Welcome to the Secret Garden South of Bobber's Mill Bridge in Nottingham

Welcome to Windmill Community Gardens, home of the Climate Friendly Gardeners Project.

We are a group of local people, who are nurturing a wonderful community garden in the heart of the city. You'll find us just South of Bobbersmill Bridge, on the allotment site at the South end of Ascot Road. The Gardens are a great place where anyone can come to find out more about growing their own food in a changing climate. We cater for all abilities and welcome any nationality or age group.

Why not come and join us?

Thursday 13 February 2014

Wind, wood, water and wildlife.

Strange start to the day, as Tracey arrived to be greeted by what looked like a red-legged partridge wandering sedately up the track towards the orchard car park at the entrance to Windmill Community Gardens. It stopped for a good look at the car, and then continued unhurriedly, until she got out to try and take a picture, when it took to the air and disappeared. With all the crazily strong winds, it's possible it's been blown in from somewhere else, but it would be interesting if these exotic little birds decide to take up home with us. They were introduced from Europe by King Charles II and would be a good mascot for equality, as sometimes both the male and the female raise clutches of eggs on separate nests. We'll see if it turns up again and agrees to a photo for positive identification!

Creating the narrow marsh behind the pond.
The team soon turned up, and after a warming brew and look-round, quickly got to work. Jobs for the day - to create the marshy areas at the back of the new pond and tidy up the pond edge by the path, to take down the wood we will need for the coming year, and to use the prunings from our gooseberries and currants to make cuttings.

Each year, we coppice or pollard some of the trees around the site, to provide wood for our cooking and fires during the year. The trees will re-grow multiple stems from the sides of the cut stump, so they provide a renewable resource. Our aim is to create a truly sustainable system which provides enough wood year after year, and as you may have read recently, we are now using the regrowth for other things, like weaving bed-edges. We don't use chainsaws for the work, even though we are initially cutting down trees up to 5m tall. We use a fabulous saw on a pole which is very sharp and very controllable. If we take the tree down bit by bit, starting with the top-most branches, we also reduce the risk of something large falling on someone, and by putting ropes onto the branches we are removing, we can ensure they don't land on something we want to keep. We also take care to cut trees early in the year to avoid the nesting season, and when the weather is mild, like it has been, to check that there are no birds already nesting in or near them.

It's fun to use the pole saw - and also to teach people how it works. The cutting all happens as you pull the saw towards you, but the teeth pretty much do the work themselves, so the main effort is in moving the blade backwards and forwards, rather than in trying to force the blade into the wood. Tracey gave the health and safety brief and a quick lesson, then Guy got into the swing of things. He picked it up really quickly, considering he had no experience of this kind of work. Hassan came to lend a hand, and also proved to be a quick learner.

Audrey, Mark, new Chris and April took on the fruit bush cuttings, and made a lovely job of setting them out to grow in one of the beds we made from a builder's bag. We did an experiment last year with layering some of the lower branches on the fruit bushes (ie. covering them up with soil where they touched the ground), to see if they would root. It worked pretty well, so we had 3 ready-rooted bushes to add to the cuttings as well.

We were joined today by the DISO team, who got stuck into helping Laurence with finishing the pond and helping Chris to process the felled wood into usable material (we need stakes and poles, as well as fire wood and sticks for the rocket stove). Some of the lads also had a go with the pole saw, and were really getting the hang of it by the end of the session.

We were given a present of some lavender bushes (thanks Tim!), so those needed heeling in. Guy and Hassan got on the job, and we've now got them all nicely tucked up until we get the sensory garden pathway organised. The aim is to have a lavender-lined walk, which should be a great scent experience.

The finished pond, ready for planting up in Spring
Thanks to Laurence and the DISO squad, the pond is looking really good, and should be ready for us to add some plants in early April. We're making progress, which is always nice to see at this time of year, and certainly better than this time in 2013, when things literally froze to a standstill.

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