The great bypass litter mystery

During the dull early months of 2021 with the country placed under lockdown it became apparent that the Otley bypass verges were filling up with litter. It was even discussed in Otley-Our-Town. A lot of individuals tried to tidy up (thanks guys) but the bypass is roughly 1 km long with verges up to 10 metres wide on both sides. For those interested in these things, that’s getting on for 2 hectares or 5 acres covered in scraggly bush.

OiB reported it to Leeds City Council and offered to help the team there do a litter-pick. Leeds CC decided to do it themselves (according to some up to 56 bags were removed) and after they’d done their best OiB did a check round and picked another 14 bags of “stuff” off the road. We’ve checked with Otley Town Council since then and they say it’s down to the public to report this sort of mess. Which solves the mystery as to why it had been left to get in such a state – presumably, no one reported it. So if you see litter just go to the appropriate Leeds CC webpage and fill in the form. You don’t even have to give your name. Thanks to everyone who did what they could.

We would not recommend that people litterpick this road themselves, given the steepness of the verges and the 60mph speed limit. The majority of drivers are sensible but, as in life, there are some pratts.

Lockdown planters and showers

The 2021 lockdown continues. Last year we planted up the barrier planters in Otley (32+) in the late spring. The half to the west suffered from poor compost (not our supplier’s fault, very much all there was available) and the plants have never done as well as those on the eastern side of town.

Back in November we spread daffodil bulbs around them all, which are now coming up. Just to enhance these planters for the spring, we added a few more trays of plants during a rainy day.

Thank you to everyone who stopped to say thanks, and for giving us social distance to work.

Annual Report 2020

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.

Activities:

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.

Bill Austin
Chairman, Otley in Bloom

Autumn clean-up

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.

Charles St carpark