Featured image shows Poppy and Flora tree planting in Lochranza
Last weekend the Arran Pioneer Project planted fruit and nut trees and fruit bushes on three sites around Arran. Volunteers of all ages were given a demonstration of how to plant a variety of trees, including apples, pears, plums, cherries, walnuts and a damson tree, along with gooseberry, raspberry, elderberry and blackcurrant bushes.
The tree planting took place on three sites across the island, in Lochranza, Lamlash and Kilpatrick. Tree varieties were selected with the assistance of specialist knowledge to identify types of tree that are likely to do well on Arran, not only bearing fruit but resisting wet and windy weather here.
Development of these small orchards are a part of the local social enterprise’s long term vision to turn unused land on Arran over to food production. Since starting in March 2020, volunteers from the Pioneer Project have worked on sites in 5 separate villages and there are plans to develop additional spaces in the coming year.
Director Simon Ross-Gill said “We all enjoyed a terrific weekend planting trees, and it was personally very rewarding to see so many people involved from different age groups. We believe that Arran can grow much more of its own fruit, and we hope to plant plenty more fruit trees and bushes around the island in the future.”
The trees were purchased using a mix of funding, from the National Lottery Communities Fund, The Lamlash Coop and from a crowdfunder on GofundMe. A further sixteen apple trees will be planted later in March, which have been donated by Arran Distillers Ltd.
The money from the crowdfunder campaign has also helped to buy fruit bushes, and vegetable and wildflower seeds. The project has purchased organic seeds for all varieties of annual vegetables to be planted on the sites this year, including colourful varieties of tatties and Arran Victory tatties, carrots, onions, tomatoes, as well as more unusual veggies. The wildflowers will add a splash of colour to the sites using native Scottish wildflowers, which provide ground cover and have great benefits for wildlife such as bees and birds.
Simon said, “There are still plenty of ways we can keep building and improving our sites over the 2021 season, and work towards new sites, so as we go into Spring, please keep spreading the word. You will be directly helping us to build long lasting and resilient community gardens on Arran, and also potentially help to establish new sites in the future”.
A very big thank you to everyone who has donated so far!
One of the project volunteers spoke to us at the Voice and gave an account of their experience so far:
Living so close to the community field has been huge a piece of luck, but whether you live next door or further away I would recommend anyone to come along. Being part of the project in Cordon is such a positive and energising experience. And during lockdown and home-school it has also been a sanity saving one! Now the schools are back and the gardening season is in full swing there are many jobs to be done, from digging up stubborn bramble roots to mulching, even weeding already. A team of hard-working volunteers is also putting up a boundary fence – to help keep the rabbits out and the chickens in!
Everyone from all round the island is welcome – volunteers who live near to and work at a site also visit and work at other project sites. And if you are a total gardening novice like me, it’s not a problem! I have never felt that I couldn’t contribute something useful. There is always a much needed job to do whether you can spare an hour or a day. I have collected multiple barrowfuls of seaweed, built vegetable beds with our local seaweed supply, sifted composted, planted rhubarb and fruit bushes, chased escaped chickens back into their run and perhaps most importantly of all I have met, or rather got to know better, neighbours and other islanders who are finding a similar connection to land and people which this project is facilitating.
The project never ceases to amaze me – from the stream of donations that come in, of equipment, fence posts, fruit bushes and cardboard, to the friendships being made, and all this before any vegetables that we can eat have been grown! A young member of the Cordon community has named our garden ‘The Magic Field’ and having the luck to be around and be able to be a part of this venture certainly feels like it. Thank you so much to the Pioneer Project!