Planting a piece of history

A fruit tree planting day opened a new chapter of local heritage, when nearly a hundred people turned out to witness and lend a hand in the creation of their first ever community apple orchard.

Sussex heritage varieties of apple trees were planted during a frosty winter’s day [Saturday 10 December 2011] at Cortis Avenue Wildlife Garden (CAWG) in Broadwater. Homemade soup made with vegetables grown in the garden warmed people up, and a traditional cider press making freshly pressed apple juice gave flavour tastings of future harvests.

The orchard’s rare trees were especially propagated and grown by Brighton Permaculture Trust, from graftings taken from Sussex varieties growing in the apple collection at West Dean. The planting was led by local expert, John Coote with members of Transition Town Worthing (TTW) after fund raising by local volunteers in the garden.

Not only helping to save local biodiversity, with apple varieties that are considered endangered, Hille Cook, the garden’s project coordinator said people could also enjoy their unique flavours for decades. She said: “Planting the orchard links our past with creating something new for the future, a living heritage of distinctive local flavours to share with our children and their children’s children. While everything else around us is changing, these trees will carry on producing apples for up to a hundred years.”

Now, as well as being rare, tasty and unavailable in supermarkets, the Sussex apples will be a seasonal focus for community days like the UK’s annual Apple Day celebrating traditional orchard harvests and local diversity.

The orchard and garden, on a site owned by Worthing Homes Ltd, was unusable for years after serious levels of fly tipping. Their support for the project has enabled local residents’ working together in a community action project to transform a wasted piece of land into a flourishing green space in the heart of Worthing.

This thriving local project also needs active support from more people with interests and skills in wildlife, community development and fund raising. While many people enjoy working in the natural outdoor setting, armchair gardeners are also needed for the project’s wide variety of committee, planning and organising tasks.

Open days for volunteering and visits at Cortis Avenue Wildlife Garden are every second Saturday of the month. New volunteers of all ages and abilities are always very welcome. The garden is through the double gates at the north end of Cortis Avenue in Broadwater. Entry is free.

More information can be found on their Facebook page ‘Cortis Avenue Wildlife Garden sanctuary‘, or you can contact them directly using the details below.