A new community orchard opens in Knutsford

Volunteer Alison Jones, planting a new fruit tree in Knutsford's Crosstown Community Orchard

Volunteer Alison Jones, planting a new fruit tree - Credit: Adam Keppel-Green

The number of community orchards in the UK is steadily growing and now, thanks to the work of local volunteers, Knutsford has its own – the Crosstown Community Orchard, writes Adam Keppel-Green 

Community orchards are exactly what they say on the tin – a collection of fruit trees looked after and providing for the local community. 

Through my role as Town Clerk to Knutsford Town Council I learn about various community projects and initiatives across the country. This had led me to read about community orchards through The Orchard Project, a national charity working to create these orchards in the major UK cities. An idea was sparked to regenerate an underused and semi-neglected open space near my home into a thriving community space. This idea bounced around my mind for a couple of years before I finally put the wheels in motion in 2020. 

the first apples on the tree

The first crop of fruit has already appeared - Credit: Adam Keppel-Green

After consulting those residents nearest the green space, and obtaining in principle permission from Cheshire East Council (the site owner) I contacted two Knutsford residents with a passion for trees (Malcolm and Kevin). We discussed how we could create a space which could be a hub for the local community and where wildlife could thrive. The three of us established the Crosstown Community Orchard as a charity and over the next couple of months recruited four more Trustees – Laura and Jo, whose gardens back onto the site, Lesley, a Town Council appointed Trustee and my wife Lyndsey, who I had roped in to design our logo and who had became enamoured with the project. 

Kevin and Malcolm led on designing the orchard layout, obtaining guidance from the head gardener at Tatton Park and from Cheshire Wildlife Trust’s Wild Communities Officer Adam Linnet. Our vision for the space was to create a pleasant rest park, where residents could enjoy an oasis of wildlife and, in time, experience the joy of picking an apple fresh from the tree. Our plans included installing bird boxes and wildflower planting, providing benches and interpretation boards and ultimately using the space for community events such as workshops on pruning or jam making – all this was compiled in a masterplan for the site which we used in funding applications. 

Crosstown Community Orchard Trustees, Knutsford's Deputy Mayor, Cllr Mike Houghton and the Mayor's Cadet, at the launch event

The Trustees, with Knutsford's Deputy Mayor, Cllr Mike Houghton and the Mayor's Cadet, at the launch event - Credit: Tessa Carroll Photography

In February, using a grant from the Tree Council and a team of volunteers we planted 38 fruit trees and created the orchard – a variety of different apple, pear, cherry, damson, greengage, quince and meddlar, a little known, ancient variety. We then received 105 small whips from the Woodland Trust which we planted in the borders to add sloes, rowan, hazelnut, crab apple and rosehip. 

We have been successful with our funding applications, securing grants from Knutsford Town Council, David Wilson Homes, Manchester Airport, the Postcode Neighbourhood Trust, Tesco and the National Lottery Community Fund. I put some of our success down to being a registered charity and having a clear plan of what we want to achieve and how each item contributed to our aims. These grants have funded benches and signage, a litter bin and picnic tables. They have also funded our next work – sowing wildflowers, planting bulbs and providing a variety of workshops to share skills and bring the community into the space. 

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I would encourage any resident in any town or village to consider the impact of creating such a space, and if you do – please get in touch, we know just how you can go about getting it done.