1st Wychwoods Scout Group landscape

A second bite of the apple for West Oxfordshire community orchards

West Oxfordshire District Council is launching the second round of community orchard funding and is inviting applications from those interested in planting their own community orchard in West Oxfordshire.   

Fifty thousand pounds was awarded to the Council from the Coronation Living Heritage Fund to facilitate the creation of community orchards across the district.   

In the first round of the funding last year, six community groups were awarded funding and have successfully planted their orchards. Sixty-five fruit trees were planted, including 28 apple trees, 18 pear trees, six plum trees and five cherry trees.   

The six groups that received funding from the Council earlier in the year are: Hanborough Manor Church of England School, 1st Wychwoods Scout Group, Shilton Parish Council, Burford Town Council, Clanfield Community Orchard and The Sanctury Community Garden at Carterton Methodist Church.   

Giles Hughes, Chief Executive at West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “We’re delighted with the orchards that have been created following the initial round of funding and are looking forward to receiving proposals from parish and town councils, schools, landowners and other groups within the community that would like to get involved and plant trees this autumn and winter.  

“Orchards have been used to grow food for thousands of years, but it’s estimated that in the last hundred years or so over 80 per cent of them have disappeared across Oxfordshire, with half of those which remain reported to be in poor condition. There are so many benefits with orchards – bringing people together to plant, tend to and harvest the trees, building on people’s knowledge and enthusiasm for growing their own food and improving mental wellbeing. But they also give nature a huge boost – providing vital habitat and sustenance for birds, insects and mammals and encouraging the growth of a variety of mosses, lichen and often mistletoe.” 

Jonathan Ayres, Deputy Group Scout Leader for 1st Wychwoods Scout Group, said: “This was the perfect opportunity for us as we were recently given use of an abandoned allotment to help the children learn about planting and growing fruit and vegetables and enjoy lots of other activities outdoors.  

“Our mini orchard will produce bountiful apples, pears and plums for all to enjoy in future years and will be enjoyed and nurtured by beavers, cubs and scouts at 1st Wychwoods and the wider community for many years to come.” 

A second funding round is now open and parish and town councils, schools, landowners and other groups within the community are invited to apply for funds to create an orchard to benefit their local community starting with planting trees this autumn and winter.   

The orchards – which must be publicly accessible, or accessible to a significant number of people (such as in a school) – will leave a legacy to celebrate the Coronation of King Charles III. Community orchards can be any size larger than five trees and fruit trees should be selected that are able to thrive in UK environments.   

Once grown the trees will not only provide food but also boost biodiversity, enhance wildlife habitats, produce local food and encourage communities to engage with nature and their local green spaces. The planting of community orchards contributes to the restoration and protection of natural ecosystems, which is a key objective in West Oxfordshire District Council’s Nature Recovery Plan 2024-2030 and the forthcoming Oxfordshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy.   

To support interested community groups, the District Council has funded a free webinar, hosted by the International Tree Foundation, on Wednesday 19 June, to offer guidance about which trees to plant, how to look after them and how to design an orchard, considering things like aspect, soil conditions and spacing. 

The closing date for applications is Wednesday 31 July 2024. Successful applicants will be notified in August with planting expected to take place between September 2024 and March 2025.   

More details about the funding and how to apply can be found at: https://www.westoxon.gov.uk/CoronationOrchards   

Details of the free orchard planning and design webinar and how to sign up can be found at: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/895219755387?aff=oddtdtcreator  

Contact Information

West Oxfordshire District Council Communications Team

[email protected]

Notes to editors

Photos are of 1st Wychwoods Scout Group - a thriving community-focused scout group based in rural West Oxfordshire. They show cubs and beavers looking after the fruit trees the group have planted following their successful application for funding from West Oxfordshire District Council. Photo credit: Sophie Ayres.