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Community Orchards

Community Orchard trees and bugs

 

What's a community orchard?

An orchard is a collection of fruit trees often planted among grass full of wild flowers. Just as traditional orchards were often the centre of village life and a cornerstone of the rural economy, community orchards are excellent places for people to come together to plant and cultivate local and unusual varieties of fruit trees and to use as the focal point for community activities such as picnics, or as a green haven in which to relax and wind down.

We are creating a new community orchard on the Almond Avenue open space area in Newbury.

What will it look like?

The orchard will cover an area of 20 x 50 meters approximately and will be initially planted with around 30 fruit trees, which we hope will be a mix of apple, pear, damson, quince and walnut. Where possible, we'll use local varieties. There may be scope to 'infill' with further trees in years to come.

The trees will be protected by a post and rail fence with a small hedge planted within the fence, and bulbs around their base. We hope to be able to remove the fence once the hedge is established enough.

Why Almond Avenue?

Site of Community Orchard - Almond Avenue

The site has been chosen as it is owned by West Berkshire Council, and is a popular open space for recreational use with play areas and space for dog walking. The proposed orchard site is currently not used for a specific purpose and is large enough to create an orchard whilst leaving sufficient open space, and is easily accessible by vehicle via Poplar Place (via the children's playground at RG14 1LU), and via footpaths from nearby residential areas.

The site is close to the River Lambourn with fertile soil ideal for planting, and the fruit trees will create a natural habitat for pollinator species and wildlife already living around the river. It is hoped the orchard will be an attractive addition to the open space with blossom on show in the spring.

The orchard will be of benefit to the whole community, including nearby residents and organisations such as the Scouts and Dingley's Promise based in Poplar Place as well as visitors to the area.

Why now?

West Berkshire Council announced a Climate Emergency in 2019 and has since produced an Environment Strategy which outlines the steps we intend to take with our partners to reach our target of carbon neutrality by 2030. 

We all know that achieving carbon neutrality requires a multi-faceted approach and for us all to play our part. One way to tackle climate change is through carbon sequestration. This is the process of capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide and tree planting is an example of this. The development of community orchards through tree planting is one of the carbon sequestration measures identified in the Council's Environment Strategy.

Tree and wildflower planting also add to the character and biodiversity of our district. In addition, spending time outside in natural surroundings has been proven to have a positive impact on both our physical and mental wellbeing.

As well as creating a nature-friendly conservation area where wildlife can flourish (bees and fruit trees are co-dependent), the orchard is for the benefit and enjoyment of the whole community.

We'd like to create other community orchards on land owned by the council or our partners.

 

Almond Avenue Community Orchard Engagement Event - 24 September 2022

On Saturday 24 September 2022 we held an engagement event to share our plans for a community orchard at the Almond Avenue open space. The event was well attended and it was great to hear everyone's thoughts on the proposals. 

Community orchard plan and feedback

The community orchard will be delivered by Wessex Woodland - a local company with years of experience in forestry management. They have prepared Icon for pdf a plan [766KB] . As the plan shows, it is proposed that the orchard will, over time, include a focal tree, mown walkways, wildflowers and a bench. Signage will be provided.

Feedback received

We gathered feedback during the engagement process. On the whole, people felt very positive about the community orchard and the benefits for the local community. Based on the feedback, the number of trees in the initial stage of planting will be reduced to 30 (from 41) to allow us to assess the viability of the orchard. Infilling can then take place in later years if necessary.

If you would like more detail on the feedback received, please contact Jo Watt, Countryside Officer, jo.watt1@westberks.gov.uk

Next steps

Once we have an idea of when the trees will be available, we will organise a planting day. This is likely to be in January 2023 depending on the stock available.

We would also like to hold a blossom day in the spring, pruning days, picking days and a Wasail. We would also like to invite local schools to the planting day and hope the orchard could become a focus for learning opportunities and project work.

Thank you again to everyone who has expressed an interest so far. If you would like to be involved in the project, please email jo.watt1@westberks.gov.uk

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