We have had a difficult year in terms of meeting together due to the Covid pandemic which hit the UK in full force just after our last AGM. However we had a bumper fruit harvest from most of the local orchards. We also had regular monthly planning meetings – of course online - and organised some much-needed management in the community orchard and allotments.
Thanks go to Liz for minuting and especially Annie for all the online minuting and prolific number of new ideas, Chris for supporting me as Vice-Chairman, Mark for holding and accounting for the money so precisely, Nick and Julia for the website and social media pages, Nick for keeping the St Clement allotment so up-to-date and tidy, Paul, Andy and Mark for mowing and keeping an eye on the orchard, Pete for providing the wonderful labels in the community orchard and Peter for helping to fell some of the overgrown trees in the community orchard. And thanks to all for keeping the activities going and the ideas flowing. We're still a lively local charity despite the various Covid lockdowns!
We must always remember that as a charity we have a few key formal objectives described in our Charitable Objects:
Plant and maintain community apple orchard in middle of Stamford.
Plant and maintain allotment/nursery for English apple trees and relevant fauna.
Organise annual apple day event in Stamford to promote our group and to raise funds.
Preserve the wildlife lost in the destruction of old orchards.
Encourage local schools to use orchards, both new and restored, as an educational resource.
But during the year we reviewed and updated our objectives. We have developed these so that now we research and try to propagate some of the “lost” local varieties, do more training, loan equipment, volunteer in different orchards, and give advice to gardeners and other groups about setting up and managing orchards.
SCOG's community orchard is now over 15 years old. We did more work in the orchard this year than in many previous years. Pete produced some brilliant red wooden labels for each tree and Chris added numbered metal discs to each tree. So it is now completely labelled – we hope for the next 10 or more years.
In the summer Adam and Mark scythed the orchard for the second year, and Paul and Mark added more wildflower plants and seed to the orchard. Andy valiantly mowed the paths several times in the spring and summer with his own small mower.
In the autumn Annie arranged for some Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust volunteers to come and lay the hedge, which they did very rapidly and professionally on three successive days, after Mark, Dennis and others removed the wire fencing. Peter and Adam also pruned some of the larger non-fruiting trees, like hawthorn and ash, that were creating too much shade and competition in the small orchard.
Allotments and nursery
We have two free allotments – thanks to the Stamford Town Council. The St Clements Allotment, managed by Nick, has our tool store and stock of young growing trees, as well as some rootstock stool beds. We improved the rootstock stools and gave away some of the excess fruit trees to make room for more unidentified local varieties.
The Uffington Road Allotment has a selection of apple and gage varieties – many unidentified as yet. Peter, and his coppicing friend Paul, very kindly felled the oak that was shading the fruit trees and the adjacent allotment.
We had hoped to organise the Apple day at Burghley walled garden. All the planning for the day was in place with Miranda Rock launching the SCOG card series. But a few weeks before the planned event with concerns about social distancing we agreed with Joe Whitehead, the Head gardener, that it was responsible to cancel it but consider having some other public or invited event like Apple Day in the walled garden in 2021.
Denis has continued to travel the region in his attempts to unearth lost and re-discovered varieties. We continue to send off about 5 samples of several unidentified trees for genetic DNA testing with intriguing results.
Programme of events
Unfortunately our programmed events, like the workshops, loan of equipment and wassail, were all cancelled due to the Covid pandemic and various lockdowns. However Annie did organise and photograph her solo wassail around her garden apple tree.
We should be very proud of our website, thanks to Nick Faux, our webmaster, who has now developed a very comprehensive site with event booking and blogging. Fortunately Julia joined us this year and has developed a very active social media site, but she is always looking for more ideas and contributions.
We opposed the planned housing development in a traditional orchard in Ketton. But we are now caring for and extending the wonderful traditional orchard in Priory Field, Ketton, which is owned by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust and managed by John Bristow and exploring how we can secure the large Panters orchard, near Ketton quarry, as a Local Wildlife Site.