In an age of increasing social isolation and societal division, community orchards are wonderful spaces for bringing people together around a common, positive purpose. Orchards are cherished natural areas that give sustenance to people as well as wildlife. Since our founding over ten years ago, we’ve witnessed the transformational potential of orchards in creating and uniting communities.
At The Orchard Project, our focus and motivation lie in the joy of seeing people enjoy these beautiful spaces, connect to nature and collaborate with their neighbours in improving their local area. In this time of climate emergency, when many of us feel disempowered and overwhelmed, we’ve also seen how urban community orchards become a tangible way for people to take positive, practical, local action on food sovereignty, tree coverage and biodiversity loss.
Our projects celebrate these spaces and unite local communities in valuing and utilising them. We do this through orchard events like Apple Days, delivering training workshops and volunteer days, and through our cider and juice enterprise.
We hold regular events to engage, inspire and celebrate orchards. In centuries gone by, orchards were valued as spaces for community gatherings. Some of the events we run echo these traditions, such as Wassails and blossom picnics, while others offer more contemporary ways to use orchards, such as film screenings, ‘orchard bathing’, bird call walks, storytelling events and art workshops. We also make sure to honour the fruit itself by holding Apple Day events during harvest season, with apple tasting, apple juicing, apple bobbing and lots of other fun family activities. Keep an eye on our Events page throughout the year for details.
These events help us protect the legacy of orchards for future generations to come, by building local pride and embedding them in the heart of communities. The orchard groups we support then go on to hold their own events, continuing to strengthen their local communities.
Creating Orchard Networks
As well as supporting individual orchard groups with their aims, we also create opportunities for groups to meet and learn from each other. Our city-wide Orchard Summit events, training courses and Community Orchard Award ceremonies are platforms for Orchard Leaders and affiliate volunteers to get together, arrange to visit other orchards and build momentum around their projects.
We recognise that sustainable orchards depend on the longevity of the community groups managing them. That’s why our Orchard Leader training covers community resilience, such as volunteer retention, group dynamics and community engagement. Our networking events also encourage groups to become independent. Gradually, we’ve built up urban orchard ‘ecosystems’ through these new networks and friendships!
Orchard Produce (…Cider, of course!)
In 2016, we opened the doors of our Community Cider Hub, a unique volunteer-powered press where our craft Local Fox Cider and London Apple Juice are produced. Our drinks are made purely from surplus, unwanted apples and pears from London’s parks, orchards and gardens that would otherwise go to waste. See our Drinks page for more information and opportunities to volunteer.