A New Walking Circuit for Two Mile Ash

At a time of acute pressure on local government budgets, there is a growing role for community volunteers to assist in keeping their areas tidy and improving the environment. This has been particularly apparent in this 50th anniversary year for Milton Keynes; increasingly it is local people and groups such as the Two Mile Ash Environmental Group (TMAEG) which are setting the benchmarks. This was the key message delivered by the Mayor of Milton Keynes , Councillor David Hopkins who was guest of honour at TMAEG’s Sixth Year Celebration and AGM on Saturday 16th September.

David Hopkins who was guest of honour at TMAEG’s Sixth Year Celebration and AGM

That event provided the launch pad for a major new project spearheaded by TMAEG – a walking circuit that would open up Parks Trust land on the southwestern edge of Two Mile Ash for community use. As described in TMAEG’s background report , the proposals involve a combination of woodland paths to be constructed by TMAEG and other volunteers and a footbridge that would span a steep side stream, thereby connecting two sections of ‘green ride’ land and forming a key part of the circuit.

TMAEG foresees a combination of benefits. First, there would be proper access to a fine Norway Maple wood planted some 40 years ago, with the added attraction in spring of the fine swathes of english bluebells that have become established there.

For most people in Two Mile Ash, these classic wild bulbs will have been a long hidden secret.

Secondly there would be the benefits to our health and well being that would arise from the enhanced local opportunies for walking. A recent campaign by Public Health England advocates a brisk ten minute walk every day – this is actually the time that it would take to complete this half mile walking circuit. Third, the circuit has been designed to connect to other walking routes within Two Mile Ash, expanding the range of walks available and the scope for a regular stroll.

The walking circuit has been put forward as an MK50 associated project, although it is expected to be realised in 2018. That realisation would be dependent upon planning approval and consent from the water authority (the Internal Drainage Board) and subsequent funding through sponsorship. Prior to this, TMAEG plans a period of local consultation.

Consultation – Comments please by e mail to chrisgossop17@outlook.com by Monday 16 October.

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Highlights of TMAEG’s Spring 2017 Environmental Programme

The pictures that follow seek to give some flavour of our busy winter to spring season of events. The highlights include extending our tree planting to the Ash Brook corridor north of Clay Hill, dealing speedily with the sudden collapse of a tree in the February gales, and a further development of our partnership work at Park Gateway which includes a more varied display in the two big planters.

The season has also seen the planting of native species, including cowslips (for the first time) and – above all – the wonderful show presented by over a thousand daffodils and other bulbs. And, as always, we’ve been doing a lot of necessary management to enhance this area’s look and biodiversity.

The Ash Brook Corridor – extending our impact

TMAEG has now planted some 80 native species and shrubs along the Ash Brook corridor. These particular ones were mainly planted in the winter of 2013 as part of ‘The Big Tree Plant’ and all are now flourishing.  

Two of our early project days this winter focused on the Clay Hill to Downland section of the Ash Brook.  The channel close to Clay Hill is overgrown with brambles and these will need to be trimmed back in future sessions. However, we have already made a start on its enhancement through the planting of three bird cherry trees (left) and the collection of long accumulated litter (right).

Further down the Brook, and closer to the crossing we planted rowan, hazel and guelder rose in the gaps left by the felling of larger trees, including willows.    

Ash Brook Corridor Stone Hill Pond and the fallen tree

The February gales brought down one of the ivy clad trees on the rear bank of the Stone Hill Pond.

On the next available Saturday, TMAEG brought together a strong team to remove the tree and tidy other storm damage.

Harshad, Dave and Clare made short work of cutting up the trunk and branches, even though these were partially submerged.  

Left – Many of the tree branches were used to form a log pile on the opposite side of the brook and right – a view of the area after the work and a busy morning!   

The Ash Brook Corridor – wildflowers

As we are learning, it can take a long time to establish wildflowers but six years on we are getting there.  

Left – Along the Ash Brook the native primroses are now seeding well and spreading down the bank and right – a colony of celandines has become established in one location.

Tools and Equipment

Left –The tools cart that TMAEG purchased last autumn has proved most useful and even includes a ‘refreshments station’!  

Right – black and pink sacks are a necessary part of our kit;  nevertheless our impression is that the sites we cover are becoming steadily cleaner.   On the whole, the sites we cover are getting cleaner.  These ones contain the litter and recyclables collected during a recent joint litter picking session with the Neighbourhood Action Group in the Local Park.

A Feast of Daffodils

Left – February Gold daffodils planted by Ashbrook schoolchildren last November and right – the same type showing  in the tubs on the School forecourt.

Two new areas for daffodils – on the greens along Capian Walk.  In the group nearer the High Street we have mixed varieties intended to lengthen the flowering season.  The second group, towards the Dansteed Way footbridge, is made up of smaller Tete a Tete daffodils.

Other Corridors – Milesmere

Wild daffodils flowering in their second season in the first woodland glade.  A second glade has now been formed and here it is hoped to establish wild primroses;  the first batch was planted this Spring.  

Other Corridors – Fringe of Golf Course

Left – Re-coating the log path during the Christmas break – and helped by a visitor from Prague, Chris Sadil

Right – A new project area along the footpath to Leafield Rise.  A holly hedge is being established along with wild primroses.

Other Corridors – Kepwick

Left  – The TMAEG garden after weeding and showing some of the many daffodils planted last autumn.

Right – The woodland edge after the March tidy up.  A guelder rose hedge is being established in front of the tree line. 

Left – The volunteers busy at a second site following their work in the garden and right – the finished result with the multi-colour tulips about to come into bloom.  

Other Corridors – Park Gateway

The partnership between the businesses, residents and TMAEG in Park Gateway is resulting in a steady improvement in the look of Park Gateway. The large planters, which are owned by the two businesses, are now being managed to a planting scheme devised by TMAEG, and TMAEG volunteers continue to look after the communal areas; the most recent work session was on April 8th. In parallel, the private frontage areas are being increasingly well looked after.

Beautiful daffodils, most of which were planted by Ashbrook schoolchildren.


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Year Six – Highlights of TMAEG’s Autumn Environmental Programme

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The Two Mile Ash Environmental Group (TMAEG) has now entered its sixth year. Its autumn season running into winter in December 2016 has been marked by a typically extensive programme of environmental projects, ranging in scope from the annual overhaul of the Stone Hill pond and other landscape maintenance, to gardening and to bulb planting throughout Two Mile Ash. And thanks to the hospitality of Smita and Harshad we also held a members’ evening which generated new ideas for future events.
Through the pictures that follow, we give a flavour of our environmental schemes – the locations of these are shown on our environmental projects plan.


Ash Brook Corridor (Project area 1)


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In November, a total of 13 TMAEG volunteers cleared leaves and other debris from the Stone Hill pond, trimmed the surrounding landscaping and wildflower areas and swept the path.

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Towards the Stone Hill frontage we cleared an area of ivy and planted wood anemones, a plant native to English woodlands.

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We dug over the bee garden  area and re-sowed it with a Friends of the Earth meadow flowers/ grass mix.  Fingers crossed that the bee attracting plants will flourish this second time round!

wa4xIn an earlier session in the Local Park, steady rain failed to deter our dedicated volunteers who trimmed back the hedgerow and planted native wildflowers and bulbs


Edge of Golfcourse and Milesmere Woodland footpaths  (Project areas 2 & 3)

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At the eastern edge of the Golf Course, we cleared a new area of land alongside the public right of way that links the High Street with the northern end of Leafield Rise. Holly bushes were planted. We also overhauled the log path which we constructed in 2013 .

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TMAEG’s first log path, through the Milesmere Woodland, was rebuilt this spring using logs cut from the felled poplar trees.  In this autumn’s session we topped up the path surface using chippings supplied by the Parks Trust. One of the attractions of Open Gardens 2016, this has proved to be a popular woodland walk, the nature of which is captured in this poem by one of our volunteers.

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Gardening Work  (Project areas 4,7 & 8)

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The linear garden at the eastern end of Kepwick has been one of TMAEG’s biggest successes in 2016. The picture at the left was taken in July when the perennial geraniums were particularly evident. Since that time, many other plants, including spring bulbs have been planted and the garden has been extended to give it an additional ( Capian Walk) frontage (picture at right).

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One of our members, Kathleen Dunmore has been maintaining the two big planters in Park Gateway, on behalf of their owners, Two Mile Ash Dental Practice and Hair Culture.  The picture on the left shows the summer 2016 planting scheme, the one at the right the present autumn scheme.  It is hoped to develop round the year planting which will further enhance this improving area.

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Winter flowering pansies being planted in the tubs at Ashbrook School as replacements for the former geraniums.


Bulb Planting
This autumn, well over a thousand bulbs have been planted in Two Mile Ash by TMAEG volunteers on sites in Kepwick, Capian Walk, the High Street (rear of One Stop) and at the end of Badgemore (near the redway on the western side of the golf course). A further (almost) 200 have been sown by entry year schoolchildren through a continuing very successful partnership between TMAEG and Ashbrook School.

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Daffodil planting on one of two sites in Capian Walk.  The bulbs here are a mixture of two varieties which together will give a longer flowering season.

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Painstaking work!  Crocuses being planted in the green at the rear of One Stop.  Some 200 bulbs have been sown, a blend of blue and white varieties.

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This year’s planting site for Ashbrook School, on the High Street directly opposite the school.  Each entry level child had the opportunity to plant three February Gold daffodil bulbs.

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A cluster of three Dawn Redwood trees in their autumn colours, (High Street, Two Mile Ash).

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Open Gardens 2016

Open Gardens

Open Gardens 2016 is almost here.

For more information click here

 

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A Productive Autumn for TMAEG

Maple leaves in Thorncliffe, a reminder of the beautiful autumn colours of 2015

Maple leaves in Thorncliffe, a reminder of the beautiful autumn colours of 2015

The Two Mile Ash Environmental Group is now in its fifth year and our drive to improve and enhance the environment of Two Mile Ash continues.  We continue to care for the areas that we have already worked on, as defined in our Environmental Projects Plan, but we couple this with some new ventures both inside and outside the eight areas in that Plan.  Thus, in this autumn season we have pursued bulb planting within our central grassed areas; in Kepwick we are gradually developing a linear garden; in the Ash Brook corridor we are creating a Friends of the Earth inspired ‘Bee World’ and we have put up some thirty bird boxes. The collection of ‘news stories’ that follows seeks to give a flavour of our mixed programme of work between October and December.  We hope that you enjoy reading them!

Bulb planting in the village centre
The following piece by Lin Healey records the experience of TMAEG’s first coffee morning which provided the funds for the planting of daffodil and tulip bulbs in the very heart of Two Mile Ash.

Ann Gaunt suggested that it would be nice if the group had a Coffee Morning to raise money to buy Spring bulbs to give more colour to our planted areas. She had visited my house many years ago, when our children were very young and Two Mile Ash was in its infancy. This new venture was agreed, and we had a very pleasant, sociable time with hot drinks, home-made cakes, a plant swap stall and around 25 visitors, raising around £65. A small group was then put together to plan the bulb planting.

We had hoped initially to buy crocuses to plant alongside the paths in the central newly grassed area behind the shop. The idea was to continue the theme of yellow crocuses which always look such a picture in the Spring, opposite Ashbrook School’s main entrance. Unfortunately the crocuses were all sold out but we did buy orange tulips, and narcissi (daffodils) at much reduced prices and we drew up and agreed a planting scheme for these.

On a dry but very windy Saturday in early December, we cut and lifted turfs and planted almost 600 bulbs, spurred on by Pavla’s coffee and Margaret’s rock cakes! A second phase of our work (separately funded) involved tidying the planters in the entrance to the Local Park and replanting the tubs outside Ashbrook School with daffodils. A separate task of planting and managing trees at the back of the Park was also completed. We had a great sense of achievement and a very happy and productive morning. We plan to add more crocuses next year to what we hope will be a lovely colourful show.

Lin Healey

Margaret, Sally, Sue and Lin planting Narcissus bulbs within the central green facing Ashbrook School

Margaret, Sally, Sue and Lin planting Narcissus bulbs within the central green facing Ashbrook School

Our volunteers enjoying a well earned break!

Our volunteers enjoying a well earned break!

Ken (foreground) and Chris C planting tulip bulbs at six corner locations in the central garden

Ken (foreground) and Chris C planting tulip bulbs at six corner locations in the central garden

Sally, Lin and Ken lifting the turf to plant another group of tulips

Sally, Lin and Ken lifting the turf to plant another group of tulips

 

Continuing our work with Ashbrook School

Our partnership with Ashbrook School now extends to three areas of work. First, and perhaps foremost because of its direct educational value, there is the bulb planting experience that has been offered over five years for each child who enters the school. Our thanks go to everyone who makes this possible. Second, we have provided, and help maintain, the planters within the school forecourt area. Now owned by the school, these were recently replanted by TMAEG with February Gold daffodils (see the previous news story). The third part of our partnership concerns the area of landscaping along the High Street side of the school and this is regularly maintained by TMAEG volunteers. Some recent work here is depicted below.

Before and after shots showing the trimmed cotoneaster and the tidied up brick edging. In a previous work session, the cotinus was coppiced to give it greater impact.

Before and after shots showing the trimmed cotoneaster and the tidied up brick edging. In a previous work session, the cotinus was coppiced to give it greater impact.

Completing the scheme – Sue and Stan (left) and Rex providing the finishing touches (right)

Completing the scheme – Sue and Stan (left) and Rex providing the finishing touches (right)

 

Kepwick – developing a linear garden
TMAEG volunteers have been working for the last three years on various sites in Kepwick. Of these, the most challenging has been the narrow strip of sloping land alongside the footpath to Capian Walk. The soil has a lot of clay in it, making it hard to dig, and this autumn’s frequent wet weather has made the ground very sticky.

At the same time the footpath is well used, particularly as part of a route to and from Great Holm. The adjacent strip is therefore prominent to many people, one of the factors that has encouraged us to persevere with this site this season. As the pictures show – despite the weather – we have made a good start in weeding this land, and this has been followed by the planting of several clusters of tulips and daffodils. A possible scheme to supplement the bulb planting with suitable ground cover, and perhaps some shrubs, is being considered by the TMAEG committee.

The link between Kepwick and Capian Walk, during and after our project work – a start, but still much work to do

The link between Kepwick and Capian Walk, during and after our project work – a start, but still much work to do

Milesmere – a new glade for wildflower bulbs
On the 17th October a TMAEG working party carried out Autumn maintenance of the Milesmere Woodland Path clearing overgrowth from the edges and from a 1m wide margin on either side of the path. We also created a small glade at a bend in the path where we planted Spring bulbs – wild bluebells, wild daffodils and wood anemones. Also the first of TMAEG’s bird boxes was put up on a nearby tree.

Angela Austin

The new glade ‘before’

The new glade ‘before’

Margaret, Pavla and Angela planting wild bulbs

Margaret, Pavla and Angela planting wild bulbs

Just beyond the glade – TMAEG’s first bird box being installed by Peter Blyth

Just beyond the glade – TMAEG’s first bird box being installed by Peter Blyth

More information on the bird boxes programme appears in the final part of this posting.

Post script – Shortly before these news stories were posted, considerable tree felling and also shrub removal has been carried out within the woodland. We are told by Milton Keynes Council that the reason for the tree felling, which is confined to poplars, is that these trees have been damaged and rendered potentially unsafe through the activities of the clear wing hornet moth – this large, and rarely seen, insect bores into the trunks of poplar species to lay its eggs, and this and the exit holes created by the moths’ young produces hollows which collectively weaken the tree.

Inevitably, the tree felling has had a considerable impact upon the character of the woodland and we must hope that the removal of the fast growing poplars will allow the canopies of the other tree species to spread more quickly, and at least partially compensate for the loss of the poplars.

Our new glade appears unaffected and while the footpath remains useable, some limited damage has been done in places. TMAEG will seek early next year to repair the route where needed, making use of logs from the felled trees, and to resurface it with new chippings.

 

The Ash Brook Corridor

Not surprisingly because of its scale and the opportunities it presents, we spend more time on this corridor than in any other of our project areas. So this autumn we have been tending the trees that we planted as part of The Big Tree Plant two years ago, we have planted wildflower bulbs in a couple of locations and, as an innovation for this year, we have put up many bird boxes. We also carried out the annual maintenance of the Stone Hill pond, clearing out branch and leaf debris and tending the immediately surrounding area. This is a semi-natural area and we try to keep a careful balance between, on the one hand, having a tidy environment that is safe for its human users and, on the other, the many ecological considerations, for example the need to maintain reasonable cover for birds. Where we can we seek to enhance the biodiversity of the area through appropriate wildflower planting and this year we have introduced another native plant, the wild daffodil.

Stone Hill Pond after our maintenance work this autumn. This landmark feature within Two Mile Ash looks different every day; the mirror like effect here is one of its many moods.

Stone Hill Pond after our maintenance work this autumn. This landmark feature within Two Mile Ash looks different every day; the mirror like effect here is one of its many moods.

Margaret and Christine planting wild daffodils in a location overlooking the pond

Margaret and Christine planting wild daffodils in a location overlooking the pond

Helped by the volunteers of Milton Keynes Green Gym ( the group led by TMAEG chair Dave Barratt) we have tackled two new sites this year.  First we have carried out a major clean up of an area of land at the triangular junction of two paths, the main footpath between Stone Hill and the High Street and the route that crosses it, linking Fennymere with Haithwaite.  Under its canopy of alder trees, ‘the Triangle’ as we have begun to call it had become overgrown and infested with brambles and it has benefited from a substantial clear out and trim.

The Triangle’, after work by Green Gym and TMAEG volunteers

The Triangle’, after work by Green Gym and TMAEG volunteers

Some of the Green Gym and TMAEG volunteers, David Barratt to the right

Some of the Green Gym and TMAEG volunteers, David Barratt to the right

The second new scheme involves land on the sunnier side of the brook, across the footbridge towards Haithwaite. Encouraged by two of our members, Michael and Ferial Hyde, a start has been made on the creation of a small ‘meadow’ area to support bees, butterflies and other insects. This is inspired at national level by a Friends of the Earth project to protect and and encourage bees in the face of the worrying reduction in their numbers nationally.

Our ‘Bee World’ will support numerous floral species that will provide food for bees throughout coming summer seasons. Hopefully the first results will be apparent as early as next year.

Work underway to create our Bee World – the path leads to Haithwaite

Work underway to create our Bee World – the path leads to Haithwaite

 

Bird Nesting Boxes for TMA

We finish with a scheme that is likely to have a significant wildlife benefit for Two Mile Ash. This is described by project officer Peter Blyth.

Many residents in TMA have gardens and we are fortunate to have lots of trees and hedgerows which attract a wide variety of wild birds. Having purchased bird feeders a couple of years ago, I continue to be pleasantly surprised seeing the many daily visitors throughout the entire year, including various tits, greenfinches, spotted woodpeckers, chaffinches and, my all time favourite, goldfinches.

Goldfinches are beautifully coloured and their song is almost like a canary. Clearly by our action to maintain a year-round source of food, they have made TMA their home and in order to encourage even more of these small birds, I suggested to TMAEG that we give thought to erecting nesting boxes.

The Goldfinch

The Goldfinch

During the early summer, Chris Gossop and I visited Men-in-Sheds in Kiln Farm who had previously manufactured some bird boxes. This group of hobbyists enjoy restoring and fabricating lots of items often from scrap wood. Their workshop is large and fitted out with lots of tools and equipment and their premises are supported by MK Council. We wanted to procure at least 30 boxes and we agreed a price/donation – the proceeds would be used to replace some tools and materials. We just needed funds so TMAEG decided to seek sponsorship from Abbey Hill Parish Council.

After attending a few meetings and making a written proposal to the Parish Council we were pleased to have our proposal accepted and we received half our required funds from the Parish Council with the balance coming from a community fund held by David Lewis, who serves on both the Parish and MK Councils. We are extremely grateful to both the Parish Council and to Councillor Lewis for providing these funds without which the project would not have proceeded.

Birdbox

Birdbox

Once the boxes had been collected from Men-in-Sheds, they were painted in a wildlife-safe protective woodstain and numbered. The boxes benefit from hinged lids which means they can be inspected and cleaned out in future. The tops are secured shut for protection using cable ties that can be cut then easily replaced. In order to avoid damaging trees or introducing disease, it was agreed that we would tie the boxes to trees rather than use nails or screws. Because trees grow, it was necessary to use a large diameter weather-resistant cord and tie loosely whilst siting the boxes securely. As the trees grow the cord would not strangle the trunks and thereby allow for many years of growth before adjusting.

The boxes have been located in suitable sites, using NSPB recommended heights and guidelines; they are mainly located within the green corridors and other sites shown on our Environmental Projects Plan. A few boxes have open fronts rather than a hole, which robins and wrens require and as they have to be located at 2 metre, or less, height in dense hedging, these were fitted in locations that were very well hidden – also difficult to access.
With so many Magpies in MK, and a few colourful Jays, our small birds have a tough time raising their young so by providing safe housing more generations of these fascinating birds should survive and I do hope that some goldfinches will make our boxes their homes.

Peter Blyth

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Busy Summer for TMAEG

The Park Gateway, High Street – June 2015. Through the combined efforts of the businesses, residents and TMAEG volunteers, and working with the two Councils, this area is being steadily improved.

The Park Gateway, High Street – June 2015. Through the combined efforts of the businesses, residents and TMAEG volunteers, and working with the two Councils, this area is being steadily improved.

As spring turned has turned into summer, TMAEG has continued with its mix of environmental projects and visits.  As in previous years, that change of seasons has marked a switch in emphasis for our work, from the winter’s landscape management of our wildlife areas to gardening projects, particularly in the village centre;  this year we have been concentrating on flower tubs, as can be seen in our images of  Ashbrook School and of the Park Gateway area.  At the same time, we have sought to keep our other areas tidy and, to that end, we have done a litter pick along the Clay Hill to Downland section of the Ashbrook Corridor and we have cut back concentrations of cow parsley once this has finished flowering.

We have also organised well received visits to the new Parks Trust education centre at Howe Park Wood (which included a guided walk within the wood) and to The National Museum of Computing at Bletchley Park.  And in June a large group of members were treated to an evening tour of Stony in Bloom’s planting projects, amidst magnificent midsummer weather!    

Our final commitment for the summer season took the form of a TMAEG stall at ‘Party in the Park’ on July 11.  We attracted a great deal of interest and a record number of new members.  Among the things that drew people in were an aerial photograph of Two Mile Ash which challenged visitors to pinpoint their own homes and our new Environmental Projects Plan which displays the locations of all the projects that we have worked upon over four years.  Our intention is to update this year by year so that we maintain a complete record.  

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The TMAEG flower tub – these 30cm tubs were planted up by TMAEG volunteers in May 2015 and sold to businesses and residents within the target village centre areas.

The TMAEG flower tub

The TMAEG flower tub

 

Our visit to The National Museum of Computing in March 2015.

The National Museum of Computing

The National Museum of Computing

 

TMAEG’s visit to Stony Stratford to see the achievements of Stony in Bloom.

Stony in Bloom

Stony in Bloom

 

It has long been TMAEG’s intention to produce a plan showing the locations of our many schemes. We were delighted to be able to launch such a map at Party in the Park.  The Environmental Projects Plan shows the extent of our work over four years, how this is grouped within two green corridors and six other areas, and the main concentrations of our various activities – most recently the provision of flower tubs.  TMAEG acknowledges the help given by The Parks Trust in preparing the Projects Plan.

The Environmental Projects Plan

The Environmental Projects Plan

Please click the plan for a larger version of the map in PDF format.

 

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Milesmere Woodland Path – Year Four

Spreading the new chippings starting at the western end

Spreading the new chippings starting at the western end

TMAEG’s events programme for 2015 has been as full as ever, with a combination of brand new and familiar projects where the emphasis is on keeping good what we have started.  Typical of the latter brand is the Milesmere Woodland Path which runs from the northern end of Milesmere to the ‘green ride’ beyond which is Watling Street.  This simple wood chip path with its log margins has become a popular walking route and part of a circuit for local people.

So on the last Saturday of February a team of eleven people gave the path a coat of new chippings supplied by one of the Council’s contractors.  We also cut back the encroaching brambles and other vegetation and, as can be seen from the photographs, the effect is striking.  Looking ahead to Year  Five we hope to establish more spring bulbs and other wildflowers in an opening alongside the path.

 

Our ever enthusiastic volunteers!

Our ever enthusiastic volunteers!

A well-earned refreshments break

A well-earned refreshments break

The finished result as seen from the Milesmere end

The finished result as seen from the Milesmere end

 

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Visit to the Linford Lakes Nature Reserve (the Hanson Centre)

21 February 2015

Enjoying the view from one of the three hides

Enjoying the view from one of the three hides

A review from one of our group, Daphne Tibbles

A group of twelve from TMAEG and MK Green Gym visited The Hanson Centre with our guide Chris Ward of the RSPB on a beautiful sunny morning in mid-February. We saw a variety of birds including plovers, shovelers, golden eye, tufted ducks, pochard and two very rare smew. A bittern was spotted in this area in January. We also saw heron which nest here and only one other area in MK at Willen Lake. Lots of garden birds visited the feeders, including a marsh tit.

Although we weren’t able to capture pictures of birds on this occasion, we came across some Scarlet Elf (Sarcoscypha) edible fungi which looked very vibrant.

A very worthwhile and enjoyable day was had by all and we would definitely recommend you visit the Centre soon.

Scarlet elf  fungus  (Sarcoscypha) – photo by Daphne Tibbles

Scarlet elf fungus (Sarcoscypha) – photo by Daphne Tibbles

One of the feeders seen from the Woodland Hide – can you spot the diminutive Marsh Tit?

One of the feeders seen from the Woodland Hide – can you spot the diminutive Marsh Tit?

Male Smew – source Wikipedia

Male Smew – source Wikipedia

 

A reflection on the morning from Kevin Reed

So off we went to Linford Lakes
Binoculars in hand
Where waterfowl and waders fly
And then decide to land

Chris from the RSPB
Was on hand to give us hope
Did you see that oystercatcher
In Chris’s telescope!!

He has the knowledge and advice
To really set the mood
The smaller birds were also fun
As they tucked into their food

The setting and tranquility
So quiet and serene
Spring migrants start to set up home
You wonder where they’ve been

From crested grebes to herons
From the egret to the fox
This haven of our wildlife
Must tick the viewing box

And thanks to all the Hanson staff
For their hospitality
Now how about some Lottery funding
I’m sure you all agree!!

Another season – a view across the nature reserve – thanks to Dave Barratt

Another season – a view across the nature reserve – thanks to Dave Barratt

 

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Third Year Celebration – One Hundred Households!

TMAEG has just reached a key milestone – we now have one hundred Two Mile Ash households as members. That is quite an achievement after just three years – and in the face of there being so many other competing priorities in people’s lives.

Our ‘century’ was achieved in the run up to our Third Year Celebration and AGM held at Holy Cross Church on Saturday 20th September. It was secured through the membership of Fairways’ resident Mary Parker. In presenting her with a special award at the Celebration, our guest, the Deputy Mayor for Milton Keynes, Keith McLean acknowledged that this was an important milestone for TMAEG. And he commended us generally for our activities. ‘You ooze enthusiasm’, he said.

Mary Parker receiving a Four Seasons mug from the Deputy Mayor Cllr Keith McLean

Mary Parker receiving a Four Seasons mug from the Deputy Mayor Cllr Keith McLean

We should note that the 100 households equate to over 180 people, so our next milestone to aim for will be that double century in terms of individual members!  We have Pavla largely to thank for this success;  going forward she would very much appreciate ideas from our existing membership on new people who might like to join us – just give her a ring on 561365 if you know of anyone.

The Photographic Competition

The Celebration also enabled us to show the results of our first Photographic Competition and thanks are due to Dave Barratt who organised it and to Ann and Tom Gaunt and Rita Barratt who judged the entries. There were 27 in all. The Deputy Mayor announced the three senior and one junior prize winners who were awarded a coffee mug bearing their own entry. Here are the winning entries:

Photographic Competition Winners

Photographic Competition Winners

Thanks are due to all our entrants for their great photos and their enthusiasm.

Open Gardens 2014

The Deputy Mayor also met a number of our members who had opened their gardens in the second Two Mile Ash Open Gardens event. A display was on show at the meeting and we hope to place a version of this on the website shortly.

This year our event was spread over two days, involving 12 gardens in total. Despite the torrential downpour at the start of each session, we attracted 148 visitors and there were 1,179 individual visits. A further benefit was that a total of £400.75 was collected for charities supported by the individual gardeners.

Smita and Harshad’s garden

Smita and Harshad’s garden

Smita, who with Harshad has now displayed her garden on two occasions, spoke passionately about the therapeutic benefits of gardening at a time when many of us are overstressed by the pressures of modern life. So our work with TMAEG is not just about improving the environment, it is about us, our happiness and our well-being.

Thanks are due to our gardeners and to Mercure Milton Keynes Abbey Hill Hotel and TMA Gas & Heating Ltd for their valuable sponsorship. Also to Pavla, Bill Forster, Dave Barratt and others for their work in organising the scheme and in publicising and displaying it, and to everyone who visited the 12 homes and thus supported Open Gardens 2014.

Other Achievements

The TMAEG team gave a brief presentation of the many other things accomplished by TMAEG – notably, the work that we (and individual residents) did in response to the school expansion planning application, on the Big Tree Plant, the golf course (in conjunction with MK Green Gym), Milesmere Woodland Path, the Park Gateway, and at Kepwick, as well as the bulb planting by Ashbrook school children.

We were also involved in Britain in Bloom, the judges viewing three of our environmental schemes as part of their tour of Milton Keynes. It was gratifying to learn that the city received a Silver Gilt Award.

We also mounted three social events – an evening at the Calcutta Brasserie in December 2013, a visit with Green Gym members to the recycling plant (MRF) and a social evening at the Golf Centre.

Catering for the Third Year Celebration

Special thanks are due to Corinne and Andrew who, with Lin, organised the afternoon tea. And we are grateful to all those who provided the splendid cakes.

The Annual General Meeting

In the more formal part of our gathering, Liz Ruthven as Treasurer presented our accounts which were approved by the meeting. Thanks are due to Liz for her diligent work in managing the finances of our expanding organisation.

Members also resolved to support the concept of a business membership for TMAEG and they approved changes to our Constitution which enable this and some other small changes to be made. The revised Constitution appears on our website here.

In his final remarks as TMAEG Chair, Chris Gossop thanked all the members of the TMAEG Committee for their hard work over the year. Two committee members were standing down, Tom Gaunt who had served from the start and also Ferial Hyde who had to stand down for personal reasons – both had done invaluable work for TMAEG. Thanks are also due to our webmaster Chris Monk, to our environmental volunteers and to all our members for the support they have provided.

A new Committee was elected, with Dave Barratt as Chair, Chris Gossop as Secretary, and Liz Ruthven as Treasurer. The other members are Ann Gaunt, Corinne Hay, Pavla Gossop (as now) and Peter Blyth who also joins us. In his statement to members as the new Chair, Dave said that the group was looking forward to another great year of environmental achievements.

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Three More Enhancement Sessions in our Village Centre

TMAEG’s volunteers continue to be very busy in our practical action to improve or maintain the local environment and here are three recent stories. In all three cases we think that the differences between the before and after situations are striking and we hope you like the results.

1. Park Gateway Project – We started this scheme last year in partnership with Abbey Hill Parish Council – which provided the two planters – with the businesses and residential occupiers which front this pedestrian link to our Local Park, and with Milton Keynes Council which has provided much practical support. Working together, we have greatly improved the appearance of this important space in the village centre. Our pictures show the combined effect.

Four gardeners from our Tuesday Team

Four gardeners from our Tuesday Team

One of the planters – surrounding slabs cleaned up by the volunteers.

One of the planters – surrounding slabs cleaned up by the volunteers

 

One of the front gardens, tidied and planted up by the new occupants

One of the front gardens, tidied and planted up by the new occupants

 

The combined result – an enhanced gateway to the park

The combined result – an enhanced gateway to the park

 

Two comments from our volunteers:

On Tuesday 13 May, five members of the Tuesday afternoon group continued with the enhancement project. There was much digging, weeding, scraping, sweeping, removing of rubbish (and the obligatory puffing and grunting!).Then the result of several hours hard work was evident. The colourful Valerian was complemented by the newly uncovered yellow spurge and fragrant lemon balm. With equal effort from the residents and the businesses, the area looks well tended and is a pleasure to behold.      Margaret

TMAEG kinship : Working with TMAEG is an experience I would encourage others to have. The working tools and all other admin is nicely sorted out, there are tea and biscuits, plenty of fresh air, exercise and communal friendliness to have and, most importantly, one begins to feel a sense of community.    Smita

 

2. Ashbrook School   Through our Tuesday Team in particular we seek to keep up the maintenance of the schemes we have started upon. This area of school owned land is a good example; with two sessions a year we seek to keep it neat and tidy.

 

Before – landscaping recently smothered by explosive growth of ‘cleavers’ -  the gardener’s bane this spring?

Before – landscaping recently smothered by explosive growth of ‘cleavers’ – the gardener’s bane this spring?

During - An afternoon’s gardening well underway

During – An afternoon’s gardening well underway

After – once again a tidy border

After – once again a tidy border

3. Kepwick     One by one, we are targeting local eyesores as part of a general enhancement of this characterful village centre street.  On Saturday 7 June, nine TMAEG volunteers, including two from the street itself,  worked through heavy rain to tidy up one of Kepwick’s ‘squares’ and the footpath links to the local shops.    This was our second project morning in Kepwick and, already, we are making inroads.

Before – a prominent but neglected corner

Before – a prominent but neglected corner

Before - an overgrown footpath  leading to the High Street

Before – an overgrown footpath leading to the High Street

During - five very wet volunteers working on these two areas

During – five very wet volunteers working on these two areas

The results – a much tidier corner and pedestrian route through to the High Street.

The results – a much tidier corner and pedestrian route through to the High Street.

We are very grateful to Fraser Davidson and his young offenders from Oakhill Secure Training Centre for their associated work in restoring and painting the bollards – a valuable finishing touch to the TMAEG volunteers work just the day before.

The results - a tidied up shrub bed and a cleaned up footpath

The results – a tidied up shrub bed and a cleaned up footpath

TMAEG’s third scheme of the day – a tidied up flower bed in a prominent position on the square.

TMAEG’s third scheme of the day – a tidied up flower bed in a prominent position on the square.

TMAEG Volunteers enjoying a well earned break and shelter - at last

TMAEG Volunteers enjoying a well earned break and shelter – at last

Wet, wet, wet, however despite the deluge the  Dunkirk spirit kept us going and the results of great team work, able supervision and a hot cup of coffee are in evidence.  Lydia

 

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