Blue Skies is a voluntary, not for profit community group which aims to develop positive links between schools and their local communities.
Well, this certainly was the case on Friday 10th March, when the next stage of our Heritage Orchard project took place, moving us a step nearer to its completion.
Children from Everton Primary School planted cordon apple trees, black currant bushes and herbs in the land down the side of school with parents coming to join in with the activities for the last hour of the school day.
This area, several years ago, used to be an orchard. Ex-pupils remember sitting and listening to stories on sunny afternoons under the apple trees but over the years the trees had gone and the area had deteriorated into a tired, neglected area dominated by nine huge evergreens and was a far from attractive area for parents to wait for children after school.
After applying for funding from Tesco Bags for Life, and receiving the second award, we were able to have the huge trees removed, and enlisted the help of Clifford Cain, a fruit expert from Fruitscape to advise us on suitable varieties to plant for the area. He ran a series of courses for interested adults and provided us with huge amounts of organic matter to replenish the depleted soil.
Posts and wires were erected and at last it was time to plant! The children did a fantastic job, whilst learning about the trees and plants and how to plant them. The apples were trained as diagonal cordons and they and the black currant bushes were surrounded by aromatic lavender, thyme and rosemary plants to attract pollinating insects to help the blossoms set into fruit.
Chris Campbell, an artist from Mattersey, has created a flamboyant sculptural seating area for parents and carers to use while waiting for their children. Once the step has been finished we plan to plant climbing plants to scramble up the dramatic sculpture.
Alan Berry's research tells us that Mr Barnes, ex-head teacher of Everton; the youngest headteacher in Nottinghamshire at the time, kept bees in the school grounds. Though we'd love to as well, we recognise that this is not sensible, so we plan to make a replica beehive but use it as an insect hotel.
So, what's planned next for school?
Finish the seating area
Put hard standing for the bins - they look unattractive at present.
Plant sunflowers, which will also attract pollinating insects and birds and will be judged in situ as part of the Gardenholders Annual Show in September.
Make bird and bat boxes.
Erect an information board about the project
Label the varieties of fruit trees and bushes
Have an 'opening ceremony'
Pick and eat the fruit...our cook is very excited about being able to cook with our own home grown produce, but we will have to wait a while.
The challenge is to decide what to do to make the bins look more attractive but still accessible. Send your ideas to school, please!
After we'd finished at school our work was by no means done. We moved on to the churchyard, where members of Everton's community worked with Clifford to create an additional orchard in the heart of our village. We dug six holes, 2'x2'x2', (quite a challenge) and planted six fruit trees. These include a Cider Apple, (Amanda), a Quince (Champion), a Pear, (Triomphe de Vienna), a Plum, (Velour) and two Apples, (Marriage Maker and Ten Commandments; appropriately named for church). We also planted black and red currants and plan to add gooseberries, but time ran out on us.
These should look lovely and really complement the lovely wild flowers already in the churchyard. More ideas and help are very welcome.
Thank you to all those who helped us plant both at school and the churchyard. We really appreciate your support. Thank you to Alan Berry, whose work on the history of Everton gave us the initial idea to recreate the orchard. Especial thanks to Clifford Cain and to Chris Campbell for their knowledge, hard work, expertise and creativity, and of course to Tesco Bags for Life for the funding to make this all happen.