We know that just standing in an orchard can make anyone beam with happiness. Orchards also fill our bellies, act as homes for a wonderful range of wildlife and become outdoor community centres and classrooms. We think everyone should have access to them. Everyone should be able to recognise an apple tree, taste freshly picked fruit and know how to care for their local trees.
All we expect from you is enthusiasm about one of our most important community assets: orchards. We’re interested in teaching anyone mad-keen on orchards, those embarking on a horticultural career, little children and everyone else in between. I’ll explain some of the ways we’re going to make this happen in London.
Teaching tree enthusiasts
People who want and in-depth understanding of how to design orchards, care for established and very old orchards and get their hands dirty with a range of propagation and tree care skills, will love the new course we’re writing. Our exciting new “TOP Certificate” will allow people to earn a nationally-recognised qualification which they can use to gain work in the horticultural sector. It will formalise lots of the teaching we’ve always done, give the learning an official stamp of approval and ensure people have reached a high level of competence in orchard management. Units on the course will include some orchard history, orchard design and implementation, tree and fruit identification, pruning, grafting and biodiversity. It will also address the sometimes tricky, but always critical, issue of effective group working. We want future certificate holders to be as productive and resilient as their orchards.
We’re still working out how to structure our TOP Certificate, but it’ll probably be offered in more than one format – e.g. a day a month over a year or a few long weekends over 6 months – probably starting next March. We’ll be using all our favourite teachers and although we’ll have to charge for this training, there will be an option of paying for the training by volunteering.
Click here to register your interest in attending this course.
Teaching little ‘uns
We are working with at least 30 schools across the capital over the next 3 years, each of which is attached to an older orchard that we are involved in restoring for our Celebration of Orchards project.
Last week, we had our first teaching date with the year 3 children Charlotte Sharman Primary school which is near the Imperial War Museum orchard. It was a tiring but wonderful day. Ella buddied groups of children up with specific trees; “I enjoyed introducing the children to their tree buddies and helping them to look after their trees by weeding and mulching them. It was great to hear that some children were already planning to come back to visit the orchard over the weekend with their parents.”
Meanwhile, indoors with Jo, children were tasting fruit from ‘their’ trees and making tree care signs. We hope our beautiful signs will help protect the trees from the occasional vandalism and help everyone become more knowledgeable about the 30 or so trees growing there – some of which have quite unusual fruit.
At the end of the month, we’re heading up to Illford, the location of Dick Turpin orchard and William Torbitt Primary School. We’ll be linking up with their Scavengers and Settlers topic, covering food cultivation and more tree care (well that’s what the trees need!) Our school days are followed up with an assembly so that the whole school can find out more about their local orchard. Schools will then be invited to attend the orchard celebrations we’ll be laying on. We’re hoping that schools will embed orchard learning into their annual teaching programmes and that local children will help make sure their orchards remain cared for and well-connected. All our school teaching resources will be available on this website and elsewhere in the new year.
Teaching young adults
We’ve teamed up with Cultivate London to supplement their programme for horticultural apprentices and trainees with some tree care training. We run regular sessions covering areas such as summer pruning, grafting and tree care, giving young adults the chance to learn from tree specialists. We’re pleased to be broadening their training and have come to realise that our sessions also open them up to other possibilities, for example, by linking them to a range of gardens and projects across London and to a new network of contacts.
And everyone else in between
The training we offer apprentices and trainees is often available for anyone else to book onto. And it’s usually free! So there’s lots of opportunities for tree geeks and novice garden alike, to learn more about trees and spend time in some of London’s most smile-inspiring orchards. Now that’s something to get enthusiastic about.
The Celebration of Orchards Project is funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund, The Postcode Lottery Trust, Heineken, Mercers Foundation and the GLA.