Thursday, 1 December 2011

New Orchard at Avery Hill

Today staff, students, local residents, graduates, friends, family, children and a member of parliament came together to plant a community orchard at the University of Greenwich. At Avery Hill Campus a huge group of volunteers (and a couple of experts from the London orchard Project) took a break from their regular working day to get their hands dirty and plant one of 20 fruit trees in the new community orchard.

The orchard will be supplying staff, students and local residents with a tasty array of fruit (apples, pears, medlar, plums, cherries, damsons, mulberries) for coming decades! It has come as a result of a partnership between the University and the London Orchard Project, who are creating new community orchards in London’s unused spaces to promote community production and ownership of fruit. Plus of course helping us rediscover the pleasures of eating fruit grown close to home (or work). These community orchards are contributing towards the ‘greening’ of the urban environment and are creating new and enhanced habitats for wildlife – especially true at Avery Hill where the orchard will be surrounded by long grass and wildflowers which will be great for encouraging bees, insects and the predators of pests such as aphids and codling moths.
A dozen spades prepare for the digging

The orchard planting is part of a wider University push to improve and enhance the biodiversity on campus and promote local food. The majority of trees have been chosen to fruit during University term time and after three years some of the apple trees will be producing about 300 apples per crop. Students at Avery Hill will never need to buy an apple again!

Russell from the London Orchard Project teaching the volunteers how to plant a fruit tree

Claire Evenden, who came with her colleagues from the Student Records, planted an apple tree called a ‘Fiesta’, said she was looking forward to watching the tree grow from her window in the Bronte building.

Paulina Bush from the University of Greenwich nursery came along with a dozen children who planted two of the apple trees (Discovery and Pinova) with the spades they normally use for maintaining their forest garden. Paulina said that the children would be coming back to the orchard regularly to water the trees and of course help harvest the fruit as well!

The volunteers digging away and planting the trees
 The plan is not to stop at just an orchard either. Close to the orchard we have a space on the Southwood Site where work is about to commence on a community allotment and forest garden, with plans for a nut orchard (or is that a nuttery?), a vineyard and hops also being considered for future food growing projects. Of course if you would like to find out more about any of the food growing projects or indeed get involved with the allotment and forest garden please email us at:

Here is a complete list of the 20 fruit trees planted on campus today:
1. Egremont Russet. Late Victorian English variety, most important commercial Russet, a hardy variety with a nutty, sweet flavour ripe in late September. Originated in Sussex in the early 1800s.
2. Falstaff. Very good disease and frost resistance, crisp and juicy red desert apple, ripe late September
3. Tydeman's Late Orange. Variety raised in 1930s in Kent, rich aromatic flavour, firm and sweet, orange to red in colour, picking time mid October. A cross between a Laxton Superb and a Cox Orange Pippin, but a lot easier to grow than a Cox Orange Pippin. Picking time mid-October
4. Tentation. New variety, yellow to golden fruit, picking time late September and stores until March
5. Greensleaves. Green to yellow mid-season apple, tasting a bit like a Golden Delicious, picking time mid-September. We think this apple is essential due to the Henry VIII theme it shares with the campus buildings. Fruits mid-September.
6. Fiesta. Another Cox-like apple but hardier. Heavy cropping with brightly coloured, aromatic fruits, picking time early October.
7. Pinova. A hardy tree with Cox and Golden Delicious as parents. The fruit hangs late on the tree and stores well. Harvesting time late September.
8. Discovery. Bright red, crisp, juicy with a sharp fresh flavour. This is an early apple (early August) so will provide fruit for staff/ any students on campus over the summer.
9. Bramley's seedling. The classic British cooker, grown from seed in a garden in Nottingham, the original tree is 200 years old and still going strong. Creamy white flesh, full of flabour – though there are alternative cookers if you want something more unusual. Also makes lovely sharp juice.
10. Howgate Wonder. A cooker that can also be eaten/ juiced when fully ripe. Pale green with brown-red flush, fruits early October.
11. Doyenne du Comice. French pear grown from seed, first fruiting in 1849. Reached England in 1858 and soon became very popular for its delicious flavour and jucy texture. Picking mid-October.
12. Williams Bon Chretien. Pears known to the Romans, considered by the best pear in the 16th century. Raised by a schoolmaster in Aldermarston near Reading in 1770. Needs to be eaten off the tree in September as does not store.
13. Concorde. A reliable, heavy cropper with melting, juicy flesh. Picking time late October.
Plums and other stone fruit:
14. Marjorie’s Seedling. Excellent late plum (picking time late September). Oval-shaped purple fruit with yellow flesh.
15. Victoria. A classic plum, discovered in a garden in Sussex and named after Queen Victoria. Picking time is August so another fruit for staff and summer-students to enjoy.
16. Shropshire Damson. A hardy damson with some plum-like characteristics. Best used for cooking and has a rich flavour but can also be eaten from the tree if left to ripen. Picking time late August / early September.
17. Cherry Early Rivers. One of the earliest cherries, with very dark skin and flesh, and excellent flavour. Produces a heavy crop, ready for picking in mid-June.
18. Cherry Stella. Juicy dark-red cherries, ready for picking in late July. Fruiting time isn’t ideal for students but it does make a good pollinator for other cherries.
Other fruit:
19. Medlar. A beautiful, squat and spreading tree with attractive blossom. It is also interesting from heritage perspective, being popular in the middle ages and mentioned by Chaucer as being “ripe when rotten”. Picking time is November and the fruits should then be left to decay (blet) before turning soft and sweet.
20. Black Mulberry. A large stately tree that will grow to form gnarled branches and a distinctive form. The fruit is delicious and almost never commercially available. Said to have been introduced in the 16th Century in the mistaken belief that black mulberries harbour silk worms. (In fact silk worms live on white mulberry trees.)

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