DITCHLING VILLAGE ORCHARD
In a small plot of land in Ditchling, within the South Downs National Park, HKD volunteers have created a village orchard as a source of food to be shared, a haven for wildlife, a focus for learning and community activities. The Turner Dumbrell Foundation owns the orchard land, which had been cultivated as allotments. The Foundation asked the village how they wanted it used: a community orchard was the answer. The village rallied around: 75 people signed up to help, plan and plant and 7 village organisations bought trees. Since 2014 we have held an annual celebratory Apple Day on the Village Green. Our vision for the orchard is shaped around themes of fruit, wildlife and learning.
The Turner Dumbrell Foundation trustees had the idea of a community orchard in 2013, but initially found limited enthusiasm. When HKD heard about this in December 2013, we
quickly made a proposal in support of the orchard to the trustees and established a very good relationship. Our support quickly turned into a full management role, with a formal
agreement signed in March 2014. A village meeting was arranged and held on 18th January 2014, with large numbers attending and great support for the community orchard proposals.
Our activities are based on support for our objectives;
Fruit - a community orchard is a source of food to be shared. We planted traditional Sussex apple varieties like First and Last, Alfriston, Crawley Beauty and Tinsley Quince, along with pears, plums, greengage and quince.
Old damsons and an apple were already on site. Anyone is free to come and take fruit, with priority to the school children who visit the orchard. What’s left is eaten or juiced at Apple Day. Wildlife - our orchard attracts a wide variety of wildlife: wildflowers, butterflies, moths, hoverflies, bees and wasps, birds, slow worms, bats and small mammals.
Learning - volunteers, both adults and children, have been learning as we go about good ways to plant, maintain and prune our fruit trees. Some of us learned scything. Children have been involved in all the activities, made bug hotels, planted wildflower seeds and enthusiastically tackled the nettles and brambles.
Apple Day - we have organised this very successful event annually since the first in October 2014 (weather and pandemics permitting). Held on the Village Green, it is a day of fun for the whole family themed around apples, with apple juicing as a key activity, and with a procession to the orchard at the end of the day for a sing-song to
encourage the trees. Generous donations received at Apple Day have allowed us to submit a planning
application for an open-sided green-roof shelter for the orchard which, when
completed, will give greater flexibility for holding events at the orchard and for people to enjoy the surroundings while protected from inhospitable weather.
Primarily we are based in Ditchling, with some welcome support from Keymer and Hassocks. The orchard is located alongside Boddington’s Lane, Ditchling (BN6 8SS).
We have a map of the orchard showing the trees and the year they were planted - include
as pdf file?
Organising team and volunteers:
We have an organising team currently with nine members, with Tae Chisholm heading up the team. Tae issues a newsletter, mostly every month, which is circulated via email to 148
supporters. Amongst our supporters are a core group who respond regularly as volunteers when work in the orchard is required.
Key activities / meetings:
For the orchard, maintenance mornings are held once a month (weather permitting) on Sunday mornings, giving the opportunity for combining the necessary maintenance tasks
with a convivial gathering.
Link to Facebook page:
Apple Day in October
For Apple Day, a sub-committee is arranged each year, with meetings (usually at the WhiteHorse) geared to the need to make all the arrangements necessary.
A lovely crowd came along to enjoy the day, sample the apple bakes & cakes, hot and cold drinks, contribute to our new orchard banner designed by Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft, taste different honeys and make smoothies via the smoothie bike.
New this year we had apple fritters, apple poems from St Margarets school Year 4 children and a wider bar selection. Particularly welcome on such a wet and muddy day were the pulled pork baps with all the trimmings from Bartholomews Butchers in Keymer and our own veggie sausage burgers with Ditchling apple sauce and stuffing as well as soup and curry.
A special thanks to Bartholomews for stepping in at the last minute.
We are creating a map of Ditchling’s existing orchards. If you didn’t manage to register yours, please email me your address and types of trees (one tree or more) and we will ensure your orchard is registered. We will be printing up tea towels for next year.
As you know we are raising funds towards a green roofed shelter for the Orchard. We are delighted that our net profit this year was £693. It was a tremendous effort by all concerned, thanks to all the volunteers and helpers and thank you to all of you who donated so generously for us. The queue for the apple pressing went on all day. We will need to continue fundraising to reach our goal of around £4000 and are now about half way to that goal, so will be looking for grants and donations to reach the total.