After the successful completion of a year-long programme on biodiversity, Head of Programmes & Operations Ella Hashemi reflects on its impact and challenges.
Judging from my local park, people are accessing and enjoying their local greenspaces more than ever before. Cold, grey November mornings see the park packed full of schoolchildren, joggers, work-from-homers, dog walkers, slack liners, boxers, yogis…
These greenspaces are one of the few community assets which remain accessible during lockdowns and tighter Covid guidelines, so our work over the last year improving biodiversity in public community orchards has never more important.
The Dulverton Trust awarded us funding to work across 4 community orchards in Edinburgh and Greater Manchester to create and signpost for new habitats for orchard wildlife, extend the orchards where possible, prune existing trees and train up volunteers in biodiversity management.
Project managers and orchard groups across the sites met to assess their orchards from a biodiversity perspective, and then created plans for how to develop new wildlife-friendly habitats areas. All in all we engaged over 1500 people in orchard biodiversity, from creating sedum roofs to dry stone walls, hand crafted wildlife signage to ladybird workshops. 63 fruit and nut trees were planted to extend these orchards and diversify their tree cover; and existing trees were pruned through careful restorative work.
The first lockdown fell in the middle of the programme, and was both a challenge and an opportunity. We had to pause work on the biodiversity improvements at various times throughout the year, but as Iain from Holly Mount Orchard says, the programme has “…given the group something to focus on through lockdown…the immediate impact of the sedum roof, the hopes for the wildflower growth next year and the ability to tell the story of biodiversity within our orchard have been particular highlights for us all”.
Meanwhile in Edinburgh, the biodiversity programme enabled local community at Saughton Park to realise their vision of a wild orchard. Sarah, a lead volunteer in the group says: “the planning, planting and maintenance has been very much a team effort. I have loved working alongside old and new friends to improve the biodiversity of our beloved inner city park”. Feeding and enabling this local enthusiasm for greenspaces is everything that The Orchard Project is about.
We are thrilled with the transformations at all the orchards who participated in this programme and worked so hard to make it happen through a challenging year.
Many thanks also to The Dulverton Trust for their funding, support and flexibility as we learnt and adapted along the way.
The programme couldn’t be summed up better by Shona, from Saughton Park: “With so many rules in the world; it’s lovely to be a bit wild!”