Why community orchards?
About two thirds of Britain’s orchards have been lost since 1960. Much of our fruit is imported, with environmental and social effects.
Community Orchards give local people an opportunity to grow fruit together on land that is generally accessible to the public. Orchards are maintained by volunteers who share the harvest. Surplus produce is distributed and community events are held, such as Wassails and Apple Days.
In West Somerset groups are making apple juice which covers the cost of maintaining the orchard and contributes to other groups getting started. Some projects are also donating fruit to distribution schemes, such as food banks.
Orchards can be an incredibly effective way of supporting biodiversity and can keep alive many traditional varieties that supermarkets don't sell. Orchards also create a different kind of space where people can come together, and are generally much lower maintenance than community gardens.
Find your nearest community orchard
Somerset is apple country, and there are a number of well established community orchards across Somerset:
- Bagley Community Orchard, FFI: 01934 710020
- Chedzoy Fair Share Community Orchard
- Friends of the Meads Community Orchard
Taunton & West
- Buttercross Community Orchard, Dunster,
- Carhampton Community Orchard, Near Minehead
- Childrens Wood, Taunton, includes orchard area
- Old Cleeve Community Orchard
- Porlock Community Orchard
- Allerford Community Orchards
- Frieze Hill Community Orchard (see below)
- Stogumber Community Orchard
- Eldred’s Orchard, Blagdon
- Blagdon Orchard Group
- Carhampton Community Orchard, Minehead
- Gabriel’s Community Orchard, Pilton,
- The Colliers Way Linear Orchard, on cycle route between Frome and Radstock
- Millenium Green community Orchard, Frome
Also, Common Ground has a page of information about Somerset Orchards and you can view the People's Trust for Endangered Species' community orchards map (they also offer grants to community orchard projects).
Starting a Community Orchard
If there isn't a community orchard in your area, you may be inspired to start one. New community orchard groups are likely to take the steps detailed in our Community organising and Landseekers guidebooks, including:
- Finding allies to make it happen
- Deciding how to work together and what structure your group will take
- Finding land together
- Finding sources of start-up funding - Thatchers have an annual Community Orchard Fund
- Consideration of using your site as a place for community events and learning
Above all, the best advice is to get support! Be inspired by other local projects and utilise their experience and knowledge in making your vision a reality.
Inspiring examples in Somerset
Frieze Hill Community Orchard is in Taunton and was set up in 2003 by a group of local people. The land used to form part of the adjacent allotments. The volunteer run group have planted over 100 trees, diverse hedges and organised lots of popular local events.
Porlock Vale Community Orchard were supported through the Get Growing Support Fund as part of the Somerset Land & Food Project. However their work started many months before, when two volunteers talked about how to revitalise the orchard in the village, communicating with the landowner and bringing people together to make the restoration possible.
Brendon Orchards, Wiveliscombe hold community juicing sessions, run by volunteers where you can press small quantities of your own juice.
Other resources of regional and national groups.
- The Orchard Project has a wealth of advice on setting up and maintaining orchards
- Social Farms & Gardens Starting up community orchards guide
- An older Community orchards - how to guide
Other Somerset Orchards you can visit (admission charges may apply):
- National Trust - Avalon Orchard, Glastonbury and Barrington Court Orchards, near Ilminster.
- Somerset Wildlife Trust
- Orchard at Somerset Rural Life Museum, Glastonbury
- Woodland Trust - Dutchies Orchard, South Petherton and Gross Wood, Norton Sub Hamden
Further sources of support & information
- Common Ground
- Orchards Network
- People's Trust for Endangered Species
- Brendons Orchards Cooperative
- Vigo Presses
- Fruit ID
- Royal Horticultural Society
- Garden Organic
- Farming Wildlife Advisory Group
- Bumblebee Conservation Trust
- The Holistic Orchard, Michael Phillips
- Community Orchards Handbook, Sue Clifford & Angela King
Where to buy fruit trees
- Cider Apple Trees, Sparkford: www.ciderappletrees.co.uk
- Chew Valley Trees, Chew Magna: https://www.chewvalleytrees.co.uk/
- Ashridge Trees, Castle Cary (mail order only) https://www.ashridgetrees.co.uk/
Information on forest gardens / food forests coming soon...