London Orchard Project

By | February 10, 2013

Practicing beekeeping opens your eyes to the environment, and to the seasons. Will the weather be warm? wet? windy? sunny? this week? this month?
What flowers and forage are nearby and coming into bloom?

In the allotment I notice apple trees, victoria plums, pears, berries, and a wide range of vegetables budding, blooming and fruiting, and feel invigorated to be adding to the natural circle of symbiotic growth.

lop-long-logo-orange_designOn Saturday, Louis from the London Orchard Project came to the Walmer Gardens apple orchard, where the community beehive is located. He taught us regenerative pruning techniques, for some annual maintenance. We learnt how to reduce the height and weight of trees, remove dead wood, and how to improve the amount of light and air getting into the apple trees to improve their health. Of course, it was easy to get someone as knowledgeable and enthusiastic as Louis to talk to us about a range of other things, from the evolution of the apple and fruiting trees, how to read a nursery label, the difference between soils in the forest and grassland, the list goes on.

It was a really satisfying experience to learn about, and help maintain these apple trees which while still healthy, had not been well maintained over the years. Unfortunately, it sounds like a recurring story.

In Victorian times, London could sustain itself with fruit as orchards were plentiful, particularly in the south west. Unfortunately our modern tastes and lifestyles have changed, and many of these potentially productive orchards are unused and neglected. We choose unrealistically looking, perfectly formed fruit from the websites of national supermarkets, transported in large shipments from far away places, driven conveniently to our door steps.

The London Orchard Project aims to promote local orchards for local communities, rejuvenating trees like the Walmer Gardens orchard.
Their admirable tag line is:

Developing a skilled community of Londoners to plant, care for and harvest fruit trees; thereby connecting urban communities and increasing access to fruit.

I was saddened to hear that LOP’s funding was soon to be cut. It seems nonsense to remove funding from a dedicated organisation creating real value in the community, improving education and access to locally grown produce – particularly with our current doubts of the food chain.

Cash, time, and elbow grease would certainly help them (the project team certainly have the skills aspect well sewn up).
In the meantime, I’m hoping that helping spread the story is enough.

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