Following a very generous grant from Belper Town Council to Blooming Milford, 30 fruit trees were purchased and on 17th April 2021 a dozen volunteers planted the trees in the Hopping Mill Meadow area. This brings the total number of community fruit trees in Milford to 35, the fruit from them is free for Milford & Makeney residents to pick and use.
The day started with the trees, which had arrived bare rooted 3 weeks before and had been temporarily planted in someones garden, being dug up and carried to the site. Meanwhile thirty 6’6″ stakes and ties and 5 bags of compost had been purchased by Blooming Milford and also brought to the site. The dozen volunteers then gathered, a mixture of Blooming Milford members and Hopping Mill Meadow residents armed with spades and watering cans, and fanned out along the entire riverside meadow in Hopping Mill Meadow to designated planting spots and began planting. We had picked a lovely day – although cool to start, we were bathed in bright sunshine throughout.
The designated spots had been chosen to minimise spoiling the riverside view for the residents. They are as follows: behind The Spring Garden and wall of the Little Fallows car park; behind the wall of the office block car park; at the bottom the ramp going down to the riverside path from Millers Way near the office block, in front of existing trees; at the very north end of the meadow, adjacent to the Devonshire House flats.
A fairly complicated procedure for planting was followed to maximise successful establishment of the trees. First a hole was dug – Blooming Milford had already dug “test holes” in the designated spots the week before to establish the better ground, since the soil is very variable – sometimes good, sometimes thin and stony. The hole had to be wide enough to accommodate the roots and deep enough to cover the trunk up to a couple of inches below the graft. Getting the hole deep enough was sometimes quite an effort in stony ground, as can be see in the picture below!
Once the tree was placed in the hole it had to be well watered, as shown in the picture above. This is good practice anyway, but there has also been little rain in the last month. This is where our watering cans and the adjacent River Derwent came in handy. One of our volunteers, Hillary, had borrowed a very fancy watering contraption from a neighbour, a rolling barrel with a handle. Unfortunately when the barrel was being filled in the river it became detached from the handle and began floating downstream and we assumed it had been lost forever. Fortunately one of the other volunteers grabbed a long stick from the riverbank and dragged the barrel back to shore, where it was fished out and reconnected to its handle – saving Hillary from the embarrassment of having to explain the vanished barrel to the neighbour!
Once watered, the hole was refilled with the soil, and a 2 ft diameter area around the trunk cleared of vegetation to stop the tree being choked. A layer of compost was then added to suppress weeds and give the trees a good start. The next stage was to stake the trees to stop wind damage. Heavy duty stakes were used and these hammered into place with a mallet to give extra stability, as seen in the picture below. Volunteer Rory had brought a platform with him for extra purchase.
Finally ties were added to attach the trees to the stakes, as shown above. Rough plans of the planted areas were then made, as shown in the picture below. These plans will be converted into laminated signs which will be put up in each area allowing Milford & Makeney residents to know what fruit they are picking.
For information, the trees in each location are as follows. In the far northern plot near the Devonshire House flats there are 9 cordon fruit trees, two below the path and seven above it. Cordons do not grow very big, so will not obscure the view of the residents of the flats. The varieties are three Victoria plums, three Concorde pears and three Falstaff apples.
The remaining trees are all on medium rooting stock and will eventually grow 8-10 ft tall. Ten of these were planted at the bottom of the ramp and are two Egremont Russet apples, two Victoria plums, two Christmas Pippin apples, a Merryweather damson, a Bramley cooking apple, a Conference pear and a Comice pear. Five were planted behind the office block car park wall and were a Victoria plum, a Merryweather damson, a Bramley cooking apple, a Conference pear and a Comice pear. Finally 6 were planted below the Little Fallows car park wall and Spring Garden: a Merryweather damson, a Conference pear, a Comice pear, a King James black mulberry, a Meeches Prolific quince and a Malus Butterball crab apple. All the trees, as well as the fruit produced, will have beautiful blossom which will attract bees. This is especially the case for last three trees of the list above, so they have been planted in prominent positions close to the path so passers by can enjoy them.
This is a total of 30 trees and these join the five community fruit trees already planted in the village. For information these are a Victoria plum planted in the Spring Garden at the southern end of Hopping Mill Meadow and a Bramley cooking apple, Comice pear, Conference pear and James Grieve apple on The Triangle (junction of Chevin Road and A6 opposite The Strutt Arms.) The latter four were planted in 2013 so are well established and produce plenty of fruit.