Event reports

From Field to Orchard

Planting Day On Saturday morning in Bridport hundreds of willing hands were bent to the task of transforming a field off South Street into an orchard. Members of the community and representatives from community groups came together to plant 360 hedging plants and 23 apple trees. Remarkably good weather, good company and hot food meant that the hard work was enjoyable and many people stayed for the day and took part in the singing workshop and wassailing in the afternoon. The orchard group hit on the idea of planting on the traditional Twelfth Night, which is also the time to wassail apple trees therefore bringing tradition, celebration and positive community action together, with a lot of trees to plant they were hopeful that Bridport people would rise to the occasion, on the day the response was overwhelming. After a morning of digging and planting, adults and children joined Sally Reed and the Acapella Singers in the church hall to learn three wassailing songs. Then everyone walked down to the orchard to gather around the central fire and soon a wonderful harmony of many voices filled the orchard. Any ancient wassailing tradition that may have existed here has been long forgotten but in Bridport’s orchard a new tradition is in the making. To symbolise the hope for the future that is at the heart of this orchard project, an older and a younger person were chosen to complete the ceremony. Anna Lovell, representing the older people’s forum, gathered children to toast one of the trees with cider and apple juice. And called for a good harvest and wassail, ‘good health’ to all. This first phase of planting includes varieties that are locally successful rather than distinctive to the county. They are apples with good disease resistance so they can be managed organically. Most names will be familiar such as the early Beauty of Bath a very pretty dessert apple and locally popular Tom Putt, another early apple that can be used for cider, eating or cooking, it must have been a welcome addition to the diet before commercial storage and imports made apples available all year round. Dorset varieties are more difficult to source and some of them need to be grafted from local trees once these have been found the orchard will be completed after a couple more planting sessions. Work on paths and access will be undertaken soon in the meantime the group invites the people of Bridport to take a stroll around their new orchard.

Quotes from people attending

Louise – farmer

“This something for my son to appreciate and it’s nice to have it in the middle of the town.”

Margaret from the First West Bay Sea Scouts:

“I have always lived in Bridport and it’s wonderful to have something for all the community.”

Christine local resident:

“Amazing! This space is now being used for people.”

David local resident:

“I like the fact that old skills are being revived and that people are all working together.”

Roger – Monkton Wyld Court Trustee

“This is for the long term and it’s great. We look forward to picking the apples.”

Martin Ray – Mayor:

“It’s a terrific project. I am looking forward to scrumping the apples and we’ve planted a blackthorn so I’m also looking forward to some sloe gin!”

from CPRE and the Environmental Community:

“Absolutely brilliant idea! So many orchards have been grubbed up all over England. It’s a wonderful resource for local people in a green space right in the centre of town.”

Paul – local resident and also with the Bridport Disabled Carers and Friends:

“I’ve seen a few changes on this land in my time. The local gypsies used to put their horses in here. I’m very pleased about the orchard.”

Ken and Eileen – local Residents

“This is an excellent legacy for the children.”

Richardlocal resident and with Bridport Renewable Energy Group:

“We started laying out the trees using science and Pythagoras, but it quickly turned into art! The wonderful weather is a blessing.”

Darryl Chambers – Bridport Town Council:

“When this was a totally overgrown site I could see that this would be a fantastic project together with the allotments. The position in the middle of Bridport is perfect.”

Mrs Martin – retired farmer and teacher:

“I am very interested because I used to have cider orchards. The whole thing is very good for the town.”

Charlie Fuge – children’s author and book illustrator:

“I am a nature lover and environmentalist. We need more orchards – they are good for people and for the environment.”

Jennifer – local resident:

“It’s really lovely to bring back the apple orchards and the wassailing tradition – great fun and very beneficial.”

Barry “A heart-warming example of community action.”

Lawrence volunteer “fire warden” for the day:

“I love apples and cider and I think all orchards should be kept.”

Vee – local resident and with LETS:

“I think it’s brilliant – we need many more!”

Tony – St John’s Ambulance and local resident:

“It’s a good idea as it gets local people involved in green issues.”

Mary – resident

“This is lovely and it’s in the middle of town. There’s something permanent about trees – it is literally about putting down roots in the community.”

Yvonne – National Trust:

“It’s fantastic to see so many children here because this is what it is all about – green spaces still being here when they grow up.”

Flora – local resident:

I use the footpath regularly to get to St Mary’s School, so I am very pleased about the orchard.”

Millie – local resident:

“Inspirational! An orchard with allotments and open space.”

Apple Day in the heart of


Everything conspired to make Bridport’s first Apple Day a day to remember. The sun shone and hundreds of people turned up to sample apple cakes, juice and cider and to enjoy apple pressing, games and music supplied by local celidah band Up and Running. Almost £300 was raised to support the orchard advice line and tree pruning workshops, the presses were run by local juice company Allington Hill and the treewise co-op provided free craft activities for families in their 18ft yurt, a new mobile craft workshop made from local coppiced wood. The town council plotted the orchard allotments and made a test dig to demonstrate the length of a plot.

Kim Squirrell who has organised the Symondsbury Apple Day for the last 9 years commented that it ‘felt like a true community effort and already had that magical connection with the season that Apple Day is famous for’ Kim also had praise for the all the support the event received ‘Local businesses, Leakers, Denhay, Washingpool, Fruits of the Earth, Clipper and Forest Products all made donations which amongst other things helped to keep the scores of volunteers fed and watered, we had a marvellous turn out of over 40 volunteers on the day and it went like clockwork. As the site has no water or shelter we had to carry everything down there but there were plenty of willing hands to help, this is wonderful start to the project and bodes well for the tree-planting and tree care we have ahead.’

Visitors on the day were able to find out all about the community orchard, volunteering opportunities, the work of the Symondsbury Apple Project and the allotments planned for the site. The apple identification stall was kept busy and one visitor brought 30 apples down from Oban in Scotland.

The next event coming up at the orchard is a tree-planting day on Saturday the 17th of January. One Day pruning workshops will be held in Symondsbury on the 10th and 24th of January and the 7th of February. To get involved with the Bridport Community Orchard project, contact Tessa Greenaway, Community Planning Officer, c/o Bridport Town Council, Mountfield, Bridport DT6 3JP; tel. 01308-456722


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