Kingswear's new community orchard
With wellingtons on and sleeves rolled up, children from the local primary school in Kingswear, Devon, joined forces to plant a community orchard with the Kingswear Community Orchard Group. When completed the orchard will have 20 fruiting trees, providing the local community with fruit for many years to come.
The work began in November 2018, when encroaching trees needed to be coppiced to make way for the orchard. The land was cleared of scrub by 18 local volunteers and mechanically dug by an arboriculturally trained Tree Warden. An impressive 220 hours’ worth of hard work and dedication made the area ready for planting woodland bulbs, to be followed by the tree planting.
This part of the project saw 8 of the trees planted with children and adults alike, including 5 Parish Councillors, all getting stuck in. Fascinated about how trees grow, the children learnt how to plant them from Alan and Lucy Payne, both South Hams Tree Wardens, who have been instrumental in this project.
Alan, a Mycologist, introduced the children and many of the adults to the fascinating underground world of fungi, teaching them how the mycelium, a vast network of fungal threads, works symbiotically with trees, helping them grow. While fungi reap the benefits from trees by tapping into the sugars trees make, many trees couldn’t survive without them. Mycelium grows either within or around tree roots enabling them to take up essential minerals from the soil and decaying organic matter. They also help with water uptake and protect the roots from heavy metals and some pathogens.
The children, with a little trepidation at first, dipped the tree roots into mycorrhizal fungi solution before placing the trees into the holes they’d prepared, to help the trees establish themselves. After much digging, dipping and planting, everyone celebrated their hard work with some well-deserved food and fizz.
Kingswear Parish Council, who lease the land, support planting diverse, local varieties of fruit trees and bushes to benefit local people and wildlife. All semi-standard maiden trees, the trees include: Cornish Aromatic apple, Ribston Pippin apple, Dunn cherry, Clapps Favourite pear, Doyenne du Comice pear, Dittisham (Ploughman) plum, Rivers Early Prolific plum and a Cambridge greengage.
Tree stakes and ties were funded by South Hams District Council Locality Fund and with the support of other sponsors the volunteers hope to install benches so that visitors can sit and enjoy the orchard and its surroundings.
Tree Wardens, Alan and Lucy have been the driving force behind the project, and together with the South Hams Tree Wardens Network, the orchard and the management of Hoodown Wood which borders the orchard has greatly benefited from their expertise, support and years of experience.