On 23rd June BWCE Fund Chairperson Sophie Hooper Lea, fund Trustee Alastair Singleton and Nick Bird from BWCE visited Corston Community Orchard to see how this new project was progressing and to have a look at the rainwater harvesting, storage and distribution system that was supported by a £1880 donation from the fund. We found a project that had achieved a lot in a relatively short space of time through the enthusiasm and energy of local volunteers.

Katharine Evans, Secretary of the Corston Community Orchard CIC told us the story of this new community and environmental project on the edge of Corston village, approximately 3 miles west of Bath.

In January 2022 a team of more than 100 volunteers, led by Martin Hayes of the Gloucestershire Orchard Trust, came together to plant 81 fruit and nut trees. Separately, Gareth Walters of Deeper Green Services led the planting of a copse of 250 native trees and 220 metres of native hedging. All trees and hedging were generously funded by the Forest of Avon.

The 69 fruit trees are a mix of apples, pears, crab apples, cherries and plums, and the 12 hazels a mix of filberts and cobnuts. All have been suitably protected against the local deer population – roe deer and muntjac!

The project was initiated by a small group of local people who wanted to do something positive for the environment and their community. In autumn 2020 we approached the Deputy Land Steward for the Duchy of Cornwall, the major landowner in the village, and were offered a 3.8 acre field that had housed horses. In June 2021 the Corston Community Orchard incorporated as a Community Interest Company (CIC) and officially took on the field, with an initial 15 year lease.

The field without the horses, quickly turned into a wildlife rich space with 7 species of bats recorded by the Avon Bat Group and more than 60 plant species identified by Bath Natural History Society botanists.

We have successfully applied for funds from several sources, which have allowed us to buy a large steel shed, tools, a rainwater harvesting and distribution system, a new pedestrian entrance gate, benches and of course all the trees and hedging.

We are building up a group of committed local volunteers who regularly help with hacking back burdock and other fun activities!

Tjaye Martin (seen here hard at work strimming) says,

“I love being a part of such a positive project – I’m learning new skills, meeting new people and spending lots of time outdoors in a beautiful place.”

We held our first community event over the Platinum Jubilee weekend. More than 100 local people enjoyed live music and cider.

We are really excited to watch the orchard develop and become an increasingly important place for people to socialise, work, learn and enjoy the tranquillity and beauty of nature. We very much welcome contact from other community groups, so we can network and learn from each other.

We are very grateful for the support we have received from the Bath and NE Somerset Ward Councillor Empowerment Fund, the Forest of Avon, Bathscape, Restore the Planet, the Roper Foundation, the Duchy of Cornwall, the Senior Citizen Liaison Team Charity, All Saints Church Corston and of course the Bath and West Community Energy Fund.

To find out more contact Katherine Evans at [email protected]