We’re delighted to be working with the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in its efforts towards the nature recovery. The MoJ aims to have a well-maintained orchard in every prison across England and Wales, – a goal which we fully endorse and support.
This exciting partnership began in the summer, and activity is now ramping up as we move into tree-planting season. The MoJ hopes to bring the benefits of nature and greenspace to its prison environments across Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) sites by planting new fruit trees, and restoring existing ones. Actions to address nature recovery are gaining increasing momentum within the MoJ, which is the second-largest landholder in government.
The orchards are expected to hold numerous benefits for staff, prisoners and wildlife: the fruit trees will attract and support many species and contribute to carbon capture as they grow and mature; while the greenspaces themselves will become tranquil places to alleviate the stress of staff and prompt personal reflection for the prisoners. Along with the satisfaction of producing fresh, locally-grown fruit, which will be consumed on-site, the prisoners will also be able to gain new skills by looking after the orchard, and take part in meaningful, physical, outdoor activity to boost their wellbeing.
The Orchard Project was selected to deliver this programme, as the only national charity dedicated to planting, restoring and championing community orchards. We will be applying our twelve-year track record in working with and training disadvantaged groups in orchard maintenance skills and knowledge, as well as our wide-reaching expertise in designing climate-resilient, durable orchards. The project kicked-off with nine workshops for HMPPS’ staff on planting, pests and diseases and the requirements of healthy orchard. The staff will then go on to train and supervise the inmates with their new skills and insights. In the new year, further workshops will be delivered to the prisoners themselves, as well as staff. These will focus on pruning and other maintenance skills, accompanied by an educational workbook to reinforce their learning. Such skills could support them in gaining employment upon release.
Alex Boscarino, LBA Manager at Thorn Cross prison in Cheshire, has been delighted with the scheme so far:
“Planting and growing are meaningful activities which help the men with personal issues, such as mental health. Having an orchard in our establishment means fresh fruit to enjoy, a chance to reconnect with nature, experience the process of food production first-hand and taste the results.
As well as a strong sense belonging and pride for inmates, it gives staff a place of tranquillity to go during lunch breaks. We have already seen an increase in the bee population and a diversity of wildlife.”
Our Operations Director, Abby Cremin, says, “Working in partnership with the Ministry of Justice on this orcharding project is a really exciting opportunity, and we are keen and motivated to make a difference to the lives of people in prisons. We hope to secure funding to upscale this project, and it will contribute to our wider mission of plant 300, well-maintained orchards in the next five years”.