The Trumpington Community Orchard is on the outskirts of Cambridge on the south side of the city. I walked along the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway from the train station which took about 30 minutes to arrive at the orchard.
Settlements in Trumpington can be traced back to the Bronze Age, Iron Age and during the Roman settlement through evidence from excavations at the site. It was a thriving community and up until the 20th century, it was predominantly an agricultural village made up of farmlands. Currently, it is a residential area with many new residential developments in progress. The community orchard is located at the end of the Trumpington Allotments. It is near the old railway line that looks to Addenbrooke’s Hospital and known to have been a location for the East of England Show which ended after 200 years in 2013. The East of England Show was an agricultural show organised by the East of England Agricultural Society which was a public event that exhibits equipment and animals associated with agriculture and animal husbandry. The show was losing money, attendance figures were dropping significantly, and according to the Society, it was moving away from traditional agricultural roots by demonstrating new materials and techniques that no longer attracted farming people.
The Trumpington Community Orchard is run by a dedicated management team of four and open to the public all year round. The land was part of the allotment, but the soil there was chalkier than the rest and so it is now used as an apple orchard with several other fruit trees as well. There are 22 apple variety trees planted all of which are Cambridgeshire heritage varieties. The orchard started in 2008 and they will be celebrating their 10th anniversary next year. The trees are now maturing and the varieties planted are aimed to provide fruits year-round, with picking season starting in August. The orchard runs organically using no chemicals and just garlic preventative spraying during the winter as an insect repellent.
I spoke with Susanna and Joanna at the orchard who gave me a very warm welcome, and they were both extremely knowledgeable on apple tree planting and orchard wildlife. I was also introduced to the David who installed a beehive and is the beekeeper at the orchard. What attracted us to the orchard is the events and activities that celebrate apples held annually including their wassailing event in the beginning of the year that attracts folk musicians from all over the place. The orchard is also dedicated to maintaining a natural wildlife through man-made habitats. This includes hedgerows, which provides pathways for wildlife, food for birds and insects as well as a habitat for wildflowers. There are also beetle banks, bird boxes, bat boxes and a bee hive that encourage children and adults to study the local insects and animals that inhabit the site.
As a community orchard, they rely on volunteers for maintenance and running of activities. Currently the orchard has about 150 volunteers on their list with a handful of devoted and active volunteers. The community orchard provides a space for the learning of gardening, wildlife preservation and celebrating apple as English heritage, and it is especially inspiring to see how great resources can be formed just by a small group of people. This space is a collective effort in discovering the wonders of nature and reminds us that outside of the city, what we commonly recognise as “countryside” often requires management and is a manmade habitat.
The orchard runs Maintenance Mornings twice a month, on the 2nd Sunday and the 4th Thursday of the month where you can get involved in practical on-site gardening. There are also many more activities during the summer you can join. Please visit their website for more information and follow their Facebook page. Lastly, we would like to thank Susanna, Joanna and David for taking the time out of their day for a tour and sharing of the Trumpington Community Orchard story.