Planting community orchards is just one of the ways the District Council is improving natural spaces as part of its commitment to a greener future – and the first five of a planned 30 orchards are now in the ground.
Since adopting a Green Infrastructure Strategy in 2018, the Council has worked with Staffordshire Wildlife Trust to map the area and prepare a delivery plan which includes an ambitious list of around 60 potential projects.
Community orchards are amongst the first of these projects to be delivered with five sites each to be planted in Biddulph, Cheadle and Leek and a further 15 across the parishes.
The Council and its parks maintenance partner AES have now planted five orchards in Leek and are working with Town and Parish Councils and local communities to identify the best sites in other areas.
When Covid restrictions allow, the intention is to involve local people in planting the trees and taking care of the orchards as they grow and mature.
Councillor Joe Porter, Cabinet Member for Climate Change and Biodiversity, said: “Trees play such an important role in our natural environments and our efforts to control and manage climate change but, equally importantly, they have such a positive impact on our health and wellbeing and the enjoyment we get from spending time outdoors in green spaces.
“Community orchards are a great way for us to realise all these benefits with the additional bonus that they are projects people in local communities can get actively involved.
“The measures in place to control Covid, coupled with the tree planting season, have meant that’s not been possible with the first five orchards in Leek but we’ve got plans for 30 orchards across the Moorlands so I’m looking forward to being able to work alongside volunteers and groups when restrictions allow it.
“The tree planting season is fairly short so I’m delighted that we’ve already made a great start with these five sites with more to come in the next few weeks and then again at the end of the year.”
The five sites in Leek are: Brough Park; Woodcroft open space (near Campbell Avenue); open space off Fernwood Drive / rear of the Prince of Wales pub; open space off Wetenhall Drive / Adams Grove; and open space off Queens Drive / Horsecroft Crescent next to Haregate Community Centre.
The orchards will each have between 15 and 40 trees. The trees for the first five orchards were bought from a Moorlands nursery and the intention is to use local suppliers for the remaining orchards as well.
Councillor Porter added: “I’m really pleased that the trees for these first five orchards have come from a local supplier and it’s our intention to continue to buy the trees for the planned orchards from Moorlands nurseries.
“Not only is this supporting local businesses but the trees they provide will leave a lasting legacy and help us to meet our aim of leaving our environment in a better state than we inherited it.”
The Council is funding the five orchards in the towns, which are being planted on Council land, and is offering 50% of the costs of the remaining 15 with Town and Parish Councils and community groups making up the other half.
Interested councils and groups are asked to firstname.lastname@example.org with their ideas for possible orchard sites in their area.