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January 2022
Wassailing to ensure orchard bounty

To ensure a bountiful harvest for 2022, on January 23rd, a group of FoMC wassailers appeared with instruments, painted faces, spirited dink, and foilage-inspired dress. They positioned themselves amongst the trees to provide songs sure to entice our Midsummer orchard into another splendid harvest in autumn 2022.

Wassailing is the centuries-old practice  of visiting orchards, reciting incantations, and singing to the trees to encourage them to thrive next year.   For mor information click on this link from the National Trust: Wassailing

November 2021
Bee Hotel open for visitors

When you think of living accommodations for bees, a beehive is likely the first image that comes to mind. In fact, of the 270 bee species that exist in the UK, 250 are solitary bees. Rather than living in hives, they live independently. They make their homes and lay their eggs in tunnels found in wood or soil. Bee hotels like this new installation at the Midsummer Orchard provide an ideal environment for our solitary bee species. Spring is the best season to watch female bees discover a suitable hotel tunnel and begin the nesting process to make it their own.  You can find the the bee hotel in the picture at right on the east side of the orchard. 

October 2021
City Section 106 Funding Granted to Friends of Midsummer common

Section 106 funding is financed by contributions from property developers towards the costs of providing community and social infrastructure. In the Summer, we applied to the Council for this funding to improve seating, paths, signage and bins in the Orchard, together with creating new raised beds. We are delighted to announce that we have been awarded £15,000 for this work. We are now waiting for the Council to appoint a Project Officer to work with us on this project. This initiative has been led by our Orchard Manager, Kit Holland, and congratulations are due to her.

 (Photo at right: Richard Warwick)

Summer to Autumn 2021:
A wilder looking, and more biologically diverse Common

Many of us have noted that viewing the Common this summer has been particularly moving. Grasses have been left to grow and as a gentle wind blows, the Common is in constant motion. In addition to being beautiful, taller grasses serve as a refuge for peacock caterpillar larvae and other insects. [top-left picture]  In fact, a more natural, less manicured Common leads to more biodiversity for Cambridge.  As autumn approaches, the green hues of summer are being replaced by a new palette of colours. As I write these notes on September 7th, I see that the mowers are out and the Common has returned to its usual shorn appearance.  [Bottom-left picture. The mower is just visible at the top.] [Bottom-right, the current mowed version of Common.]

2021 Midsummer Fair was cancelled - large gathering still occurred.

Some improvements were made over the 2020 event, e.g., toilets and trash bins installed, many problems remain e.g., large-scale littering, broken bottles, and scattered instances of confrontation by the visitors.  The failure to close the bridge caused crowding onto Pretoria Rd. and Aylestone Rd. Members of FoMC are now itemising the losses to business and personal property as well as the emotional impact of various confrontations.  We expect to re-double our efforts to make the 2022 event the year that sees the beginning of a marked improvement in the conduct of the fair and associated gathering.  You will hear more from the FoMC as we assess the 2021 event and make preparations for 2022. 

Imported trees and their role in the UK and on the Commmon

[Click here for the proposal to plant a few redwoods on the Common.]

Over the millennia invading nations and returning colonialists brought in many non-native trees that are now common in the UK. The Romans imported the sweet chestnut tree. In the 16th century, the horse chestnut tree, found on the Common’s Victoria Ave border, arrived from Turkey. The majestic plane trees on Jesus Green also have their origin outside the UK.

Today, our city arborists are carefully diversifying the city’s tree stock to safeguard against the increased risk of a devastating loss of one or more tree species due to pests, diseases or change in climate. To aid in diversification, a city arboricultural officer will, on occasion, carefully select established but non-native trees that are:

  • more drought tolerant than many local varieties.
  • superior carbon eaters (Cambridge has a low percentage of high carbon-eating conifer trees compared to other cities.)
  • better adapted to absorbing urban heat sources.
  • resistant to new pathogens.
  • more pollution tolerant e.g., the plane trees of Jesus Green.

With the advantages of diversification in mind, city arborists are considering planting one to three dawn redwoods on the Common. In the UK, these grow to about 30m after approximately 70 years. Dawn redwoods are not invasive, and do not pose a threat to native species. These grand trees are beautiful, are an excellent sink for carbon, and help increase the tree canopy to combat climate change. For a preview, stands of these redwoods are on display at the Botanical gardens, Cherry Hinton Hall Park and throughout the UK.

Kenny McGregor, Arboricultural Officer, Cambridge City Council