Steyning Community Orchard: May 2022

Sometimes it’s hard to find a glimmer of light amidst all the troubles affecting the world, but maybe hearing news of activities in the Steyning Community Orchard (SCO) will lift the spirits!

The planting of the Steyning Downland Orchard (SDO) is now complete. The hedge on its southern boundary, planted by the Cubs under the watchful eye of teacher and conservationist, David Bucket, has been skilfully layered to create the perfect wildlife corridor.

Derek Crush, of Daylands Farm is the layering expert, and a group of ten volunteers spent a happy morning learning how to cut, weave and layer the bushes to make the basis of a dense hedge This is an ancient and sensitive skill – very different from the speedy, raw machine-slicing and hacking currently practiced on our roadsides.

We now have a wildlife corridor comprising a burgeoning thatch of native species, and a new generation of hedging experts!

Now we will have the pleasure of watching it develop into a proper hedge with flowers for pollination and nectar, and a safe pathway for wildlife to travel without fear of being caught and killed by predators. But we need to be patient. It will take a few years to mature.

On the other two sides of the orchard margin, we have planted an apple hedge – an experiment, to see if we can develop another wildlife corridor, and offer another source of nectar to the insects. The wildlife currently visiting is not using it as planned. Rabbits have made meals of the bark at the base of these small trees during the winter months! So, shields around their bases have sorted the problem.

Inside this boundary are the twenty-two fruit trees that have been donated by the community. We must also wait three of four years for these trees to start to be productive. There should then be a substantial orchard of trees providing the community with fresh fruit for eating, preserving and juicing for generations to come, and a rich source of food for the birds, insects and mammals, depending who gets there first!!   

We’re going to celebrate!
On the 21st May at 10:30 when we will be holding a party to mark the completion of this project.

We feel proud that with the partnership of the Steyning Downland Scheme, the generosity of numerous tree donors, and the efforts of enthusiastic volunteers, this wonderful orchard has been created. A wildlife haven, a beautiful space for families to enjoy, and a dog free play area where infants can crawl around on the ground in safety.

It’s a wonderful example of how one small corner in an area of ‘improved’ grassland has been developed and changed into one that is environmentally friendly and pleasing to the eye.

Though we would like to have had more wild flowers in the area, the grass grows so vigorously it chokes them out of the picture.

In five to ten years from now imagine the scene of a warm summer’s day, a mature orchard with picnic tables laden, under the canopy of trees bearing delicious fruits and not a worry in the world!!

The wider picture is that the SCO has planted over 70 fruit trees, all donated, on three sites.

We hope to complete the Memorial Playing Field Orchard by 2024 and the new orchard is in Abbey Road (3 trees planted this year and nine more over the next 3 years!). This lies on the opposite side of the road from the recently planted hedge and trees (well done Steyning for Trees) in the developing nature area and pond with all its important environmental benefits.

All in all, GREAT NEWS. Let’s spread the message!

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