Those gathered in the Rural Life Museum carpark on a fine August Saturday afternoon were but a small band, so Ian Rands’ plans for separate routes were merged.
Heaving up the Tor was rewarded: the Mendip Hills, Brean Down and Steep Holm just out of reach in the clear air. But the purpose was to look at some of the society’s plantings, so still heady from the view, and with a nod towards the orchard standards we put in three years ago on the eastern slopes, we descended to Stonedown Lane. All but one managed to resist the allure of the icecream van.
Then after a chairman’s proprietary inspection of parked vehicles claiming disabled status, we moved down the lane to Joe Joseph’s field. The hundreds of hedge plants there seemed to be doing well, and we ambled our way down to stand alongside the ancient oaks Gog and Magog on Wick Farm. The usual conjecture about age and prospects of these old giants took place, helped by the assembled foreign visitors.
Walking by the maturing plantings in the oak row was a pleasure, and we could see the results of enclosure clearance and pruning work from two years ago. By now we were nearing Higher Wick Farm, ready for a rendezvous with Ian and Carol Tucker’s teatime hospitality, but briefly delayed for the small excitement of Leslie’s dog Mack trying to herd a field of bullocks.
The break helped prepare for the ascent of Stonedown Hill, now graced with the hundreds of whips we planted in early 2003, their tubes and stakes standing proud on the slopes, harbingers we hope of resurrected woodland. At the hilltop we could see the recently replaced scots pines in their fine enclosures, beyond them the young beeches on the western flank, and to the north the high end of the oak row.
Up Paradise Lane, and then a diversion round the top of Bushy Coombe, which was good for butterflies as well as orchard watching, and some mention of plans for the 2004-05 planting. And finally back to the carpark, as well exercised in conversation as legs!
Thanks to Ian Rands for providing clear maps and notes, to Richard Raynsford and Joe Keers for volunteering as leaders, to John Brunsdon, Janet Morland and Leslie Delamont (and her dog Mack) for supporting, and to Ian and Carol Tucker for tea and delicious cake.