West Oxfordshire communities invited to plant Coronation orchards
Over fifty new community orchards, benefitting both wildlife and people, are set to be created in West Oxfordshire following a successful bid by the District Council to secure funding from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs’ Coronation Living Heritage Fund.
Local groups and organisations wanting to establish community orchards in their neighbourhoods, and with space to plant at least five fruit trees, are now being invited by the District Council to come forward and apply for a slice of the £50,000 fund which the Council is distributing.
Helping to restore lost habitats, the orchards will play a positive role within communities by connecting more people to nature and their local green spaces, while providing much-needed habitat for birds and giving sustenance to pollinators and other wildlife.
Councillor Andrew Prosser, Executive Member for Climate Change at West Oxfordshire District Council, said: “We know there’s a lot of interest in the benefits that orchards can offer, both as a means to boost biodiversity and provide new habitats for wildlife, and as a way of bringing communities together. Yet currently orchards account for less than 1 per cent of the district’s land cover. In the last hundred years or so over 80 per cent of orchards have disappeared across Oxfordshire, with half of those which remain reported to be in poor condition. The trees planted in the Coronation orchards will play an important role not only by increasing the number of trees in the district, but as they age these trees will develop hollow trunks and rot holes that will offer nesting sites for bats and birds and support an abundance of insect life throughout their life cycle.”
Councillor Lidia Arciszewska, Executive Member for Environment at the District Council, said: “The launch of the Coronation Community Orchards fund is a really exciting opportunity for parish and town councils, schools, landowners and other groups within the community to get involved and plant orchards in their local area in spaces close to where people live. Orchards really are exciting places that bring people together to plant and cultivate the trees, learn new skills and enjoy their harvest. They can act as a focal point for community activities while offering people a space to learn more about the wildlife around them.”
The planting of community orchards is a key action within West Oxfordshire District Council’s draft Biodiversity Action Plan and contributes to the county-wide ambitions of the Future Oxfordshire Partnership which works collectively to deliver nature recovery for the county.
The orchards - which need to be planted on publicly accessible land to allow as many people as possible to benefit from them - will leave a visible and lasting legacy to celebrate the Coronation of King Charles III. Groups must be able to plant at least five trees, the minimum number required to qualify as an ‘orchard.’ There is no upper limit to the number of trees being applied for.
As well as offering multiple benefits to nature, trees play a pivotal role in tackling the effects of climate change by capturing and storing carbon dioxide and also reduce the risk of flooding by taking water out of the soil.
To support organisations with their application for Coronation Community Orchard funding and to ensure that trees thrive once planted, the District Council will host a webinar event in partnership with the International Tree Foundation to offer guidance about which trees to select, planting plans and tree-care advice.
The closing date for first-round applications is 19 January 2024. Successful applicants will be notified by 31 January with planting expected to take place during February and March. A second application window will open in the autumn in time for next winter’s tree planting season.
More details about the fund and how to apply can be found at: www.westoxon.gov.uk/CoronationOrchards
West Oxfordshire District Council Communications Team
Notes to editors
Main photo shows (l-r): Councillor Lidia Arciszewska, Executive Member for Environment and Councillor Andrew Prosser, Executive Member for Climate Change, both from West Oxfordshire District Council, stood at Deer Park’s orchard, Witney.
Coronation Community Orchard (Image 1) also shows Rachel Crookes (right), Biodiversity and Countryside Land Management Officer at West Oxfordshire District Council.
- Currently orchards only account for 0.08% of land cover in the district. Between 1911 and 2016 over 80 per cent of orchards disappeared across Oxfordshire with half of those which remain, reported to be in poor condition.
- The new trees will help the UK meet the government’s targets to treble tree planting rates by the end of this Parliament and ensure that 16.5% of land area is under tree cover by 2050.
- West Oxfordshire District Council has been awarded £49,932 from the Coronation Living Heritage Fund with the Council making up the shortfall to create a funding pot worth £50,000.
- The Coronation Living Heritage Fund supported by £2.5m in funding has been made available through Defra’s £758m Nature for Climate Fund to allow county, unitary, metropolitan, London borough, district and city local authorities the chance to apply for up to two grants for projects ranging between £10,000 and £50,000. The funding will support the development of micro woods and community orchards and commemorate the King’s Coronation. Funds can be distributed across projects in their area.
- Through the England Trees Action Plan and supported by the £758m Nature for Climate Fund Defra will help to transform the treescape and the forestry sector helping to put the UK on track to meet net zero targets, reverse the decline in nature and support economic growth.