We all have a stake in fruitful orchard plan

Oatridge students Shaun Robertson, Lauren Simpson and Susannah Jennings work on the site
Oatridge students Shaun Robertson, Lauren Simpson and Susannah Jennings work on the site
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A FIVE-YEAR plan by students to create a community orchard has finally come to fruition. after the first trees were planted.

Students and staff from Oatridge College in West Lothian and volunteers from the local community have planted 25 apples trees, including six traditional Scottish varieties, for the people of Ecclesmachan and Threemiletown.

It is hoped the orchard will provide an educational resource for the college in years to come – and a regular supply of fruit for local families willing to help with maintenance and harvesting.

The project was first mooted by Countryside Management students at the college in 2007, but it was not until last year that a site was located and funding secured.

Oatridge’s student-run Ranger Service, which includes all levels of National Certificate Countryside Management classes, worked with Ecclesmachan and Threemiletown Community Council on the plan.

The young trees, which were planted on Sunday, are expected to produce a few apples next year, but many of the students involved will have left the college before the orchard reaches its full potential.

Higher National Certificate student Shaun Robertson, who lives in Tranent, East Lothian, said: “It’s good to think that we are doing something which will hopefully be looked after and enjoyed by future students and generations of local residents.”

Classmate Susannah Jennings, 26, who lives in Dalry, led the student effort to raise funds.

“We filled out the application form jointly and managed to get £300,” she said.

“That was enough to buy the 25 trees that we have planted, but we’ve still got room on the site and maybe next year another group of students can get more funding for more trees and more features.”

Chris Watt, 19, an HND student from Dunbar, who hopes to get a job in a national park at the end of his course, was primarily responsible for updating research on the project.

He said: “Every year, as part of our course, we are asked to investigate a number of projects and choose one to work on. The idea of a community orchard has been around for a number of years, so I thought there might be some background knowledge which would be useful.

“There was still a lot to do, so it’s great to see a start made on the planting.

“We all hope that future classes and the community will take an interest in the orchard, long after we’ve moved on.”

Environment lecturer at the college, Sarah Reay, said it was important for students to get involved in “real world” projects.

She added: “The community orchard idea was an ideal one because it has involved a lot of planning, researching and funding, as well as working with the community.

“The orchard will become a valuable resource educationally, but most of all it is there for everyone to enjoy.”

The orchard is situated next to the rugby field at the college. Among the varieties of apple trees that have been planted is Tower of Glamis.

Another scheme is currently being examined to set up community allotments on a different site within the college grounds.

A spokesman for Ecclesmachan and Threemiletown Community Council said: “It’s good to see the college engaging with the local community.”

CORE VALUES

THERE are around 2000 varieties of British apples, with taste varying wildly depending on the species.

Edinburgh actually boasts its own particular variety of apple.

The James Grieve apple, pictured, was first recorded in 1893 and developed by a grower of the same name at Sheriffhall.

And the area was also the birthplace of the Hawthornden, a cooking apple developed in Midlothian in the 18th century.

In January last year, volunteers from The Friends of Montgomery Street Park and pupils from Leith Walk Primary School teamed up to plant 20 apple trees in the park between Leith Walk and Easter Road, creating an urban orchard which they hoped passers-by and park users would harvest for themselves.