There are now Angels in our Orchard as well as a pair of hooded figures and two interesting benches! Here at Dragon Orchard we are always keen to enhance the visitor experience and add value for the Rural Tourist - though I’m not quite sure what any of that really means. However, on a recent visit to nearby Trumpet Corner, we were very taken with the work of up and coming wood sculptor Ed Elliott. Ed’s work has been well acclaimed and when we suggested he might like to display some of his work in the Orchard he readily agreed. The wet weather delayed the flight of the Angel but he has now landed and taken up his place among the Blenheim Orange accompanied by a pair of hooded pieces and a wonderful ladder figure. We are also displaying work by up and come Dave Johnson who has lent us two of his fantastic benches. These are great for sitting on, providing succour for the weary and a place for enjoying the nearby sculptures. You don’t need to go to heaven to rest and see angels, just come and visit us at Dragon Orchard.
Dragon Orchard is one of ten Herefordshire orchards to be used as a site to look at populations of birds and mammals and their reproductive performance. The monitoring teams have been here late at night and early mornings trapping, marking and releasing, searching, surveying and recording, often in very wet conditions. They also used endoscopic cameras, cavity searches and motion sensitive cameras which does make it sound rather like an uncomfortable hospital appointment. However, we now have more accurate information on the wildlife population of our orchard and its surroundings and know that we have high numbers of wood mice, bank voles and yellow necked mice. This is the first year of the ongoing study and we will keep information coming as the story unfolds.
Hydes and Hops
Were just two of the things that we learnt about during our last Dragon Orchard Cropsharers weekend held between the showers on a typical 2012 summer weekend in July.
Tim Hoverd of the Herefordshire Archaeology Department led us on an eye-opening Putley Parish walk revealing the history of our area. Of particular interest were the line of Roman villas along the base of the Marcle Ridge, the Middle Age manors and the still visible remains of the marks of the great oxen powered ploughs. Putley has been an area of great agricultural endeavour over the centuries and it now feels even more of a privilege to be continuing that tradition. Interesting Fact: An acre - which you may remember from school - is a patch of land, a furlong by a chain - 220 yards x 22 yards - based on the area that a horse could plough in a day in medium ground. According to Tim, the area ploughed by an ox team in a day is known as a Hyde.
We also visited Town End Farm on the edge of Bosbury to see how Mark Andrews and his family are keeping alive the Herefordshire skills of growing hops. Hop growers are a dwindling band and there are now just some 40 left across the country. The Andrews still grow hops in the traditional way in Hop Yards as well as having some more modern varieties of mini hops. The wet weather has made it a very difficult time for all growers but especially so for hop producers as the hop flower or more precisely hop fruit is particularly susceptible to attack from weevils of every description. If when you drink cider you give a thought to the cider apple grower, next time you have a beer, give a nod to Mark Andrews and his like, without whom your drink would have a very different flavour.
Whilst basking in a momentary spot of rare summer sunshine during the Olympics, Annie gathered in the plums and was inspired to 'tweet' to the online world ... "Even more gold. Picking Golden Sphere plums in a golden sunny Dragon Orchard on a golden afternoon". Most of the plum varieties have been very scarce but this one tree of Golden Sphere was prolific and there are some still available if anyone would like some. Greengages coming soon.