How do you like them apples? Groups dig in to create community orchard in Wantage

Oxfordshire County Council’s tree service helped a group of volunteers plant an orchard in a day earlier this month.

The tree service was answering a request from local environmental groups to help them plant trees on land to the north of the Wantage community support service and Wantage Market Garden, a project jointly run between Oxfordshire County Council, Sustainable Wantage and Style Acre.

County council-run Wantage community support service, in Charlton Village Road, provides daytime support for adults with physical disabilities, learning disabilities, mental health problems and dementia.

On Friday 5 May, members of the county council’s tree service (Andy Lederer, Luke Rowland, Edward Whorwood, Matthew Hirons, James Hammond and Ellie Rawden) supported by James Smith (the council’s countryside access delivery team) and Lucy Duerdoth (national trails team) helped volunteers of all ages, Wantage Market Garden, Sustainable Wantage and Wild Wantage, plus day centre staff and users, plant 14 apple trees to create an orchard that will be available for the local community to enjoy for years to come.

Principal Officer – Arboriculture, Andy Lederer, said: “We absolutely love helping to enable projects like this to take place. We identified the potential but it was through significant planning and conversations by Luke, Senior Tree Officer, that the community and associated organisations were engaged and ultimately supported the idea through to delivery.

“We want to be enablers of projects as we know the importance of trees to our environment, not forgetting the ability to access food sources and improve our wellbeing and mental health. Well done to all the volunteers taking part and we look forward to helping with similar projects in the future.”

The council provided the trees, the equipment – including spades – and the expertise, while the volunteers gave their time and labour to turn the vision into reality.

Volunteers helped prepare the trees to be planted, put them in the ground and fill the holes with soil, with guidance from the county council’s tree professionals.

Jo Harvey, Sustainability Coordinator for Sustainable Wantage, said: “We're delighted to see this patch of land coming back into use. We would love to be able to help this develop into a community orchard, getting local residents and groups involved in its care and in enjoying the benefits and harvest.

“Given how COVID lockdowns and rising energy costs have highlighted the fragilities of our current food system, the more we can grow and use locally the better!”

It is hoped that pupils from Charlton Primary School and residents will join members of Wantage Market Garden in helping to look after the orchard.

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