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National Nest Box Week 2018

National Nest Box Week 14th to 21st February 2018 aims to enhance biodiversity and conservation of our breeding birds and wildlife by encouraging everyone to put up nest boxes in their local area.

Anyone can take part by putting up a bird box in your garden, at school or in the community as a member of a local wildlife group.  Although National Nest Box Week is 14th – 21st February you can put a nest box at any time of the year.  In fact the earlier the better to allow birds in your garden to get used to the box.

Natural nest sites such as holes in trees and derelict buildings are decreasing with modernisation and development so taking part and erecting a nest box can help.  We have put together some information below about where best to site your nest box, type of nest box to buy and also how to help ensure a safe environment/location where birds can nest successfully.

 

Top tips for putting up your nest box

  • Provide shelter from the elements

If your nest box does not have a sloping roof, tilt it slightly downwards to prevent rain from entering the nest box. It is also important that the nest box isn’t in direct sunlight for spring and summer and it is sheltered from prevailing wind and rain.

 

  • Make sure there is enough space between nest boxes

Nest boxes of the same type should not be sited too close together as this may promote aggressive behaviour between neighbours.

 

  • Ensure your nest box is high enough

Small-hole boxes are best placed 1-3m (3 – 10ft) above ground on tree trunks.  However, avoid sites where foliage may obscure the entrance hole. If there are no trees in your garden you can also site your box on the side of a shed or wall. Great tits use small-hole next boxes but prefer them on tree trunks.

 

  • It’s all about location

Open-fronted nest boxes should be hidden from view on a wall or fence that has shrubs and creepers growing against it. Robins use open-fronted next boxes but prefer them to be at the lower height protected by vegetation.

 

  • Safety from predators

There are many predators such as cats, squirrels, jackdaws, magpies and woodpeckers so it important that your nest box is not easily accessible to them. A metal plate around the hole will deter squirrels and other predators as they will not be able to break in. These plates are fairly inexpensive and are available here at Orchard Park.

 

  • Keep nest boxes away from bird feeders

Feeders can be busy places with high levels of activity of visiting birds which could disturb nesting pairs.

 

  • Prevent rust

Use galvanized or stainless steel screws or nails that will not rust and compromise the security of the nest box. Galvanised wire can be used if fixing boxes to trees to tie the box to the trunk or hang it from a branch. Regularly inspect fittings to ensure the box remains securely attached.

 

  • There’s no time like the present

Traditionally, small bird nest boxes are put up in the spring but breeding pairs begin to prospect in the latter half of February, so a box put up at the end of the winter stands a better chance of attracting nesting birds. However, it is never too early or late to put up a nest box, as some birds will use them to roost in during the winter months also.

 

Choosing the right nest box

There are lots of nest boxes on the market all different shapes and sizes, some with holes, some open fronted and some made from mixed natural materials such as roosting pockets.

The size of the nest box hole will vary depending on the type of birds you are hoping to attract. For example a small hole of 25mm will be suitable for Blue Tits, Marsh Tits and Coal Tits; a 28mm hole is suitable for Great Tits, Pied Flycatcher and Tree Sparrows; 32mm holes are suitable for House Sparrows and Nuthatches with the larger 45mm hole suited for Starlings. However, this is not an exhaustive list and many other birds also benefiting from the provision of nest boxes.

Open fronted next boxes attract robins, wrens, pied wagtails and spotted flycatchers. Whereas roosting pockets are used predominantly by songbirds for temporary shelter from adverse weather or predators.

 

When will I get birds in my nest box?

There is no guarantee that all nest boxes will attract nesting birds and if your nest box is not used for several years in succession it may be worth moving the box to a more suitable location.

There are multiple reasons why your nest box may not be being used such as the existing presence of natural nest cavities nearby and the location of territory boundaries. Therefore, while some boxes may be taken up immediately, others may remain vacant, often for no apparent reason.

BBQ Season at Orchard Park

Top Tips from Orchard Park for the Perfect BBQ

To celebrate National BBQ Week 2017 (29th May – 4th June) we will have special offers on our range of Weber BBQs and accessories as well as in Lagan Farm Shop butchery.  To kick off BBQ season we have put together a guide on how to create the perfect BBQ!

Get the Right BBQ

This may seem like an obvious statement but having the right tools for the job is essential, which also applies to barbequing!  The debate over which is best, gas or charcoal, is a fierce one but with the help from Weber we hope we can help you decide.

It is recommended that you choose a BBQ which is best suited to your needs.  Charcoal BBQs add to the excitement and anticipation; setting out the coals, lighting them and then waiting until they are up to the perfect cooking temperature is what makes a perfect BBQ for some.  Others prefer the convenience and spontaneity of a gas BBQ as they offer the flexibility to just ‘fire it up’ whenever you like and start cooking almost immediately, adjusting the temperature with simply a twist of a dial.

Here at Orchard Park we have a great range of Weber BBQs (along with accessories) and are able to offer advice to help you choose the right BBQ for you.

Make Your Own BurgersLamb_Cooked_Burger

Our Lagan Farm Shop butchers have been busy making burgers, sausages (available gluten free), rump steak kebabs and chicken skewers as well as marinated sticky BBQ ribs all ready for the grill!  There is no doubt about it, homemade burgers are simply better! If you would like to give making your own a go, we have grass fed beef and lamb mince available from our own farm next door.  There are so many different flavour combinations to choose from achievable by simply adding different seasonings or fresh herbs.  Lamb burgers with freshly grown and picked mint from the garden and sweet chilli beef burgers are always a firm favourite.  Lagan Farm Shop also has a selection of chutneys, pickles, seasonings and sauces.

BBQs Aren’t Just Good For Meat

Contrary to popular belief BBQs aren’t just for the meat-eaters among us and can be used to create a variety of hearty vegetarian meals.  Pizzas, pasta dishes, flat breads and even cakes can all be cooked and baked on the BBQ by using some of the Weber accessories.  Take a look at some great recipes available from Weber, click HERE to open the link.

Finally, Set the Scene

This year make the most of your outdoor space and let your garden be an extension to your living area.  Here at Orchard Park we have a range of quality garden furniture from Cosy Bay and Alexander Rose, along with a range of decorative fencing, aggregates and stoneware, garden lighting, outbuildings and of course plants that can transform your garden into a space for entertaining and relaxing.

So what are you waiting for? Make the most of your summer and get grilling!

Weber

Apple Day at Orchard Park

What is Apple Day?

Apple day is a celebration of the English apple and the orchard held annually in October. It is a day, or few days, to recognise the diversity of apples in the United Kingdom and was first started in 1990 by a local arts and environmental charity, Common Ground and launched in Covent Garden market.  The following year in 1991 apple day was launched Nationwide with over 50 events ranging from village hall markets to larger apple roadshows.  Apple day has been celebrated every year since and has grown from a small local event to a nationwide celebration of the humble apple.

200pix-by-250pix-apple-day

 

Apple facts

  • Apples float in water because 25% of their volume is air
  • In Ancient Greece tossing an apple to a girl was a proposal of marriage and catching it was a response of ‘yes’
  • There are more than 8,000 varieties of apples – the largest variety of fruit to exist
  • It takes about 36 apples to create one gallon of apple cider
  • To prevent apples turning brown once sliced add a few squeezes of lemon juice or lime juice.

 

Orchard Café Apple Scone Recipe

600g Stoates Self Raising Flour (plus a small amount for dusting/ rolling out the dough)

500g approx. Bramley Apples Diced (a sweeter apple can be used if preferred)

3 Free Range Eggs

125ml Buttermilk

125ml Milk

80g Butter

50g Caster Sugar

1 Free Range Egg (for glazing)

Method

  1. Heat the oven to 160*c for fan assisted ovens or 180*c/gas mark 4.
  2. Rub the butter and the flour together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs then add the caster sugar. Make a well in the centre of the dry mix and gradually add the eggs and milk.  Add the diced apple and mix until a dough has formed.
  3. Scatter some of the flour put aside for dusting onto the work surface and tip the dough out onto it.  Sprinkle some more flour onto the dough and your hands and knead very lightly before patting/rolling the dough till it is about 2cm thick.
  4. Cut out 12 scones and place on a baking tray.  Brush tops with beaten egg and cook in the oven for 12 minutes until lightly browned and risen.  Serve with butter and enjoy.

scones

Late spring: May at Orchard Park

Garden Planting this May

So far, so good! Spring in North Dorset has been kind to us all, gardeners and outdoor lovers alike. The weather was a bit on the cold side at first but has stayed relatively dry and is warming up nicely with no serious frosts to spoil plants.

You’ll have noticed that blossom has been absolutely glorious this year. Cherries started off with the early flowering Myrobolan, then the purple-leafed sand cherries before the more ornamental Japanese cherries started their display. Not to mention the magnolias and the ornamental pears!

At the time of writing, all looks well and we are hoping that the pear trees blossom will escape harm from frost along with the plums and bush fruit, especially gooseberries and blackcurrants. That would mean a substantial fruit crop later in the year, so it would be worth investing in a little protection, such as a fruit cage, to keep the birds off.

Our Dorset Farm Shop

We had a lovely visit from the reception class at St Mary the Virgin CE VA Primary School in April. Following their current theme, ‘On the farm’, they enjoyed a veggie workshop, tour of the farm shop and a sausage making demonstration from our butchers Chalky and Phil!

Regulars to the farm shop will have noticed some tasty new treats on the shelves, including these, quite frankly, marvellous Honeycomb Dips from Mighty Fine Chocolate.

If the words ‘Honeycomb’, ‘dipped’ and ‘chocolate’ haven’t already grabbed your attention and you’re a little more visual, check out how delicious they LOOK here!

Stylish Garden Entertaining

With the Bank Holiday looming, have you thought about how to get your garden set for the summer? If the thought of getting prepared leaves you trembling at the knees, never fear! We have the perfect guide to getting your garden summer ready.

We have wonderful ranges in store to really give your garden the magic touch, whether you’re looking for a reliable Weber BBQ with innovative accessories or a sturdy yet stylish Alexander Rose dining set, we can suit any budget.

Dorset Events

We’re counting down the days until Weber join us for an unmissable opportunity to see their 2 hour live cooking show, with fantastic barbecue recipe demos and tastings! The shop will be open afterwards for you to shop if you wish, and ticket holders will get a special discount on Weber products on the evening. Click here to read more about this event.

Job Vacancies at Orchard Park

Would you like to join our friendly, hard-working team? We’re on the look out for brilliant people to join our cafe and office. Come and take a look at the positions we have available!

Easter Activities for Children in Dorset

Easter Ideas for Kids

The Easter holidays are the first long break of the year, and the changeable weather can leave some parents and carers pulling their hair out whilst they try to keep the children entertained!

This Easter holiday may have been a little damp and windy so far, but whilst we have our fingers firmly crossed for some warmer weather next week we’ve thought of some great ideas to keep you all entertained.

Easter Egg Hunt

Good Friday 25 March – Thursday 31 March

Entry fee: £1 per child (all proceeds to be donated to Greenfingers charity)

Come and join the fun at Orchard Park and take part in our Easter Egg Hunt which will run over the Easter half term Good Friday 25 March – Thursday 31 March!  It is £1 per child to enter and money raised will be given to the Green Fingers Charity as well as the chance to win a wonderful Easter Hamper packed full of tasty delights.

 

 

 

Hot Cross Buns

Delicious glazed hot cross buns with a cross, sitting on a wooden boardIt is traditional to eat warm hot cross buns on Good Friday. Hot Cross Buns, with their combination of spicy, sweet and fruity flavours, have long been an Easter tradition. The pastry cross on top of the buns traditionally symbolises and reminds Christians of the cross that Jesus was killed on.

The buns were traditionally eaten at breakfast time, hot from the oven. Nothing quite beats the smell and flavour of a freshly baked hot cross bun, so why not bake your own with this recipe? All items marked with a * are available in our Dorset farm shop.

Ingredients

  • 500g Stoates strong white bread flour*
  • 7g Doves Farm quick yeast*
  • 2 heaped tbsp mixed spice
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 150g Wilton Wholefoods mixed vine fruit*
  • 50g Wilton Wholefoods chopped mixed peel*
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 50g butter, softened at room temperature*
  • 200ml warm milk*
  • 2 Blackacre Farm eggs*
  • A pinch of salt*

For the crosses

  • 40g Stoates plain flour*
  • 10g softened butter*

For the glaze

  • 1 tablespoon Billington’s golden granulated sugar*
  • 2 tablespoons of water

Method

  1. Sift the flour into a bowl and mix in the spices, sugar and salt.
  2. Blend in the butter, followed by the dried fruit, the yeast and mix together.
  3. Warm the milk in a separate pan. Take it off the heat and beat in the two eggs. Once beaten, add this liquid to the main mixture and combine together to make a moist dough.
  4. Leave the dough for 5 minutes then divide it into 8-10 bun shaped pieces.
  5. Place the buns on a baking sheet, covered loosely with cling film, then leave for around 45 to 75 minutes until the buns have risen.
  6. Pre-heat the oven to 220°C or Gas Mark 7 (or 200°C for a fan oven).
  7. Meanwhile, put the flour into a bowl and rub in the butter. Add just enough cold water to form a dough then roll it out thinly on a lightly floured surface to an oblong about 12cm by 16cm then cut it into 16-20 strips depending on how many buns you have made.
  8. Bake the buns for around 12-15 minutes until they have risen and are golden.
  9. While they’re cooking make the glaze in a small saucepan by slowly melting together the sugar and 2 tablespoons of water over a gentle heat until the sugar granules have dissolved and you have a clear syrup.
  10. As soon as the buns come out of the oven, brush them immediately with the glaze while they are still warm then cool them on a wire rack.

Let us know how you got on! We’d love to see your pictures.

Image credits: Hot cross bun © Jan Smith / Cress head © Ian Hughes

Santa Claus is coming to town!

William 03 Small

 

Warm up with a winter warmer from our café, then wander through the Christmas trees, twinkly lights and magical decorations to Father Christmas’ grotto for a truly festive experience!

The experience costs £4 per child and is open for children aged up to 10. Each child will get a present from Father Christmas before they leave.

PLUS! Two of Father Christmas’ reindeer will be at Orchard Park on Saturday 19th December to create that extra special Christmas experience for your little ones! Come and meet them between 11am & 1pm.

 William 02 SmallOpening Hours

5th & 6th December
12pm – 4pm

12th & 13th December
12pm – 4pm

19th December
10am – 4pm With a special visit from two of Father Christmas’ reindeer between 11am and 1pm!

20th December
12pm – 4pm

Orchard Park wins first prize for “Large Open Trade Stand” at the G&S Show!

Well, what a fantastic day!

After a slightly nippy ‘6-something’ AM start, the Orchard Park team were ready and raring for what was quickly looking to become a gloriously sunny day.

(2) GS Lagan Farm

The Lagan Farm Shop team were in prime position in the busy food hall! They had a delicious array of own-made and freshly prepared scotch eggs (including ones made from Chorizo sausage!), quiches, pies, pasties and sausage rolls alongside local bacon and gammon. [clear]

Over on the big stand, it was all about our 10th Anniversary! Check out our gallery below.

Read More

Come and see us at the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show

Orchard Park at Gillingham & Shaftesbury ShowWe can’t believe it’s that time of year again where we’re packing up and getting ready to take over some stands at the Gillingham and Shaftesbury Show! This year is exceptionally exciting for us as we are kicking off our 10th anniversary celebrations with a huge birthday bash.

So… what’s going on?

Come and find us! We’ll be on Stand H.6 and J.6
You won’t believe what you can cook on a BBQ! We will have demonstrations all day long from our good friends at Weber, the world’s leading brand of BBQs and accessories. No birthday party is complete without cake, so they will be cooking us a birthday cake completely from scratch on the BBQ! Yum!

Look out for…

  • The party bags that will be packed full of presents, treats, offers and surprises – don’t miss out!
  • Our grand tombola running throughout the day, with top prizes from Gisela Graham, Di Palomo, Apples to Pears, Burgon and Ball, and more.
  • Our florist will be jazzing up your show attire with beautiful carnation button holes!
  • Hundreds of money off vouchers, freebie vouchers and discounts…

…don’t think that’s all! We’ve got lots of surprises up our sleeves too.

 

In the Food Hall – Stand 10
The Lagan Farm Shop will be cooking up a storm and serving pies, pasties, sausage rolls, quiche and scotch eggs, each and every one handmade by us with love. You can grab some tasters and we bet you can’t leave empty handed! You can buy items hot and ready to eat, or cold to take home with you.

We’ll be selling some of our delicious gammon and bacon too.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Hedgehog Awareness Week 4th–10th May 2014

Hedgehog Awareness Week is organised by the British Hedgehog Preservation Society (BHPS) and takes place each year.

 

If you have a garden hedgehogs are to be encouraged… they are known as the gardener’s friend for good reason! Your resident hedgehog will gobble up all of the critters that eat your plants and flowers, such as slugs, beetles and caterpillars… Read More

Hanging Basket Workshop for North Dorset Carers

North-Dorset-Carers-Association-hanging-basket-workshopOn Tuesday 29th April, we welcomed the North Dorset Carers Association for lunch and a hanging basket workshop with Garden Centre Manager, Gavin Cooper, and the Orchard Park Plant Team.

To kick the afternoon off, the team at the Orchard Café served the group some of our delicious fresh, seasonal and local food from our very own Lagan Farm and Farm Shop. Once everyone was satisfied, they joined Gavin and the Plant Team in the sheltered garden.

Gavin pulled some great tips out of his sleeves to get them started on their hanging baskets. The workshop included an enthusiastic demonstration of plants, products and accessories that are currently in store, and even set the audience a challenge to come back and show us their baskets at the end of the summer!

As Orchard Park is an active part of our local community, workshops and events are particularly important to us. We love to accommodate group visits, and create fun, factual and interesting days out for local organisations. If this is something that is of interest to you, please do email Nikki.Higgs@orchardpark.uk.net or call Nikki on 01747 835545 for a chat about your requirements and we will see what we can do.


Orchard Park Garden Centre, Shaftesbury Road, Gillingham, Dorset, SP8 5JG
Tel:01747 835544
info@orchardpark.uk.net
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