A volunteer group that has successfully created two community orchards in Ilkley and Ben Rhydding by planting 46 fruit trees to help tackle climate change, has been backed by leading estate agency firm, Dacre, Son & Hartley.
Climate Action Ilkley (CAI) was formed in 2018 and has 50 full members and 300 subscribers. Kath Steward, from CAI, explained: “The idea for the community orchard was part of a document we created and presented to the local council to help tackle climate change, along with lots of other good ideas, some of which are now in the Ilkley Sustainability Plan.
“Last year we ran two workshop meetings called 'Getting Stuck In' and the community orchard group was officially formed. We worked over the summer looking for sites and applying for funding. We settled on East Holmes Field in Ilkley and were also offered the bottom of Wheatley Field in Ben Rhydding by Bradford Council, so we became the Ilkley and Ben Rhydding Community Orchard. The community orchards initiative has group of 20 core volunteers, with additional support from local people and businesses. The group has also received practical advice from the Orchard Project.”
Initially the group planned to plant 26 trees, with 13 on each site, but the project grew and they planted 23 fruit trees on each site. The trees are a mixture of apples, pears, plums and damsons. Kath added: “We chose Yorkshire and heritage trees mainly and we purchased and planted 24, 3-year-old trees, which will hopefully produce fruit faster than the younger trees.” The group also received a donation of 22, year-old apple trees, from Bradford Environmental Action Trust (BEAT) and they found individual tree sponsors, so they could provide protective cages for the trees to help them grow.
Kath explained: “The orchard sites are very different, at East Holmes the site runs alongside the river, behind the Rugby club, at Wheatley Field we have used the bottom half of the field, leaving the top part for the footballers.”
The businesses that have supported the Ilkley and Ben Rhydding Community Orchard with a significant donation are Dacres and Holo-Lilo Ltd. Other sponsors included individuals or groups, including the Christchurch Scouts Group. The group also received funding from Ilkley Freemasons, the Addingham Beer Festival, Ilkley Round Table and Betty's Trees for Life Fund. Kath added: “We are very grateful to everyone who has got involved so far and we have had expressions of interest from other businesses before the lockdown, and intend to plant more trees in the future, when these initial trees are established. The orchards are now being nurtured by volunteers who water the trees weekly. We have allocated trees to a family or individual, so that we maintain social distancing, and the fruit will be available to everyone in Ilkley.
“We intend to underplant the trees with spring bulbs in the autumn, to encourage pollinators in spring and we are also open to planting on any other site that may be available. Our initiative will increase biodiversity and the newly planted plant trees will also help to store carbon. It is also a great way to make locally grown food available to people within our community.”
Patrick McCutcheon, head of residential at Dacre, Son & Hartley, which has 20 offices in West and North Yorkshire, said: “We are absolutely delighted to have played a part in this fantastic community initiative. Our tree is a Shropshire Prune damson tree and it is already blossoming, so there may be some fruit this year!”