Just before the coronavirus lockdown number 3 we managed to fit in a 4 person socially-distanced litter-pick on the east end of West Busk Lane. Not the nicest job and it was pretty cold when we started, but by the end, everything was toasty.
Imagine my surprise when attending the November 2019 Otley in Bloom AGM to discover that I was now temporary chairman. Note to self: do not nod off in any meeting again. To say the least, the last year has been “interesting”, but it has been made especially pleasant by the friendly people of Otley and particularly OiB members who have done their best to keep Otley blooming during this difficult year.
1) During 2019/20 we worked more than ever with other organisations. At the start of the year we produced a large piece of work with Wildlife Friendly Otley (WFO), Otley 2030 and Leeds Parks Department to show what Otley would look like as Leeds City Council starts planting 25 hectares of trees every year and brings changes to its land in Otley to combat climate change and improve biodiversity.
Ideas included increasing community orchards, more tree planting and allowing wildflowers on verges throughout the town. Unfortunately, Leeds Parks were not able to obtain political approval for these ideas because:
• within other parts of Leeds they had more low-hanging fruit to work with;
• to make the changes they would be required to ask their contractor to use mow-and-collect equipment which would entail capital expenditure; and
• the collection of clippings would require some sort of composting arrangements to be created within Otley.
2) But by October Leeds City Council had decided to raise its target to 50 hectares of trees per year and is again interested in our plans for Otley’s green spaces.
3) 2020 marked the 20th year of the existence of Otley in Bloom and we were just discussing our plans for celebration when Covid struck and we entered a long period of lockdown. Soon after that the national and county systems of “in Bloom” decided to cancel the competition for 2020. Working together outside even in small teams was, on occasions, not allowed.
4) Within Otley in Bloom we moved over to having our monthly meetings on Zoom and more regular use of Facebook. We will end the year by transferring our website to a more suitable portal. Perhaps only a small a retreat to the potting shed.
5) Early summer saw the arrival of a lot of graffiti in the underpass. OiB often works to remove graffiti but on this occasion the lack of access to the correct chemicals defeated us. Later Leeds Council’s graffiti team removed some of this and is still removing the last vestiges this autumn.
6) Collaborating with the BID, we saw that shops were about to reopen and that Leeds Parks had emptied out the 32 barrier planters. We knew that the people of Otley wanted to “do something” to fight Covid and we introduced the concept of “Otley is Blooming Back”. Over two weekends we replanted all 32. Once installed we paid for half the planters to be watered from our own funds but also worked with local shops, all of whom, when asked, stepped up to water them through the summer months for free. A truly emotional and life-reaffirming experience.
7) Having completed the wildflower design project with Leeds Parks, and building on our 2013 experience of planting wildflower meadows at The Whartons primary school, we looked around with WFO for a commercial site on which to carry out a further wildflower project. BT generously offered us the land surrounding their telephone exchange and, once the dry summer months were over and 6 people were allowed to congregate, we sowed wildflower seeds over half of their grassed area. Hopefully, spring 2021 will show the benefits.
8) OiB looks after some 60 individual planted areas in Otley, ranging from less than a square metre up to 80 square metres. Each of these has OiB members watching over to keep them nature-friendly and looking spick and span. All this work has continued throughout the pandemic, sometimes as small teams and sometimes as a lone volunteer.
9) On top of this, OiB continues to step in where others have run out of puff or if they need knowledge, contacts etc. We have also begun to help Otley 2030 with their projects on locally grown food.
10) 2021 should be an even more exciting year.
Chairman, Otley in Bloom
October and November are always busy months for OiB, even more so when Covid is causing constantly changing restrictions on how many people can meet out of doors. During this period we do a lot of tidying up. So various individuals managed to get out and tidy up the Charles St car park, a number of planters around town, flower beds on Weston Lane and Bremner Street corner, as well as smaller sites. All socially distanced or keeping in a bubble, of course.
At the start of 2020 OiB, Wildlife Friendly Otley and Otley 2030 were working together to provide Leeds Parks department with a guide on how to introduce more trees and wildflowers to Otley. We were especially interested in changing road verges from barren green grasses to more interesting wildflower areas which would offer friendly places for wildlife and reduce the carbon footprint of maintaining verges.
Leeds Parks found other areas of Leeds to plant up before Otley and then…. Covid struck. Despite this, the Otley organisations kept talking and looking for alternative groups to work with. It was with great excitement that we found that the BT telephone exchange on Charles Street was happy to let us intiate a wildflower meadow in their garden. We considered planting up the garden in the Spring but the weather had been beautiful and dry so we were concerned we would not be able to keep it watered, hence we let the Spring pass.
Autumn looked a better bet and so, in September, six socially-distanced members of OIB and WFO started with this roughly mown area.
Focusing on the front rectangle of grass we mowed the grass again, and again, and again. This allowed us to get down to the turf of the garden. Then we used a turf cutter to slice strips out which we flipped over. The addition of 0.5 kg of wildflower seed and about the same of dry sand scattered by hand over the newly exposed earth seemed to work well. Over the coming few days the British weather did the right sort of things and watered the seed in. Some of it will require colder weather to trigger germination.
We will sign-post the area to help guide the official mowers to cut the grass/wildflowers correctly. We will also put up a sign explaining what we have done so everyone can see how well or badly this is doing.
For those who are interested in the details;
seeds purchased from https://www.naturescape.co.uk/
“N5F long season meadow mix”
|Latin Name||English Name||Mix Composition|
|Centaurea nigra||Common Knapweed||5%|
|Centaurea scabiosa||Greater Knapweed||3%|
|Daucus carota||Wild Carrot||5%|
|Echium vulgare||Viper’s Bugloss||2%|
|Galium verum||Lady’s Bedstraw||6%|
|Geranium pratense||Meadow Cranesbill||2%|
|Hypochaeris radicata||Common Catsear||2%|
|Knautia arvensis||Field Scabious||3.5%|
|Lathyrus pratensis||Meadow Vetchling||2%|
|Leontodon hispidus||Rough Hawkbit||2%|
|Leucanthemum vulgare||Oxeye Daisy||5%|
|Linaria vulgaris||Common Toadflax||1%|
|Lotus corniculatus||Birdsfoot Trefoil||4%|
|Malva moschata||Musk Mallow||3%|
|Plantago media||Hoary Plantain||2.5%|
|Prunella vulgaris||Self Heal||7%|
|Ranunculus acris||Meadow Buttercup||5%|
|Ranunculus bulbosus||Bulbous Buttercup||5%|
|Rhinanthus minor||Yellow Rattle||6%|
|Rumex acetosa||Common Sorrel||5%|
|Scabiosa columbaria||Small Scabious||3%|
|Silene dioica||Red Campion||4%|
|Succisa pratensis||Devilsbit Scabious||2%|
|Trifolium pratense||Wild Red Clover||2.5%|
|Verbascum nigrum||Dark Mullein||1.5%|
|Vicia cracca||Tufted Vetch||2%|
|29 Wildflower species||100%|
Annually OiB tidy up the small park on the corner of Bremner Street. This area holds two bird boxes, some well developed small trees and, on the frontage, small bulbs and plants. It tends to overgrow its space each year so we wait for all the birds to have completed nesting and then cut it back. This year, constraints at the council recycling centre meant we kept the debris on site to compost down safely. Most years we also litter pick the space within the area and we did that again but the litter levels were smaller than usual.
Restrictions on numbers of Otley Bloomers (6 maximum) due to Covid meant that we had to limit participants, but we managed to do a good job in just a short while. No chance for our usual cake and coffee though!