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!
Those of us who braved the heavy showers enjoyed spells of bright sunshine and a most enjoyable picnic. We had an excellent crop of fruit this year but it all ripened early, so there was litle left to pick, but we did have plenty of rural windfall apples to make some apple juice. The highlight of the afternoon was Will, our bee expert, who proceeded to show everyone how to extract honey from our thriving bee hive. Fresh honey on biscuits was a great addition to the picnic food.
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.
It was a glorious day for the Strawberry Fair and the FoMC stall was very busy all day with children carefully making bat masks and little alder bees and colouring beautiful butterflies. Meantime the shade of the tent was a good spot for parents with young babies to sit and relax and learn about the wildlife and trees on the Common.
There is plenty of work to do on the Common and in the Orchard. Jobs include planting and weeding, pruning fruit trees and hedges, removing brambles and nettles, cutting and raking grass. It is good fun as the smiling face on the left makes clear. Volunteering sessions will continue throughout the winter but at dates yet to be decided. Gloves and tools supplied or bring your own. There is usually cake and drink available.
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!
The FoMC AGM took place in the Wesley Chapel, 4 Lamps Corner, at 19.30 on 25 April. Before the annual business, Jon Harris, a local historian, gave a talk entitled "Midsummer Common and the surrounding community: people and buildings in the past". Jon lives in Cambridge, which he has made his base since he graduated from the University, with a degree in Art History, in 1965. He is the author of "Painter About Cambridge" published by the Fitzwilliam Museum in 1997. Minutes of the AGM are reported elsewhere on this page.
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.
The Half Marathon starting and ending on Midsummer Common has become an annual event in Cambridge. The Common became a village of tents with participants warming up just in time to be cooled down by a light shower of rain. The race started on time and most had crossed the finishing line two hours later.
The upgraded footpath across the Common from Cutter Ferry Bridge to Brunswick Walk has a superb flat surface. Just like snow when it is wet. So no surprise when the skiers come out to practice their skills ready for the Alps.
Storm Doris did a bit of damage in the Community Orchard. Half of one apple tree was broken off and a few twigs were scattered around. But not as bad as feared. Main damage was on the Common where the wind left an abundance of broken branches waiting for Council cleanup. Most notable damage was the felling of one of the 100 year old chestnut trees along Victoria Avenue. It was outside Jesus College but the debris spilled over the road onto the Common. Workmen were quick to clear the road and tidy up the damage to Midsummer Common.
Over the last two years the City and County Councils have been repairing some of the metalled footpaths on Midsummer Common. The riverside towpath was the first to be resurfaced and is now a joy to walk and cycle along. Similar work was carried out on the path from Victoria Avenue to Fair Street. The Councils then decided to upgrade three more footpaths as shown in the map below.
Work started last October in the area around the Fort St George pub including the bridge over the river which was renovated. The short path alongside Victoria Avenue was next to be rebuild and the work is nearing completion on the path from Cutter Ferry Bridge to Brunswick Walk.
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.