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Planning Retirement Online

Community orchards are for everyone

September 2016

community orchard

What more quintessentially British image is there than that of a lovely country orchard full of trees laden with fruit, possibly with sheep grazing gently on the grass below?

But sadly orchards are a fading aspect of British life as more and more land is taken for higher income produce or building.

Since the 1950s, around 90% of our traditional orchards have been lost, and even worse, the condition of trees in the remaining orchards has also been deteriorating.

In fact traditionally orchards did not comprise of just rows and rows of fruit trees. In the past they were made up of many different habitats including woodland, hedgerows and meadow grassland, offering a top home to a range of wildlife including bats, birds, insects and plants.  Some orchards have been shown to be home to over 1800 different species.

So it is great news that in recent years the idea of community orchards has taken off. A community orchard is an area of land available to local communities either by renting, borrowing, buying or any other means that gives local people the right to use the land for the benefit of all.

Sometimes the land can be part of a council park or rented from local farmers; others can involve commercially owned areas such as the one hectare site surrounding a quiet pumping stationed owned by Wessex Water which has been leased for 25 years to the local community.

Community orchards have been developing strongly in recent years; with a range of traditional trees being planted and looked after by local people. Various grants can sometimes be available to help develop the area, and some orchards have also included wildlife meadows, footpaths and seating to ensure they become popular areas to visit. Fruit and other product is often shared amongst the community or sold at a local shop to help pay for maintenance; and some parish councils and other groups use community orchards as a venue for festivals and appropriate open air events.

It is a lovely idea that seems to be working and at the moment there are around 400 community orchards around the UK, with the numbers growing. They also offer a great meeting point for people as groups are needed to run the orchards, organise maintenance and all the other aspects involved with community projects.

The People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has become involved with community orchards because of course the areas offer safe habitats away from development for wildlife to thrive. The PTES, thanks to donations, is setting a great example by transforming Rough Hill in Worcestershire, a piece of land invaded by scrub and dead and dying trees, to a wonderful traditional orchard and wildlife reserve combined.  Already they have planted 90 new fruit trees of local varieties and a bonus is that they have recently discovered a fast declining bee, the Brownbanded Carder Bee, living there.

More than that, the PTES have now launched a special interactive community orchard map so that everyone can find their nearest community orchard and make contact to visit or to help in some way.

This facility allows you to pop in your address and it will show the location and details of the orchards nearest to you.

PTES created the site with funding from Natural England, mapping out all the traditional orchards in England and Wales. This is thought to be the first ever inventory of traditional orchards.

Their website also offers help and support for anyone interested in developing a community orchard in their area.

Visit the PTES website  for more information.


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