Wildflowering north of the Underpass

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 otleyinbloom@gmail.com

BT Garden 2021

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.

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

Chair’s report for Otley in Bloom, 2019

We really have got stuck into some great project work over the past 12 months (in no particular order);

  • Starting the year with the big graffiti clean up
  • Replanting at Piper Lane hoardings
  • The dog poo sticker competition with schools
  • Displays at the Christmas Tree Festival and Flower Festival.
  • Cleaning out and repairing bird boxes
  • Improvements in Charles St car park and Courthouse St car park
  • Enhancements to the outside space at Union Court
  • Clean-up and bulb planting at Kell Beck
  • Improvements to the lawn at Gas Works Corner

When combined with all the usual ongoing tasks and winning a Silver Gilt for the town in the Yorkshire in Bloom competition, it is an achievement not to be sniffed at.

The three pillars that “in Bloom” groups work within are: community involvement, environmental awareness and horticultural excellence, and all these projects fit well into these pillars. We have mainly taken on projects we have been asked to by residents, but perhaps next year we should set our own agenda?

We have a fabulous core of about 15 volunteers who I always find a delight to work with, often in small groups, or 1-2-1, so you get to know people, and that is lovely. Looking forward, the YIB judges comment that with a small team we might need to think a bit smarter about what we do and how we do it is turning around in my head.

As Otley in Bloom goes into its 20th anniversary year I’m looking forward to watching from the outside what the group chooses to focus its attention on, and it is a good excuse to have a critical think about what the volunteers in the group are interested in as Otley in Bloom is nothing without its wonderful people, and the world has moved on in the last 20 years so it is okay to change with it.

Katie Burnett …. signing off.