that rogue tree up the hill was loaded with them.
Cold weather now. The unit also has to be kept reasonably tidy and cold weather is the time to do this. The Woodpecker has made the holes in bird boxes even bigger, so new fronts protected with mesh had to be fitted. The squirrels kept an eye on our progress.
Frosty weather brings its own problems, it’s slippery underfoot and the gas bottle for the stove always takes ages to warm up. We attempted more willow weaving.
Saw the robin and heard the woodpecker. Still a few daisies struggling against the weather, also cyclamen and Christmas roses.
We have a recurring leak in the canteen unit; our volunteers removed half the inner ceiling to find the reason. Occasionally we need to clear broken glass. We had a visit from a dog walker who enjoys using the Orchard for walking; he told us that many more people were using it in the summer, collecting fruit, sitting etc. We are very interested in feedback like this as we cannot be in the Orchard all the time.
January 2012, We cleared tangled paper and wire in one of the trees; a Chinese lantern had landed.....
We were interviewed for the BBC Wilts. It is Penhill 60th Diamond Anniversary year and we were planning a wassail, but seeing the amount of mud around our main gates and the continuing rain, we had to cancel it. Someone has donated several hundred Grape Hyacinth bulbs.
The rogue apple tree up on the bank still loaded with apples. Buds already on the blackcurrants.
We anticipated that planned road works in Westbury Road would intrude into the Orchard so we put up notices requesting that they did not enter the Orchard to turn, in advance! The main gate remained shut during this time. The Secretary’s Gate was open though and this interestingly meant that more people walked right past us on their way through and stopped to speak.
Our volunteers worked on top of the units taking away as much water as possible. Inside we were trying to drying it out and then roofing paint was applied. The blackberry had its most severe pruning ever.
Mid January was really wintery and the sun, even at midday doesn’t make it above the trees, the top half of the Orchard becomes green and the bottom half stays white. Not the weather for working so we took the chance to catch up, plan work and to discussion such things as the merits or otherwise of the Grape Hyacinth, dead leaves etc. decided only good thing about them is their colour!, squirrels – friend or foe, the parentage of that rogue tree – the state of the nation!
Litter picking, pruning and clearing the dead leaves from the strawberry bed. The Christmas Roses are still out and we have snowdrops! A pair of Greater Spotted Woodpeckers was high up in a tree.
Very wet and muddy end to January and a Tesco delivery van got stuck outside our gates, and holed and dented our fence. We wrote a letter to ask them to repair it, which they ignored.
We took notes for the RSPB Bird Watch Day, and a cheeky squirrel scampered across with an apple in his mouth. The rogue tree is still attracting the attention of at least 6 blackbirds/fieldfares and there was a lot of bird song. We untangled our holly bushes from last years Goosegrass and bailed out the unit -again.
Facebook comment “love your little orchard diary”
February 2012: Frosty, and we did wonder why we turned up to sit and have coffee in a fridge! The ground was too hard to do anything. We still feel it is important to show a presence when we can despite the weather. The birds were queuing up in the cherry tree outside the unit, but we had no treats for them, so must get a stock in. Birds were busy in the rogue apple again too. It got much colder and a 25 litre water container remained frozen solid inside the unit.
A bunch of keys were found in Orchard yesterday and Andy’s car temp was reading minus 11.
Fox has left tracks in Orchard and spinney and left pot noodle cartons and food containers licked clean, and then disappeared behind the RBL building on the hill above the Orchard.
Hard to believe but on 18th February, the rogue apple tree had finally dropped all its apples! If we baked a Blackbird pie, it would probably contain its own apple flavour. Flock of gulls about and plenty of bird song. Around the units the smell of fox was strong. Severe pruning to the Buddleias and cleared up arisings, after litter picking inside and outside the Orchard of course. Bailed out the unit, we just don't seem able to stop that leaky roof. Self-heal and Periwinkle out.
A lovely February day, but cold in the shade. A few nests (including squirrel) appearing in the tall trees in the spinney. Woodpecker was about. We litter picked. A young man asked if we had found a bunch of keys, we had! He said lost them making a snowman in the Orchard - so that's another use for it and he made a small donation. Andy spotted a half a bag of ballast sand on Swindon Freecycle and fetched it for us; we will use that for re-doing the 'patio' outside the units. Thanks to the Highworth resident who made that donation.
March 2012 came in like a lamb, Sun hot, but windy! We mended a small hole in the fence. Litter picking outside, only 4 pieces in the Orchard. Cllr Andy Harrison and Tara paid us a visit. Spotted a sparrowhawk and sparrows, blackbirds singing fit to burst. And our first two bees of the season.
The daffodils came up and the mystery bush (similar to a Sloe, but much earlier) was in full bloom on 10 March and we saw our first Brimstone of the year. We dug over one of the raised beds. Our visiting tabby cat patrolled the borders for a good hour and stalked and pounced, so it looks like the smaller wildlife is coming out of hibernation. Bug boxes all checked.
A lot of litter this morning from human visitors rather than fox. More brambles cut back. We had a visit from Ingrid the Fair share community worker, and people walking past enjoying the weather. Tool maintenance/repair job during the week as home work.
Easter event planned but cancelled due to wet weather.
Early start in the Orchard at 8am, slashing the brambles, then late pruning. We had a visit for an interview for Penhill Voice on 105.5fm, and a couple of lady dog walkers who sat awhile on the gate seat. Removing pruning arisings and a chance to soak up the sun and the first of the butterflies - Brimstone, a Peacock, and something fast and brown, probably a Comma or a Small Tortoiseshell. Our hoverfly is back, for some years now he comes (if it's the same one) and hovers just outside the unit. The birds were singing and nests are appearing in the spinney. Everyone comments on the quietness.
The gates had to be adjusted on their posts due to being driven into and the bottom bolt pin hammered back into shape.
A beautiful sunny day in Penhill Orchard lots of bird song and visitors, people on bench, dog walkers, children busy in the school. The orchard has been given an unwanted Golden Delicious apple tree which we had to transplant before roots dry out so hole dug and after a little more pruning now has new home in corner of the orchard.
Not so cold in the Orchard, the biting wind was up on the hill. We had a small bonfire of the late pruning then spread the resulting potash on the raised beds.
April 2012: Despite the dreadful weather, every tree in the Orchard sprang into bud, not nearly as much blossom this year so far. Plenty of daisies though. A Blue Tit is using one of the nest boxes. Blackberry bashing, checked the fig -ok, the rose - ok, the grape vine - ok, the 3 Gunneras, struggling but coming up. The Reverend Wilkes survived the winter and is budding below the cut made after vandalism last year.
More work carried out on the unit to try and seal leaking roof almost successful but heavy downpours showed few small drips on the ground.
21 April: Beautiful, beautiful morning. Orchard full of blossom, cherry, pear and a few of the early apples too. The Bird Cherries in the spinney are going well and even a rogue Lilac up on the bank. Periwinkle and daises out. Due to the really severe pruning the Plums are not blooming so well. The roof leaked again, so back to the drawing board. Strimmed around the raised beds and the unit. We had several visitors too.
Thank you to Marc Taylor, via Andy, we now have a bigger generator for orchard.
Very heavy rain again, we were justifiably concerned that this will knock off the abundant blossom.
May 2012: A planned May Day event was cancelled due to weather!
We were visited by a young man and photographer from WSCF taking photo’s about our grant.
The grass was growing very quickly because of the rain but the bonus was the carpet of daisies.
Blackbirds showing off their babies, we saw a swallow, our wood pigeons are officially purple and Brimstone and Orange Tip butterflies out. Worked on the inside roof of the unit, we now have a beam....and hope that helps with the infernal leak. We were joined for tea by Brian T and Brian P from the Seven Fields Conservation Group and Ingrid came to introduce a new Penhill volunteer. Had a good grumble about the rubbish is STILL down below the legion after 5 months. Sometimes it’s more than about work in the orchard; we also have to go shopping for parts and equipment, etc.
Made good the inside of the unit roof, putting up new sheets of hardboard and the cornis?
The locks on the back unit had to be replaced, then painting the new ceiling. Visited by Satnam Baines, Clivey Twist Youth Project, if they get funding for their new centre at Seven Fields we will be neighbours.
June 2012: Due to the wet weather, we gave up trying to hold events in the Orchard and our Wassail-Easter-May Day-Jubilee event finally took place in John Moulton Hall. Our thanks to those who dressed up as the Andy Reeves - Green Man, Kristina House - Spring Fairy and Alana Sargent - Easter Bunny and Ingrid Bernathova, Stephanie Chant and other volunteers who helped at the event. We wassailed the apple tree outside the hall.
We painted a coat of something sticky and waterproof on top the units. The “What is a Community Orchard” sign was erected, it can be seen when both canteen unit doors are open.
Strimming until the tough grass clogged up the strimmer. More blackberry bashing and repairing the growing frame for them. At last we seemed to have cured the leak in the unit, despite all the rain it's still dry within! Weeded the raised beds, strimming around the trees and trying to get the older of the two strimmers working.
There was a digger and a dumper working outside on the sewer line that runs along the Jungle Path, it's been playing up for the past 20 odd years. Luckily this gave us no problems except they left their fencing behind.
Heidi Yorke from WSCF visited to talk over the various grants that we have/are applying for Penhill Groups. Glorious morning. Swifts over head. The roses, Kiftsgate and New Dawn are out.
July 2012: More strimming around the trees, the units and raised beds. Despite the wind and heavy rain, the fruit looked set for a good crop; we had a minimal 'June Drop'.
All busy at Penhill Carnival. We had tracked down a concrete mixer to borrow to help with replacing the old hard standing outside the units.
Some days we just ‘potter’ usually when the weather is doubtful. The pottering involved cutting off the big metal cubes off the front of the units doors to discourage the children from playing on top the units. Strimming around trees and units and bit of painting too. More litter picking and a heavy vehicle had been driven through the gates making it muddy; our smart new gates were all spattered with it. Our displays were at the Penhill Community Open Day. Ingrid visited
Topic of conversation was, of course, the Olympic opening ceremony. A sparrowhawk, bullfinch and big red dragonfly. More butterflies about too, including a Marbled White. A fox was on the bank, languidly watching. A Buzzard was hunting along the bank, being chased by smaller birds.
We received this: -
"You may remember that you were one of the Planting Places winners in 2009, and we hope you have gone from strength to strength since then.
I have been approached by Melanie Hinde from Devon County Council, who is in the process of putting together an updated Green Infrastructure Strategy for Devon. She is hoping to include some good case studies from across the South West in the Strategy, and was very keen on some of the past Planting Places winners. Would you be happy if Penhill Orchard was one of the case studies put forward for inclusion? We have the text that was initially written up for the Planting Places website!
Many thanks! All the best, Lynn Gibbons, Sustainable Health SW Project Manager
Sustainability South West"
August 2012. We had several visitors; firstly we were welcomed by a vixen and several small fox cubs. Then we spotted a camper hidden behind the blackcurrants, later two young men came and collected the tent, apparently the police have give them permission to camp there? Then we cleared up the litter he'd left. A start was made on re-furbishing the 'patio', it was hot work.
Not so many butterflies about but a few Speckled Woods were on the wing.
The orchard is so peaceful that if we need to meet people it’s a good place, but sometimes even in the week we find our volunteers finishing off Saturdays work, i.e./ concreting at the front of the units. We put in a post to catch the unit door when it's open, prepared the second 'patio' and the clouds were gathering. (Again) Two families came in whilst we were there, but the crop was really late this year. Brian P from Seven Fields Conservation Group popped in.
A few small Blues, Meadow Browns, taking cover now they are hay making in the Seven Fields Nature Reserve.
Maz and her husband paid us a visit, too late for strawberries and rhubarb and too early for apples but the blackcurrants are ripe. Lots of butterflies about today. All the trees have now been strimmed around. We were really pleased to hear from Melanie in Australia. Melanie helped us set up the Orchard and dug over 70 holes for trees all on her own!
We held an Orchard arts and crafts afternoon to use up things left over from other events. Our grateful thanks to Ingrid and volunteers for carry on with this without us.
September 2012: The apples were late and sparse, no where near the crop we had last year - it must be that our different varieties that flower at different time, so some of the blossom/bees/sunshine must have happened at the same time, but many trees are bare - that could be because of the pruning they had, the abundance of fruit last year or the appalling weather. A family dropped in, and a couple of boys, with very set opinions about what they liked and didn't in an apple (russets!) it’s nice to see the youngsters taking an interest. Brian T from Wroughton and Frank from the Secret Garden – Queens Park dropped in, we gave them some of our once-used tree stakes for their community projects.
Preparation was being made to lay the second 'patio' and it was actually laid at an extra work party in the week. More people coming to pick apples.
Definitely the first Saturday of autumn, misty, with plenty of cobwebs. With the change of season came a bout of upsetting behaviour. Seats, gates, fencing, units all suffered a small amount of very irritating vandalism. Branches were broken, apples were splattered on the units, broken bottles etc. We locked the gates for a few weeks.
Gratifying to see families coming in and taking what apples there were, some picking blackberries, or taking the wild ones outside and a pies and jams are being made.
Still plenty of insects about and a huge dragonfly was quartering around us at break time- a Southern Hawker.
Replacement struts have been made for the seats and painted with a coat of preservative.
The seasonal blackberry (it's a prolific thing) slashing has started and the hard standing completed. Having the gate shut has meant they have come over the fence. No apples are left. A few late raspberries and butterflies about.
October 2012: The rogue apple tree on the bank above the Orchard has interested us, that did not fruit this year either. We took the opportunity of our trip to Tenbury Wells Apple Day to have it identified. They could not, so we have our own apple, we can name it! The trip to Tenbury Wells was much enjoyed, a marquee with 600 apple and other fruit varieties, stalls, and talks on pruning and cooking with fruit. Our winter pruning was started.
The vandalism to the roof of the unit resulted in a weak part becoming completely open and yet another repair had to take place, this is now done with a new sheet of metal covering the area. We purchased and new brush cutter, heavier than a strimmer and work began on clearing a large area behind the units. More fencing has been purchased and stored until the better weather.
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