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The Saturday team Plant Wildflowers in the Woodland

7th September 2022 @ 6:06am – by Charles Bradley, Tarvin Woodland Group
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saxon heath apple tree 392022
saxon heath  planting 2  392022

Bit by bit, slowly and steadily, .

The rate at which progress happens in Tarvin Woodland is not rapid. Indeed, it has been described as being glacial at times!  However, progress is being made, a bit at a time, towards the vision of Tarvin's woodland that we've had in our minds from the start.  One part of that vision involves the open, grassy area that fronts onto Fairfax Avenue in the Saxon Heath section.

Ultimately, we would like this to be an open area, with four or five mature trees and with lots of wild flowers growing in the grass. We started, however, with the problem of the developers not keeping their word. The area that is now the meadow had previously housed the site office and compound – complete with the cement silo – and a good deal of cement and hard core had been scattered around and compressed. We had been promised that the compacted ground would have ALL of the surface layer removed, down to good soil, before having new topsoil spread to make up the correct level. We said that we weren't at all worried about it being prettified with turf to finish it off!

However, the developers handed everything over to contractors and disappeared, having first ensured that the Trust had been told not to interfere before the land was transferred to us. The contractors, presumably keen to finish, hid the ground that needed sorting out by spreading a couple of inches of topsoil over everything to mask the evidence, laid a cover of turf over everything and then themselves disappeared. So, our "showpiece" village green area started with the disadvantage of having a solid 'pan' of cement, etc, just a few centimetres down, thereby ruining the drainage and growing conditions for any plants that we might wish to grow.

Where trees have needed planting, they have had to have a 5' deep hole dug, so that the tree roods can get down into the original soil. We cannot do that with the wild flowers and so planting them has been a great act of faith. The biggest chance that we took was to buy several hundred bulbs of the wild daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus – The Lent Lily). Surprisingly, a good number of these have survived and our hope is that, year by year, they will multiply until we eventually get a display similar to William Wordsworth's "host of golden daffodils". Other wild flowers have all been grown in pots before being planted. This is how the ox-eye daisies, the wild geraniums, self-heal, harebells and cat's paw have been gradually introduced. Even the buttercups have had to be raised in pots before being planted out, in order to give them a vague chance of survival.

Last Saturday morning, as well as planting more of the pot-raised plants, we also attempted to sow some yellow rattle seed. Yellow rattle is a wild flower which is able to be parasitic on grass and so, since our grass appears to survive (even if it doesn't really thrive!), we thought that the yellow rattle might stand a chance of establishing itself. The Fairfax Avenue "meadow" is mown only once a year and the mowings are thereafter raked off in order to reduce the fertility of the ground. (You may have noticed that wild flowers seem to thrive on really poor ground, but that isn't because they LIKE poor ground. They can COPE with poor ground, and it gives them a chance to successfully out-compete the grass, which, given any fertility at all, would just swamp them out of existence. This is the reason that the wild flower meadows that we have tried to create in the woodland have vanished under grass after just one season – our soil is too fertile!) Theoretically, we hope to end up with a "meadow" area capable of supporting a good number of types of wild flowers. Our original 'vision' was for it to be a grassed area full of all sorts of different wild flowers throughout the spring and summer – an attractive 'picture' at the edge of the estate. How long will that take to achieve? We don't know – but we'll keep on trying!

The photos show the Saturday volunteers busily planting more pot-grown wild flowers. We were also mightily impressed with the little apple tree growing right in the centre of the meadow. Left to itself, with no pruning or care, it has produced a crop of apples that augurs well for a time when it is bigger and is capable of producing larger crops.

We didn't pick an apple to try.

If a Fairfax Avenue resident would like to do so – and then let TarvinOnLine know what it tastes like – we'd be most interested!

Two sections of Tarvin's woodland were already in existence when Taylor Wimpey began to develop the Saxon Heath estate. An 'amenity' area was planned between the estate and the A51 but the Woodland Trustees persuaded the developer to instead turn it into an extension of the woodland – which is why the trees are so much less developed than in the rest of the woodland. Taylor Wimpey sold the houses on Saxon Heath more rapidly than on any other of their estates – which they attributed to the proximity of the Community Woodland.

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