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Townsend Community Orchard

by David Lyons – 23rd July 2014
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The Townsend Community Orchard group is planning to create a community orchard in the small field between Mallards Croft and Townsend Green. There are several hundred community orchards in the UK (see here) run mainly by volunteers where people can freely come and pick ripe fruit.

Haddenham Parish council is pleased to support the development of the venture as a new and healthy amenity for the village which will provide a haven for wildlife and help to promote biodiversity.

The group carried out an opinion poll in the village during May and June 2014, the results of which are summarised in the attached PDF (see below image).

One or two respondents were concerned at the risk of vandalism and that people would 'steal' the fruit. However, the whole point of the orchard is that the fruit is free for people to take for reasonable personal use.

The group is confident that as similar community orchards operate successfully in many other places including Hackney (East London), Bristol and Darlington (see here) there is no reason why one should not work here in Haddenham. Haddenham people are no less responsible, community spirited and supportive of their local environment – indeed some would so more so.

A number of people asked for wild flowers to be incorporated into the orchard and it is planned to spread some suitable seed and mow the grass appropriately

The Townsend Community Orchard now has a proposed design created by orchard specialist Andrew Howard of the Mid Counties Orchard Group. Andrew visited the site in June and was given a topographical survey of the site produced by local surveyor Ken Gilham.

Group members briefed Andrew on the results of the survey, the type of fruit and facilities people had asked for. The plan included 40 fruit trees including pears, plums, gages, cherries, damsons, quince and of course apples besides some soft fruit bushes. The orchard is expected to be a show case of the variety of native fruit species and serve to inspire people to plan their own fruit trees.

The group is updating the orchard plan so that it can be included in a future posting on Haddenham.net. When complete there will be an information/interpretation board within the orchard, though how we show details of 40 trees is yet to be decided. One solution is to provide for each tree a label/post with the species name and QR code to a web site linking to information about the species and its useage (would someone in the village volunteer to set up such a site?).

The purchase of trees and associated components is to be funded through sponsorship by organisations and individuals within the village and it is planned to list the names of sponsors on a plaque within the orchard. It is proposed that sponsorship be on the basis of £50 per tree (not a specific tree – the fund-raising will be for the entire project) so we will be seeking approximately £2,000.

It has been suggested that we could apply for grants, but at this stage it is hoped we will be able to complete the orchard with funds from individuals, clubs, schools and companies. An appeal for sponsors will be issued in September 2014 and all moneys collected will be held by the parish council until trees/equipment are purchased.

The parish council expects to take possession of the Farrar-Bell field in October and proposes to confirm management arrangements with the Townsend Orchard Group such that work could start from late October/November 2014. It is hoped to schedule working parties for preparation and planting during the winter months and some celebratory events such as befit community orchards.

In the nature of planting fruit trees there is often little or no fruit in the first year or two but regular work is neede to keep the area around young trees relatively weed free and protect them from damage (hungry deer are know to nibble the tender bark!). The Townsend Orchard group will arrange for regular monitoring of the orchard, carry out repairs and will keep the village updated on progress and events at the orchard.

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