Last week we held the public launch of one of the most important initiatives taken to protect London’s orchard heritage: a brilliant project that we have called A Celebration of Orchards.
With Heritage Lottery backing The Orchard Project have begun an ambitious and important endeavour to stop the decline of London’s orchards. For our launch event we took over City Hall and invited members of our orchard-loving community to spend an evening sharing our good news and learning more from some brilliant speakers. Neil our CEO described how we will work with 30 communities across the capital, engaging people in their local hidden orchard, and giving them the skills to preserve them. In her recent blog Stephanie, one of our two Orchard Restoration Managers, talked about the fact that we have lost 98 per cent of our orchards in London since the last century. A terrifying statistic highlighting the speed of development in the capital, the change in our food systems and the stark need for this project.
As part of this ground breaking project we will bring local school children into the orchards, helping them connect with nature, value these community spaces that have so much to offer, and understand where their food comes from. Working with orchard custodians of the future is very important to us, and will also be a lot of fun! Our adult volunteers will be given some fantastic training to give them the skills to carry on orchard care and sustain the movement that we are creating. This training will sit alongside an accredited training programme that will run from next year for anybody that wants to build in depth knowledge about community orchard care, or start a career in this field.
An element of our Celebration of Orchards project that created a huge amount of excitement and interest at the City Hall event was the news that we are starting up a cider and juice making enterprise, using fruit from London’s community orchards. Our cider and juice will be a unique blend of apples from across the capital, using traditional methods and bottled as one of a kind each year. We will give back 50 per cent of our produce to our core ‘members’ and reinvest all profits into orchard development. We are inviting everybody to be involved in some way, either by donating fruit, volunteering in our cider house or even coming up with a name for our new cider! (Check out the news section on the website next week).
Our evening got even more interesting when Russell Miller of The Tree Musketeers gave a presentation about some of the many wonderful species of wildlife that can be found in our orchards — many more reasons that they should be protected! We then listened to Jenny Dawson from Rubies in the Rubble describe how she set up a food enterprise from food waste, an inspiring example of a food project that exists to try to solve a problem and make an impact. We can learn a lot from her journey.
The lasting memory of the evening for me is sitting alongside 100 people who care as much as we do about making London a place where anyone can step into their local orchard, and where orchards are havens for wildlife, community spaces that all can enjoy and harvest fresh fruit. We were in great company and feel very positive about the incredible change that we can make together as a community.
Thank you to all of you who have supported us and been involved in our work over the years. Special thanks also goes to Moss Cider for the drinks, the GLA and our speakers Russell and Jenny.
See you again next year!
The Celebration of Orchards Project is funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund, The Postcode Lottery Trust, Heineken, Mercers Foundation and the GLA.