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Update regarding common management on 23/06/2024:

Various works have been done on the common over the past couple of weeks, the first being mowing in preparation for Strawberry Fair. This happens every year and every year we’re sorry to see the buttercups cut.

From the council’s point of view, this is done in preparation for the Fair and also to keep rye grasses from outcompeting all the other species in the grassland. However, we discussed this with them last year and agreed that staggered mowing and long margins being left would be preferable. We are waiting for a response from the council as to why this hasn’t happened this year.

One of the London Plane trees along the river has sadly met its end. Kenny McGregor, Council Tree Officer, was aware that the tree had a large crack in it, and had been carefully trying to plan to save the tree, as has been successfully done with planes nearer the restaurant. Unfortunately, nature, ever unpredictable, took its course and the tree collapsed under the weight of the rain.

This is obviously very upsetting as the tree was approximately 150 years old, and our veteran trees are so important to the local wildlife. Plans going forward include leaving the trunk in situ to see if it comes back, and/or planting a successor tree slightly further into the common. If you have any questions/queries about this, please do let us know.

Above, on the left, the crack which had developed naturally. Tree officers were aware of this and trying to plan to save the tree. On the right, the aftermath after the tree came down.

Our annual Wassail was on 14th January 2024 from midday at Midsummer Common Community Orchard, and much enjoyed by all!

Apple Day on Sunday 29th October 2023 from midday at

Midsummer Common community Orchard 

There will be apple pressing and pumpkin carving – see you then!

 

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING!
23rd October 2023, 7-9:30 pm, 2023 at Christ Church, CB1 1HT

Guest Speakers:

Duncan Mackay on the history of midsummer common
Friends of the River Cam on conservation issues affecting our river, and what we can do
to help.
You can also attend via zoom:

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/84203252234

Meeting ID: 842 0325 2234
Passcode: 782280

AGM 2023 Agenda

Have your views heard! There will also be cake and coffee or wine.

June 2023
Preparations for Strawberry and Midsummer Fair and Gathering

Strawberry Fair is set for Saturday June 3.  The weather looks set fair, so hopefully, it will be another success.   https://strawberry-fair.org.uk/

Midsummer Fair is coming up from 21st -25th June. We are trying to liaise with involved parties to ensure a safe event for everyone. If you have specific concerns, then please do get in touch [facebook..Cambridge-Midsummer-Funfair]

 

June 2022
Preparations for Midsummer Fair and Gathering

For the past several months, community leaders from the De Freville area Neighbourhood Watch Group, Cambridge Businesses against Crime and the FoMC have been working with the Cambridge City Council to improve the experience of the yearly midsummer gathering for attendees and the communities surrounding the Common. To that end, the city will revive the practice of closing the Fort St. George Bridge.  Closing the narrow foot-bridge on June 25th will eliminate the potentially dangerous congestion point on the narrow bridge. The closure is also intended to reduce the size of the crowds that have gathered on both sides  of the bridge in previous years.

April / May 2022
New hop vines are thriving.

In April, you may have seen our Hops Team installing poles to support future growth. Tim Hill showed his agility by attaching strings to the tops of the 16ft hop poles. As the hops climb these strings, they maximize their exposure to sunlight and achieve significantly more growth.

In February, the team had planted a mixture of two Golden Tassel and two Prima Donna plants adding to the existing hops planted along the Evening Court wall. These join the Fuggle and Challenger hops on the walls of the Emmanuel College residence. As is shown to the right, by May, our hop lines have grown to over 16 feet. Plans are in place to increase the pole height by another few feet after we see the height the hops achieve in 2022. Like 2021, the expectation is that Calverley’s will use the hops for another outstanding Midsummer brew.

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 rubbish 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