Go-ahead to plant Marlow town orchard for community scrumping

Bucks Free Press: Volunteers Helen Dann (left) and Liz Lorente Volunteers Helen Dann (left) and Liz Lorente

THE SEED of an idea planted by a Marlow community group last year is set to bloom into reality this autumn.

Transition Town Marlow (TTM), which focuses on sustainable projects to enrich the area, came up with the idea of planting a community orchard when sowing wildflower seeds last spring.

And after months of planning the project, the small group of volunteers got the green light from Marlow Town Council in March to plant rows of trees in Seymour Court Recreation Ground.

Town councillor Cllr Jocelyn Towns praised the initiative, which she said goes hand in hand with the council’s 10-year ‘vision’ for improving Marlow.

She said: "It is an excellent idea and works very well with our vision. Part of the vision involves working with other groups because we can’t take everything on.

"It will help provide Marlow with their five pieces of fruit and veg a day and it also fits in very well with the excellent volunteer culture we have in the town."

The Marlow Orchard team met for the first time in December to discuss locations for the trees.

After identifying several plots, Seymour Court was singled out for its size and the fact that it is owned and maintained by Marlow Town Council.

TTM member Helen Dann said: "While we waited to put our proposal in front of the council, we canvassed people at the local market, and found that Marlovians strongly supported the idea.

"In fact, most people wanted to know where it was. We also discovered that there were lost orchards - some of the original trees still exist in people’s gardens."

The first phase of setting up the orchard will involve planting around fifteen trees, subject to ironing out the details with the town council.

TTM intend to pass the planting, ongoing maintenance and future development on to a team of people from the immediate area.

Costs will be covered by businesses, organisations and individuals sponsoring their own commemorative trees and benches.

Helen emphasised the benefits of community orchards, insisting the group actively encourage scrumping.

She said: "They promote social cohesion as a place for people to come together, and the fruit grown by and for local people provides the health benefits of fresh produce and outdoor exercise for all age groups.

"When we plant orchards we can teach children where food comes from, and the importance of nature. Orchards help a town to maintain its local distinctiveness and identity as we group together to save vulnerable local varieties of apple, pear, cherry, plum and damson.

"In a similar way to community gardens, community orchards are a great opportunity for everyone to learn new skills, such as fencing, wildlife watching, horticultural skills gained from pruning and maintenance of the fruit trees, and jam, cider and fruit juice making skills, once the fruit is picked."

Organisers hope the orchard will remain for decades, with TTM holding pruning workshops and sharing knowledge with volunteers from across Marlow.

TTM also holds its monthly volunteer-run market at Liston Hall, supporting local food producers, craftspeople and service providers.

Money raised at the market will go towards funding the first phase of the Marlow Orchard project.

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