Meadow Orchard Project is 1.5 -2 acres in size. It’s a wild space, a disused area of wasteland that was developed by a dynamic group of volunteers to establish a nature conservation site based on permaculture principles for the public to enjoy and from which to learn. Permission was granted by the landowners, NHS Properties Ltd, in 2010. Haringey Council has listed the site as a grade one site for nature conservation.
Currently, the site is open almost every Saturday of the year for visitors and volunteers, it is entirely run by volunteers. There are always 1 or 2 volunteer site leader/s on Saturdays to welcome people. A core group oversee the management.
Much of the site is Meadow grassland where many insects, and especially the yellow meadow ants, live in mounds. One of the jobs which is ongoing and so important for preserving this wild Meadow is the removal of the oak saplings. The oak saplings are donated to other local growing projects once removed.
The trees and orchard
Over the last 7 years, volunteers have planted over 60 fruit trees to make the orchard area. Pears, cherries, plums, quince, medlars, peppercorns, apricots, peaches and many varieties of apple plus a walnut and almond tree are now established
Also, one hundred native saplings were donated by the Woodland Trust. The trees were chosen by volunteers to show sustainable food growing and, in one area, to help prevent waterlogging.
Once the orchard had been planned and planted, the need arose for regular tree care. Volunteers started to organise tree care activity events, these have been based on planting or mulching, watering, pruning or coppicing. Each tree care event has brought together many volunteers old and new. Tree care activities, like mulching with straw & cardboard, have proven to be
Often these education-based tree care events on site have been guided by experts who come from other organisations (from Social Farms & Gardens and The London Orchard Project, and from Permaculture Design, Organic lea and more) who share their skills.
One volunteer was inspired to train with the London Orchard Project and has returned to the site having qualified to co-lead tree care events and share her skills.
Other popular tree events have included seasonal traditions such as wassailing (cider-drinking and singing to toast the new year).
Harvesting of fruit from the trees was followed by jam and chutney making by a few volunteers, sales of which raise funds.
The willow trees (lining a long fenced border of the site) were mostly planted in 2012. They do well and so far have been coppiced twice to increase their health and strength; soon they will be coppiced once more. The willows are now strong enough to be used for weaving by local artists and crafts folk.
Bird boxes (and this year bat boxes too) have been fixed up on trees. The RSPB Big Birdwatch is a peaceful, annual event of bird observation & reporting
All these events are great fun, that bringing people together, building community, and, later in the day, a chance to gather around a warm fire made from some of the spare wood coppiced on site.