A few years ago I did a short permaculture course, and among the many interesting people there were two with a grand plan to plant mini-orchards all over London. They’ve been very successful. In the five years as the London Orchard Project, they’ve trained two thousand local people to care for fruit trees, and this winter they will plant their 100th London orchard. There’s one just round the corner from where I used to live in Highbury.
The trees planted so far, once they’ve matured, will provide over 100 tonnes of fruit every year. There are apples, pears, plums, cherries, apricots and other fruits, with sites on schools, in parks and empty plots. Some sites are old orchards that have been restored, and others are entirely new. All the fruit is free to anyone who wants to come along and pick it, and it goes a little way towards rectifying the fact that 95% of the fruit we consume in Britain is imported.
The group has become the go-to organisation for urban orchards, with considerable expertise and experience, and so this year they’ve renamed themselves the Urban Orchard Project and will begin working outside of London for the first time.
One of the keys to the project’s success is to engage the community, getting them interested in the orchard and encouraging them to help out practically. Here’s a little video about how they work to involve local people, and there are more how-to videos on their site should you be interested in starting your own community orchard.