The Orchard Project is a charity with an ambitious plan to bring London’s ‘lost’ orchards back to life. As well as reviving beauty and wildlife in the bustling capital, it’s also creating a sustainable food source for local people, engaging different generations in a common purpose and teaching new skills.
London was once swathed in orchards, providing a slice of the countryside amid the city streets as well as producing fruit. The city has lost almost all of its orchards over the last century but a few still survive, hidden in hospital grounds and former stately homes, and peeking out from the edges of heathlands among other places.
National Lottery funding made it possible for the project to launch a three-year scheme in 2016 called A Celebration of Orchards, to bring 30 of the capital’s ‘lost’ orchards back to life, preserving valuable habitat, creating a sustainable food source, engaging different generations in a common purpose and teaching new skills.
Since launching, 13,442 people have engaged with the project through training and community events, with 1,938 volunteers carrying out a variety of tasks and 3,595 children learning about orchards through school workshops. The communities around each orchard are working to uncover the history of these unique green spaces, identify and propagate rare varieties, rejuvenate and preserve the trees, and manage habitat for wildlife.
Training is central to the project, to ensure the orchards thrive into the future. A Celebration of Orchards also launched the country’s first accredited certificate in community orchard management, which has led to some participants finding relevant employment afterwards.
“The project drew in people from communities all across London who were amazed to discover the veteran orchards on their doorsteps and keen to learn new skills to care for their local fruit trees.
“The opportunity to save these orchards and keep them alive for future generations to enjoy was not only important, but also unique, as the largest scale project of its kind carried out in the UK.”
Project manager, Abby Cremlin
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