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Top 25 Art Blog - Creative Tourist

Community Orchards

Thought gardening was only for retired people with their own houses and a lot of time on their hands? Think again. Zofia discovers Community Orchards...

Written by Zofia Walczak

espalier tree fruit
Illustration by Vanessa Morris

Planting trees is EXHILERATING! So so underrated. Last Saturday I was gardening for the first time in my life at the Community Orchards project, organised by BTCV’s Carbon Army and managed by Camden Council.  I mentioned the project briefly in my Green Gyms feature a couple of weeks ago.  BTCV have 22 dates scheduled to plant ten orchards in housing estates and sheltered housing across Camden. The project’s aim is to promote local interest in food growing and provide the opportunity for community groups to develop communal gardening projects. Gardening and growing your own food is great, as I discovered, and it doesn’t only have to be for people with their own gardens.
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Smiles all round.  Photo by Chris Speirs.

I went along last Saturday to Taplow Estate in Camden, to witness how the scheme works. Feeling rather worse for wear, I was convinced I’d only stay for an hour or two and then go home to sleep. Being hung-over does not exactly get you in the mood for planting community gardens. Or so I thought. Fast forward to four hours later, and I was feeling energised, ridiculously happy, surrounded by great people, and I’d planted the first tree I’ve ever planted IN MY LIFE! Everyone should try this truly underrated source of pure joy at least once in their lives, however hippy you may previously have thought that sounds. Do it in the name of food democracy, fitness, and plain old happiness. I mean it.
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Photo: Zofia Walczak

My first task after I’d met the group of 20-or-so volunteers, who were already busy at work, was to help in the removing of turf from one side of the green area. After this the soil was turned over and mixed with compost to get it ready for planting seeds. It is unbelievable how clueless I felt when I was given a huge heavy spade. Yes, a spade. That humble tool you’d think you’d know how to use. The others were quick to help me though and within two hours I went from total cluelessness to being able to plant a cherry tree, by myself!! My arms and back once again felt like they were getting the best workout they’ve ever had. Goodbye push-ups and weights, hello spades, forks and hoes.
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Photo: Zofia Walczak

Lunch was served to us by residents of the estate: delicious homemade soup and fresh baguette. I spoke to one resident, Ian, who explained that the orchard is being created on previously unused green space. He’d been pushing for the creation of garden space on the estate for four years, looking for funding, and is glad the scheme is now finally up and running. Using Taplow Estate in Camden as an example, the local gardening club are already working together to apply for grants to improve other under-utilised green spaces on the estate, and BTCV hope to be able to come back later in the year to give them a helping hand.

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Photo: Chris Speirs

The Community Orchards project is being managed by Camden Council, and BTCV’s Carbon Army have been commissioned to co-ordinate and facilitate the events. Camden Council have been canvassing local interest, with the key pre-requisite being that local residents take ownership of their new orchard. The Carbon Army are focusing on engaging as many residents from the local communities as possible in the preparation and planting. Local residents will also be offered follow-up training to ensure they know how to care for, prune and make the most of their new local food resource.

If you want to go along to the next session, check out the website and sign up, everyone is welcome. You won’t regret it one bit, especially on a groggy Saturday morning.

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4 Responses to “Community Orchards”

  1. Katie says:

    Hi Zofia,

    Really enjoying reading about your days out with BTCV.

    Would you mind sharing your lovely photos with the BTCV press office?

    pressoffice@btcv.org.uk

    Thanks,

    Katie

  2. Amelia says:

    Hi Katie, thank you for the positive feedback! I enjoyed the sessions, so am only writing what I genuinely thought. I have just sent you 2 emails regarding photos.
    Zofia

  3. Mei says:

    Thanks Zofia for a lovely account and photos.

    I have never done any gardening in my life but always hanker after the outdoor life! I have learnt so much just joining in with this wonderful enterprise of the Green Army the last two weeks. It is hard work digging but fun, enjoyable and also satisfying to know that we are making a difference! Have been spreading the word and hope that more people join in. Hugely recommend it!

    Mei

  4. Jenna says:

    Yeah Carbon Army! It’s extremely beneficial, to everyone.
    Shame there weren’t more people from the block.

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