At the end of the Allotments north of the stream at Redland Green is a wonderful wild green place, the Metford Road Community Orchard. It is steep, full of all kinds of fruit trees and bushes, has glorious views, and is home to masses of butterflies, other insect and frogs.
What’s the history of the orchard? Some years back, the five plots at the end of the allotment site had fallen into disuse. Furthest from the gate, steepest, hardest to maintain, they had become totally overgrown and littered with all kinds of rubbish. Nobody wanted to take one of these daunting plots for an allotment. A group of permaculture enthusiasts arranged with the City Council arranged for the five plots to become a Community Orchard. Much back-breaking work then followed, with creation of terraces, ponds, steps, paths, a compost loo, the main social space (mainly for tea-drinking) and planting. Other community orchards exist in Bristol too, but the one on Metford Road has close links with Sustainable Redland.
How does the orchard work? The orchard is totally maintained by its members, and occasionally, their friends/family or visiting volunteers.
- Members pay a subscription of £12 per year /£22 family membership to cover costs including allotment rent, and commit to put in at least 16 hours work each year. In return, they can enjoy a year of productive exercise in a beautiful natural place, shared learning and companionship, and can take home a share of the fruit.
- Communal work days are held on the first Sunday of the month, plus ad hoc days as the need arises. Members generally gather for a shared tea break at 3pm. Members often go along on other days too, as the need and opportunity arises. There is always more to do than there are hours to do it, so you need never fear boredom!
- We provide most of the tools needed, or you can bring your own, and members have a range of horticultural knowledge and experience from very little to lots.
- There are workshops (including pruning, grafting, and hedging to date), open days, picnics, and other work-parties and socials. In the run-up to Christmas each year, we also have a stall at The Whiteladies Road Farmers’ Market where we sell goods made by our members to supplement orchard funds.
Can more people get involved? Yes. During the past couple of years the membership has grown significantly. If you think you’d like to find out more and possibly become a member then do get in touch with the Orchard group (see below). We’re happy to show you around, and invite you to join us on a workday to see if it’s for you. You do need to be aware that the site is very steep and has lots of trip hazards, especially for little children.
There are various ways that members keep in touch with one another and discuss ideas: we have a website where photos and all sorts of information is available to help you make the most of your membership and know what needs to be done and how; we have a Yahoo group that facilitates easy group emailing; we have a WhatsApp group for those with a smart phone who want to coordinate visits; we have get-togethers including two meetings a year plus ad-hoc get-togethers either at the pub (on winter evenings) or in the orchard (when there’s something like a solstice to celebrate); and, of course, we have the workdays themselves.
If you would like to go along one workday and help, then do get in touch. Or, to come along to one of our open days, keep an eye on the homepage of the SusRed website as we try and post the news there.
How do I find out more?
- Please get in touch via email at janbrewercbc @ yahoo.co.uk to enquire about membership or arrange a visit.
The orchard is within the allotment gates so the easiest approach is usually to meet Janet (or she may coordinate with another key-holder) at the gate on Metford Road (between numbers 37 and 39).
- Browse the MRCO website (http://mrco.wikidot.com/) for more information on the orchard contents, events, membership details and to find out what’s currently keeping us busy.
Looking forward to seeing you there soon!
The Metford Road Orcharders