Redruth Orchard Update

Redruth Community Orchard Project
Update May 2023

Trenoweth Community Orchard, North Country, Redruth
We are two years on from when initial investigations started to find a site for a community orchard for the people of Redruth. It’s fantastic to know we now have 24 fruiting trees planted in the new space at Trenoweth Community Orchard; designed, created and managed by the community, for the community.

The aim has been to ensure this orchard is led and managed by the community with plenty of opportunity for experimentation to aid our learning as well as to ensure health and productivity of the orchard for years to come. We leafleted the entire estate at Trenoweth, North Country, Redruth and homes around the perimeter of the proposed space with an invitation to a brief open meeting to discuss ideas for a community orchard before any plans had been made. The reception was really positive and a new community group was soon formed putting ideas into action.

There is now a committed orchard group of local residents that has met regularly on Sunday afternoons since last Autumn. Many days were spent bramble bashing by hand, creating pathway clearings through the space to measure the site and record what was growing, assessing for wildlife habitats as we went. Each stage was slow and steady, allowing us to notice things about the space, it’s human users as well as the wild inhabitants, to help inform us how to proceed. Everyone involved, whether once or regular, has been so essential to making it happen with everyone bringing something different to the mix but all equally valuable. We are very lucky to have such a dedicated and knowledgeable group of people involved.

Following an initial discussion raised at Redruth Town Council meeting back in September 2021 to propose the idea of an orchard for Redruth, the space at North Country was presented to us as an opportunity to develop. We worked closely with Meike Weiser from Forests for Cornwall throughout 2022 who developed an agreement that allowed permission to plant on and manage the land on behalf of the community. In addition, the Making Space for Nature Project (MS4N, Cornwall Council), managed by Melissa Ralph, helped us to fund and organise a visit from Cornwall Wildlife Trust to run a fascinating community hedge laying session in February Half Term 2023. Cormac were also booked in by MS4N to help clear some of the brambles ready for tree planting in March. All of these groups and individuals have been vital to getting to where we are now. Thank you.

Slow, gradual development of the orchard
We chose trees that we know do well and are useful, and included not only the most common fruits of apple, pear, plum and cherry, but also medlar, various fruiting hawthorns, and cornelian cherry. Along the North edge, away from overhead power lines are the largest and most vigorous apple trees with less vigorous rootstocks used further South. Having the overhead power lines at the Northern edge whilst also having to bear in mind the slight upwards slope Southwards, in addition to large sycamore trees to the East and West caused various challenges for planting plans but we got there in the end, and plans are still developing and growing (and being amended where necessary!…) It’s an ongoing project.

Some of our shrub layer include American elder, jostaberries grown from cuttings from previous years, blackcurrant bushes and rhubarb grown from seed. We added communities of bladder campion not only for the benefit of the flowers for pollinators but also for their edible leaves. Comfrey around some of the fruit trees has been added to due to it’s deep tap roots to help bring up potassium to support the fruit trees in their early years. A few nitrogen fixing shrubs have been planted including autumn olives (Elaeagnus) grown from seed over the past few years, but we also benefit from the planting of Italian alder to the East which we hope to maintain as a laid hedgerow. It may be that some of these polycultures develop further, but it depends on the interests of the main orchard group managing the space, and time.

Creating a climate-resilient orchard
Planting up resilient or forest garden orchards can take time when doing it slowly and steadily using cuttings and growing plants from seed – but it’s worth it to know many of the plants have been raised locally, with local provenance and genetics. Mostly though, it just costs so much less. Other ways of saving money include using ‘pitcher’ grown apple trees, which involves taking a hardwood cutting from an apple tree above aeirial burrs, rather than grafting; the process costs nothing, is instant and can be done alongside annual pruning. Not only is this saving funds and doing things sustainably with what we already have, but it also ensures a more mixed diversity of trees and propagation methods to ensure health and resilience within the planting system.

Some of the trees were grafted by Resilient Orchards Cornwall last year, as well as pitcher grown apple trees from this year. We’ve also managed to sneak in a local seed grown wild apple tree to monitor and feed back results to the ‘Some Interesting Apples Project’ by William Arnold and James Fergusson. The rest of the trees were supplied by Adam’s Apples and The Agroforestry Research Trust thanks to funds from the Crowdfunder. It is hoped that one seed-grown True Service tree (Sorbus domestica) will also appear there at some point – but we need to find a space!

Our ongoing plans at Trenoweth include scything to manage the orchard floor, installing a rainwater harvesting system and shed/storage container for tools, and working on building up the orchard group to help care for the trees and space. Mycelium connections are obviously on our mind to support the growth of the trees and biodiversity within the soil and one way we discussed to support these connections will be by using some mushroom substrate in some of our woodchip beds around fruit trees.

Trefusis Community Orchard, Trefusis Park, Redruth

In January we initiated a series of orchard care sessions at Trefusis Park to care for the young fruit trees planted as part of the Making Space for Nature Project (MS4N Cornwall Council) 4 years ago. We removed the tree guards and ties which the trees had outgrown and gave them all a good circle of mulch. The quince trees in particular were looking like they were struggling somewhat so we shall monitor them over the coming season. The pears in contrast were very happy. We removed a diseased apple tree but replaced it with three new ones, expanding the orchard a little. We also ran a pruning session there supported by the MS4N Project

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