Category Archives: Environment

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.

Mystery concrete has gone!

As quickly as it arrived, the mystery concrete has vanished, replaced with soil. Who knows why it visited us for three weeks, or how much its visit cost council tax payers? PRERA will seek answers to these and other questions in the hope that similar destructive and wasteful operations are not carried out in the future.

Where there was concrete this morning, there is now just soil.

Planting day

What a day! We planted hundreds of pot plants and bulbs all over the estate, in flower beds and planters and around trees. They don’t look like much at the moment, but, come the summer, the estate should be a riot of colour.

We planted geraniums, nepetas, heucheras, asters, campanulas, phlox, gaillardia, heleniums, snow drops and bluebells. You can make sure that these survive until the summer by watering them, if they are near to where you live.

Thank you to everyone who came to help, particularly Dot, Taye and Mark from Urban Growth.

Mystery concrete – with updates

Over the weekend a section of the grassed area at the entrance to Bushell Close was dug up and concrete poured in. This has created a new paved area that residents suspect will be used for storing bins. Understandably, residents who enjoy having a view of attractive gardens rather than rubbish bins are angry and worried about this.

It seems that residents were not consulted about this new construction in any way and planning permission has not been sought. The committee is urgently trying to find out what is going on and will provide an update through this blog once we learn more.

Update on 21/3/19: A formal complaint has been made to the council by PRERA about this new concrete.

Update on 26/3/19: After representations made to the council by residents, PRERA and ward councillors, we have been told that “this construction relates to the development of new refuse chambers required as a result of FRA [fire risk assessment] recommendations”. We have not been told who arranged for this work to be done or why there was no consultation, but we have been told that the Head of Repairs Projects will be reviewing the suitability of the site and, if appropriate, the development will be relocated.

Update on 28/3/19: PRERA has been informed that this concrete will be removed next week.

Update on 5/4/19: A resident has been informed this morning, through Cllr Atkins, that the removal of the concrete will commence today and be completed tomorrow. The area should be relaid with turf.

Update on 8/4/19: The work to remove the concrete will now start on Wednesday, we are told. This is because the machinery required was not available at the weekend.

Update on 10/4/19: Work has still not started to remove the concrete. PRERA will continue to pursue the council on this.