The Weeds Act 1959, lists noxious weeds whose spread must be controlled. Thistles and Docks are on that list; some would like to include Nettles. As the picture below shows, there has been a massive invasion of weeds across Midsummer Common this year. Thistles were the main intruder.
FoMC and others made representation to the Council calling for a quick mowing before the seeds were scattered. The Council was slow to act and we must now wait to see whether the weed cover is magnified next year.
The Fair was managed by the Showmen's Guild rather than the City Council this year. It was bigger than last year but attendances were down. Saturday attractive large crowds from far away places and the noise and litter increased. The event finished on Monday and the Common was back to normal on Wednesday. Not quite normal - rubbish was left behind and heavy lorries caused a broken sewer pipe and messy repairs. FoMC wrote a report on the problems for everyone to see and the Council to discuss.
As the news below will show, the Council has been doing a lot to manage the trees on Midsummer Common. As May gives way to June, the Council has engaged contractors to carry out some emergency pruning works on a horse chestnut tree on the Common alongside Victoria Avenue. There is a crack in one of the primary branches of the tree - see right. Tree surgeons will reduce the end weight on this branch to alleviate further stresses. This should save a large part of the tree from collapsing and keep it safe and in place for a good many more years.
We are hoping to have a stall at this year's Strawberry Fair (Saturday 1 June) but need some volunteers to help. We need someone to help put up and take down the stall. And we need others on the stall during the day (an hour or two) - this involves talking to visitors about FoMC and encouraging them to join, helping parents and children to make bat masks, butterfly necklaces, insect hotels, and generally keeping an eye on the stall. Please contact us if you can help.
The grand old Tree of Heaven on Midsummer Common is no more. Recent tests showed that it was full of disease from top to bottom and likely to fall to the ground. So three men and a saw were seen felling it today. They left the main trunk behind to show the disease - see the pictures below. Replacement planting is most certainly on the cards and the Council would welcome any suggestions, as long as it will be a big canopied tree that holds the same presence as the Tree of Heaven.
Over the years, FoMC members have worked hard to improve the state of Midsummer Common and the adjacent Community Orchard. They established the Orchard - cleared the site, planted the trees and hedges, landscaped the entrance and installed two benches, a picnic table and a boules court. But these green spaces need constant maintenance and a group of FoMC volunteers plays a big part in this. They plan to meet in the Orchard on Sunday 5th May between 10am and 12noon and thereafter on the first Sunday of each month (a change from last year when it was the second Sunday). So please put these dates into your diary: 2 June, 7 July, 4 August, 1 September, 6 October, 3 November and 1 December. Do drop in for some exercise and a social chat.
Council contractors have been out pruning the trees on the Common. A light cut over the paths. A more serious felling elsewhere. The Chair of FoMC and the manager of the Community Orchard joined the Council back in July to survey the trees on Midsummer Common. There is good news and bad. Nature is taking its toll in various ways and there are current and future problems to be solved. Do read their report and comment on their proposed tree works programme.
Friends of Midsummer Common decided to install a picnic table in the Community Orchard for the public to use. This table was bought and assembled by FoMC using funds donated by Brunswick and North Kite (BruNK) local residents and the Beth Shalom Synagogue. Many thanks to both of them! The City Council laid the foundations and fixed the table in place. Hopefully families will now come to the Orchard, picnic at the table and help pick the ripe fruits.
The Community orchard is looking particularly lovely in this sunny June weather. Do take this opportunity to come and visit and enjoy this beautiful quiet place. There are benches to sit on and a place to play boule. Soon it will be time to pick the fruit. The mullberry tree has a mass of fruit but you need to be there before the birds!
Members of FoMC joined an Action for Swifts walkabout the Midsummer Common area to look for nesting swifts. There were several nesting in a large house on the corner of Brunswick Walk, and five pairs in the Swift Tower on Logans Meadow. Sadly none, as yet, have found the nest boxes that we installed under Elizabeth way bridge, but we have been advised that it can take some years to establish a colony. It was a glorious evening for the walk. Some years ago there were hundreds of swifts wheeling around the Common but now that lofts are well insulated there are few places nearby where they can nest. If you are interested in helping to bring back the swifts by installing a nest box in your house do get in touch or contact Action for Swifts.
A mature willow outside the Fort St George pub developed an enormous crack down through its trunk. The Counsil was quick to call in tree surgeons to pollard the tree and lighten the weight on the branches. The removed branches were reduced to a lorry load of chippings. What remains is not a pretty sight. But it is now safe and being a willow it is expected to recover to its former shape over time.
The Cambridge Half Marathon took place on 4 March - 7,000 people ran through the streets of Cambridge for a good cause. The papers reported a joyous occasion for all those involved. But they did not report the extensive damage caused to the snow and rain soaked Midsummer Common where the run started and ended. The Council has promised that a full repair will be made to the Common, including back chain/drag mat, vertidraining (aeration) and overseeding. Some rethinking is needed to avoid such costly environmental damage recurring in the future. FoMC has presented its own comments on the damage to Midsummer Common
A large group of employees from AstraZeneca spent a day working on Midsummer Common and in the Community Orchard. One team rebuilt the espalier frame for the pear trees - digging holes, cementing in concrete spurs and bolting them to the wooden posts.
Another team cut back the long row of high hedges bordering the apple trees. Another team cleared around the fruit tree roots, pruned the branches and banged in support posts. Both teams carried the mounds of cuttings to a central collection point.
Two teams went onto the main Common - clearing brambles and nettles from the bank and inside the cattle guards. Thanks to all the volunteers who helped in the various tasks and everyone seemed to enjoy the experience. FoMC hopes they will return at the same time next year!
The Council upgraded some of the footpaths across the Common recently. The agreed plan included the installation of night-time ground lighting to help guide cyclists along the main footpath from Cutter Ferry bridge to Four lamps roundabout. Construction workers have been cutting holes along the edge of the path and the lights are now in place.
We would like to thank the Cambridge Building Society for their generous help in installing a new water butt in the orchard entrance which collects water from the roof of the CBS building next door. The water butt (obtained from the Cambridge Water Company) will reduce the amount of carrying needed to keep newly planted shrubs and bulbs well watered which is a back breaking job!
The bat boxes were put up in late summer 2016 and so we are hoping for some residents this year. As you will see from the photograph to the left, they are positioned high up in one of the biggest trees in the Eastern Pound and very difficult to spot. We do have a bat detector, so will be monitoring activity in the area – there have already been some sitings. Any members who enjoy an evening walk on the Common and would like to hear what is going on around the boxes are most welcome to borrow the detector in return for some feedback!
Our beekeeper in the Orchard said it would be good to have some hops for the bees to visit. We thought they would add to the scenery and lead the way to a micro-brewery producing FoMC ale! So it was good to see volunteers out on a rather blustery Sunday morning digging and planting hops- 2 Fuggles and 1 Wye. We also planted a couple of shrubs and some foxgloves - kindly donated by Jenny Houghton - in the Newmarket Road entrance to the Orchard.
Only authorised vehicles are allowed to drive and park on Midsummer Common. Permission has been given for vehicles to service the Fort St George pub and Midsummer House restaurant but this is too often abused with unauthorised vehicles driving and parking on the Common. The public complains about this visual intrusion and damage done to the grassland.
The Council installed an automatic rising kerb to control access to the Common and granted a Right of Way to the pub. The footpath upgrades described above are meant to keep vehicles off the grassland. Without Council enforcement the offences will persist.