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.