Lottery grant for local community orchards
What a fairytale ambition for every child to pick and eat an apple or to taste its juice from their own pressing. It is certainly heartening to witness the child's revelation that not all food and drink needs to come through the check-out. It is this sort of vision that drove the Stamford Community Orchard Group (SCOG www.scog.org.uk) to follow EEAOP's lead and apply for funding for their project - Schools and Community Orchards Get Growing.
EEAOP's Orchards in Schools Project has now reached many East Anglian schools with their free gifts of beautifully grown local fruit tree varieties. Our small orchard project followed soon afterwards thanks to National Lottery funding. The £7K grant helped SCOG buy and plant 100 of EEAOP's apple and pear trees, run two training courses for both villagers and teachers, produce an Apple and Orchard Guide and run a related community art project. A dozen village groups and primary schools in south Lincolnshire and Rutland were helped to set up, manage and celebrate small community/school orchards on public land. As the Chairman Adam Cade said “This has brought over 300 people from twelve local villages and schools together in a practical and productive way, improving grounds for people and wildlife, introducing people to new skills and interests, and creating more opportunities for making local healthy food and drink.”
We ran a teachers and a community organisers workshop as preparation for their orchard development. A simple guidebook as an introduction to everything about apples and orchards was also produced which will now be sold at our workshops and Apple Day.
There was great interest from a range of local schools. Six of them were selected for support and invited to a half-day workshop for teachers in November to plan their whole orchard project. Ten trees supplied by EEAOP, including local Stamford varieties like Lord Burghley, Barnack Beauty and of course Schoolmaster, were offered to each school in the depths of winter – the best time for their planting of the bare-rooted trees. Several of the schools organised their orchard planting after children has used their maths to plan the spacings, made large wooden labels for the trees, named their orchard and designed posters to describe the plans and benefits of the new orchard. The plantings were done in February by after school clubs, gardening groups, eco-groups or the younger classes, in some cases with parental volunteers.
During the Spring term Clare and Alex of Root-and-Branch Out CIC were invited to ran a series of half-day workshops in the schools for the young tree planters to create artworks that explore and express their planting experience and the future lives of the fruit trees. They worked with over 200 children on their orchard project offering opportunities to be creative, think outside the box, improve the school grounds for many years to come and work with others on practical activities about gardening, food, drink, and wildlife. We plan to exhibit the superb range of school artwork at a display of the project during SCOG's Apple Day on October 5th.
We thought it would be good to offer tree labels which could be laminated and pinned to hardboard. They could then easily be replaced if they were lost or damaged. We added QR codes to the tree labels to give further background information on the trees. The idea was copied from the community orchard at the Spinney, Castle Bytham, Lincs. It is possible to use the free online QR Code Monkey (www.qrcode-monkey.com) to create the codes and viewers can download QR code reader apps or use the installed readers on their smartphones.
We also wanted to enable schools to make links with similar school projects in other countries, but also raise money for similar, less privileged, projects. So we tracked down a Canadian charity called School Orchard Africa (www.schoolorchardsafrica.org). It is well known that schools in much of Africa are in need of support so that young children can stay at school. But supporting school orchards also helps to promote healthy local food where poverty is so common. School Orchards Africa supports these two needs - education and food. It provides funds to purchase and plant fruit trees in school grounds in rural areas of Tanzania, and to manage the orchards and clean drinking water supply.
The success of the orchard project has spurred us to develop a follow-on project, with funding from South Kesteven District Council. Our new Cards project will produce cards and a poster for sale based on our local heritage of six apple varieties developed and sold over 100 years ago by Brown's nursery of Stamford. These include trees grown by the community and school groups – Schoolmaster, Brown's Seedling, Peasgood Nonsuch, Allington Pippin, Barnack Beauty, and Lord Burghley – all great varieties that we are proud to be celebrating and promoting.
For further details about SCOG see www.scog.org.uk