Falkirk orchard project is bearing fruit

Leah and Ben Binnie go apple daft
Leah and Ben Binnie go apple daft

As people become increasingly aware of where our food comes from, many of us are opting to grow our own.

There are dozens on a waiting list for an allotment in the Falkirk area, while many others have transformed parts of their garden into vegetable patches – but one organisation is encouraging people to think bigger.

Forth Environment Link launched the Forth Valley Orchards Initiative in 2009 and has since given away hundreds of trees and educated people on how to care for orchards.

The organisation’s Diane Alderdice said having your own orchard isn’t out of reach for most of us.

She said: “People think of an orchard as being this vast piece of land with hundreds of trees and think they just don’t have the space for them, but in reality you can grow fruit-producing trees from a pot so there is very little outdoor space required.

“It is definitely becoming more popular to know where your food comes from as well as being waste aware and having your own orchard fits in with this.

“You can create compost for your tree from your household waste, eat the fruit from the tree and with the excess make jams, preserves and even cider.”

The initiative, which is funded by the Central Scotland Green Network Development Fund, aims to encourage individuals, land owners and councils to manage and grow orchards and runs workshops on how to look after the trees as well as provide educational materials on orchards to schools.

The charity can offer advice on how to run a business using produce from your orchard and have ‘scrumping’ groups – people who will pick the fruit from your trees if you are unable to.

Diane continued: “The Forth Valley area has a long association with orchards.

“Monks started growing fruit-bearing trees in the area hundreds of years ago and then the large manor houses such as Dunmore House had their own mature orchards which produced vast amounts of fruit.

“But in recent years there has been a massive decline and that is why the initiative is so important.

“The Scottish climate is capable of producing good varieties of apples, pears and plums, it’s just a case of educating people on what can and can’t grow.

“Our volunteer-led workshops give valuable advice on how to manage an orchard and can train on techniques such as the step over - a way of growing the trees which takes up the least space but gives the maximum output.”

Last weekend Forth Valley Orchards held a weekend-long event at Callendar House to promote the charity with hundreds turning out to take part in family friendly activities such as an adventure trail and creating a big hotel.

There were also demon-strations on how to plant trees and in the house was a display of 100 different varieties of apples from Mark Armour, head gardener at Kellie Castle.

Ypres van der Schaff from Forth Valley College catering services judged an apple pie contest with all entries using local apples and the council’s arts guru, Astrid Shearer, baked up a storm to win using fruit recipes from the Georgian era.

“One of the star attractions was the apple pie baking competition,” said Diane. “Visitors were treated to a slice of some of the pies following the judging.

“To encourage more fruit tree planting 50 Scottish apple varieties were given away to schools and community groups in the area, so we look forward to seeing more fruit trees growing and producing fruit for their new owners.

“To keep our Scottish fruit tree heritage alive, Mark Armour brought a display of over 60 apples and was on hand to identify varieties of apples and pears that visitors brought in.

“Andrew and Margaret Lear provided talks on what to do with your fruit trees if they became diseased or pest-ridden, and answer questions about growing fruit trees.

“The beautiful location of Callendar House and Park, and bright sunshine, provided a perfect setting for the event.

“The children’s activities in the walled garden were particularly popular, as they made bug hotels, applehogs and enjoyed face painting in the sunshine.

“The event was the biggest we have held and there was a great turnout. Hopefully we have encouraged more people to consider growing an orchard.”

n For more pictures, see page 62.