Plan to revive
city orchards

Communities in Leeds and Manchester benefit

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Residents of Leeds and Manchester will soon be tucking in to home-grown apples after the cities were chosen to take part in a project to restore the UK’s orchards.

Launched in autumn 2014, Helping Britain Blossom is a partnership between two national charities: the Bulmer Foundation, which focuses on sustainable development; and the Urban Orchard Project, which is dedicated to creating skilled communities that plant, care for and harvest fruit trees. The project, which is being funded by Heineken, aims to create and restore 100 community orchards across Britain by 2017. It began in London, Hereford and Birmingham, and was extended to Leeds and Manchester last month.

In Leeds, Helping Britain Blossom is asking local people to help it identify eight sites where orchards could be planted over the next 12 months, with six to be planted this winter. The project is working alongside community groups Feed Leeds, Urban Harvest and the Northern Fruit Group .

Organisers will be encouraging local people to help maintain the orchards and are hoping the experience will provide young people with new skills and help ease loneliness in older people.


In Manchester, meanwhile, Helping Britain Blossom is hoping to identify 15 sites for restoration. The project was launched in the city on 21 October with a promotional event on Fennel Street, which was an apple market in the 19th century.

The project has drawn up a shortlist of 35 sites including Moss Gardens, Fallowfield and Birley Fields, and is now investigating which locations would work best.

Project Manager Alan Thornton said: “Orchards can be as few as five trees or as many as hundreds of trees. What matters is that it must work for the local community and be accessible to the public. The orchards are great for bringing communities together. People get to join in a healthy activity, learn new skills and have the added bonus of free fruit.”

The project will train local people to be orchard leaders, providing advice and support on all aspects of orchard management and suggesting ideas and resources for activities to help people benefit from them.

“The orchards are used for recreation, community events, therapeutic sessions for people with learning disabilities, community food production and to enhance educational curriculums,” Thornton said. “They are located in parks, on wasteland, in schools and
on council-owned property. So if there is somewhere you know which could benefit from a community orchard, we’d love to hear from you.”

Rich orchard heritage

Dan Hasler, project manager for Greater Manchester, said: “Greater Manchester has a rich orchard heritage. Helping Britain Blossom, with the support of people in Greater Manchester, hopes to restore some of them to their former glory.”

Hannah Barker, Professor of British History at the University of Manchester, added: “Apples have always been an important produce for Greater Manchester. During the 19th century, they dominated the fruit trade, which is why the city’s fruit market was known as the ‘Apple Market’. A large proportion of the apples sold at the market were sourced from orchards in the region.”

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