Growing Orchard Communities in South Devon

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AONB CASE STUDY
Landscapes for People

Growing Orchard Communities in South Devon

South Devon AONB

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Overview

The Growing Orchard Communities project aims to support local people to manage healthy orchards for the whole community to enjoy. It is run by Orchard Link, supported by the South Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund as well as public and private sector grants through locality budgets and S106 funds.

Orchard Link is a volunteer-run, not-for-profit organisation established in 1998 by apple and cider enthusiasts in south Devon concerned about the rapid decline of traditional orchards – with all their environmental and cultural value.

Growing Orchard Communities is a 2-year project linking 23 Community Orchard groups to the wider Orchard Link network and developing new ways of working which will benefit the physical and cultural heritage of the sites and the wellbeing of the communities.

The groups have been supported through training, advice, networking and skill sharing to help them and their orchards become resilient and long lasting assets to their local area.

Funding for the project was made up of:

  • Heritage Lottery Fund                       £40,500
  • South Devon AONB contribution       £5000
  • Orchard Link contribution                  £5000
  • Langage Landscape Fund                £30,000
  • S106 other grants                                £2,200
  • DCC Locality Funds                              £4100
  • Total                                                    £86,800
  • Direct income to staff unit

(delivery and management)                     £14,000

What was done

During this project we

  • Engaged local communities and equipped them with the skills and expertise to manage their orchard sites as thriving community resources. This was through a programme of workshops, training and skills sharing sessions about managing orchard sites.
  • Worked with the groups to help them become robust and sustainable community groups, helping them to run events, recruit and work with volunteers, manage themselves and search for extra funding when needed. This was carried out through workshops, training and skill share sessions.
  • Created a community orchard network, which is a forum for sharing skills, experience and expertise. This will provide support for the groups and a chance to meet others working in the same way.
  • Produced a new Orchard Link website with a dedicated community orchards section, as a resource hub and online toolkit for community orchard groups.
  • Delivered large network events for community orchard volunteers to meet each other, learn new skills and share experiences. We also produced new display material and a touring exhibition about the project, as well as online archives on various social media platforms.

These elements were funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund grant, secured by Orchard Link. The delivery of the project was then contracted out to the Community Projects Officer at South Devon AONB, overseen by a steering group made up of members of the Orchard Link committee.

There was also a programme of site works delivered on the ground

  • site appraisals with an expert,
  • production of site action plans
  • small grants for site works – landscape enhancements, planting, tree protection, site signage and facilities – this was informed by the site action plan and carried out by volunteers in the community groups.

These elements were funded by further public and private sector grants – County Council Locality Funds and the Langage Landscape Fund (s106). This funding was secured and administered by the South Devon AONB team.

Outputs/Outcomes

We do not have final figures yet as the project is due to finish in Sept 2017.

As at June 2017

  • 23 community orchard groups signed up
  • 5 core groups working on case study projects – working with schools, youth groups, local community groups, artists.
  • 18 training workshops delivered
  • 20 orchard appraisals carried out by expert and action plans written up for each site
  • 280 volunteer days recorded worth £24,500 ( HLF guidance figures)
  • 576 participants on training, workshops and community events
  • 11 issues of Apple Press produced, delivered to 108 subscribers
  • Dedicated social media platforms set up – SoundCloud, YouTube, Flickr (4778 photo views) and Facebook (144 followers)
  • New website www.orchardlink.org.uk

Learning

Excellent partnership with Orchard Link and a very supportive steering group (all volunteers).

We also had time to do a lot of consultation with the community orchard groups before putting the bid into HLF, this made a very strong case and we were able to show that the participants were keen to be involved and the level of commitment they were able to give. With the cash contribution from the AONB and Orchard Link, the percentage grant asked for was lower.

The HLF were keen to support non-capital works and explicitly stated they would not be interested in us planting new orchards, so we focused this money on working with existing orchards and their communities to ensure that they had the necessary skills to look after their sites and were able to engage more people from their community to be involved.

Once the Lottery money was secured, we were able to use this to attract other sources of funding to help the groups with landscape enhancements, small site works and planting as needed. This meant we were able to deliver a well-rounded project with landscape and community benefits.


Further information                  


Links


Quote from project manager

“We have been really lucky to work with such an enthusiastic group of volunteers who are all passionate about caring for orchards across the South Devon AONB. Their hard work and commitment will ensure that these special places continue to be a vital and important space for all of the community to enjoy.” Nicky Bailey, South Devon AONB Community Projects Officer

Quote from participant of the project and member of public at one of the volunteer run events

“What a fantastic network day. Really enthused now! I’ve just had a great meeting with preschool and primary school. Getting ready for a programme of ideas and events!” Penny, Volunteer at Holbeton Community Orchard Group

“The weekend really brought our community together in a way that I haven’t felt before. It was creative, supportive and bonding to all get together and work to create something of beauty for the orchard. The vibe was one of willingness and happiness. I feel like the orchard evolved in quite a substantial way that weekend, with a lot of community energy put in to it. Basically, it was a really great weekend!” Sarah (member of community, Huxhams Cross community orchard)

Key search words:  Communities, Orchards


Photo Credits: Grassland Management at Huxhams Cross Community Orchard, Benchmaking, Hemerdon cordon workshop – South Devon AONB