New community orchards in Britain’s unused spaces help to address the nation’s allotment shortfall, promote community production and ownership of fruit, and help us rediscover the pleasures of eating organic fruit grown close to home. Community orchards also green the urban environment and create habitats for wildlife, increasing the city’s biodiversity. In an era of climate change and peak oil, planting trees which will provide a large yield year after year for decades to come is a logical move, helping to build food security and community resilience.
We partner with local authorities, residents’ associations, Transition initiatives, park user groups, schools and other community groups to help design, plant and maintain community orchards in the nation’s parks, housing estates, schools and universities.
We also provide training to five orchard leaders per orchard, who are responsible for the care and harvest of the trees. The orchard leaders are volunteers, and have all attended our dedicated training day on fruit tree technical skills and leading a community orchard project. These leaders have also developed an orchard management plan for their respective orchard and are responsible for getting others involved in orchard maintenance and activities as ‘orchard carers’. We keep in regular touch with our orchard leaders to make sure all is going well with the trees and provide a follow-up visit six months after planting.
This winter we will have planted 100 community orchards of approximately 10 trees each. These have included apples, pears, plums of new and heritage varieties, and the odd experimental mirabelle, apricot, medlar and peach.
Some of our orchards are in public parks, so if you fancy seeing how the trees are getting along – and possibly even helping yourself to an apple – head to Green Gate Common in Haringey, Caledonian Park in Islington, Archbishop’s Park in Lambeth or Nursery Row Park in Southwark, Haggerston Park in Hackney. If those are too far to visit, you might just have to start your own local orchard.