Why community orchards?
About two thirds of Britain’s orchards have been lost since 1960. Much of our fruit is imported, carrying its own environmental and social effects. "Reviving a community orchard can help preserve and protect our stock of indigenous fruit trees for future generations" - Pat Thomas.
Community Orchards give local people an opportunity to grow fruit together on land that is generally accessible to the public at all times. Orchards are maintained by volunteers who share the harvest. Surplus produce is also distributed and community events are held, such as Wassails and Apple Days.
In West Somerset groups are making apple juice which covers the cost of maintaining the orchard and contributes to other groups getting started. Some projects are also donating produce such as juice to distribution schemes such as food banks.
Orchards can be an incredibly effective way of supporting biodiversity of both flora and fauna, and can keep alive many traditional varieties that supermarkets don't sell. Orchards also create a different kind of space where people can come together, and are generally much lower maintenance than community gardens.
How to find your nearest community orchard
Somerset is apple country, and there are a number of well established community orchards in Somerset.
- Common Ground has a page of information on Somerset Orchards
- Visit the People's Trust for Endangered Species' community orchards map
Starting a Community Orchard
If there isn't a community orchard in your area, you may be inspired to start one. New community orchard groups are likely to take the steps detailed in our Community organising and Landseekers guidebooks, including:
- Finding allies to make it happen
- Deciding how to work together and what structure your group will take
- Finding land together
- Finding sources of start-up funding - Thatchers have an annual Community Orchard Fund
- Consideration of using your site as a place for community events and learning
Other start-up guides:
Above all, the best advice is to get support! Be inspired by other local projects and utilise their experience and knowledge in making your vision a reality. Make use of the experience and resources of national groups and regional groups, who are here to help.
Inspiring examples in Somerset
Frieze Hill Community Orchard is in Taunton and was set up in 2003 by a group of local people. The land used to form part of the adjacent allotments. The volunteer run group have planted over 100 trees, diverse hedges and organised lots of popular local events.
Porlock Vale Community Orchard were supported through the Get Growing Support Fund as part of the Somerset Land & Food Project. However their work started many months before, when two volunteers talked about how to revitalise the orchard in the village, communicating with the landowner and bringing people together to make the restoration possible.
Further sources of support & information
- Common Ground
- Orchards Network
- People's Trust for Endangered Species
- Brendons Orchards Cooperative
- Vigo Presses
- Fruit ID
- Royal Horticultural Society
- Garden Organic
- Farming Wildlife Advisory Group
- Bumblebee Conservation Trust
- The Holistic Orchard, Michael Phillips
- Community Orchards Handbook by Sue Clifford & Angela King
Information on forest gardens / food forests coming soon...