Church Farm Ardeley

A Free Range Experience


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Chips with Everything

No of course this isn’t about food. It is about trees and what happens to them when sadly they have to get taken down because they are diseased or growing in the wrong place.

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Dean, formerly of Capel Manor College, and now running his own tree business, has been donating his leftovers to Church Farm.

Now what can we do with wood chips on a 175 acre clay soil site!?! Firstly we can save ourselves and the Co-Farmers at Rural Care a lot of weeding by mulching the ground around their raised beds.

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Next we can pave the path through Home Wood so the Wood Dwellers don’t get muddy feet in the winter and the vehicles won’t get stuck.

Also, we can make Home Wood Play a safer and more attractive space by adding a natural flooring to save the floor getting squishy and muddy and meaning more time can be spent throughout the year gazing at trees and birds and playing on the lovely tractor that Dean carved.

No waste, no compacted soil, better surfaces, and decomposition will help the little creatures and the goodness will return to the ground.

Chicken Dave

 

 

 

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Who Cares About the Countryside?

Over the last couple of months I have been working with other organisations whose role it is to care about the natural world and more specifically the countryside around us.

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Kenny Mackay is a wonderful man, full of fun and mischief and with an eye for doing things to help nature along the way. He works for the Countryside Restoration Trust, an organisation whose mission is to help nature and man live together in mutually beneficial ways. Kenny was a mine of useful information and the Trust support farms to fulfil their obligations to the natural world and maintain their own survival.

Remarkably, Kenny and I have both done the same training course with the lovely people at Capel Manor College, who run Countryside Management courses, which include the safe use of chain saws in their Forestry and Arboriculture schools.

Working in the heart of Panshanger Forest with ancient trees was a wonderful insight into the commercial usage of trees as well as the magnificent setting and integration of the mix of creatures all dependent one upon the other.

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An oak tree can support around 1,000 other species and I was fortunate enough recently to watch barn owls swooping down from their man made homes to devour voles which had come to live in the long grass left to grow on a privately owned piece of land.

An oak tree of course grows from a tiny acorn and this interest in nature, if sparked at an early age, can feed a person from the cradle to the grave, growing in its diversity, depth and appreciation.

Recently Rozelle and I have been invited to Hollybush School to watch their Farm Rap and this example of outdoor education for a group of 31 children from winter through to the summer has been an example of the impact this type of education can have. (see School Visit and Job Well Done)

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There are indeed lots of people out there who care about the Countryside. Thank God.

Chicken Dave

 


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Dr Finlay’s Walking Stick: A Day of Wonder

Fin’s Sixteenth Adventure

Hungry Birds

May 16th 2017

National Walking Month and Dementia Awareness Week

In the middle of a small wood a nest box had been put up on a tree.

Dr Finlay was working late as usual but on this occasion he was to be rewarded in a way that money simply cannot buy.

A small movement caught his eye and looking more closely he saw the gaping mouth of a tiny, tiny bird.

Awestruck he went to find a box to look more closely and used Fin to support his clambering.

Gently lifting the lid he saw not one but eight hungry birds, their eyes not yet open and their beaks open wide desparate for food.

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Nature!!!

Incredible!!!

Retreating to a safe distance he felt the need to share this wondrous experience with people he knew and cared about whom he thought would appreciate it.

He rushed off hoping they would share his amazement.

Later he was to share the experience with colleagues and Co-Farmers, staff and friends.

Their joyful faces were something to behold almost as wonderful as the sight itself.

This would not have happened if there were no trees and he was reminded of the famous book by Rachel Carson, Silent Spring.

Imagine, no birds, no trees, no farms, no animals, no life on Earth.

No don’t, enjoy it.

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Tomorrow as they say was to be another day.

—Dr Finlay
May 16th 2017


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Dr Finlay’s Walking Stick: A visit to the playground

A Pile of Sticks

A Visit to the Playground

Fin’s Fourth Adventure

May 4th 2017

National Walking Month

Star Wars Day (May the Fourth be with you) started like most others with the sun rising somewhere else and arriving like a bus to the right of Dr Finlay’s caravan.

Fin would be waiting outside ready for another adventure and this morning Dr Finlay was in a better place, a kinder place, a gentler place.

Dr Finlay had been wondering if Fin was lonely, did he miss his other sticks?  Perhaps they could go and visit a place nearby and he could show Fin that if he needed them that other sticks were close by for a stick fight or a pooh stick race, although Fin was a bit big for that now. But you never lose your inner pooh stick, thought Dr Finlay. Fin was thinking this too and had recently been reminded of how much fun young sticks have and that perhaps he wasn’t having enough fun himself.

So off they went on a short stroll to the Farm’s Playground where they found the sticks that had recently all got together to make a den, a shelter, a place to hide safe from the intrusions of the outside world.

They all lay there in a straight line, piled up, but perhaps at night or when no-one was watching they would get up and dance and play, perhaps…

Dr Finlay then took Fin over to the Vicars Orchard so that they got some proper walking done and a chance to see some trees being trees together.

Dr Finlay noticed that he was getting used to Fin and the initial awkwardness of holding a funny stick was disappearing.  Fin and he were getting acquainted.

Tomorrow as they say was to be another day.

And tomorrow they would be joined on their walk by their first guest.

—Dr Finlay
May 4th 2017

 

 


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Vicar’s Orchard

Damsons, plums, greengages, cherries, nectarines, peaches, pears, apples and medlars: seven hundred and twenty trees in Vicar’s Orchard: mostly of local varieties. The orchard was first laid out and planted in 2008. Lots of local people came to help plant it. Next year we will be inviting them back to see how their trees have grown. It will be the tenth anniversary of planting, though the trees will be twelve years old. After planting, the orchard got a bit neglected and the labels on the trees wore off, so we didn’t know which was which. We had to recreate the grid on which the trees were laid out. We did this using recycled roof tiles painted with letters and numbers. Then we could match the printed plan to the actual trees. After that I inscribed 710 aluminium labels naming the trees, giving each of them an address and set them twinkling in the branches.

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Some trees had died, so last year we used a memorial fund for Daniel Gomm to purchase replacements in his memory. His relatives and friends came to plant 32 of them. Each tree has to be staked, fitted with a rabbit guard, swaddled with a mulch mat, manured and given a couple of cans of water, so planting a tree is quite hard work, and the orchard soil is often very stony. This year we planted another 12 trees and there are still a few gaps left to fill.

Under Darren’s guidance, Dave pruned the trees this year, and Mary and I scraped up the prunings. Many prunings on the ground had been gnawed, so we decided to pile them around the edge of the orchard, hoping that rabbits and voles would gnaw these rather than the trees themselves. Dave was awarded the title of Supreme Shit Shoveller of the Year, for barrowing over 700 loads of manure, one for each tree. Rabbit guards had to be checked frequently, leaning trees straightened with stakes, and weeds strimmed around the trees – and all this recorded in the orchard log which keeps track of each tree.

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Blossoming in the orchard starts with the damsons and plums, followed by the cherries, nectarines and peaches and by the end of April the apples and pears are in bloom. There’s some mowing to do but until fruit picking time it’s now mainly down to the bees.

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Roger Gomm

 


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Where is Farmer Christmas This Year?

This year Farmer Christmas has turned up in Vicars Orchard, miles away from the sheep in Upany where he spent the last festive season.

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Photo by Emma Massie

Almost everyone has a Christmas Tree of some description over the festive season for a few weeks but Farmer Christmas is interested in trees the whole year round.

Especially the fruit trees in the Orchard where he has found more trees than he thought, maybe nearer 800 than 700 which means more work and hopefully more fruit in years to come.

So the children who come and visit Farmer Christmas are helping to keep him company and to help the work in the Orchard where each tree needs to be fed, protected, pruned and generally cared for through the winter months.

Some animals will hibernate and trees are very similar in that they have a rest and wait for the warmer days of Spring to get growing again.

This means that with no leaves or fruit or undergrowth in the way it is the ideal time to get on with those maintenance jobs you have been dying to do.  Stake the trees that need some extra support, repair damaged tree guards to keep the rabbits out, put cow manure around the trees to replace the nourishment that has been taken out.

That is 800 barrows of cow poo! A big pile of poo!  Luckily we have lots of cows.

Also we have lots of visitors who help support the farm and they have been finding trees and having their picture taken with Farmer Christmas and the tree that they have found.

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Photo by Tom Large

It may be Apple or Pear, Quince or Medlar, younger or older, in sickness or in health – oops I think I just slipped into a marriage ceremony!  But the idea is to nurture and cherish the tree as far as possible, so that it too will nurture and cherish us in years to come with beautiful blossom in Spring and fruit in the Summer or Autumn. With a tree hopefully living for 25 years or more it is quite an interesting comparison to a marriage after all.

—Chicken Dave

 

 


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A Day to Remember

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November is the month when we traditionally remember the people that went before us, and is a good time to reflect on a day back in April.

In April this year we planted 32 trees in memory of my late husband, Dan Gomm, and in 2017 we will plant the same amount again to replace some of the trees that have died.  60 friends and family came together and dug holes, planted trees, put in tree stakes, manured around them and erected benches.   The children also made some lovely bug hotels.  After that we ate a lovely stew.

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The trees are traditional varieties of fruit trees and were purchased from the Brogdale Trust, the national fruit tree collection.  Some of the trees  are so rare, that they have to be specially grafted for Church Farm and are only available in 2017.

Darren, our Church Farm orchard expert, made sure every tree was planted to the correct depth and with the required care to ensure their best chance, whilst Roger and Mary Gomm, my parents-in-law, painstakingly mapped out the grid of where the trees were going. Roger has also engraved up to 300 labels for the fruit trees on permanent aluminium labels, giving a new sense of energy to the orchard.

Why Church Farm?  Church Farm orchard seemed an obvious choice in the end.  Dan loved apple trees, we got married at Church Farm during his illness, Mary and Roger lived locally and volunteer on the farm, and I set up Rural Care and spend most of my life here.

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There were no flowers on Dan’s grave, instead people donated money towards the fruit trees.  He will get blossom every year in the spring from now on, and apples, nectarines, pears and gages in the autumn.  And heaps of wild flowers and wild life!  Just as he would have liked.

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Maybe the orchard will become a place to remember all of those who we have lost at Church Farm, like Roger Waygood, Wendy’s dear husband, Tim, Adrian and Jackie’s father; Tim Monohan, the Co-Farmer; Kevin Doires, a dear volunteer; Jason Kay, the butcher; and Terry Lauezzari, a dear neighbour and friend of the farm.

Planting the trees in memory of Dan was an amazing day, if not physically and emotionally exhausting! But it was very much a positive action to take in memory of him.  For anybody who knew Dan Gomm and would like to help with planting the rest of the trees in memory of him, the next tree planting day will be on 25.03.17 from 10-3.  Please RSVP with me at ann@churchfarmardeley.co.uk.

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If anybody would be interested in a similar event and plant a (few) tree(s) to remember a loved one please contact darren.edwards@churchfarmardeley.co.uk or charlotte.smith@churchfarmardeley.co.uk.

—Ann, Manager, Rural Care

Photos by Nick Hooper
www.nickhooperphoto.com