An update from Sara Messenger of the Bradley Stoke in Bloom group.
I sometimes feel that I haven’t done much – we seem to spend endless hours on paperwork and emails and then many more hours digging, seeding and planting with very little to show for it. But then spring arrives and a few flowers start to lift their heads above the cold and damp soil, and before you know it, it all comes together and everything is blooming! Well apart from our daffodils at the Aztec West bus stop, but you can’t have everything! After our spring clean, we asked John, the town council’s deputy clerk, why there were no longer any bins at this location, and to BSTC’s credit, within a matter of weeks two new bins had been installed (albeit one of them on our new daffs). But a bin’s a win, so we didn’t mind too much.
You may have noticed that our ‘Welcome’ planters are sporting a few cheery Easter decorations and that some rabbits are now ‘hopping’ around the Great Stoke Roundabout. This is what we all know as ‘Rabbit Roundabout’ and I’m told that at a recent meeting, one of the local councils has discussed changing the name to its more well known one (amazing what you can learn at the local post office!). As well as our giant carrots, we have always hoped to install some appropriately sized rabbits and we have again contacted wicker artist Tom Hare, whose beautiful sculptures regularly feature in the RHS Chelsea Flower Show, so we’re hopeful that plans are again progressing.
It does seem to be the month for new things – we’ve had several new members, so welcome to Suzanne, Tom and Stevie; Friends of Jubilee Green have donated lots of shiny garden tools to us (sorry guys, I think we’ve already got them muddy); and we think the RHS have finally renewed our membership, which will mean that we can once again enter their ‘In your Neighbourhood’ competition.
And, of course, we have a ‘new’ roundabout. The one at the junction of Brook Way and Savages Wood Road is called Manor Farm Roundabout, so when we found not one but two of the old farm gates hidden in the hedge behind Manor Farm pond, where else should we put them but on ‘their’ roundabout, along with two magnolia bushes, some low planting and Debbie the heifer. The latter was a gift from Debbie at the Sort It Centre. We promised to name it after her, but we can’t call a cow Debbie; not only as it would just be rude, but because she does, as I recall, have a very good aim!
Our flower bed near here has an abundance of spring flowers and, on the other corner, our day lilies and bamboo are doing well, and it would appear that the insect hotel has many new guests. And, of course, it wouldn’t be an ordinary workday if we didn’t spend at least some of it removing bramble. StreetCare have cut the bushes on one corner, but didn’t seem to notice the bramble hanging down and over the path, which is both unsightly and pretty lethal if you’re a small child on a bike, so we decided it had to go.
Part of our agreed management plan for The Common East is to keep the bramble in check, so two of us, in between downpours, headed out on a Sunday afternoon and, armed with a heavy duty Stihl brushcutter, took down the bramble on the meadow. We’ve taken it back as far as the ditch, much to the delight of one pup who discovered he could now go paddling, although I am not so sure his owner was quite so pleased. Not on the schedule is the bramble around the back gate of Wheatfield Primary School, but as we had the equipment, it seemed to make sense to do it while we could. And as we are hoping that pupils from Wheatfield will name our two new decoy ducks on the pond, it seemed a nice gesture.
The island duck house was vandalised, although I’m hoping it will soon be repaired and back in time for the real ducks to nest here again. We have at times seen a female on her own and later three single males, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed their paths finally cross. The frogs had no such concerns as at one point there was so much frog spawn, the pond resembled an explosion in a tapioca factory. Sadly, we found a deceased black cat close to the pond, which was taken to Rowe Vets for a chip check. It didn’t have one, but hopefully its owner will soon come and claim it. On a happier note, when we had painted the ‘rainbow’ steps we also reported to Streetcare the huge cracks that we found in the cycle path (I knew we shouldn’t have swept it!) and although it has taken a while, we were pleased to see that the bridge has now been resurfaced.
On the other side of Primrose Bridge, our path and primrose planting has lasted well and we are starting another joint project with Green Gym. I’m sure it won’t be a surprise to you that the bramble is going. The plan for our May workday is to plant food plants not only for our beleaguered pollinators, but also for the caterpillars and butterflies too. Having attended a butterfly management training course with Mike Slater from Butterfly Conservation, we’re very keen to put into practice some of the lessons we learned.
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Photos: 1 Decorations on a ‘Welcome’ planter. 2 Large wicker rabbit created by sculptor Tom Hare. 3 ‘Debbie the heifer’ on Manor Farm Roundabout.
This article originally appeared in the May 2019 issue of the Bradley Stoke Journal magazine (on pages 22 & 23). The magazine is delivered FREE, EVERY MONTH (except August), to ALL 8,700 homes in Bradley Stoke. Phone 01454 300 400 to enquire about advertising or leaflet insertion.
UPDATE (9th May 2019)
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