Category Archives: Environment

Nature blog: mistle thrush

The mistle thrush is a large songbird found in woodland, parks and gardens. One of these birds can often be seen in the oak tree or on the ground between Chalner House and Coburg Crescent. Perhaps it has a nest nearby.

The mistle thrush has greyish-brown upper parts, a long tail and a white belly with dark brown spots. It is larger and paler than the similar song thrush.

Mistle thrush (Turdus viscivorus) outside Chalner House

The mistle thrush sings a ‘fluty’ song which is usually delivered from a high perch and it gives a rattling call in flight. On the ground, the mistle thrush often has an upright stance that further emphasises its size.

The upright stance of the mistle thrush
Mistle thrush foraging for worms outside Chalner House

You can read more about the mistle thrush on the British Trust for Ornithology, The Wildlife Trusts, the Woodland Trust and RSPB websites.

Nature blog: lesser celandine

There is an abundance of wildflowers on Palace Road Estate at the moment, bringing scenes of colour and nature to our urban setting. This post is about the lesser celandine.

A carpet of lesser celandine (Ficaria verna), outside Ducavel House

The lesser celandine is a member of the buttercup family. Its leaves are glossy, dark-green and heart-shaped with long stalks. Its flowers are shiny and yellow with eight to twelve petals.

Wordsworth was a fan of the lesser celandine and wrote three poems about them: The Small Celandine, To the Same Flower and To the Small Celandine.

You can read more about the lesser celandine on the Woodland Trust website.

Nature blog: fruit blossom

The first blossom is appearing on the new apple trees which were planted on the estate in February. This blossom, together with a range of wildflowers (which we’ll cover in a future post), brings scenes of colour and nature to our urban environment.

As more blossom emerges over the coming days and weeks, it will attract a range of insects. We’ve already seen a dark-edged bee-fly visiting the new trees. If you see any other interesting insects, do let us know so that we can write about them in future posts (email: contact@prera.org.uk).

Some of the mature pear trees on the estate are already covered in blossom.

Apples and pears are both members of the Rose family of flowering plants (Rosaceae). Other members of the Rose family which are food crops include almonds, cherries, raspberries and strawberries.

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.

Nature blog: Dark-edged bee-fly

This is the first of a series of posts about the nature around us on Palace Road Estate. Earlier this week, this Dark-edged bee-fly was spotted ‘sunbathing’ in the new apple orchard on the estate.

These insects look a bit like bumblebees but they are actually flies. They have a long mouthpart (proboscis) which they use to drink nectar from flowers.

You can read more about these insects on The Wildlife Trusts or Buglife websites.

We’re interested in your ideas for future posts. Have you spotted any interesting nature around Palace Road Estate? Do tell us about it by emailing us at contact@prera.org.uk.

Dark-edged bee-fly (Bombylius major)

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.

Palace Road Estate in bloom

Parts of the estate burst into colour yesterday, thanks to Pinnacle who came to plant four areas with flowers.

The planting was an apology from Pinnacle who had mowed areas where residents had planted snowdrops. These flowers are perennials, so residents should be able to enjoy colourful displays in winter/spring for many years to come.

The bank between Coburg Crescent and the South Circular is also looking beautiful with its regular display of crocuses.

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.