A useful email arrived from the GVOC (Gateshead's umbrella body for voluntary organisations) on Friday which included a link to a section on the Woodland Trust's website which offers community groups free woodland kits. One of the large kits contains enough wild fruit saplings to create a hedgerow 120m long. This is ideal for one of the projects we have set up in our ward.
Last year Gateshead reduced the areas where grass cutting would take place as part of the plan to save £30 million. One of those areas is a grassed area on Kingsway in Sunniside. It is a large area, at least 120m long and in some places nearly 100m wide. The area had not previously been used for anything in particular. It is rarely used by residents. Fifty years ago it was expected to be used for housing but that was a plan that never happened. When we were told that the site was no longer to be cut, my initial response was to suggest we look at ways of planting the site as a wild flower meadow. Officers said they would not have a problem if I decided to do a bit of guerilla gardening to plant herbs that anyone could then pick. In the end however, we opted to set up a community orchard on the site, an idea put forward by my ward colleague John McClurey.
We got funding from the Council's local community fund and from various tree-planting funds to put in the first 40 fruit trees last autumn. Local Environmental Services dug the ground. Children from one of the local schools did the planting and a recent check shows all the trees have survived the winter. They fill only one small corner of the site. Our plan is to get funding for more trees and gradually fill the whole area with fruit trees. Anyone in the village can donate and plant a tree (we already have expressions of interest).
I am keen that we plant a wild fruit hedge along the side of the site that fronts onto the road so when I saw the Woodland Trust offer, I realised it fits the bill for what we want to do. So shortly I will be putting in an application. Get your shovels and spades ready people!