Colonsay Community Garden – Tree Futures Orchard Windfalls 2016 Success Story
If you are thinking of applying to our next round of Tree Futures grants (deadline 31st March 2018) and want some inspiration, or need a ‘feel good news story’ about the amazing projects that are supported through the generosity of our friends and donors, then read on…
Colonsay Community Garden was supported by The Tree Council through our Tree Futures Orchard Windfalls 2016 grants to extend their mini orchard. Their Garden was created from waste land adjacent to their Village Hall following the kind donation of the land by the Laird of Colonsay for a pepper-corn rent in 2013.
Colonsay Community Garden is based on the tiny Hebridean island of the same name, part of the Inner Hebrides off the West coast of Scotland. Colonsay is one of the most remote communities in Britain with only around 135 inhabitants. But this is a community that has vision and passion for their Garden as a place to bring everyone together – of all ages, residents and island visitors alike – and to support the fragile ecosystem in that very wild, wet and windswept part of the UK.
The early stage development of the Garden focused on creating a ‘shelter-belt’ to the west, the prevailing wind side of the garden, to create a protected leeward area of ground and a trial bed of 3 fruit trees was then planted. These trees soon thrived and fruited, assuring the community that more trees could be successfully introduced.
That’s when the community applied to our Orchard Windfalls grants programme – to help them ‘…to plant a mini orchard within our newly established Community Garden.
Jan Binnie, the Chair for Colonsay Community Garden, explained how developing an orchard would enhance the garden:
“The new fruit trees would improve the overall structure of the garden by giving height and aesthetic interest to the borders of the garden which, beyond the shelter belt is adjacent to uncultivated land. The trees would provide spring blossom and colour at the end of our long windy winters as well as summer foliage and fruit. The trees would add a diversity, maturity and a long-term framework to our garden.”
The project has also helped support the local environment and ecosystem. Unusually, the black bee is a protected species on the island of Colonsay. There are hives close to the garden where the bees benefit from the pollen of the tree blossom, which helps support the viability of the colony and, at the same time, helps guarantee a reliable crop of pollinated fruit.
The project has provided a great educational opportunity for the young children attending the island primary school to learn about gardening by being hands-on involved in the tree planting. The school has played a key role in supporting the Community Garden. The children have their own corner within the garden shed where they keep their gardening tools and equipment alongside the adult tools. They are also able to learn about gardening and the value of the natural environment through school activities that include projects tutored by Forest Schools. Beyond school, the children also join their parent-volunteer-gardeners and older members of the community to help with regular year-round maintenance of the Community Garden.
The Community Garden is located in the centre of the village, next to the village hall and shop, so it is easy for the children to observe the annual tree cycle that extends from seed gathering and planting through to pruning and fruiting.
This tree project has helped support a much treasured and valued new resource on the island – the Colonsay Community Garden. Everyone, from island residents to visiting holiday makers, take great pleasure in visiting the Garden today.
As you can see from the images, when the fruit trees were planted during National Tree Week 2016, the project was a huge success in bringing together all members of the community. Both young and old got involved, from harvesting sea weed for enriching the soil to helping out with the teas and coffees for much needed breaks. A total of 14 fruit trees were planted on that day.
We will soon upload the guidance and application forms for our next round of Tree Futures grants, including Orchard Windfalls, Trees for Schools and Community Trees. The deadline for completed applications is 31st March 2018.