As we all now know, trees are one of our natural carbon stores and planting them is high on the agenda for governments around the world. Moreover, the UK Government identifies traditional orchards as priority habitats that have great biodiversity value and require conservation action, according to Hampstead Norreys’ resident ecologist Ted Bodsworth, whose company Windrush Ecology Ltd consulted on the broader development. The mosaic of habitats that comprise a traditional orchard provides food and shelter for hundreds of species of wildlife and our Shop Orchard will certainly complement and support wildlife from its adjacent woodland.
We’ll be planting a mix of heritage fruit trees, predominantly varieties of apple, pear, cherry, plum, greengage and damson; and many of these are traditional UK varieties sadly being pushed to extinction by their commercial counterparts. (This is the heritage bit!) A tree-planting event will mark the beginning of this exciting chapter in the Shop’s ongoing journey to a more sustainable operation and offering. Over the next couple of years this project will begin to bear fruit (see what we did there?!) but we view this very much as a long-term story with these trees providing food and shelter for generations to come. In days not so long gone by, an old orchard stood on our very planting site, bringing our story poetically full circle.
And as for the trees themselves, they will be supplied by The Heritage Fruit Tree Company, which means they’ve had the very best start in life. They are locally grown, in Soil Association-approved compost and free from chemicals; these organic beginnings will continue when they come to reside in Hampstead Norreys.
Orchard Maintenance As with the Community Shop itself, all aspects of orchard maintenance will be volunteer-led. Volunteers themselves will have the opportunity to learn new skills such as tree pruning and be part of a friendly, collaborative team, spending time outdoors engaged in a worthwhile project that ultimately will have a positive impact on their community as well as their wellbeing. If this sounds like something you’re keen to be a part of, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll add you to our growing list of orchard volunteer wannabees! We anticipate that to begin with, we will need no more than 2-3 hours of your time each month. And if you’re a pro with trees and would like to help out with some team-training sessions, we’d love to hear from you as well.
Sustainable Produce Once the Orchard trees are productive, the produce will be available through the Shop in the form of juices and fresh fruit. We plan to create single-variety flavours giving you a choice of refreshing juices for different tastes and uses. We’ll also be blending pear and apple to bring back the popular ‘pepple’ juice into stock. The fresh food served in the café and sold in the shop will also make use of this fresher than fresh, local and organic produce. We intend to build on this initial offering over time to eventually introduce a wealth of products ranging from dried fruits to preserves and whatever new ideas spring to mind as our exciting new project finds its feet. Of course, all of this builds on the Shop’s continuing journey in becoming a more sustainable enterprise. With the fruit grown on site, we will be able to offer our customers produce that is organic, with an incredible low, possibly even negative, carbon footprint, that is packaged sustainably, if at all.
Outdoor Learning The Shop’s Orchard and surrounding development present plenty of opportunities to teach our children about the natural world and our local wildlife. We will be approaching local schools with the intention of developing an outdoor learning programme sited at the Shop Orchard. We have plenty of ideas and can’t wait to move forward with this aspect of the project.
Shop Orchard Events Hampstead Norreys is known for its brilliant events (think GreenFest, Shop Markets,FreeFest, and This Girl Can) and we intend to contribute to this growing legacy. Keep your eyes peeled for our events over the coming year that will see the Hampstead Norreys Community Shop Orchard open its doors to visitors. The very first of these exciting events will be the tree plant itself, which will take place towards the end of November. Watch this space!