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Inspired?

If you’re inspired by Helping Britain Blossom and would like to create or restore a community orchard, here’s some advice to get you started.

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First Steps

Why not start by finding out if there’s an orchard near you with an active group that needs volunteers? Find an orchard.

If there isn’t a Helping Britain Blossom orchard near you, then why not search online or in your local newspaper to explore other community growing opportunities in your area.

Orchard Planting

If you want to plant a community orchard, the essential things you’ll need are:

  • a group of committed individuals who are local to where you want to plant the orchard
  • some land, with permission from the landowner to access and plant trees
  • funding to buy trees and other planting essentials/tools.

There are lots of fantastic expert groups that can support you too. Check out The Orchard Project for some great advice and tips on tree planting.

Restoration

With traditional orchards in decline since the 1950s, restoration of existing mature fruit trees is urgently needed throughout Britain. Through Helping Britain Blossom we will support community groups to rejuvenate and manage existing orchards that have been neglected – restoring orchards to productivity.

Restoration work helps to extend the life of these valuable green spaces, ensuring that we continue to enjoy their majestic presence and fruit. Typically, new trees will be planted as succession trees to replace individual trees that have reached their end. Restoring orchards allows the natural habitat and wildlife to benefit from the newly planted fruit trees as the orchard is reinstated.

Restoring orchards does require specialist support and advice which will be provided by Helping Britain Blossom, working together with the community to transform neglected community orchards.

Harvesting

There are thousands of under-picked trees in parks, gardens, hospitals, schools and woods. In many areas groups of local people have made arrangements with the tree owners to pick and distribute the fruit – usually giving it to shelters and schools, as well as keeping a little themselves.

Celebrating

The seasons give us many reasons to celebrate. From picnics under blossom, to harvest festivals and apple days through to wassailing in the depths of winter, orchards are a great excuse for a party. Here are a few ideas of what you could do with your community.

Be inclusive and advertise in lots of ways so you have everyone from school children to local businesses – from posters in launderettes and sheltered housing schemes to ads on local radio, in local papers and newsletters, as well as, of course, social media. Blossom events are quite big in some areas – for example the Lyth Valley Damson Day in Cumbria. It’s in Japan, however, that blossom is really celebrated with Hanami festivals, when people hold picnics under the trees and celebrate fertility.

The next big orchard celebration date is Apple Day in the UK, which takes place every October. A great Apple Day celebration could include a competitive longest peel competition, apple bobbing and cider, juice as well as different local orchard fruit to taste.

With a bigger budget it’s great to do live juicing, using a traditional apple crusher and press. Making ‘insect B&Bs’ to attract pollinators, getting in an apple expert to do apple identification and talks on orchard skills, local history or maybe having an open fire with dancing and singing. Free food and drink always draws a crowd!

And don’t forget to celebrate pears and other orchard fruit.

Wassailing

The word wassail comes from “vas heil” believed to originate from the Norse language. It means ‘good health’ and relates to the English phrase ‘hale and hearty’ meaning well.

Wassailing is the activity of singing to orchard trees to wake them from their dormancy at the end of deepest winter. People bang pots and pans to make so much noise the trees are sure to wake up. An open fire is a bonus, as is hot mulled juice or cider. In some parts of the UK the word wassail is the name of the drink and may contain anything from toast to frothed egg. In Scotland the word Wassail describes the traditional pot the drink is made in.

So, all together now… Wassail, Wassail all over the town!