A community orchard in Ongar has been brought to life on a former allotment site owned by Epping Forest District Council. On Saturday 18 January 2014 The Friends of Ongar Community Orchard with local volunteers and our own Countrycare team planted a small Community Orchard of apples, plums, pears, greengages and cherries.
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Councillor Brian Surtees of Ongar Town Council opened the day with a few words and although conditions underfoot were very wet, all the trees were successfully planted in time for a late lunch. This included apple pie, toffee apples and cider.
It will be few years before the trees bear fruit and The Friends of Ongar Community Orchard are looking for ways of involving the wider community in the life of the orchard, hoping the orchard will be used by local schools and youth organisations to promote healthy eating and sourcing food locally.
Part of a 3 year project by the Rural Community Council of Essex, the orchard has been funded by Edible Essex, the Big Lottery’s Local Food Scheme and supported by Essex County Council and Ongar Town Council.
Ongar community tree strategy
The orchard was the idea of local conservationist Alan Brett and the project started to take shape in 2008 when Epping Forest District Council published the Ongar Community Tree Strategy. The Strategy found evidence of several small orchards dating back to the 17th Century, remnants of which still survive today. There has been a decline of 81% in Essex orchard land between 1990 and 2007. There are around 250 East Anglian varieties of apple, pear and plum which need to be preserved for their local significance, genetic diversity, and landscape and wildlife value.
Community groups are being given help to conserve or create community orchards following an announcement in August 2011 by Eric Pickles MP to address the decline in traditional orchards. He said: “Community orchards are a brilliant way for communities to get together and grow their own.”
The trees were ordered from the East of England Apples and Orchards Project, a charity dedicated to saving local fruits and orchards.