We are delighted to offer the UK’s first and only accredited course in community orchards. Join our exciting course (known as CICO) to learn everything you need to know about managing healthy, productive community orchards, taught by our team of highly knowledgeable, experienced orchardists. We run this course over several months, giving you an opportunity to learn a wide range of seasonally-appropriate skills, including:
- Tree planting
- Grafting (spring and summer)
- Pruning (summer and winter)
- Biodiversity, pests, & disease
- Site survey and orchard design
- Soil science and boosting soil diversity organically
- Caring for old orchards & veteran trees
- Identifying fruit trees and apple varieties
- Managing orchards and the groups caring for them
- …And more!
We offer both in-person training courses (12-14 days over 12 months) AND blended online / in-person courses (five in-person training days with online coursework and quizzes).
Crossfields Institute level 3 Certificate in Community Orcharding
To gain the CICO qualification you need to pass two compulsory units and at least one of the optional units. However, we find that most students opt to complete all four units.
- Units 1 and 2 (compulsory). We cover: orchard history; tree lifecycles, physiology, identification and planting; tree care programmes; biodiversity; soil science; pests and diseases; formative and maintenance pruning; grafting; and effective group work. It takes 6 days to cover units 1 and 2, along with at least 3 reinforcement days.
- Unit 3 (optional). If you want to maintain an established orchard, possibly containing some veteran trees, you should choose this unit. This unit covers: veteran tree features; biodiversity surveys; veteran tree management; apple identification; apple varieties; taxonomy; and restorative pruning. It takes 3 days to cover this unit.
- Unit 4 (optional). If you want to design a new orchard this is the unit for you. We cover: summer pruning; extra grafting techniques; forest garden plants; surveying land; and designing a new orchard. Unit 4 takes 3 days to complete.
If you choose to go for the CICO certificate, your learning will be assessed using a combination of written tests, presentations, reports and demonstrations. If necessary, we can modify assessments to suit your needs. You’ll need to pass three out of four units to gain the certification, which is regulated by Crossfields Institute.
Every year, we receive high scores in our CICO course evaluations and high praise from the students. Here are some of their comments:
“The course has been brilliantly crafted with each module flowing organically into the next, building on knowledge learnt. Listening to the presentations with orchard birdsong, I can feel myself relaxing.”
“There is a real sense of community and support within our group of teachers and students alike, something I’ve found invaluable.”
“Fascinating and inspirational from the start… I didn’t want the course to end!”
“A healthy mix of practical and reinforcement days, out in the fresh air, across the seasons. I accepted the course without knowing orchard management in the UK could be such fun. I now want to share it with everyone!”
“The CICO course book is clear, well-edited and humorous, with a lot of well-presented and detailed information.”
“I gained a lot of understanding, as well as the techniques and knowledge to design a resilient food landscape in the midst of ongoing global warming… It gives me hope for the future.”
Most of the course is taught by members of The Orchard Project team: Ella Hashemi, Jo Homan, Stephanie Irvine, Lewis McNeill, Witchhazel Wildwood and Kate Davies. Jo Homan developed the course and is the main point of contact for students in London; Witchhazel Wildwood is the main point of contact for students in Wales. Here’s some words from past students about our tutors:
Stephanie: “Excellent knowledge. I feel really relaxed about what I have to do; it’s made very clear and well-presented.”
“Lewis was great – really passionate, lots of interesting and unusual facts.”
Ella: “Excellent. Very interesting and progressive, even visionary teaching!”
“Jo’s knowledge always astounds me every week. Her teaching style to weave in different ways of teaching, facilitation is amazing.”
External tutors for CICO
Russel’s main interests are: trees, beetles, bees, fungi, social justice and problem solving. Having worked for 14 years as a litigation solicitor, he left the legal profession to be closer to nature. He helped set up The Orchard Project and is also involved in Trees for Life in Scotland. In addition, he runs The Tree Musketeers, a Hackney-based volunteer group which plants and maintains trees. You can read an interview with them here. Russell established and chairs the Abney Park Cemetery Nature Reserve group, and also chairs the Ancient Tree Forum.
Bob began working in commercial and heritage orchards over 30 years ago, and has been teaching orchard skills for over 20 years. His clients include The Orchard Project, the East of England Apples and Orchards Project, the National Trust, the Wildlife Trusts, Aspall Cider, several local authorities and numerous community groups. Bob has a large orchard in West Norfolk, where he maintains a number of veteran trees and an extensive collection of heritage varieties. His orchard is a county wildlife site and has won a CPRE award for its contribution to the local landscape. As if that wasn’t enough, Bob is the moderator for Malus cultivars for FruitID.com.
Steve has ten years’ work experience with traditional orchards and has a life-long interest in the natural environment and horticulture. He gained Environmental Science degree, did a stint at Brogdale’s National Fruit Collection and ended up at People’s Trust for Endangered Species. Here he developed the nationwide orchard mapping project and works to protect and enhance traditional orchards. Steve has specialist knowledge in the kinds of invertebrates found in veteran orchards and he has 60 top-fruit and 40 soft-fruit varieties growing on his allotment.
Working as an orchardist since 2001, Tom has specialist knowledge in old and local apple varieties. His work includes designing and planting new orchards, carrying out orchard surveys, orchard restoration, rescue work* and running a fruit tree nursery. As well as a deep knowledge in apple-care, Tom has well-honed practical skills in grafting, pruning and green woodworking. He runs workshops for the likes of The National Trust, Farming and Wildlife Advisory Group, and local community orchards. Here he is being interviewed by the Telegraph. *’Rescue work’ means propagating trees whose variety can’t be immediately identified or is known to be rare.
Bryn has been teaching permaculture since 1994. As well as managing Brighton Permaculture Trust’s fruit projects, he is one of the founders of Brighton Permaculture Trust. Particular areas of interest include fruit growing, pruning, forest gardening and green architecture. Bryn teaches forest gardening, permaculture design, veteran tree care and orchard design. Here you can see him teaching tree pruning.
Contact details for more information on CICO, including future courses
If you want to be kept updated about our courses, please contact the Education, Skills and Training Manager, Jo Homan:
- Staff Induction Training CPD Policy August 2021
- Recognition Of Prior Learning Policy July 2021
- Reasonable Adjustments and Special Considerations Policy July 2021
- Malpractice and Maladministration Policy July 2021
- Learner Complaints And Appeals Policy July 2021
- Learner Admission And Recruitment Policy August 2021
- Internal Quality Assurance Policy August 2021
- Data Protection Policy September 2020
- Conflict Of Interest Policy July 2021
- Assessment Policy August 2021
- Anti-harassment and bullying Policy 2022
The Heritage Lottery Fund, Heineken and the GLA funded our Celebration of Orchards Project, which has now ended.