Nature Conservation Lewisham

Get involved in Lewisham's parks and nature reserves

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Nature’s Gym programme October-December 2017 now available

Iona Close Orchard

The sparkly new Nature’s Gym programme for October-December 2017 is now available. We have been to most of the sites before, but some of them, Hare & Billet pond for example, we’ve not been to for a few years. We do have one new site, Luxmore Gardens, where we will be going on Thursday 9th November (date TBC) to do some bulb planting. If you’ve not been to a Nature’s Gym session before, but would like to take part, please visit our Nature’s Gym and FAQ pages where you should find all the information that you need. If you have any more questions, please to email us.


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Orchard volunteering session in Ladywell Fields – Saturday 11 February, 10.30am-12.30pm

© Joanna Kopik

Orchard pruning in Ladywell Fields

The community orchard planted in Ladywell Fields in 2011 is thriving, but like any orchard, it needs care and attention if the trees are to grow strongly and avoid disease.  This is one of the Friends twice yearly volunteer sessions at which you can learn  and help prune the trees, inspect and repair the guards, and mulch the trees with woodchip to keep the weeds down.

If you do come and you have any of the following, please bring them; thick gloves, sharp secateurs and garden buckets.  Also at the risk of stating the obvious, please come in work clothes and robust shoes!

Pruning requires dry weather, so if it is raining, they will need to reschedule.



Come to support Ladywell Fields’ funding bid on Wednesday 29 January

Robert Sheppard writes…

IONA CLOSE ORCHARD is a wonderful pocket of undisturbed wildlife in the heart of Catford (behind Bournville Road) – but it will deteriorate quickly if not carefully looked-after.  It remains quite overgrown, but retains some fine old fruit trees. In common with most old orchards, the site is of high nature conservation value.

A diverse group of local people of all ages has already been involved in efforts to restore this ancient orchard – and the London Orchard Project has helped plant some new fruit trees.  There is a lot of enthusiasm about keeping this project going and safeguarding the site and its conservation value.

A volunteering session in 2013

A volunteering session in 2013

But to encourage these voluntary efforts, some more, quite modest, funding is needed. We’re asking for £1,500 and with this we will run four volunteer sessions in 2014 and will: complete some essential tree works to make the site safe and improve wildlife habitat; buy a secure tool store and a few key tools for volunteering sessions; and buy some saplings and more fruit trees to plant.

At least 50 local people will, we expect, be directly involved in one or more of these four volunteering sessions. However the beneficiaries in the longer term will be a much wider group than this.

For example, when the site is clear of rubbish and safe, probably as soon as September 2014, it can be made available as an ‘outdoor classroom’ for local schools.


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Iona Close hedge planting

As part of the successful Local Assembly bid and to satisfy some local residents we planted a number of hawthorn whips along the boundary of the site.  Enjoying the slightly warmer weather 19 people turned out to help which meant that we were able to get a lot of work done.

Planting whips is a happy business!

Planting whips is a happy business!

Aside from planting almost 300 whips we also were able to do some more clearing, top up the woodchip footpath and put manure on the trees.   There are still more whips that need to be planted and hopefully we can persuade a few of the Nature’s Gym volunteers to come out again to finish the job.  The site looks very different from when the volunteers first went there last year and these improvements have only been made possible with the help of volunteers, Friends and the London Orchard Project.

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London Orchard Project & Ladywell Fields User Group

London Orchard Project

The London Orchard Project will be running another couple of training sessions at Iona Close Orchard in Ladywell Fields.  They ran a couple of training sessions here during the summer, but there is still quite a bit to do.  The two sessions will be on Sunday 18 November and Sunday 9 December.  For more information on these training sessions and to book your place, please email the Ladywell User Group.

The Nature’s Gym volunteers have also been hard at work here, clearing brambles and brash and putting down a new footpath.  This really is an amazing site and is well worth a visit it you have not been before.

Iona Close Orchard

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How much wood does a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood? – Part 5

Once again the Nature’s Gym volunteers found themselves laying a woodchip footpath.  They have previously done it at a Local School ,  De Frene Road allotments and Burnt Ash Pond.   A few months ago they also started a new path at Iona Close Orchard.   The last time we were at this site we managed to improve our woodchip path making skills and were able to build on these on Thursday.  We managed to lay about 30m of path last time and we could already see how much the site was going to benefit from the new path.

Getting ready to continue what we stared!

Load the barrow

Luckily a lot of the hard work in preparing the ground for the new path had been done at our last session here, so while some people continued laying out the root barrier, others could get to work on barrowing and raking more woodchip, whiles others looked for logs that we could use for the edging.

Getting ready to rake the woodchip

Looking for logs

More of the old path uncovered

While some people were working on the path, other volunteers were busy clearing up a fallen tree, removing bindweed and creeping thistle from the meadow area, clearing around the fruit trees, cutting back bramble and uncovering more of the path we found last time!  So as you can see it was a very busy Thursday! There is of course more to do….

Getting there!

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How much wood does a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck would chuck wood? – Part 4

The Nature’s Gym volunteers really are getting in to the art of the woodchip footpath having previously done it at a Local School ,  De Frene Road allotments and Burnt Ash Pond.  Luckily they still seem to enjoy it, in fact they are finding new ways of improving the task.  They were also able to use previously unknown and hidden talents of pleats and box pleats while laying the root represent! 

All hands on deck to clear the path

But before all that the route of the path had to be clear of..roots!  Thanks to Robert from the Friends of Ladywell Fields, most of this had been done already, but there was still a little more to do. While some mattocked others dug and cleared litter – all very important work.  Once they way had been cleared we could start laying the geotextile.

Getting to grips with box pleats

Raking and barrowing

Soon the path was ready for the woodchip,  we wanted to make sure that the material we had laid down already was completely covered.  We had plenty of people on hand to fill and push barrows, as well as rake!   While all of this was going on other volunteers were clearing the site of invasive species which would allow for more light in to the site.  At the other end of the site a few more volunteers continued to clear the path.  As they did so, they unearthed and old herringbone footpath which we think must have been the remains of the old garden.  Look out for photos of this in the next couple of months.  We will post some here once the unearthing is complete.  Robert also took on the task of building a few steps, what started of as one ended up being three!  For a first attempt I think you will all agree that they look pretty smashing.

Robert’s Steps

Almost there!

Meanwhile at the other end, the path was really taking shape, in fact those beavering volunteers got the path finished – well 30m out of 60m – but they finished everything we hoped to achieve on that day!

A good days work