Stephanie has started working with volunteers to restore two orchards, one at Cuckoo Hall, near the Dick Turpin pub in Ilford, and one in Mill Hill. With both orchards very overgrown, the first stage has been to find the fruit trees hidden beneath years of brambles and ivy!
Ron, now over 80, remembers scrumping from Cuckoo Hall when he was a kid, so the fruit trees must be around 100 years old. These wonderful veterans are full of rot holes and bracket fungi, making them excellent for biodiversity, but they are fragile, so we’ve propped up branches to prevent them splitting out, and will be doing some light pruning in the winter to reduce weight.
At Mill Hill, local gardener Kris used his brush cutter to clear a path through the head high weeds, so we could get through to the trees, where we have begun the painstaking job of removing brambles growing up and through the fruit trees. With the trees revealed, our consultant Bob Lever was able to spot that they had originally been grown in the spindle form – a shape used in commercial orchards, but rare to see in the middle of London!
But it hasn’t all been hard work – at Chalkhill orchard in Wembley, local residents came out on an August evening to pick damsons, cherry plums and greengages. Neighbours met each other for the first time, the children enjoyed shaking the fruit from the trees and eating it fresh, and one local woman, Dipali, who hadn’t known the orchard existed on her doorstep, started spotting fruit everywhere afterwards, including a grape vine outside her house, and said;
“It’s amazing how today’s experience has opened my eyes to such things!”
Watch us here on London Live, to find out more about our new ‘Celebration of Orchards’ project and the restoration work we have been doing.
The Celebration of Orchards Project is funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund, The Postcode Lottery Trust, Heineken, Mercers Foundation and the GLA. For any more information about the project please contact Lizzie at firstname.lastname@example.org