Extra funding will allow community orchard scheme to grow

The scheme has been awarded £28,290 from Defra’s Coronation Living Heritage Fund

Blossom on a fruit tree

A scheme which gives community groups, parish councils and schools free packs of fruits trees to create new orchards around the county can now bear even more fruit after receiving more than £28,000 in government funding.

The Leicestershire County Council-run community orchards programme offers groups the opportunity to apply for the free orchard packs, which contain 10 apple and pear trees, stakes and other equipment needed to establish the orchard.

The trees can be used to create a new orchard for the local community or to help restore and boost an existing orchard. The trees must be planted on sites which are open to the public, groups must have permission from the landowner to plant the trees, and all groups applying to the scheme need to commit to maintaining and nurturing the orchard in the long term.

Now, the future of the scheme is secure for at least another year after it was awarded £28,290 from Defra’s Coronation Living Heritage Fund.

The community orchards scheme was launched in 2022, when 50 trees were provided to schools and community groups. This has been increased to 300 trees in 2023, with the new funding aiming to provide trees and support to 20 new larger schemes in 2024.

So far, 25 schools, 16 parishes, one borough council and one farm have been able to plant new orchards or improve an existing orchard, thanks to the scheme.

Orchards and trees play a vital role in enriching our ecosystem and improving biodiversity. The community orchards scheme gives voluntary and community groups the opportunity to make a real difference to our environment and play their part in making Leicestershire a cleaner and greener place to live and work.

The creation of a number of new orchards throughout the county gives us a unique opportunity to create green spaces that not only provide fresh and healthy produce but also serve as havens for wildlife and a boost to our goal of helping to plant 700,000 trees in Leicestershire.

We are delighted that Defra has recognised the importance of this scheme, and given us the funding to ensure it can continue to grow and thrive.

Groups who would like to apply for one of the tree packs should contact the council’s Forestry team on forestry@leics.gov.uk

The packs will be allocated on a first come, first served basis.

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