Coton Manor Garden – TMAEG’s Summer Outing – 5th June

A highlight for TMAEG this summer was a trip to one of England’s loveliest gardens, Coton Manor near Althorp in Northamptonshire. This is a very special place, really a collection of gardens and landscapes, with something for everyone. And a learning experience for TMAEG into how to do things! A selection of photos follows; mostly taken by David Barratt, our former chairman.  Thanks Dave!

The gardens were first laid out in the 1920s by the grandparents of the present owners

The gardens were first laid out in the 1920s by the grandparents of the present owners

With its stone terraces, the 17th Century manor house provides a central focus for the gardens

With its stone terraces, the 17th Century manor house provides a central focus for the gardens

Nine of us made the trip, sharing three cars.

Nine of us made the trip, sharing three cars.

The holly hedge border, seen from the terrace

The holly hedge border, seen from the terrace (Chris Gossop)

Another fine border, further down the slopes

Another fine border, further down the slopes (Chris Gossop)

A woodland area with rhododendron at its best

A woodland area with rhododendron at its best

The ‘water globe’ – natural lighting?

The ‘water globe’ – natural lighting?

The Old Orchards with their ‘water staircase’, and

The Old Orchards with their ‘water staircase’, and . . .

lush native plants beneath the trees

lush native plants beneath the trees.

Beautiful blue perennials in one of the flower borders

Beautiful blue perennials in a flower border.

 

 

 

Everywhere, colour abounds

 

 

The unexpected – two colourful residents

The unexpected – two colourful residents

‘Lord of all I survey’ – representation of a stag in the wildflower meadow

‘Lord of all I survey’ – representation of a stag in the wildflower meadow

View across the lake towards the manor

View across the lake towards the manor

For more information, visit www.cotonmanor.co.uk

 

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Highlights of 2019

By the end of this TMAEG year ending with the 8th Year Celebration & AGM on September 14th, we will have run some forty events – a mix of environmental schemes, visits, walks and socials. The need to safeguard and improve our environment is increasingly seen as vital to our planet’s future and to span all levels from the local – as here in Two Mile Ash – to the global. As a local environmental group, TMAEG seeks to do its bit both for the people who live, work and visit here and for nature and biodiversity. And in terms of the human species, we like to think that we are as much social as environmental as everything we do brings us together, providing opportunities for new friendships and contributing to our feelings of well-being.

Herewith, a small selection of the things we have been doing.

Summer planting at the Park Gateway

As part of a joint scheme with Hair Culture and the Dental Practice who own the large planters, TMAEG volunteers remove the winter pansies and daffodils and replace them with red geraniums and trailing lobelias. This happened in late May and will provide summer colour for this focal point of our village centre.

Maintenance of this big pedestrian area is a year-round task.

Earlier in the season, volunteers tamed a previously overgrown pyracantha bush.

 

 

 

They weeded the eye-catching  Twin Gardens created by TMAEG in the spring of 2018,

 

 

 

 

and trimmed some of the Council’s shrubs which border the Twin Gardens at the entrance to the Local Park.

 

 

The result, a more attractive place for everyone.


Working with entry year children at Ashbrook School

Every year, about half way through the autumn term, TMAEG teams up with Ashbrook School to enable first year children to plant daffodil bulbs in prepared sites close to the school.

A view of the entrance to the Local Park in March 2019 – these are the newest of our Ashbrook daffodils, planted by children entering the school in the autumn of 2018.

Year by year, as the children plant more daffodils, and as the individual groups thicken out, the result becomes ever more striking.


Nature areas and spring flowers

Wood anemones in the Milesmere/Thorncliffe Woodland. These were planted some years back by TMAEG in a newly created glade and they are now coming into their own.

 

Native primroses have been planted in a second glade providing a fine spring display at the point where the woodland track joins the green ride running along the western edge of TMA.

 

A related species, the cowslip, can also be found here . . .

 

. . . as can the pretty flower, stitchwort.

 

Visits, Talks and Walks

The Year Eight Programme included two local walks led by Stan, three visits and our second Winter Social. The Local Heritage Walk in December reminded us that while Two Mile Ash is barely 40 years old, quite close by we have the remains of a Roman villa, a medieval priory and Georgian architecture. This walk was followed in the spring by another very enjoyable one covering the historic village of Loughton and the Teardrop Lakes.

The Loughton Walking Group

The Loughton Walking Group

 

The Winter Social at Holy Cross Church was attended by an audience of 25 members; our speakers were Kevin Slaymaker on local wildlife – and Chris Monk (TMAEG’s web master) on ‘IT Society and Local Memories’. A very thoughtful evening, giving rise to plenty of questions and discussion, and with refreshments provided by Lin and her team.

The Social was part of a cluster of TMAEG events held in February – see TMAEG’s flyers for the visits to the Waste Recovery Park (WRP) and the Linford Lakes Nature Reserve below. NB TMAEG’s summer visit to the Coton Manor Garden is the subject of a separate news item.

The Winter Social – plenty of ideas and interest

The Winter Social – plenty of ideas and interest

 

Bee Garden & Fernery

A walk the length of the Ashbrook Corridor – from Stonehill to Downland,  shows much variety: a seasonal pond, a stream-side area planted with primroses and native bulbs, historic hedgerow reflecting an ancient boundary, stretches with TMAEG trees ‘notched’ into earlier planting and much more. The bee garden & fernery started some 3 years ago is another ‘bead on the string’ along this important landscape feature of TMA.

This area has three main components: the bee garden with its sequence of bee attracting plants; the ferns area with its complementary planting of foxgloves and; the native plants alongside the stream including hemp agrimony and water mint. The footbridge linking Haithwaite with the main path between Stonehill and the High Street provides a fine viewpoint, with the stub of the footpath leading to the line of the former bridge another one.

The bee garden at the end of May 2019

The bee garden at the end of May 2019

A succession of food flowers for the bees – from the garlic mustard of February (the bare spikey stems of which remain in this May view)

A succession of food flowers for the bees – from the garlic mustard of February (the bare spikey stems of which remain in this May view)

to the red campion of March through to June and the Oxeye daisy of May to September

to the red campion of March through to June and the Oxeye daisy of May to September

To the phacelia of May to July

to the phacelia of May to July

The fernery bounded by its circle of coppiced hazels and foxgloves.

The fernery bounded by its circle of coppiced hazels and foxgloves.

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From Year Seven into Year Eight and from Midsummer into Winter

Open Gardens 2018 

TMAEG’s largest venture last year was Open Gardens 2018, our fourth such event and our biggest yet. Radcote Lodge (garden shown below) was a new entrant and also hosted our planning meetings with the gardeners.   A gallery of 130+ photos of all 24 gardens and other projects is available here.

Radcote Lodge

Radcote Lodge

Open Gardens poster

Open Gardens poster

 

The photos shown below are of a combination of two of the TMAEG schemes that we included in Open Gardens, and of some of the other things we did during the year.

Bee Garden and Fernery
This very varied area was one of TMAEG’s own Open Gardens projects – here are some of the wildflowers that came into their own after that Week-end.

borage – seen here with a visiting bee

Borage – seen here with a visiting bee

Mallow, with its pretty pink striped flowers.

Mallow, with its pretty pink striped flowers.

Newly appeared this year, chicory - a member of the daisy family.

Newly appeared this year, chicory – a member of the daisy family.

Partnerships and ‘People Action’ 
A manifestation of our partnership with Ashbrook School is the tub planting on the school forecourt where the 12 tubs maintained by TMAEG look particularly fine alongside the ‘silver tree’. This year’s display was one of our best yet, the orange/red geraniums flowering long into the autumn.

Ashbrook School tub planting

Ashbrook School tub planting

‘Spot planting’ under our road signs is becoming quite a feature of Two Mile Ash. Often carried out by individual TMAEG members (this one by Lin) it brightens up these otherwise rather barren areas and demonstrates commitment to our local environment.

Spot planting

Spot planting

The Twin Gardens and Park Gateway 
These photos show one half of the Twin Gardens and a view from the High Street towards the Local Park at the entrance to which the Gardens are positioned. The Twin Gardens are our second community garden and our biggest entry for Open Gardens 2018. They complete TMAEG’s work along the Park Gateway area and the emphasis now will be on keeping this area in good shape, supported by the local businesses and local residents.

The Twin Gardens and Park Gateway

One half of the Twin Gardens

The Twin Gardens and Park Gateway

A view from the High Street

The Ash Brook Corridor
Six years ago or so, it was practically impossible to spot that there was any water flowing in this watercourse across TMA. With the agreement of Milton Keynes Council, we adopted the corridor for enhancement, opening it up and planting trees and wildflowers. We seek now to maintain it as a biodiverse, semi-natural and visually attractive area. To take two examples (see photos), we aim to keep open views down the stream from the bridge over the High Street and to maintain the stream banks in a stretch of the corridor where wildflower seeding was carried out some five years ago (see above).

The Ash Brook Corridor

The Ash Brook Corridor, a view from the bridge

The Ash Brook Corridor

The Ash Brook Corridor,  working on the stream banks.

 

Stonehill Pond 
We ‘autumn clean’ the Pond every year to remove branches and leaves and thereby prevent overmuch silting up. With our ten volunteers this year we were able to do not only that but also much work on the surrounding area. The stream sides were selectively cleared and the path was given a good sweep. One unexpected bonus, a wallet stolen several months ago was found in the pond and returned to its owner! Not surprisingly the money was gone but she was pleased to get the wallet back, nevertheless!

Dave and Clare working in the pond

Dave and Clare working in the pond

Dave and Clare working in the pond

Dave and Clare with time for a chat!

 Gil and Barbara clearing brambles from the slopes behind to enable other wildflowers to spread.

Gil and Barbara clearing brambles from the slopes behind to enable other wildflowers to spread.

Our volunteers providing an ‘autumn clean’ to the Pond.

The TMAEG volunteers providing an ‘autumn clean’ to the Pond.

 

The pond fully recharged after all the recent rain

The pond fully recharged after all the recent rain

Autumn Litterpick 
On this litterpick we tackled the section of the Ash Brook between Downlands up as far as the edge of the Local Park Play Area. Five bags largely of cans and glass bottles were collected.

The litterpick

The litterpick

Introduction of power tools
With support from the Parish Council, TMAEG has recently bought two Lithium Ion battery powered tools – a hedge trimmer and a strimmer. We have now tried them out on several sites – the photos show Peter operating the hedge trimmer in a length of hedgerow containing TMAEG trees. He was quickly able to cut away the brambles to prevent encroachment on the trees.

Peter operating the hedge trimmer

Peter operating the hedge trimmer

Brambles cut away to prevent encroachment on the trees.

Brambles cut away to prevent encroachment on the trees.

 

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Winter into Spring 2018

Winter works in Two Mile Ash

A view from roof level of the Stonehill Pond and spinney taken on the last day of January 2018.  The previous November, TMAEG volunteers cleared leaves and other ‘tree litter’ from the bed of the pond.  Remarkably, only one item of ‘human litter’, a single can, was found, a sign that the pond is once again a cherished community facility.

 

Winter season management of the Ash Brook corridor which crosses Two Mile Ash from west to east.  We seek to keep the brambles under control and look after the many native trees and wildflowers that we’ve planted over the years.

 

If you follow the path from Stonehill, past the pond, you’ll soon reach the bee garden and the new fernery. In the upper picture, there is a viewing point for the fernery bounded by a low woven dogwood fence;  the ferns lie in the distance on the far bank of the Ash Brook. The lower picture shows some of the newly planted ferns.

 

Flourishing spring wildflowers in the Milesmere Woodland

Wild daffodils.  These English native bulbs are now well established in the first of TMAEG’s managed glades.

 

Native primroses are prolific in this area; they are one of the main signs of spring.

 

In the middle of March, TMAEG worked on its second glade, defining it with a low dogwood fence and planting many more native primroses to enhance this part of the woodland.

 

An early spring sight in Thorncliffe, the work of one of our open gardeners, Stan.  A fine combination of topiary, bulbs and heathers in flower.

 

Two new areas for TMAEG’s daffodil planting – the greens at Capian Walk and Milesmere/Thorncliffe    

 

Bulb Displays in our Village Centre

The wonderful purple and yellow crocuses that have adorned the green opposite Ashbrook School for at least three decades.

 

Crocus planting by TMAEG at the opposite end of the green, under the silver maples.  This is the second season for these bulbs.

 

One of 12 tubs planted up and maintained by TMAEG on the forecourt of Ashbrook School.

 

Daffodil planting at the Local Park entrance.  These February Gold bulbs (above) were planted in 2011 by Ashbrook School children at the start of an annual programme run by TMAEG in conjunction with the school.

 

 The picture above shows the most recent planting (foreground) carried out in the autumns of 2016 and 2017.  Each entry level child plants three bulbs.

 

Enhancing the Ash Brook at the Clay Hill entrance to the Local Park

In mid February TMAEG tackled this badly overgrown section of the Ash Brook.  Masses of brambles and dead branches were removed’ opening up views of the stream.

 


At the same time, tree maintenance was carried out and the accumulated litter of many years was collected by our busy team. The morning’s ‘haul’ was 17 pink and black sacks of waste and recyclable materials.

 

The morning’s work provided a reminder that we have a lovely woodland resource here, a place to walk and play.

 

There has been great support from local residents and from passers by for the now well established Kepwick Garden that has transformed a strip of uncared for  ‘leftover land’ alongside a footpath link to Capian Walk into a beautiful amenity for Two Mile Ash. Thanks to the garden and the associated environmental work along the adjacent woodland edge (photo on right), this footpath route has become a more attractive option for east to west walking journeys to and from Great Holm.

 

A second community garden is currently being created in the Park Gateway area.  With the agreement of the landowners concerned, the local authority and the occupants of the two housing units, the outworn shrubs have been removed and a start has been made on planting these with colourful shrubs.  The two facing strips of land will be laid out in the same way, matching the symmetry of the original Park Gateway design – hence the ‘Twin Gardens’. The photo shows the preparatory work about half way through.

 

The Bee Garden and Fernery

Now into its third year the bee garden is coming into its own with the pollinator attracting plants from seeds sown by TMAEG now taking over.  Here are two of these species, garlic mustard and red campion.

 

In the latest stage of our work we have planted some 120 plug plants.  These are of two types. Slightly over half of them have been put in place on the eastern bank of the Ash Brook; they include ox-eye daisy, greater knapweed and agrimony.  The others have been planted in three areas on the sides and ‘floor’ of the brook (adjacent photo) ; they are ‘marginals’ suited to stream side conditions and include marsh  marigold, purple loosestrife and ragged robin. All of these plants are either bee or other pollinator friendly.

 

Part of the fernery area which includes three species of fern.  The area is bounded by hazel trees – to be coppiced in future years – and traditional ‘cottage style’ foxgloves are also to be planted.  

 

Beauty in the Street Scene

Cherry Trees in Blossom

 

Dawn Redwoods coming into leaf  

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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

webautumn2016

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.  

o o o 

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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