Meet our Master Orchardists
As spring gets going some of you will be starting to feel the blossoming of pride in your orcharding efforts over the previous years. Yet for many of us novice orchardists, the signs of spring may also bring a sense of relief. Relief that, despite our tentative and not-always-complete attention, our orchard has survived another season!
Orcharding confidence is not something you acquire in a day, a week or even a month’s training. It is something that grows year on year as you put down your own roots, connecting with your trees and with your community. Sometimes we all need a bit of friendly encouragement from someone who’s been there to assure us we’re on the right track.
Last year, to help nurture the confidence of our Helping Britain Blossom orchard leaders across London, we recruited our first crop of seven ‘Master Urban Orchardists’. This year we have taken on ten more volunteer orchard enthusiasts, each adding their own unique mix of wisdom, passion and talent to the orcharding tool-kit offered to community orchard groups. We now have landscape architects, tree surgeons, forest gardeners, eco-therapists, carpenters, forest school teachers, beekeepers, butterfly and bird enthusiasts, cider brewers, designers, musicians, mediators and meditators; all keen to use their particular skills to benefit London* orchards.
Rather than experts in tree-care, our Master Orchardists are channels for the best practice and expertise developed by Helping Britain Blossom’s delivery partner the Urban Orchard Project and its network of experienced advisors. Our Master Orchardists all have a passion for learning as much as they possibly can about orchards, and for sharing as much as they possibly can with orchard leaders.
As well as sharing knowledge, these volunteers are forming connections between London’s scattered orchards, reinvigorating the growing network of urban orchard groups and activities across the city. We’re creating new relationships for sharing knowledge, skills and resources and inspiring creative exchanges such as apple juice for wood mulch, tools for graft cuttings, or bags of Laxton Superbs for Brixton Pounds.
So far our volunteers have worked with more than 35 orchards introducing people to the art of pruning, advising on orchard care and tree health, and helping to cut and lower tree guards. They have been supporting new orchards from their inception by helping out at community planting days.
We also run seasonal ‘orcharding tours’, sending out a team of Master Orchardists to visit a number of orchards in one day with a specific seasonal task. Our coming spring tour aims to enrich the soil in London orchards by planting the nutrient mining Comfrey around trees.
Over the coming months we’ll be hearing directly from some of our Master Orchardists as they share what they’ve been learning on their orcharding journey right here on the Helping Britain Blossom blog.