Category Archives: Trees

Nature blog: the elegant Nuthatch

With its trees, shrubs and gardens, our estate is home to a variety of wildlife. It was sad to lose so many mature trees earlier this month. However, we can still appreciate the ones that are left and the wildlife that visits and lives in them. This post is about an elegant bird – the Nuthatch.

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)
Image source: http://www.gardenbirdwatching.com/nuthatch.html (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

The Nuthatch has distinctive colourings: it is blue-grey on top and rust-coloured below and it has a black stripe running across its eye to the back of its head.

Its name comes from its habit of wedging nuts or seeds in crevices in the bark and hammering them open with its bill.

Nuthatches have been spotted on several occasions, including this week, on the oak tree outside Chalner House. Perhaps you’ve seen them on other trees on the estate too?

Watch out for the Nuthatch’s unusual way of moving down trunks: it’s the only British bird species which goes down headfirst!

You can learn more about Nuthatches on The Wildlife Trusts, RSPB and British Trust for Ornithology websites.

This post is part of an ongoing series about nature and wildlife on Palace Road Estate. Do get in touch if you’ve spotted any other interesting birds, or other types of wildlife, which we could cover in future posts (email: contact@prera.org.uk).

New apple trees and orchard

Residents and Open Orchard had an enjoyable day planting apple trees on Palace Road Estate last month. Many thanks to everyone who came along, including a number of keen young helpers. Thanks too to Thomas and Robert from Open Orchard who shared their expertise and tools.

We planted a mini-orchard in the grass area between Ponton House and Coburg Crescent. We also planted trees on Bushell Close, on Palace Road outside Ponton House, and on Coburg Crescent outside Despard House.

Creating the new orchard
Bushell Close

The apple trees are a range of different varieties, with some great names: Nuvar Freckles, Nuvar Golden Hills, Sunset, Kidd’s Orange Red, Laxton’s Superb, Self-Fertile Cox, Sweet Society and Bountiful.

The different varieties will produce apples with different delicious flavours, which will be ready to pick at different times. We will need to be patient though as it will be a couple of years before there is fruit which we can pick to eat.

PRERA purchased the trees from Keepers Nursery and you can read more about the different varieties on their website.

A new tree going in – good teamwork

Many thanks to the following people and organisations who helped to make the planting day a success:

  • Open Orchard
  • Gerry, the Friends Group Coordinator for Palace Road Nature Garden, for lending us a wheelbarrow and trolley and donating woodchip
  • Lambeth Landscapes / Lambeth Council for donating wooden stakes
  • Keepers Nursery for their advice about selecting trees and about how to store them before planting.

During the summer, the apple trees will need plenty of water. If you would like to help with watering, do get in touch if you haven’t already done so (email contact@prera.org.uk). Watering cans can be provided.

Tree felling

Yesterday, newsletters were delivered to residents by Farrans, the contractor leading the building of the new resource centre on Coburg Crescent. These newsletters introduced Farrans and warned residents that some trees next to the current hoarding would be felled to make way for the building work. That same day those trees were felled.

Before: The west end of the estate in 2015
After: The same view today

The trees that were felled were a mixture of ash, lime and Norway maple. They were assessed during a tree survey in 2017 and most were considered to be of ‘moderate quality’.

The tree survey also highlighted that there is potential for damage to other trees in the area, in particular to the Norway maple that lies close to the bin store. This has roots that extend into the building site. The Tree Protection Plan requires that fencing is erected to protect this tree before any other work commences. The tree survey also recommends that the grass verge to the north-west of the site is protected with fencing.

Fruit tree planting: Saturday 22nd February, 11am to 3pm

PRERA and Open Orchard are working together to plant more fruit trees on Palace Road Estate. Do come and join in with the planting. See the poster below for further details.

Poster

In time, the trees will provide residents with a source of healthy, local, fresh produce. We’ll be planting a range of varieties of apple, many of which you’re unlikely to find in local supermarkets.

If you’re not able to make it to this planting event but you’d like to help look after the new trees, do get in touch (email contact@prera.org.uk). The trees are going to need plenty of water through the spring and summer. In due course they will also need some pruning. Training can be arranged.

Would you be interested in getting involved in other food growing and gardening projects on the estate? If so, do get in touch (email contact@prera.org.uk). As a community organisation, PRERA can apply for funding and other resources for such projects.

Fruit trees: past, present and future

Many thanks to the Open Orchard Project who visited the estate last week to help care for our young fruit trees. They will be back again on Saturday 22nd February to help plant more fruit trees on the estate. Do join us for this community planting event.

A little bit of history

Where Palace Road Estate is now, there used to be large detached houses with their own gardens. Some of the trees on the estate, including pear, plum and cherry trees are from these former gardens. Over the years, the fruit trees have become rather old and tall and the fruit is difficult to reach.

Caring for our young fruit trees

In early 2014, volunteers worked with Open Orchard to plant 10 new fruit trees across the estate. Robert and Thomas from Open Orchard visited the estate last week (and back in November) to help care for these young fruit trees.

Last week, they worked with a couple of residents to:

  • prune the trees to improve their shape and encourage healthy growth
  • remove grass from around the trees to reduce competition for water and nutrients
  • add leaves to suppress weeds and help to enrich the soil
  • re-secure the protective cages
  • move a young cherry tree which was in the way of the children’s slide to a better location nearby.
Work in progress on frosty ground
The finished scene

Planting more fruit trees and getting involved

Open Orchard and PRERA are working together to plant more fruit trees on the estate. Do join us on Saturday 22nd February 2020 to help with the planting. More details about the event will be available shortly on this blog and on posters on the estate noticeboards.

By planting fruit trees on the estate, and looking after them, we’ll have a source of locally grown fresh fruit for many years to come. Trees also bring a range of environmental benefits – we’ll cover these in a future blog post. After the trees have been planted, the main thing we’ll need to do is to keep them well watered. In due course, the trees will also need the type of care outlined above. If you’re interested in helping to look after the fruit trees on the estate, do let us know. Training can be arranged.

Happy workers!

Maintaining our fruit trees

Many thanks to Robert and Thomas from the Open Orchard Project who kindly dropped by the estate this morning to care for some of our young fruit trees. They pruned the trees to improve their shape and to encourage healthy growth, they topped up the soil and they re-secured the protective cages.

Robert and Thomas are keen to collaborate with residents to come up with an ongoing maintenance programme for our young fruit trees. This will help to ensure that the trees are strong and healthy. If you would like to be involved with this, do get in touch with PRERA.

Autumn

Autumn has well and truly arrived at the Palace Road Estate and the trees are looking wonderful in their autumn colours.

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Meeting on St. Martin’s Estate about gardening and prevention of dumping

On Thursday evening Rob (Depurty Contracts Representative) went to a meeting on the St. Martin’s Estate (just over the south circular road). It was organised by their TRA with the aim of improving the appearance of the estate by both increasing the amount of greenery and reducing the incidence of dumping. The evening started with a walk around the estate and finished with a meeting in one of their four community halls – the scout hut.

As well as residents, TRA representatives, a councillor (Mary Atkins) and representatives from the housing association, there were people from Brockwell Park Community Greenhouses, Father Nature, the Open Orchard Project and New Leaf Education Gardens. These four organisations had been invited onto the estate in order to generate ideas, offer expertise and give guidance on costs. The people from these organisations were bursting with great ideas from ways to transform neglected areas by introducing greenery and obstructing dumping:

  • Scented climbers on bin stores – ‘fragrant fences’
  • Dropping trees into tree-planting holes
  • Planters on railings
  • Chicken wire and climbers to block stairwell dumping zones
  • Turning a large dead tree into a totem pole/sculpture
  • Researching local history (the example of Baytree Close was given – where some of the country’s best bay leaves used to be grown)

St. Martin’s are having a launch party on 6th August for something that they are calling ‘St. Martin’s Together’. At this event they will be consulting the residents about what the residents would like to do. The organisations listed above are going to have a stall throughout the event presenting their ideas and photos of their previous projects. The TRA will have a map onto which residents can stick post-it notes with their ideas.

The organisations were also asked to come up with costings for some project ideas, so that the TRA could then look into getting funding. Possible funding sources included Tesco (Bags of Fun), the National Lottery (Awards for All) and the London Mayor’s pocket parks scheme. It was noted that clearing up fly-tipping costs the estate £50k per year, so, if dumping was reduced, significant cost savings could be made. It was recognised that now isn’t the ideal time to be planting many plants, particularly trees, so the actual planting is planned to begin from this winter.

Rob found the evening inspiring and comments that the meeting looked like a very promising start to a project that could improve the environment of the St. Martin’s Estate and something that we could emulate in the future.

Fruit trees

The site of Palace Road Estate was once occupied by large detached houses, each with their own garden. These gardens left the estate a legacy of fruit trees – pears, plums and cherries. Over the years, these trees have become less productive and some have died, but there is still a large crop of pears to be harvested in the autumn.

Open Orchard Project tree planting
Planting a tree next to the playground

In early 2014 the estate was fortunate enough to be visited by volunteers working with the Open Orchard Project. They planted ten fruit trees across the estate, ensuring that our fruit harvest will continue for many years into the future.

Open Orchard Project volunteers
The volunteers pose for a photo in Hillside Gardens Park – another site where they planted trees