New community orchards in London’s unused spaces help to address the city’s allotment shortfall, promote community production and ownership of fruit, and help us rediscover the pleasures of eating organic fruit grown close to home. Community orchards also green the urban environment and create habitats for wildlife, increasing the city's biodiversity. In an era of climate change and peak oil, planting trees which will provide a large yield year after year for decades to come is a logical move, helping to build food security and community resilience.
Fruit trees are well suited to the urban environment as they can be trained or grown on dwarfing rootstocks to fit into small spaces. Once the trees settle in, they require very little maintenance compared to annual vegetables, making them perfect for the busy Londoner!
We are partnering with local authorities, residents’ associations, Transition initiatives, park user groups, schools and other community groups to help design, plant and maintain community orchards in London’s parks, housing estates, schools and universities.
We are also providing training to five orchard leaders per orchard, who are responsible for the care and harvest of the trees. The orchard leaders are volunteers, and have all attended our dedicated training day on fruit tree technical skills and leading a community orchard project. These leaders have also developed an orchard management plan for their respective orchard and are responsible for getting others involved in orchard maintenance and activities as ‘orchard carers’. We keep in regular touch with our orchard leaders to make sure all is going well with the trees and provide a follow-up visit six months after planting.
So far we have planted 57 community orchards of approximately 10 trees each. These have included apples, pears, plums of new and heritage varieties, and the odd experimental mirabelle, apricot, medlar and peach.
Some of our orchards are in public parks, so if you fancy seeing how the trees are getting along - and possibly even helping yourself to an apple - head to Green Gate Common in Haringey, Caledonian Park in Islington, Archbishop’s Park in Lambeth or Nursery Row Park in Southwark, Haggerston Park in Hackney. Don’t tell all your mates though!
Have a look at some pictures here and a short film of one of our projects in Hackney:
"We had a fantastic turnout of around 25 people turn out for the Orchard Planting Day on Cowley Estate. We planted a total of 9 trees and look forward to seeing them grow and look after them and hopefully add some more next year if we can. The support from the London Orchard Project is great." Annie, Lambeth, March 2012
"It was great to see so many people turn out to plant and meet more of my neighbours. I feel so proud of our tree planting!" Louise, Islington, February 2012
"It's so nice to do something outdoors and physical, I feel really useful and productive doing this" Kelda, Islington, February 2012
"A huge thank you for a very well organised (as always!) planting day yesterday. It went really well and we had an amazing turnout with a lot of people interested in 'adopting' a tree which will be a good way of involving people in the enjoyment and maintenance of the orchard" Fran, Lewisham, January 2011
"The planting day was such a fantastic lift to all of us who have been working on the garden for the past year". Nikky, Hackney, February 2011
"Thank you so much for your help and support for our project- we have been impressed and delighted with both the training and the planting support from your organisation". Rachel, Hackney, February 2011
"Thank you so much for everything! It's been a really great experience, what you guys do is brilliant and we are all so excited about the trees!! Thank you also to Chris and Russell for their valuable knowledge and expertise, it's very inspiring to learn more! (There's so much to learn!!) We are really looking forward to loving and nurturing the trees for many years and growing a beautiful forest garden around them, we hope that you will come and visit soon!" Kam Lyn , Lambeth, February 2011
"Fantastic turnout, and good fun, as ever (some great apple food too ;-) look forward to next one" Hywel, Lewisham, January 2011
“Saturday's planting of seven fruit trees was a great success with a good number of people dropping by both from the Estate itself and locally…The guidance and training and support of The London Orchard project is much appreciated by everyone behind the food growing initiatives on the estate” Kenneth, Hackney, January 2010
"This is a wonderful sustainable environmental project adding value to our community. Plus on the day we had tasty homemade cake and great music from the Estate’s youth music project."
Sheila, Hackney, January 2010
“We planted six trees in Haden Court, there is a mix of different species and sizes, all are apple. There was a ‘rolling attendance’ of interested passers-by and a couple of interested neighbours… All comments were very positive, and it was certainly a good way to get people talking.”
Paul, Islington, January 2010
“I am truly delighted about the result of our planting day. Thank you to everyone, who joined in to transform the neglected area.”
Sarah, Lewisham, March 2010
“A big thank you to all 25 or so of you who joined in on the Caledonian Park Community Orchard Planting Day, for your hard work and for the hidden skills with spade and hammer that were revealed on the day. Special thanks to the London Orchard Project for their tools and efficient organisation of the event and to Russell, their technical expert, for his clear and concise guidance on tree planting”
Sylvia, Islington, February 2010