The Bridport Community Orchard is one of the jewels in the town’s crown. The Orchard was established in January 2009 with the planting of 23 half standard apple trees. The second planting, in February 2010, brought the total number of fruit trees to 58. There are 47 different named varieties: 35 half standards, 16 apple cordons, 4 espaliers (1 apple and 3 pears), 2 gage fans, a black mulberry and a quince. Throughout its existence it has been managed and maintained by a wonderful group of volunteers with the support of the Town Council.
Sunday 9th August saw the monthly volunteer work session in Bridport Community Orchard. Due to the Covid 19 crisis and social distancing rules the format of the sessions has had to be modified in order to conform. The sessions are now held in three 90 minute slots with 6 volunteers attending each. This month I joined the volunteers on the third session.
There is always much to do no matter what time of year and this month was no exception. The volunteers carried out a wide range of tasks including:
A swathe of grass three to four feet wide was scythed from the long grass remaining in the meadow area, and the cut grass added to the pile that had been created from the hedge tidying, ready for the Town Council to take away
Compost management. Bays 2 and 4 were turned into bay 3. Bays 1 and 5 were then turned into bays 2 and 4, and included layers of chopped windfall apples, grass clippings and prunings from the apple tree cordons. Compost layers were liberally watered to help speed up the rotting process
The mower was used to cut single tree circles to mark the edge of the tree canopy ahead of Town Council mowing, also some wild barley, and grass close to the quince and mulberry was mown.
The pollinator bed, and bog garden were weeded and generally tidied.
The grass in front of the pond was trimmed back to make the edge easier to see.
Some of the longer grass that was going to seed was cut from around the Beaty of Bath apple tree area
A good start was made on the trimming back and tidying of the hedge at the southern boundary of the orchard.
Some overhanging tree branches, wild roses and briars were trimmed back adjacent to grass paths.
Brambles adjacent to the pond and bog garden were trimmed back to prevent them taking root.
All in all a comprehensive list of tasks all carried out on an extremely warm Sunday morning. By the end of each session the volunteers were in need of a well earned rest and a long cool drink – I know I certainly was.
As the apples start to ripen the orchard once again becomes a riot of colour. Each apple has its own characteristic shape and colour scheme ranging from deep red through to bright green. The crop is essential to the long term success of the orchard in so much as the juice produced is sold to provide the income needed to cover the cost of the equipment and other items used to maintain it. It is for that reason that the Community Orchard Group ask people not to pick the apples.
This year for the first time apple juice from the Community Orchard will be on sale at the Farmers Market from November so if you are making up a hamper of local produce to give as a Christmas present to someone special look out for it.
The orchard is a great place to meet and relax and is used in this way throughout the year. Sadly this year it has not been possible to hold the usual celebrations in the orchard and the Apple Day celebration in October, now one of the highlights of the Bridport year, has also had to be cancelled.
The Bridport Community Orchard Management Committee has asked me to remind groups wishing to use it to gather, about the Covid 19 social distancing, 6 maximum rule. For any groups larger than six it is asking that the event organiser(s) approach Bridport Town Council who are leaseholders of the land. The Town Council has a risk assessment template that they would require to be completed and can also advise on any other measures that need to be considered.
To compensate why not have a look at the excellent film Rob Jane made recently about the orchard. It gives a great insight into a year in the orchard and can be viewed here: