Community Orchard Background Story
The Community Orchard benefits the whole of Wylam & the surrounding communities. Over 80 fruit trees have been planted across 1.6 acres of grounds in Wylam First School. There is a very well managed wild flower meadow where bats, birds and insects are encouraged and monitored.
Our fruit trees are in excellent condition, weeds are controlled and trees are mulched. The site is accessible to the public outside of school hours and events held there. The group has over 60 members, about 15 of whom are active and regular maintenance days are held. The Royal Horticultural Society rated us “Outstanding” in 2014.
We have 85 fruit trees. 60% apple, 10% pear and the rest comprising of cherry, plum, crab apple and damson. Our orchard has 25 different varieties of apple, both dessert and cooking apples are grown – we have a range of rare and commercial apples.
Wild Flower Meadow
Our wildflower meadow was started in 2012 and is a long term project. It involves: measuring and mapping, biodiversity surveys, degrading the soil by removing its top layer, scarifying it and then seeding with fine meadow grasses and wildflowers, at a ratio of about 4:1. The sowing is supplemented with pot grown flowers, raised from seed and then planted on at “potting parties”. Grass needs to be mown and raked off in succeeding years to keep the soil degraded. More native Northern English wildflowers are sought out. We are approaching the half –way point in terms of ground coverage; wildflower meadows take time but are glorious in the end. They reverse a process which has seen a 95% loss of habitat since World War one. They also help orchard pollination.
Wylam First School benefit greatly from the Community Orchard and Wild Flower Meadow. This supports their outdoor learning curriculum and enhances their Science and Geography curriculum. The Orchard Committee has also supported the Outdoor Days that the school partakes in across the year through providing local experts to run workshops with the children.
- It is a source of local fruit and growing fruit knowledge.
- It encourages bio-diversity and creates wildlife habitats.
- It is a focus for community effort and increased self sufficiency. We will learn new skills, such as grafting or juicing, as the orchard grows.
We understand that you are busy & the children are active, but the community orchard on your doorstep offers a range of benefits:
- Learning and skills in planting and tree care, harvesting and commercialising orchard bi products. That’s the enterprise and community or ‘big society’ agenda
- Helping our children understand that a more sustainable local economy makes for a stronger community and can help cut “food miles”.
- Working with others on the harvest or grass cutting on a sunny summer day is actually very rewarding and picnics there are great.
- Bio Diversity in action through the award winning wildflower meadow. It also helps orchard pollination. That’s the environmental agenda
- If they learn to grow it at Wylam First School, they also learn to cook it at Ovingham Middle School. It’s what some Americans call, the “edible classroom” concept.
- A share of the harvest for members, (£10 pa for families, £5 pa for individuals.)