In June 2016 I started in my role at The Orchard Project, managing a major new project funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund to restore and celebrate older orchards across London, offer lots of training for people and produce traditional cider and juice as part of a new enterprise.
I was hugely excited about coming to work for The Orchard Project (TOP) my background in charity work had geared me up with the skills to take on the Project Director role and I felt as though I was coming to work for an organisation which reflected my values and passions. I was really looking forward to working with a team of people doing amazing work. Here are my thoughts about my first six months at TOP…
The work is rewarding
It is very rare when I tell someone about what I do that they don’t respond with something like ‘that sounds amazing’. To be involved with TOP feels like I am involved in something good, something to be proud of. We are helping to connect children with nature, to provide fruit for disadvantaged communities, to teach people new skills and give them experiences that give them satisfaction and purpose and we are helping to improve the landscape and the biodiversity of our cities. It’s awesome.
You never stop learning
I must admit, I am not a horticulture expert but my role doesn’t need me to be one. I love being surrounded by people who have such interesting knowledge, each with their own niche of interest and expertise and desire to learn. Six months ago I had never heard of the Noble Chafer beetle, I didn’t know much about how to care for a young orchard or what pruning techniques to use for an older apple tree but I have learnt so much in a short space of time. We are all constantly learning and this is what helps to feed us and keep us dedicated to our purpose of bringing communities together to care for their local orchard.
Being challenged is important
The project we work on is very ambitious and we have a lot to achieve, but this has been really positive for our team. We have all been challenged beyond our comfort zones, but when we look back we have a lot to be proud of, whether it be the community events we have run or the schools workshops we have delivered or getting a fully working cider house up and running in a very short space of time. Feeling challenged goes hand in hand with learning, so bring it on!
Being outdoors really is good for you
I love my job, but we all need to get out of the office and get our hands dirty from time to time. The days that I spend in our orchards, picking apples, supporting community events or at the cider house pressing apples are what keep me sane. If being outdoors isn’t something that you have as part of your job then I would really encourage you to try and find a way to get out there and get involved in a local community project as a volunteer, it could make all the difference.
The People really are very nice!
My colleagues are great. When we come together with our team from across the UK to develop ideas and deepen our understanding of what we are doing, there is such passion and enthusiasm, a healthy dose of diversity of opinions and challenge, a strong desire to do things better, but all the while being supportive and caring for each other. It really is a good place to be.
2016 was a challenging year for many reasons but I am starting 2017 feeling grateful that organisations such as TOP exist and are delivering innovative work in communities and making a difference. If you are thinking about making a change this year then consider what aspects of your work or environment are important for your well being. And if you want to volunteer with us then please get in touch!
The Celebration of Orchards Project is funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund, The Postcode Lottery Trust, Heineken, Mercers Foundation and the GLA.