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.

Major works bills: payment holiday announced

Lambeth Council posted the following information on Twitter this afternoon:

“Lambeth is announcing a three month payment holiday for all leaseholders, who have recently received Major Works Bills for 2020/21 financial year.

“No payment will be expected until late June at earliest.

“No interest will be charged on these bills during the 3 month period.

“The council will review the national situation at the end of May and possibly extend this payment holiday further.

“We are taking this action because we are committed to supporting our residents during this difficult and unprecedented period.

“Get in contact with our Collections Team – Tel: 020 7926 7132 or Email: hmhomeownership@lambeth.gov.uk

Our new temporary shop has arrived

Our temporary replacement shop was installed earlier this week. It is located on Palace Road, next to Ducavel House, and it will be available during the building of the new resource centre.

The new temporary shop.
The store room being craned into position next to the shop.

But what about the shrubs and fruit trees that were in this location before? Don’t worry – the shrubs have been found a new home at the back of the nature garden and Farrans have moved the two apple trees further along Palace Road.

Our shrubs in their new home.
One of the relocated apple trees.

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)

Covid-19 response update

As time goes by, we are experiencing greater restrictions on social interactions and movement outside the home. While this should slow the spread of Covid-19, it will have significant social and economic consequences for all of us. In response, community groups are springing up to help support those are isolated at home or who are in need of assistance.

WhatsApp appears to be the main communication tool being used to coordinate volunteering efforts and Google Docs is being used to store information about volunteers and those in need as well as helpful advice. The initial focus is finding volunteers for each street and delivering flyers to that street. Here is a flyer template. If you would like to do some flyering, use this spreadsheet to record the street that you have flyered.

This spreadsheet contains a list of WhatsApp groups for Lambeth. Further information can be found here. A spreadsheet and WhatsApp group have been set up for St Martin’s Estate and Palace Road Estate. The spreadsheet is here and you can join the WhatsApp group using this link. If you can help, please join this group or get in touch through this website.

Note that there is a separate WhatsApp group for the Streatham Hill ward (which includes Palace Road Estate).

Please get involved with these efforts if you can, but bear in mind the need to minimise transmission of the virus. Follow the official advice in full. Do not expect that a mask or gloves alone will protect you or others.

Summer evening

Responding to Covid-19

With the rapidly increasing concern about the spread of Covid-19 we all need to make careful and informed decisions about how we act.

  • Don’t spread, or act on, misinformation. Expert advice is available from the NHS, Public Health England and the government.
  • Take care of yourself, your family, friends and neighbours. We should try our best to slow the spread of infection, to allow our health services the time to care for us. We should also try to reduce our vulnerability to infections, by eating well, getting enough sleep and avoiding unhealthy activities, such as smoking.
  • Please check on your neighbours. Those who are ill or self-isolating may need help getting essential supplies. They may also need to know that someone cares about them enough to help them.

As well as being a challenging time for many of us, this is an opportunity for us to support each other and to strengthen the community on Palace Road Estate.

Superfast broadband?

Would you like to have superfast fibre broadband? A company called G.Network is installing superfast broadband across Lambeth during 2020. This will operate at 1 Gb/s – about 100 times faster than we currently get with ADSL broadband.

G.Network will be starting installation in the Coldharbour and Brixton Hill areas. They will then prioritise streets that show the greatest interest so, if you are interested, register your interest here.

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.