Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fruity beginnnings

I have always had a fascination with growing fruit but rarely had much space to grow it in any of the gardens I have had. So when a friend recently asked me to get involved with a community orchard, the project had a certain fascination. I visited the site and found a newly planted orchard with over 60 different fruit trees, all funded with lottery money. There are apples and pears; quince, mulberry and medlar. Lovely heritage cultivars such as 'Pitmaston Pineapple' are side-by-side with modern varieties such as 'Fiesta' and 'the pear 'Beth'. Ornamental crabapples will aid the pollination and the surrounding hedge will provide fruits for jams and jellies. A central path, lined with espalier trees will give the opportunity for participation by those with access issues. A fenced enclosure will in time contain beehives, anticipating the time when blossom will need pollinating.

The land is owned by the parish council who had been offered an enormous sum of money by the adjacent supermarket to turn it into a car park. The parish council bravely turned this down and after discussion with the local community agreed to turn this into a community orchard. I have to admit that although I have seen community allotments and city farms increasingly in recent years, I had not really come across the idea of a community orchard until I became involved in this project. But how wonderful - an orchard rather than a car park! Not surprisingly, the supermarket has offered no sponsorship for the project.

Last Friday I went over to the orchard again to attend the opening ceremony. There were bell-ringers, songs and poems from school children, a formal ribbon-cutting by sponsors, planting of the final tree by the Youth Mayor and prayers from the Archdeacon. There was little horticultural content but what did impress me was the sense of community. This is a small suburb outside a Nottinghamshire town and the project is closely linked to the local church. On a cold Friday lunchtime there were over 150 people present to see the opening of the community orchard. It was fascinating to see that a project involving fruit growing bringing together such a  diverse sample of the  local community. Let's hope the enthusiasm lasts until the apples start to ripen, which will probably not be for another three or four years!

Next week I will be running the first of the training workshops, showing the volunteers how to grow fruit. I don't as yet know how many we will have, or what skills and experience will already be there. One of our first jobs will be to hard prune these young trees and I guess I will have to be particularly convincing to persuade the volunteers to take secateurs and prune away two thirds of the valuable trees they have just planted. I guess I'll tell you more as the project develops.


  1. What a great project. And so nice to see a supermarket loose out for once, sometimes a true community project like this will be provide so much more than money.

  2. Nice. And ironic that it was a grocery store that would have rather seen more parking spaces instead of food, since they probably buy their food from factory farms far away! Great turn-out speaking of what a good decision was made...

  3. What a lovely project to be involved with Ian, and ironic the supermarket values tarmac over fruit :)