Forth Valley has a tradition of orchards stretching back to monastic times. However, many of these orchards have been lost and those that remain continue to be at risk despite their heritage value. Forth Environment Link recognised that Forth Valley's orchards were an under-used resource that could be put to more productive use.
In 2009, with a growing interest in orchards and community growing, Forth Environment Link initiated the Forth Valley Orchards project. This project encourages the creation of new orchards, promotes the management of existing orchards and maps and records fruit trees in the Forth valley area.
CSGN funding supported the establishment of the Forth Valley Orchards' Group; a group of volunteers who contribute to development and delivery of the Forth Valley Orchards' Initiative.
Development funding also led to the establishment of the CSGN Orchard Grants Scheme. Between 2010 and 2012 this scheme disbursed over £27,000 in grants to 97 recipients to create over 19ha of orchards. Much of the planting that resulted from this scheme took place on vacant, derelict or unmanaged ground and several orchards were located in or near areas suffering from multiple deprivation. A wide range of species and tree varieties were planted, which also enhanced the biodiversity value of the orchards.
A programme of workshops covered winter pruning, orchard planning, planting techniques, and also pests and disease control. Furthermore, an Orchard Care and Management Certificate course was run in partnership with Elmwood College and Forth Valley Orchards' Day was held at Dobbies, Stirling. A Forth Valley Scrumpers' Network was also established to encourage 'responsible scrumping' by matching scrumpers to owners of surplus fruit.
A key aspect of the programme of activities was to undertake an orchard economic feasibility study. This concluded that orchards can provide individuals, small businesses and community groups with a modest source of income which can help sustain their fruit-growing activities in perpetuity. It also indicated that business opportunities may be feasible though the cumulative impact would be micro, rather than macro-economic.
The phased initiative has provided new and exciting opportunities to enhance existing and create new orchards across the CSGN area.
94 people have been trained in orchard care and management and many of these trainees are willing and confident to share their expertise to support others. Participants have also taken inspiration back to their own communities to develop their own orchards independently of CSGN grant eg Callander Community Orchard.
Increased Woodland Cover: Between 2010 and 2012, the area of land being used to grow fruit has been increased by over 19ha. This includes community open space, schools, community allotments and gardens.
Improved Quality of Environment: New orchards have been created and some brought back into a management regime across the CSGN area.
Increased Economic Potential: Better understanding of the existing resource (through mapping) helps to realise the economic potential of orchards. Orchards are a learning ground where transferable skills and knowledge are acquired which may also lead to local economic benefits and opportunities.
Engaged Communities: Many communities have been engaged through volunteering, fun days, orchard training and orchard creation.
Better Health: Outdoor working in orchards, socialising, physical exercise and an increase in awareness about the benefits of fruit as part of a healthy diet have all contributed to participants gaining opportunities to improve their physical and mental well-being.
"We are well aware of the important work that the Initiative has been undertaking across Forth Valley in supporting the development, maintenance and appreciation of orchards. The development of the Forth Valley Scrumpers' Network is a great example of how the community is being engaged and how solutions are being developed to benefit from the apples that are produced in the Forth Valley area."
Corrie Cuthbertson Forth Valley Scrumpers' Network member
"The Forth Valley Orchard's Initiative has enabled a number of community groups in the Stirling Council area to plant their own community orchard. It is exciting to see communities being empowered in this way and the training and support provided by Forth Environment Link is exemplary."
Councillor Ian Brown Stirling Council
The experience of the Forth Valley Orchards' Initiative shows that to develop existing and plant new orchards at a regional level it is essential to engage with a range of stakeholders including local authorities, government agencies, schools and colleges, community groups and private landowners.
The Initiative has provided people with both great enjoyment and numerous benefits through their involvement in a variety of projects and events. Fruit growing has generated much interest and people have been quick to get involved in the project and to learn about orchards. The community benefits appear to be far-reaching, addressing issues such as skills development, health improvement and access to greenspace.
The Initiative will continue to match those who can offer help in orchard creation and management, to those that request it. However, it is acknowledged that the sustainability of the Initiative rests on capacity-building and supporting the commercial potential of orchards. It is considered that orchard care and development should be undertaken by a wide range of stakeholders to maximise strengths and capacity.
In 2011, Forth Environment Link used a grant of £84,190 to deliver a programme of promotional events offering advice, training and support for community groups and landowners to manage existing and plant new orchards in Falkirk, Stirling and Clackmannanshire. The grant also supported a second round of the CSGN Orchard Grant Scheme for local groups wanting to create and manage orchards across the whole of the CSGN area. This scheme saw over £36,000 distributed to 130 projects, creating over four hectares of new orchards. 23 people were also supported to achieve the award of a certificate in orchard management from Elmwood College.
In 2012/13 Forth Environment Link was awarded a further £326,000 to increase, develop and maintain the network of orchards within the Forth Valley area. Support and training will be provided to help local communities, schools and private orchard owners manage existing orchards and plant new ones. In addition, Forth Environment Link will manage further annual rounds of their very successful Orchard Grant Scheme for the whole CSGN area.
In 2015/16 Forth Enviroment Link recieved a further £50,700 to develop the Fruit Futures Project, which aimed to work with projects operating in areas within the lowest 15% of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation.
The project succeeded in offering training and support to community and school leaders to design, develop and support their community orchards.
|2010||CSGN Development Fund||21,000|
|2011||CSGN Development Fund||84,190|
|2012||CSGN Development Fund||326,000|
|2015||CSGN Development Fund||50,700|