The Community Orchard sessions are open to all on 1st and 3rd Sundays throughout the year. We do a variety of gardening and construction work to nurture a growing number of fruit trees and herbs, and keep the weeds at bay. Volunteers are always welcome to join us. Regular volunteers complete a form so we know how to help you get the best from your time with us.
Supported Orchard sessions and Supported Walks are for people who are vulnerable in some way. These run through 2015 by arrangement. Volunteers who can commit to supporting our vulnerable groups are welcome, following the usual series of checks.
Our Summer Solstice Picnic is on Sunday 21st June 2015 from 3pm. Find more information on our Community Orchard Events post.
Several changes have occurred in the orchard recently. We have more young trees planted, nine altogether, mostly alongside the berms. There are gooseberries, strawberries and herbs growing on along one of the berms, and tayberries growing along the fruit rail that follows the Orchard Path.
The Community Orchard isn’t just about growing fruit though. It’s a place to relax, meet people, do crafts, have some fun, and support local wildlife. Children use it regularly, and lead the way when it comes to showing us all how to have fun. Since July 2014 Down to Earth home-educating families have been visiting regularly on Wednesday afternoons. They asked if we could help them create a children’s community garden, with growing spaces, play spaces and wildlife places in amongst the trees. Now we have some funding in place, this new approach to our community orchard is about to begin!
The kinds of features that will start appearing over the few next months (and years) are:
raised beds for vegetables, and a sensory garden
a raised walkway for balancing on, a log trail, and another swing
a bug hotel, a pond, bird feeders and a bird hide screen; and
places to hang up a tarp for shelter, and a hammock for swinging in.
The family groups are visiting other community projects over the spring and summer, and collecting ideas for our space. We will keep track of progress with frequent posts on this page, with photos to show what to look out for when you are visiting the park.
Our first major change will be to create a wildlife pond, and some of this work will take place on 4th April at one of our Woodland Play holiday sessions. You can find out more about it here.
Creating a community orchard was the original vision for Highbury Orchard Community, back in 2010. It belongs at the centre of our name!
The orchard continues to be our most active project. A dynamic crew of volunteers has turned up there twice a month on 1st and 3rd Sundays of every month bar two since October 2010.
We employ a Permaculture approach:
- by using resources found on site such as downed wood and bricks, and bringing beehives from the Highbury apiary
- bringing in resources from nearby – saplings produced by grafting from the heritage trees on the estate at Four Seasons, and woodchip left by local tree surgeons
- conserving the natural nutrients of the site by building berms and compost bins
- working with the south-westerly aspect and slope of the site
- harnessing the natural interests of our volunteers – constructional work, clay modelling, woodcraft, carving, cooking, entertaining, and simply chatting
- being mindful and caring of wildlife around us
Our patch of land measures about one acre, probably not enough to make a commercial orchard. However it is a great place for people to meet up, work, learn, experiment, and relax. So we are as much about caring for an orchard community as we are about caring for a community orchard. It’s a virtuous circle of people and land.
We already have apple and plum trees on site, along with fruiting shrubs: redcurrants, gooseberry, tayberry and the indigenous blackberry. We are beginning to plant herbs too: fennel, marjoram, mint and sage; alongside or near the nettle, mullein and comfrey that have been there all along. Plants with other uses will come on site too. We anticipate herbs for their restorative value, plants for dyes, and wood for crafting will also find a home here. We are also bee landlords and regularly have honey for sale. Come visit us at Kings Heath farmers market from 10:00am on 1st Saturdays in the month. We’re on the community stall, run by the Business Association. Or contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange to buy at other times.
The surrounding woodland environment invites a forest garden design, containing a wide variety of trees and shrubs, with some space for kitchen-gardening too. We hope this will evolve over time.
Then there’s the animal life going on around us. We are visited by many different birds. Come on one of Paul’s birdspotting walks and find out which are resident in the park (along with the paprakeets!). As for mammals, we have spotted mice and someone saw a stoat once. There are probably slow worms in the compost heap, but that’s not for certain.