A community Orchard For Bridport
Why a Heritage Orchard?
A community orchard is:
A space dedicated to the public
A haven for wildlife
A legacy for the future
A source of healthy fresh food
A Heritage Orchard encompasses all the above but also acts as a repository for rare and locally successful tree varieties that have survived the test of time and often years of neglect. The Symondsbury Apple Projects Heritage Orchard Year which began in September 2004 has so far brought to light significant orchard sites and apple varieties. Local research groups are investigating apple-growing history in their own parishes and projects are also planned to take place in North Dorset.
What will it consist of?
The Orchard will be a mixed orchard of 30-40 half standard fruit trees, including apples, pears, plums and damsons. Half standard trees grow to about 15ft in span and about 10ft high. It will take approximately 4-5 years for the trees to fruit and 15-20 years for the trees to mature. They will have a life span of 60-80 years. The orchard will pursue a program of organic orchard management.
The orchard will also include soft fruit, nuts, herb beds and a hedgerow. Existing trees on the site will be retained if possible. Sitting areas and tables along with a small low impact shed/store will serve as spaces for learning and a shelter for workers. All construction on the site will be environmentally sensitive and materials and crafts people will be sourced locally. Schools, community groups and a variety of learners will be able to use the facilities on site.
Trees will be sourced from existing West Dorset orchards identified during The Heritage Orchard Year and from reputable West Country nurseries.
The shed/workshop will be made from sustainable timber.
The site proposed for the orchard is part of the old Priory. There was originally an orchard at the Priory and the site has also been used as allotments. Ownership is with the District Council who are very positive about the project going ahead on the site. It’s sheltered position makes it an ideal orchard site and it’s level ground and easy access from the road make it a good site for wheelchair users or parents with pushchairs.
Older people. Residents bordering the site include older people. A visit will be arranged which will present the orchard plans to this group and draw on their memories and knowledge of orchards locally and their gardening experience. Interested individuals will be invited to meet at the planning stage.
Young people. The Heritage Orchard year has engaged various groups including young people. The information gathered by these groups will help build a picture of orchard heritage and we would seek to include these individuals in apple tasting, planning and tree planting along with extending the invitation to Colfox school.
Families and children. The orchard site will be eminently accessible for mothers of young children during weekdays. The orchard can include natural play areas such as a willow arbour and a children’s sitting area. Family harvesting and apple pressing days already take place in Symondsbury village, at The Centre for Local Food and amongst apple project members in private orchards. Apple project equipment will be available to the community orchard and these days can be arranged on site using locally harvested apples until the community orchard’s first crop comes in.
How will the orchard be used?
Environment: Courses in wildlife monitoring, nature conservation, orchard management, organic gardening, pruning and pest control can be held in the orchard.
Sustainable Living: Recycling, composting and energy conservation will be demonstrated on site.
Curriculum: A host of curriculum activities can be met in the orchard. All the local schools in the Bridport cluster will be invited to choose varieties of fruit trees for the orchard and attend the planting day.
Visitors: There is significant potential for this project to attract national attention not only for its Heritage value but also for its community initiative. It is anticipated that a number of visitors to the town will come to the orchard.
How will the project be managed and by whom?
Management team: Bridport Community Orchard Group
Advice and consultancy: Symondsbury Apple Project.
Bridport Community Orchard Group. This group will be made up of local residents, apple project members and interested local people. The Apple Project’s apple experts will inspire, advise and train the group.
Other training will be pursued if necessary and largely depends on the skills within the group. The steering group will ensure that the community is consulted at every part of the planning stage.
Financial input will be low once the initial start up costs are met. Local event fundraising and sponsorship will be encouraged. Once the fruit trees start cropping sales of fresh organic fruit or processed juice will add to the revenue as part of a pick your own or process your own scheme. Another possible scheme will be to auction the fruit at blossom time, which will encourage the ‘owner’ to care for the tree through the season and monitor its progress.