RHCG Critters & Plants: Inventory by Annie Chipchase

Rhug Inventory Annie C

This small document provides in words and pictures a taste of the
wildlife communities that are developing in this ‘young’ community
garden, which has undergone changes in use over a number of years.
The photographs on the front page (provided by the courtesy of Dianna
Hamilton) illustrate some of the initial and dramatic changes that have
taken place within the last year, commencing with the change from a
site dominated by bramble scrub (a valuable habitat in its own right).

The site is now more diverse in terms of habitats and, thus, the species
it supports. The following pages briefly explain the value of the garden
and provide information on some of the species that have been
recorded to so far.

The plant species list was compiled over the course of a number of
months and concentrates on those plants that were not planted as part
of the transformation of the site. The species listed would have been
present as seed or roots in the soil or would have been brought in by
birds and other animals, including humans. Opening up the site has let
light in and enabled species to flourish that were previously shaded out.
As the site develops species will continue to arrive and as the habitats
mature, their importance for different species will change.

In addition to the value of the wild plants for animal life, the enormous
value of plants to humans alone should be remembered.

This document is intended to provide a starting point for the continued
recording of the wild plants and animals that will over the years find
refuge in the garden. It is also intended to further the appreciation of the
wildlife that flourishes around us.

Annie Chipchase

Robin Hood Community Garden

How did we start setting out the garden?

Introduction

The place was a mess.  The old fence looked like it was trying to protect a giant 8ft tall bramble and almost none of the paths could be seen.  Pulling out brambles became the pastime in November 2009 and continued for over a year.  During that time we became Robin Hood User Group and the ‘committee’ was set up with a proper constitution. We had meetings, applied for funding and cleared brambles.

The first area we cleared was the Orchard. As we cleared we put down cardboard to stop regrowth, and on busy days we spilt over into the areas around. When the cardboard was taken up, an a umdance of newts was discovered hibernating beneath. These were translocated to the low impact end of be garden and remain there today and form part of our wildlife ecosystem. We set up a holding area for plants and trees and shrubs that might later be placed around the garden.

In early 2011 together with the London Orchard Project, our 5 Orchard Leaders and 50 members of the local community planted 9 fruit trees. Apple, pear, plum, cherry and apricot, and we had a great day creating the first part of the garden. Daily watering-in from our two water butts and petrol pump took up the following weeks and in a heatwave hot April we laid the turf lawn. Two edges were kept straight and two roughly integrated with the boundary fence.  Along the boundary with Kids, two classes of the local primary school were invited in to plant our native mixed hedge. Hawthorn, hazel, rose-hip, elder and crabapple were planted and a mulch path added which now forms a natural backdrop to the lush orchard.

Whilst clearing out the brambles deep in the orchard soil, many bricks and stones were found. These were reused around the garden. One very large stone slab was dragged out and placed on the path, later to be crafted with wood into our mighty bench, the ‘throne of stone’.  The sand pit and old seat in the wild flower meadow area were slowly discovered. At this time every work session involved taking out all the tools needed to do the clearance work, and storage became a hot topic at meetings.  Other activities were going on concurrently, like retrieving the Robin Hood pub sign, design plans, and badgering the council for a new fence, tap, and other support.  A great spontaneous bonfire night lit up a cold November night and more people than ever met in the garden

The next area that developed was the composting areas. These 3 bays of recycled pallet design were quickly put up by new members of the garden and put straight into use

Next to them funding allowed for four raised vegetable beds of untreated oak sleeper construction. Again 30 members of the community turned out to cut, screw and fill the beds, and these fine beds were left empty for a while as people admired the handiwork and asked ‘what will be planted here?’.

Offcuts of oak were either burned on the fire or placed in the soon to be herb garden.  

The forest sensory garden had been used as the holding area when we first started work in the garden.  Clearance work and planning for the herb garden with local medicinal herbalists had highlighted the rich diversity of wild flora in the planned sensory garden, or holding area. It was decided that therefore it should become a forest sensory garden.

Studies of flora and fauna, wildlife, soil, and other aspects of the garden began. With each plant brought to the garden, interested members and experts were also realising the beautiful species already naturally present. Affiliations with Hackney Marsh Tree Nursery, Permaculture, other local green spaces and organisations were helping to shape the garden. A dead hedge was started, invertebrate hotels and the newt colony was growing. Community work days became routine social events in the week, and membership grew.

The oversized Herb Garden was planned to meet the community needs. Where 4 veg beds would never sustain the local community, herbs in abundance could satisfy all.  Two raised beds and two ground levels beds were planned, and off cuts were added to a curious spiral pattern at the southern corner. As many as 40 local people again mobilised to turn piles of sleepers into the amazing beds and Herb Spiral.

The sand pit had become a meeting / working area. Suggestions about it’s planned use included a pond, a propagation area, another raised bed, and a meeting table.  Meanwhile a nectar strip was planted, sunflowers bloomed, and the garden won 1st place in Hackney in bloom! The fence arrived! We could now plant up the eagerly awaited nectar border along the new fence. A set aside nettle bed was protected to retain our wild interests.

At an opening picnic music played, crowds gathered on the concrete area and the community celebrated the establishing garden. Pag.

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