Back in the spring some Otley residents brought an idea to OiB to plant bulbs on the south side of the Wharfe. Hence our little advert was born to bring us all together around this simple plan in recognition of the past 18 months:
“As a memorial to those who died, suffered and still suffer from Covid, Otley in Bloom will be coordinating a “cloud-planting” of 2,000 daffodils this autumn. It will be on the river bank beneath the trees, between Buon Apps and Tittybottle Park. For many people this was a place of regular exercise and contact (if only briefly or with a smile) during the pandemic. We have selected a mix of varieties to provide an extended flowering season and we hope that over the years the cloud will naturalise and grow thicker.”
The journey to complete this project had a series of steps throughout the summer. We started off by asking David Wilson’s management if we could carry out a planting under the trees and explained why. We are very grateful that they agreed.
We sized the long narrow plot to estimate how many bulbs we would need. 2,000 was the answer so we ordered 2,000 mixed daffodil bulbs. In the late summer we announced our plans in the local papers and on Facebook.
We consulted with the residents’ committee of Garnett Wharfe and they supported the idea. Finally the bulbs turned up. Do you know how a big a pile 2,000 bulbs make? The ground next to the river under the trees was rock hard but getting softer as the autumn rains began. The group decided to break the planting into three sessions with one on a Sunday to allow weekday workers to take part.
On the whole the weather stayed nice. The ground was especially full of builder’s rubble and, in places, solid concrete, but over three digs spanning two weeks we got it done. Hopefully the spring will show how well it worked without the bulbs getting in the way of the paddleboarders, the picnickers and everyone else.
And finally a few months later the cloud planting.
Leeds Council has given Otley in Bloom and the Rotary Club of Otley, permission to plant a mixed range of wild flowers on the steep bank to the northwest of the Ilkley Road underpass this autumn. This will entail us stripping back small amounts of turf, turning it over and reseeding the exposed soil with Yorkshire native-type wildflower seeds. By turning the turf we will ensure that the existing plants are likely to survive along with these new wildflowers.
What we should see is a larger number of local flowering wildflowers during next summer and more bees and butterflies in the area for a longer period during the spring/summer/autumn. This will increase the area’s biodiversity.
The land is already under a “restricted mow” schedule so it tends to look a bit shaggy all of the time and has started to show a range of natural wildflower plants including Red Sorrel, Sticklewort, Yarrow, Red Clover, Fox and Cubs and Autumn Hawklot as well as a fair few different grasses.
To aid the mowers we will place a series of small blue hearts (to indicate the area of restricted mowing) and a small wooden sign “Mow only in March & October”. More details and photos will follow as the project progresses.
Any problems or concerns please contact us at email@example.com
What has grown in 2022
The first thing to say is that the small wooden sign has been removed and replaced a few times, we guess by people who find it a bit intrusive. We will give it a break for a few weeks before trying to replace it. The blue hearts have been left alone. It is also worth noting that, to date, (10/5/22) Leeds council has not yet carried out the first mow of the bank which has given the grass a head start, mowing the bank requires special equipment as it is so steep.
However, we have seen some interesting things coming up.
This lovely little flower is Cuckooflower (Cardamine pratensis) also known as ‘lady’s smock,’ the pretty lilac flowers open around the time the cuckoo starts to call.
Just a note to record that Leeds mowed this bank on the 13 May 22. This killed the Cuckooflower which may come again next year. After the mow we looked through the growth and by the end of May we had the following.
The second summer under covid has been interesting. We have had more time to plan and more time to find safe ways of working together while maintaining the various planters and beds around town.
Our most regular area of work continues to be the barrier planters, firstly our thanks must go to Otley Bid who have paid for much of the watering on these planters this year, to Leeds House which picked up watering the two large planters in the Market Square, the Milk Bar Cafe and Deli who look after the pyramid planter in Manor Square and Nam Jam Thai who fill the planter next to their restaurant with herbs and of course all the other shops who pick up their local planter too many to name.
Sustaining the barrier planters is a new project for us since Leeds council gave up this work, we have moved the planting to be more drought toleratant and to be perennial, using our allotment to overseason plants before we can bring the same plant back for a second or more years.
In terms of the large Weston Lane bed we have tried to keep that tidy but the plantings are so successful and the space so full of bees that it is hard to know exactly what to cut back and what to leave growing during our various visits. What start as flowers in the summer become seed pods to feed birds in the late autumn. A real joy of a bed. Though this Broom is having a trim back in the autumn.
The Nectar Beds in WharfeMeadows are much the same and seem to need a lot of work but the buzz of health pervades the area from March into November so it is going well.
The Bremnar Street garden is very healthy and now seems to need three cut backs a year, one before bird nesting season, an early August trim and then a final September cut back. It would be great if Otley Council could get the badly placed sign post moved so that wheelchaired pedestrians had easier passage on the pavement.
The recycling centre Ellar Ghyll bed is pretty much self sufficient with only a certain amount of weeding and litter needing clearing on a regular basis. The rose hips and the connection up to the Ghyll beck make a nice extention to the nature path here. However, some of the small trees planted here are getting a bit big.
The various other “gates” to Otley continue to be planted up with a seasonal sequence of flowers.
The year started well for our wildflower project at BT’s telephone exchange on Charles Street. The area that OiB and Wildlife Friendly Otley seeded last September showed some interesting plants developing. We marked out the zone that we wanted left alone and placed a sign at the entrance to the land in February. The plan, agreed with BT, was for just one mowing this first year in September.
Flowers started to appear not only in the seeded area but also in the rest of the site. By May, with bluebells and other wildflowers in abundance, the un-mowed garden was starting to look like the meadow-in-the-middle-of-the-town we hoped it would become.
By June some of the plants were over 4 feet tall and the place was buzzing with insects. Someone kicked over the sign that explained what we were trying to do, but given the stress of Covid we sort of understood that.
Then on 4th June the mowers came and cut the whole area.
Obviously this was a blow, particularly for the volunteers who had done the work. We discussed the situation with BT and learnt that their mowing contractor had tried to cut as high as possible. Looking forward, they will try to limit the mowing to March and late August. We have yet to see what survives into the autumn, when it will be time to decide what needs to be done to recover this.
BT Garden Autumn 21
After the mid season cut in 21, BT didn’t cut the garden at all in the Autumn. OiB stepped in and mowed just the large rectangular area. Wildlife friendly Otley came in and added further wildflower seedings after we had mowed. Let’s see what happens in 2022.
BT Garden Spring 22
Up until May 22 BT has not come back to mow this garden and OiB has done nothing to change the garden so let’s see what the results are.
OiB is trying to maintain the town’s barrier planters so there is always something interesting in them, using perennials wherever possible. The week of 10th May was a good opportunity to upgrade all 31 planters, which we did in three mornings. Despite ongoing restrictions we had an enjoyable time followed by coffee in the market square. The very kind Otley BID has stepped in to provide the money for watering roughly half these planters this year.