We have completed the first year of Fruit and Nut Village Stirchley. It has been a very busy one with great achievments, lessons learnt, and exciting new possiblities for growth. Here is photographic review of the year:
Last summer we held a stall at the Stirchley Funday to promote the project. We also had tasting opportunities of different heritage varieties of apples.
Our first major workday of the season was planting the first few trees in the nut grove at Hazewell park. Here we planted walnuts, and a sweet chestnut. We also carried out work developing the Kingdom Forest Garden. A total of around 70 people attended the session.
Visiting fruit and nut farmer Billy Auger – from Augernik Fruit Farm – to get advise and a generous donation of different fruit and nut trees. Of particular interest were some damascene trees (mother of the modern damson and plum), and some interesting varieties of cobnuts and filbers (‘Cosford’ and ‘Enoa’). You can meet him, and buy his own produce at Moseley Farmers market.
All tooled up and ready to go with our tree planting days.
Planting workday at Stirchley Park. Here we joined forces with the Friends of Stirchley Park to plant an orchard of very old varieties of fruit trees dating back to the 1600’s and beyond. This included a Medlar, Damascene, Old Greengage and some of the oldest varieties of apples in Britain such as the ‘Summer Pearmain’ and ‘Joanetting’.
On Christmas day a group of local people came out for an hour or so to plant an apple tree variety called the ‘Christmas Pearmain’. This was the first tree to be planted at the Ten Acres mixed orchard site.
In January we held a Wassail, an old medieval tradition of blessing the trees with singing, noise and cider in order to ensure a good harvest the following season. Over 60 people turned up to join the procession touring through different orchards within the village.
Our longest running site project is the Kingdom Forest Garden. This was initially planted about 8 years ago as an orchard by the park ranger and the Friends of Hazelwell Park. It has since developed as a forest garden (AKA a food forest), with different layers of perennial edible plants including fruit trees, soft fruit bushes, herbs, and groundcover edible plants.
An unexpected project added to Fruit and Nut Village has been the discovery and work on the ‘Lost orchard’. This is a damson orchard that was planted over 30 years ago in the Ten Acres site in Stirchley. Over the last six months we have been working with the park rangers to restore it, starting by clearing the brambles around the site. In this photo our volunteers reached the orchard after having cleared through about ten metres of brambles to get to it. This site is a valuable addition to the heritage value of Fruit and Nut Village Stirchley.
Setting up and planting a cordon of apple trees at Umberslade nursery. We planted 20 Worcestershire heritage trees. Two of each variety, mostly apples and one pear.
Planting workday at Ten Acres. The community helped plant a mixed orchard of 13 trees wich included apples, pears, plums, wild service tree and a sweet chestnut.
In collaboration with the Friends of Pebble Mill Paying Fields we planted the first layer of the The Pebble Mill Forest Garden. We had around 60 people turn up to take part. There were people from the local neighbourhood who got stuck in as well as our regular volunteers. In addition to this the Welcome Walk group (Kings Heath Action for Refugees) joined us and brought with them a group of newly arrived refugees and asylum seekers staying at a nearby hostel. Everyone worked together to plant 14 different fruit trees.
At Pebble Mill Forest Garden we planted a range of fruit trees, many of them being heritage and local. The local area around Pebble Mill has a link to the Pitmaston family heritage. Therefore we planted three pitmaston varieties: Pitmaston Russet apple, Pitmaston Pineapple apple, and a pear variety called Pitmaston Duchess.
Pictured here is Wade Muggleton, an expert in orchard growing and local heritage varieties of apples. He has a wealth of knowledge with a particular interest in Worcerstershire varieties. Late winter we paid him a visit, saw his impressive orchard, learnt a lot and came back with a large volume of scion wood of heritage varieties for grafting – Thank so much Wade!
An element of the Fruit and Nut Village model is for each village to have at least one ‘mother garden’ site. This has the purpose of growing and propagating plants to populate the rest of the village, and to grow on young saplings and newly grafted fruit trees until they are large enough to be planted out in their permanent public site. For Fruit and Nut Village Stirchley, this mother garden is Umberslade nursery. Here we have a range of young hazels, cobnuts, and filbert varieties, as well as damascenes and elders given to us. We also have grafted trees growing until they are of good size to be planted out.
A Umberslade nursery we have also carried the two bench grafting workshops.
At Umberslade Nursery we have also adopted a previously planted orchard next to the cordons, which we are now also looking after.
At different sites around the village we have carried field grafting – also know as ‘guerilla grafting’. This entails grafting fruit scion wood onto existing trees, in order to convert the original tree into a tree giving a different desired fruit. This could be pear scion wood onto hawthorn, or apple of a chosen variety onto a crab apple tree.
Success! This is a successfully grafted pear onto a Hawthorn tree, done with members of Friends of Stirchley Park. We now a have Hawthorn tree growing Marquise pear. In the following years we will be grafting other varieties of pear onto this ‘pearthorn’ tree. It is also posible to graft medlar onto hawthorn. So watch this space…
During the last year we have built an active community of people taking part and willing to help transform Stirchley into a community of permanent edible public spaces. We have been working to build communities around each of the sites that have been developed. Over the year people have learnt many new skills, learnt about the local fruit heritage, built up a valuable community around them, and have helped secure a supply of food for people in the future. Now feel free to join us during our next stage of our adventure…