I am ashamed to say that as much as my own garden has received minimal attention this year for a variety of reasons, the school garden has received even less than that, bordering on none at all, although I did do a decent session of weeding and clearing early in the year. Events at the start of the year, regards my anaemia and the ensuing tests and appointments that have dogged the months since, knocked me for six and it was only in the last few weeks that I began to feel more like myself but with this improvement has come guilt over the dire state of my own beloved vegetable plot, a guilt which was further compounded when I saw the state of the school raised beds when the school reopened on Tuesday. As for the poly tunnel, well I didn’t even think about walking round to the back of the building and looking in on that, as there was nothing growing in it!
Or so I thought ……..
Over this week the classes that have windows and external doors opening onto the area where the poly tunnel is situated, have been plagued by wasps. As was the case a couple of years ago, the large willow structure that is located by the main entrance of the school, has attracted pretty much every wasp within a 5 mile radius of the school and there are hundreds of them feeding on the sap secreted by the willows. That said, the number of wasps turning up in the classrooms didn’t really tie in with the willow problem, as the willow structure is at the other end of the school and only the classroom nearest to it would reasonably expect to be affected by wasps currently feeding amongst its’ branches and leaves. No, I suspected that the fruit trees that someone in their wisdom had planted along what is now the approach to the tunnel some 6 years or so ago, were the problem and more specifically the plum tree which is situated directly in front of the external doors for two of the classrooms.
So yesterday I decided to check out my theory and did indeed find that the plum tree was in full fruit and had a large number of wasps feeding on those plums which had gone beyond ripe. I also noticed that the poly tunnel was in danger of being completely encased in an aggressively growing bramble and that a serious amount of clearing needed to be done before I could even gain access to the tunnel itself.
Worried for both the safety of the children due to the number or wasps visiting the tree and the state of the poly tunnel under its’ blanket of thorny brambles, this morning I armed myself with secateurs and thick gardening gloves and after Little Mudlet was safely in her classroom, I headed to the tree and tunnel with a view to removing the remaining plums and collecting the windfalls as well. I had hoped that being so early in the morning, the wasps wouldn’t have arrived for breakfast just yet. Sadly this wasn’t the case and so I spent a very cautious half hour clearing the tree of fruit by whatever means possible and trying not to get stung. It soon became apparent that there was only one way to achieve this and that was by pruning the branches containing the fruit, removing any plums that were still usable and composting the rest of the over ripe and shrivelled up fruit, along with the branches themselves. It took just over 25 minutes to clear the tree and by the time I had finished, it looked a rather forlorn sight but at least the majority of the wasps had gone, no doubt in the general direction of the willow structure (sorry class 4).
Next job was to clear the brambles and overgrown hedge branches so that I could actually get into the tunnel, not that I really wanted to because even through the frosted plastic I could see the ominous outline which could only be brambles and I dreaded to think what awaited me behind the door. There was much under breath cursing and utterings of ‘ouch’ (though possibly not with that exact spelling although ‘u’ did feature somewhere), due to thorns piercing jeans and gardening gloves in equal measures, as I dragged each severed branch out of the hedge and over to my rapidly growing pile of clippings which I had situated as far from the classrooms as possible, under the trees in the ‘wild’ corner. Many of these branches were several metres in length but all of them were vicious.
Finally the doorway was clear and it was with a lot of trepidation that I unlatched it and pulled it open. Oh my!!!! There were certainly things growing in it now! “Day of the Triffids” didn’t even come close. Brambles were everywhere, having interwoven themselves through, under and between everything and it took a further 20 minutes to carefully snip, tug and pull every last bit out of the tunnel and down to the pile. But even as I surveyed the now cleared space, the ominous shadow of the branches climbing up and over the top of the outside of the structure could be clearly seen and sent a shudder down my spine. It really was a eerie spectacle and one which I knew I needed to deal with sooner rather than later but after very nearly 1.5 hours of dealing with things that either stung or spiked anything they came into contact with, I’d had enough and decided to call it a day……. but I can’t leave a return visit too long because as sure as eggs is eggs, left to its’ own devices, the Bramble will soon recover and will strive to recover the spaces I so painfully cleared.