Last Wednesday my neighbour John Langston brought his tractor to the orchards to help me do some grass mowing. It was such a beast that we couldn't take it between the trees but we managed to cut a few more open areas that were beginning to succeed to scrub. Flailing can be a destructive process, but it is probably the best way of dealing with large areas of really rough grass and brambles. For that afternoon at least, the crunching sound of the flail carried by the wind really was the sound of progress!
The lowest of these three 'before and after' shots shows the 'meadow area' at the back of the lower (1940s) orchard. It has always had a bad dock infestation that has made farming this patch impractical. However, I believe that chemical fertilizers have not been heavily used here and as a result there are already patches of Birdsfoot Trefoil and Meadow Vetchling that flourish in summer. Flailing will hopefully encourage these and prevent blackthorn, buddleia and poplar saplings from becoming dominant. I plan to seed some areas where the tractor has exposed soil with a wildflower mix and see whether anything establishes.
Here is a clearing in the 1920s orchard that we also flailed. I am planning to do some replanting in this area before Christmas. I am currently tempted by the idea of a couple of Blenheim Orange (likes clay) and an Orleans Reinette (fantastic eater, apparently) and perhaps some bittersweet varieites for cider. They have to be on M25 rootstocks though as I want them to grow BIG!