Children from Windmill Primary School helped to plant fruit trees and bushes on Thursday (23 February 2023) as part of a Belle Isle Tenant Management Organisation (BITMO) project to create a community orchard in Belle Isle.
Peter Sutton, BITMO’s Community Development manager explained the background to the project:
“There’s a lot of interest in increasing the number of trees in Belle Isle and also in local food production. Belle Isle has always been a garden estate and we want to help people develop their gardening and food producing skills.”
The site, formally a bowling green that has been out of use for ten years, is located behind Belle Isle Circus, which houses tenants needing sheltered housing and over 55s. Some flats have been converted into community rooms and the children were joined by some of the older residents.
“Residents are keen to see the site brough back into use and like the idea of cross generational involvement of children from Windmill Primary School” Peter continued.
“This is a long term project, the orchard will be here for years and residents will see these trees grow and mature.
“The children helping today are in Year 3, when they are in Years 5 and 6 they will be able to come and help pick the fruit and the older people from the retirement life homes will be out harvesting with them.”
Through the School Council the children at Windmill have been thinking about the community and what more they could do more in the community, so were pleased to get involved. The project will also be helpful when they study plants next term.
BITMO have set the children a drawing challenge and the winning picture is to be made into a sign for the orchard’s gate.
The planting was managed by Gini and Faye from Fruitworks, a local social enterprise that helps schools and community groups plant more fruit trees and bushes, pruning, workshops, juicing. They helped the children dig planting holes, make sure they were deep enough, fill them in correctly and add a mulch. The children will return to tend the trees and make sure they are watered.
As well as the fruit trees, current and gooseberry bushes were planted and the site already has an existing crab-apple tree.
Plans are being developed to run outdoor activities in the orchard. These might include gardening, planting and weeding, but also keep fit, tai chi, or just socialising with a picnic to suppport residents’ health and wellbeing.
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