Transition Town Reading (TTR), kicked off its project to plant community orchards in public spaces around Reading in February 2013, by planting 40 trees in the old orchard near the Mansion House in Prospect Park. A 50 tree planting followed in Waterloo Meadows on the 23rd of February 2013, with a further 3 sites to be planted around Reading over the next 2 years.
The bulk of the planting has been funded by the Forestry Commission’s “Big Tree Plant” scheme, which aims to encourage and support community groups to plant trees in neighbourhoods where people live and work. The project is also being supported by Get Involved Reading, an initiative from Reading Voluntary Action around increasing community participation, as well as The Conservation Volunteers and the “Friends of Waterloo Meadows” Econet group.
TTR has chosen to plant fruit trees because they believe these can have the greatest environmental impact while bringing the local community together. Fruit trees take carbon out of the atmosphere as they grow, and the fruit provides free food for local residents. With local organic food like this, little or no fossil fuels are involved in the food production or transport, which reduces emissions and food miles while making the food supply more resilient to external shocks such as rising oil prices. The planting, maintenance and harvest are good opportunities for building local community, the blossom feeds our ailing bee population, and the orchard sites provide excellent habitat for local wildlife. Apart from all that, there’s just something lovely about eating fruit, fresh from the tree.
Sustainability is at the heart of the Community Orchard project in more ways than one. While the funding secured for the project covers 5 orchards over three years, the plan is to build the skills in the local community to allow them to continue to plant community orchards around the town without the need for further grant money.
In these tough economic times, we can’t rely on a constant stream of grant money, so we’re using what we’ve been given to teach ourselves how to thrive without it. The funding secured for the project covers 5 orchards over three years, and the plan is to build the skills in the local community to allow us to plant further community orchards around the town without the need for further grant money.
We’re using these five orchards to teach as many of us as possible how to graft and propagate fruit trees. After that, we should be able to produce more orchards from the trees we already have, with a little time, care and skill.
We made a start with the grafting training at the end of January when 6 of us attended a grafting course run by the Midshires Orchard Group. This was followed by a TTR grafting evening in March, for us to put what we’ve learned into practice, grafting the apple trees that we’ll be planting next year in Thames Promenade (i.e. between the Rivermead Leisure centre and the river).
TTR are looking for people who live near Prospect Park, Waterloo Meadows and Thames Promenade (i.e. between the Rivermead Leisure centre and the Thames) who’d like to help plant, propagate and maintain the trees, and to eat the delicious free fruit in the years to come. We’d also like to hear from people in other parts of the town who would like to set up their own community orchards in the future.
If you’d like to be involved in the Community Orchard planting, or any of TTR’s other projects, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org