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Devonshire Place news and activity timeline

An orchard beeThere's much that's missing from this general summary and timeline of orchard activity. It misses out the many occasions when residents have been out there, backs to the sun and sometimes rain, weeding, planting, sowing, clearing, fencing, tending to poorly trees etc., so it's only a broad brush view. Click on any of the headings below if you'd like to find out more/view pictures etc., or simply scroll down the page to see them all.


The big rake up NEW 2018
Orchard maintenance continues 2018
Orchard clear up sees introduction of new 'POPI' programme 2018
New 2018 orchard maintenance programme agreed 2018
2017 Orchard Bioblitz results: an increase in diversity and abundance! 2017
Orchard gets very very first bioblitz. 2017
The orchard is included in 'Tree Tales', a celebration of Exeter's trees. 2016
Wassailing poetry and song in the orchard. 2015
Professional, large older fruit tree pruning. 2015
Orchard gets new seating, swings and climbing equipment. 2015
The grand orchard opening ceremony. 2014
The orchard gets a new path, gate and fence. 2014
'Outstanding' award for the Orchard Regeneration Project. 2014
The big tree and hedge plant. 2013
The orchard is improving! Prestigious award for the orchard. 2013
Exeter's going wild: latest update. 2013
New orchard hotel opens for guests. 2013
Strange goings on in the orchard (meadow planting). 2013
The Vice-Chancellor's Garden party. Date tbc
May day gathering a great success. 2013
Thank you Exeter City Council. Date tbc
Thank you Exeter University. Date tbc
University students join DPRA members for orchard clear up. 2013
Presentation to Exeter City Council in 'Homes Bonus' award bid. 2012


















The big rake up
Regular visitors to the DPRA website will recall the 'strange goings on in the orchard' reported on this page five years ago. Back then, several residents were seen engaging in what seemed to be some sort of ritualistic dance, 'with heads bowed, as if in a trance, and accompanied by Devon Wildlife Trust staff, known locally to be bent on turning Exeter into a wild city' (read the full report here).

Anyone passing the orchard on 2nd September this year could have been forgiven for thinking that, five years on, a DPRA fringe group was once again engaged in secret ritual. The image to the right, for example, snapped by a concerned resident and passed to the DPRA on condition of anonymity, shows chairman, Charlie Davies, in a trance-like state and clearly moved/excited by the flames before him, which he appears to be attempting to charm, as if serpents.

Another concerned resident commented on the apparent symbolism of the moment, taking place as it did beneath a fig tree, noting that this could have been a deliberate attempt to reference Genesis 3:7, which describes Adam and Eve sporting fig leaves on realisation of their nakedness. The resident, who cannot be named, thought that the proximity of the flames/serpents suggests that their 'charming' may have been an attempt to draw them towards the fig leaves ....

For the avoidance of doubt, however, this was all a big misunderstanding: the occasion described and the image above had nothing to do with secret rituals. Rather, the flames emanated from a barbecue and Charlie's delight sprang not from thoughts of serpents but of lunch. As a selection of photos of the occasion show on our newly-created 'big rake up' page, in fact, an abundance of hungry residents stood before him and a freshly-lit barbecue, having spent the last hour raking the recently-cut orchard grass into two haystacks.

An innocent and joyous time was had by all and a further £16.00 was added to DPRA coffers, which will be used in our continued efforts to manage and improve our beautiful orchard. Thanks to everyone who participated and to all the good people of Devonshire Place and the local area unable to join us on the day but who, over many years, have helped make the orchard the lovely community resource that it has become.

The next orchard maintenance day will be between 11.00 & 12.00 on Sunday 28th October.

  • View the full orchard maintenance schedule here.
  • View a selection of orchard photos taken on the day here.

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Orchard maintenance continues
The orchard maintenance programme continued apace in glorious sunshine on Sunday 22nd July.

The recent closures and shorter opening hours of local pubs meant the POPI prgramme (see below), which had seen record resident participation in recent months, had to be temporarily suspended. Hard-worked participants, and some hangers on, repaired instead to the shade of the orchard itself, enjoyed refreshments brought from home and discussed everything from the advancing tide of new student accommodation to novel ways to catch mice.

The next orchard maintenance day will be between 11.00 & 12.00 on Sunday 26th August.

  • View the fullorchard maintenance schedule here.
  • View a selection of orchard photos taken on the day here.

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New DPRA ‘POPI' initiative
The second day of 2018's Devonshire Place orchard maintenance programme took place in February, when much pruning, chopping and general clearing helped rid the area of overgrown brambles etc., paving the way for new spring growth. The day was blessed by particularly kind weather and marked a well-attended start to the DPRA's innovative new POPI programme, the inaugural launch of which took place when the hard work was done.

Orchard clear upCareful strategic planning by the steering group informed the new programme, ensuring that the event attracted more interest than usual, quite extraordinary enthusiasm amongst participants and a dizzying pace of activity, such that there were some fears of orchard deforestation had work continued. Thankfully, with the new POPI programme at the day's core (Post Orchard Pub Initiative), machete-wielding participants lay down their tools, the bramble frenzy drew to a gentle close and the analgesic effects of endorphin activation kicked in as, one by one, they drifted (and some ran) to the Victoria Inn for refreshments.

Despite the programme's evident success, there was some disappointment that a small minority chose to favour certain POPI elements over the toil that preceded refreshments. Association members were reassured to learn later, however, that steering group evaluation of the programme will ensure that information about future POPI refreshment venues is to be circulated exclusively to those who have worked up an orchard sweat. No pain, no beer.

  • View the orchard maintenance schedule here.
  • View a selection of photos taken on the day, including POPI activity here.


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New, regular orchard maintenance programme agreed for 2018
A new schedule of dates throughout 2018 has been agreed for regular maintenance of our lovely orchard, with which we need as much help from residents as possible. It's only one day a month and only for about an hour, and as an added incentive, when the work’s done we’ll be retiring to the Vic for refreshments, so we hope this appeals.

We thought it best to set these dates so that everyone can add them to their calendars and, if we can all do our bit, we’ll be able to spread the load and easily keep on top of everything, such as pruning, bramble trimming, mulching, hay raking etc.

We’ll be doing this on the last Sunday of every month between 11.00 and 12.00, with the first one on January 28th. Download or view the schedule here.




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Orchard bioblitz results: an increase in diversity and abundance!

June 2017's orchard bioblitz and BBQ was a great success, recording a staggering 105 species of invertebrates. This is a significant improvement on last year's count of 88, representing an impressive 19% increase in diversity and abundance. Thanks to everyone who helped make the blitz so successful, from the children who wielded nets and jars with such enthusiasm, to the salad makers (blessed are they), to Blanche for junior refreshments and especially Ken for the cake and Andrew for the sangria. We made a decent profit of £32.00, which will help with our ongoing expenses such as further improvements to the orchard and our annual insurance.

Obviously, major thanks go to our resident entomologist and bioblitz commander in chief, Clive (pictured right), who will be drafting a detailed report of this year's findings. Notably there was a far higher number of bees, grass bugs, cricket nymphs and flower beetles than last year, so a big thank you to everyone who has helped improve the orchard for all life-forms.

Stop Press: 2017 hotel vacancies
Despite this year's population increase, the Bug Hotel still has vacancies. Guests can check in free of charge at any time and enjoy full, unrestricted use of the orchard, so please spread the word amongst your bug friends.

Click to view larger images of bioblitz action.


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The 2016 Devonshire Place Orchard Bioblitz
With grateful thanks to Clive and his Ambios colleagues, local residents enjoyed a sun-blessed day in the orchard on Saturday 14th May, where its very first bioblitz was undertaken. Find out how we got on and about the staggering number of bugs and plants that live there.

Find out more ...



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The orchard is included in 'Tree Tales', a celebration of Exeter's trees.
In 2016, Dorset-based arts and environmental charity, Common Ground, invited the people of Exeter to tell their stories about our city's trees. Tree Tales is the result, a collection of memories, artwork, photographs, articles, songs and poetry about Exeter's extraordinary canopy. The Devonshire Place orchard is included.

Tree Tales was collected and edited for Common Ground by Luke Thompson, Jos Smith and Rose Ferraby, who also created the tree map of Exeter included in the book. The project was funded by The Cultural Capital Exchange with support from Arts Council England and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

Tree Tales is available on Common Ground's website:





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Wassailing in the orchard
The Wassail group very kindly gave us a short taste of what a Wassail proper could be like by coming to us after their big event in the University Community Orchard. Unfortunately we did not have many supporters turning out - probably because it was a very cold night.

James Crowden wrote a poem especially for us as well as the song for the double event. He is very interested in our Orchard and will be bringing a Pomologist to see our very old pear trees next autumn, if not before.

The occasion certainly provided ideas for other kinds of celebrations we might consider at a later date, such as mid-summer or early autumn, once the Orchard is firmly established and we have recovered from establishing it.

  • View the wassailing poem here.
  • View the wassailing song here.
  • View more photos here.

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Professional, large older fruit tree pruning.
Content coming soon - and next professional pruning scheduled for autumn 2017





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Orchard gets new seating, swings and climbing equipment
Content coming soon




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The orchard opening ceremony
After years of planning and much hard work, not least that of Blanche Croydon, whose vision led to the orchard restoration project in the first place, an official opening celebration was held on Saturday 27th September.

The occasion, blessed by unseasonally warm and dry weather, was attended by local residents, students, councillors and a range of supporters and friends. It was an opportunity to celebrate the project's success and to say thank you to everyone who had played a part. With live music, a barbecue, irresistable locally-baked cakes, a raffle and more, everyone enjoyed a relaxing day, a photo record of which can be viewed in the following galleries. Pictures were taken by local residents Ruth Davies and Pete Heathcote.

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The orchard gets a new path, gate and fence
Content coming soon



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'Outstanding' award for the Orchard Regeneration Project
At a reception on 24th September, hosted by the Lord Mayor of Exeter in the Guildhall, the Devonshire Place orchard regeneration project received an 'outstanding' award from The Royal Horticultural Society and South West in Bloom. Special thanks go to Susie Bower who put in a vast amount of careful work to ensure that the orchard restoration project fared so well.

Find out more .....




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The big tree and hedge plant
The Devonshire Place Big Tree plantOn Saturday 23rd November, the latest and most important phase of the Orchard Regeneration project took place. About twenty volunteers from Devonshire Place residents, Exeter University Students’ Union and Devon Wildlife Trust came together to plant 33 fruit trees so that, over the years, the space will gradually be transformed and restored to its original status as an urban orchard.

Before time and neglect took their toll the space was described by the environmental charity, Common Ground, as “one of the finest urban orchards in southern England” and was photographed by renowned documentary photographer, James Ravilious. This work and other improvements such as the bug hotel, new hedging, paths and seating will restore it to its former glory and create an invaluable resource for the whole community.

The planting was made possible by the generous donation of fruit trees and hedge plants from Devon Wildlife Trust and the work was supervised by Emily Stallworthy, the Conservation Officer of DWT whose enthusiasm and expertise have been vital to the project.

Refreshments and lunch were provided by Blanche Croydon who has worked tirelessly on the project- fundraising, liaising with ECC Parks Department, researching the history and ecology of orchards, cajoling the rest of us on the Orchard Politburo (sorry, Subcommittee), creating the wonderful banner which advertised the project, and generally plotting and scheming to get it done. Thank you, Blanche.

Charlie Davies, DPRA Chair

Click to view larger versions in the Orchard Planting Gallery.
The Devonshire Place Big Tree Plant The Devonshire Place Big Tree Plant The Devonshire Place Big Tree Plant The Devonshire Place Big Tree Plant
The Devonshire Place Big Tree Plant The Devonshire Place Big Tree Plant The Devonshire Place Big Tree Plant The Devonshire Place Big Tree Plant






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Award for the Orchard Regeneration Project
The Royal Horticultural Society and South West in Bloom have awarded the Devonshire Place orchard regeneration project an 'It's Your neighbourhood Award'.

Find out more .....

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Exeter Wild City update
The Big Tree plant team, Devonshire Place orchardA joint initiative between Devon Wildlife Trust and Exeter City Council has led to some exciting recent changes to Exeter's landscape. Work by Exeter Wild City project has seen tree saplings popping up around local schools and in community green spaces. Elsewhere, new wildflower meadows have created a buzz in some of Exeter's parks. Schools, businesses, students and community groups have all been busily creating these wildlife havens across the city as part of the Big Tree Plant (funded by Defra) and Plant Your park initiatives (funded by Big Lottery Fund).

Altogther almost 2,000 trees have been planted as part of the Big Tree Plant, with a further 1,000 going in the ground this winter. Woodland edges have been regenerated, new nature homes created and many nectar and berry-rich species selected to help provide food and shelter for city wildlife. New orchards have also been planted to provide a healthy harvest for people and wildlife for years to come.

Further meadow sowing will take place this autumn, including a large site in the city's wonderful River valley park. The results should be brightening up the city next year.

Courtesy of Wild Devon (winter 2013), the magazine of the Devon Wildlife Trust.




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Bug hotel opens for guests
On Monday 14th October, the latest stage of our Orchard Regeneration project took place with the construction of a ‘bug hotel’, an installation which encourages wildlife such as hedgehogs, slow worms and other smaller ‘guests’ such as bees to flourish in an urban environment.

The work was carried out by children from St Sidwell's School, with materials gathered by residents of Devonshire Place, and was supervised by Emily Stallworthy and her colleagues at Devon Wildlife Trust, a great example of collaboration in the community. The hotel is part of a wider project, Wild Exeter, which aims to encourage the growth and diversity of wildlife across the city.

The hotel will obviously enhance the Orchard environment and provide numerous opportunities for curriculum enhancement at St Sidwell's but, above all, it was a lovely afternoon spent watching the kids and adults working so enthusiastically on a shared project (refreshments supplied by our Orchard supremo, Blanche!). It also looks fantastic, as you can see from the accompanying photographs, although please do take the time to visit and admire the real thing.

Click on images to view larger versions in the Bug Hotel Gallery.



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Strange goings on in the orchard

Best viewed with sound

As students strolled home and commuters drove by on Thursday 10th October, there were bewildered looks on many faces at the sight of several Devonshire Place residents, apparently lead by association chair, Charlie Davies, engaged in what seemed to be some sort of ritualistic or possibly drug-fueled dance. Captured on film by a concerned passer by, residents can be seen dancing earnestly with heads bowed, as if in a trance, and apparently accompanied by staff from Devon Wildlife Trust, known locally to be bent on turning Exeter into a so-called 'wild city'.

Given the orchard's existing prohibiton of organised ball games and access by dogs, this odd display raises serious questions about organised dance rituals. As one passer by said:

"This could be quite frightening for children - something needs to be done about it. I saw two of them earlier carrying a bath tub. What next? Full nudal frontity?"

Although it was established later that, in fact, they were treading in wild flower seeds, there was a general consensus amongst passers by, many of whom moved away from the area quickly, that their strange antics were a sight to behold.




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The Vice-Chancellor's Garden party
This year's prestigious University of Exeter Vice-Chancellor's garden party at Redcot house was blessed with glorious sunshine and attended by some of Exeter's finest. Amongst the dignatories this year were our very own Charlie and Claire, seen in the picture to the right putting Devonshire Place Residents' Association interests at the forefront of their attendance.

Click on the image to view a larger version







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May day gathering a great success
The DPRA's May day gathering was blessed with warm, sunny weather and Peter and Dorinda's kindness in making their delighful garden available for the day ensured the event's success. Residents from Devonshire Place and Kingsgate enjoyed delicious home made cakes and freshly cooked barbecue food, browsed bulging tables of books, CDs and plants and sampled the delights of the DPRA singers. All was in aid of the association's bid to acquire a family bench for the orchard and the money raised (just under £200.00) brings the bench a step closer. Whether or not you were able to join in the fun on the day, you can view photos in the May Day photo gallery (click to view).



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Thank you Exeter City Council
The DPRA would like to thank Exeter City Council for their generosity in giving us a further grant this year. This has enabled us to order a notice board which, when completed, we have permission to erect in the orchard. It will then be available for the community to use for relevant information and help us all to keep up to date with events.




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Thank you Exeter University
We would also like to thank the University Streetwise fund for their generous contribution of a grant, which we have earmarked to purchase five cherry trees for the orchard. We hope we will be able to plant them this autumn and the plan is that students will be involved in this with us in doing so.



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Orchard clear up, 16th March 2013
Thanks again to Exeter University students, who joined DPRA members for March's orchard clear up. Read more and view larger pictures on the orchard page.






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Presentation to Exeter City Council in 'Homes Bonus' award bid

Content coming soon


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Devonshire Place Residents' Association

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The Devonshire Place Residents' Association 2017