Growing Orchard Communities

What we did!

The Growing Orchard Communities project linked community orchard groups to the wider support network of Orchard Link and ran from November 2015 - October 2017. It was delivered by Orchard Link in partnership with the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty team.

 

In total £86,800 of funding was secured, including a grant of £40,500 from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Other funding was secured through the Langage Landscape Fund, South Devon AONB Sustainable Development Fund, Orchard Link funds, Devon County Council locality grants and private sector funding.

Orchards in our landscape

Orchards are a distinctive feature of the South Devon landscape. Almost every farm had an orchard to provide cider, juice, cooking and eating apples for the family, workers and the wider community. 60% of England’s orchards have disappeared since the 1950s. In Devon, the figure is higher still at 90%.

This project has tackled this issue by working with volunteer community orchard groups to improve their skills and expertise in order for them to safeguard the ongoing good management of existing orchards in their parishes. We also worked with them to help them to better engage their communities to engender a sense of ownership of these important shared spaces in their villages.

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Apple Day celebrations, Newton and Noss community orchard group

The project has been hugely successful with thousands of people enjoying the fruit of the community orchard groups labours! The sites are now well managed by 23 groups of skilled and enthusiastic volunteers, with action plans to take them forward for the next 5 years. They are thriving with the support of their communities and each other, as well as the wider Orchard Link network.

23 community orchard groups from across South Devon have been part of this exciting project. The project was launched at Sharpham House and community orchard in November 2015

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Feed the trees event, Cornwood and Lutton community orchard

The project was made up of 2 main strands of work – community engagement and landscape enhancements.

The Orchard Communities

The orchard groups we worked with all wanted to involve more people from their local communities in looking after and enjoying their orchards, as well as ensuring that their members had the skills needed to ensure that their orchard sites were healthy and well managed.

We ran a programme of workshops, training, networking and skill sharing events throughout the project. These were attended by just over 550 volunteers, who are now using these skills and knowledge to help members of their own communities find out more about their local orchards.

·         We set up a network of community orchard volunteers who can now support each other in growing their own community orchards. We also worked with Orchard Link to help them better support their community orchard members.

 ·         We worked with 5 core groups who received some extra funding to run events to encourage people from their community to get involved in their orchards. Their learning and experiences have been written up as case studies, shared in the new orchard Link website. Altogether the five groups put in 228 volunteer days organising and planning 56 events. A further 403 volunteer days were put in to help run the events, which were attended by 1636 people from the local communities.

·         Some of the groups made apple songs and orchard films with the local community to help raise awareness of their sites.

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New sign for Beeson community orchard, made by the volunteers

The Community Orchards

The continued good management of these community orchards is vital to the success of this project. As well as equipping the volunteers with the skills they need to look after the sites, we also helped them to write simple 5-year management plans and provide site specific expert advice and mentoring. They were also able to draw down a small site improvement grant to carry out some of the works identified in their plan.

These plans and advice will ensure management continuity of the orchard sites and has helped some of the groups attract further funding.

The results!

This project has helped orchard groups to look after their sites as important and enjoyable resources for their communities. The total volunteer contribution (as specified by HLF guidance) made to the project totals £137,150 and is equivalent to 1283 volunteer days. These volunteers ran events in their community orchards which were attended by 2501 members of the community.

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Celebrating Fruitfulness network day, Holbeton community orchard

This project has been a great success, we have worked with hundreds of people, from local residents, orchard volunteers and school children, to cooks, artists, keen amateurs and friendly experts!

You can read more about the project in our downloadable evaluation report, below.

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