Planting Plymouths biggest orchard

 

Saturday was the big community orchard planting at Poole Farm. We aimed to plant Plymouth’s biggest orchard, all in the space of a day!

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As Poole Farm isn’t a site I work on as part of my job, I arrived at the farm excited to do something different. A rural oasis within an urban landscape, the farm in itself is an incredible place.  It is one of Plymouth’s last working farms and the only one that has a community focus.

The wider Derriford Community Park project, taking place around the farm is a novel example of how community green space can be incorporated into planning decisions, and aims to build a new land based environmental learning hub for the city.  It is led by the Council’s Natural Infrastructure team, where my project sits but I hadn’t been able to participate in the work they had been doing until now. Take a look at their Facebook if you want to find out more about what they are up to.

Community events are really tricky to predict, there is no way of gauging how many people will turn up. Many factors can determine whether an event is successful – some of them controllable like advertising and promotion – others like weather, are less predictable! With 200 trees to plant, all the staff were keen to ensure a good turnout from the community.

We didn’t need to worry… We saw a couple of people walk up the hill, and then a few more and then more. Finally, there was a big crowd of people at least fifty strong in the orchard field.

 

My role on the day was to run a bug box activity, something I’d not done before. But staff from one of our partner organisations, Buglife supported my preparation and I felt ready. After giving an explanation of the activity I took families over to the woods to collect material for our bug boxes. Once in the woods I got the children and adults to hunt for twigs, sticks and dry material, making sure not to take anything living. Whilst in the woods I taught the group about some of the creatures we find in the woodland, things like wild garlic, wood ear fungus and how to spot where a badger has been feeding, by looking for the snuffle marks.  Once we had collected enough materials we then put them into the bug boxes and fixed them around the orchard.

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A new home for the bees

By the end of the day I had really got into the swing of leading the activity and all of the bug boxes and bee hotels were up, ready for the bugs and bees to move in. It was great to see so many people working together. People of all ages and backgrounds were engaging with nature and working to plant an orchard that will provide for people and wildlife in the future.  It was also nice to see some of the people we have been working with as part my project ‘Active Neighbourhoods’.

At the end of the day we had planted 216 trees, one large wild flower meadow and created 19 bug boxes and 10 bee hotels. A great achievement.  Even the buzzards gave us a nice aerial show to celebrate the new orchard.

Here is a link to an article featured in local newspaper The Plymouth Herald.

 

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