Sustain an Ancient Orchard for Community Wellbeing

by Lou @ Orchard Forest School in Torquay, England, United Kingdom

We did it
On 9th September 2020 we successfully raised £1,459 with 22 supporters in 189 days

For Orchard Forest School to be open to the entire community, not just for children - a resource for the entire Torbay community to enjoy!

by Lou @ Orchard Forest School in Torquay, England, United Kingdom

New stretch target

The possibilities are endless. There is 2 acres of Orchard that is yet to be tackled - all overgrown with brambles and not accessible. With the additional money, the land could be cleared, more trees planted, vegetable and fruit gardens could be nurtured, we could add wooden camping huts...


Project

We are fundraising for our Orchard Forest School which protects and sustains the incredible ancient orchard at Lupton House, making it a resource for the entire Torbay community to enjoy, whilst educating and raising awareness about the importance of trees to the environment and to nurture an appreciation of nature. We want Forest School to be for everyone, not just children. The whole community can benefit from spending time in nature and so we are looking to raise £1400 to help sustain the ancient orchard so that more people can enjoy the beautiful space. Specifically, the £1400 will enable us to open the orchard up to a group of over 50's  who are experiencing recognisable  physical health issues. During the current Covid-19 pandemic, a lot of older and more vulnerable people have found themselves isolated and stuck in doors for fear of going out. The ancient orchard will allow them a safe, open outdoor space where they can take part in physical activities and social engagement in a safe, open environment where they can safely social distance. The over 50's Orchard Forest School group will  involve gentle exercise in nature, including maintenance of the Orchard, forest school crafting and healthy food over the camp fire. There is an element of reducing isolation by helping them to get out doors, meet new people and build social networks. 

What We Do…

South West Family Values works to support families and to develop safe and healthy communities in which children and young people can grow, flourish and feel happy, safe and cared for. Our Orchard Forest School provides inspirational, hands on fun and learning opportunities which build and promote self-esteem, confidence and resilience, whilst also supporting the environment and eco system.  

 Because part of our ethos is about conservation and supporting the eco system we work in partnership with local conservationists, tree specialists and the bee keeper! The bees have been situated on the land for over 50 years and have been passed down from one generation to the next of bee keepers within the same family. 

We are not only supporting the eco system and playing a huge part in the conservation of the land, but children and families have the added bonus of experiencing harvesting the apples, pears, plums, and foraging for blackberries, raspberries and wild garlic and creating, cooking and enjoying tasty recipes made from them.

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Orchard Forest School

The location is very special and secluded, despite being close enough to parking and the bus route, but when you’re in the orchard you can be as far away as you want to be from civilisation! Because we are located next to a main road, we do hear traffic, however somehow the sound of the birds, wildlife and children playing drown out this sound!

On arrival, you walk along a short path through a wooded area of ancient trees to get to the secret entrance, which is hidden from the view of the road.

The sustainable wood chipping paths through the wild garlic, snow drops, crocuses, wood anemones, cyclamen, daffodils and native bluebells (according to the time of year!) are accessible for prams, buggies, wheelchairs and mobility scooters. (tried and tested!).

Within the Orchard of ancient apple, pear and plum trees is one which hides an old Shire horseshoe, which has now become part of the tree.

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The Story So Far…

In January 2019 we were given permission to manage the ancient four-acre Orchard and began to organise volunteers to clear away the scrub and brambles that had begun to smother the native plant species and damage the trees. We surveyed all of the trees, removing overhanging and dangerous branches, and identified the many different varieties of apple, pear and plum. We renovated the old hut, cutting through a tangle of bramble to reach it, brought in a mobile classroom, laid a fire pit and cut pathways through the thicket to create different secluded and magical spaces, each surrounding and sheltered by an ancient tree. After months of clearing away scrub and brambles, carrying out tree surgery, laying paths and building magical safe spaces we were ready to offer the magic to the community.

In April 2019, we opened up the Orchard Forest School. Since then we have been running sessions for parents and carers with pre-school and primary school children, families on low incomes, young carers, single parents, childminders, Brownies groups and families in school holidays to teach them about the environment and help develop a love and appreciation of the outdoors. During this time, we have worked with the families to plant over 400 trees and to harvest more than 2 tonnes of apples, protecting the apple trees and keeping them healthy.

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Orchard Forest School – the environment

We aim to protect and sustain the ecosystem in the ancient orchard whilst allowing it to be accessed to raise awareness and educate children, young people and adults on the environment and how to protect it. The land is cared for and nurtured, wildlife in the orchard is protected and the environment is enhanced by planting trees – 400 in the past year.

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Orchard Forest School – Impact for children and families

Playing in the mud, making daisy chains and climbing trees are simple pleasures that have defined childhood for generations. But such youthful pursuits appear to be dying out as an increasing number of children play computer games instead and parents are wary of letting their children roam.

Forest school involves children having regular contact with nature and the environment in an ancient safe woodland over an extended period of time -  it allows them to become familiar and have contact with the natural environment. 

Forest school helps children develop many skills that are hard to teach in the classroom. It’s very physical so it encourages children to be busy, with lots of activities to develop both fine and gross motor skills, decision making, tool handling and learning their limitations safely.

Children learn to assess, appreciate and take risks, making sensible, informed decisions about how to tackle the activities and experiences they encounter. They learn to be self-sufficient and take care of themselves, which boosts their confidence and self-esteem. Through trial and error, they learn to deal with failure and develop the resilience to keep trying: a vital skill in the classroom as well as outside.

 At Orchard Forest School, children have the freedom to explore, play, build, create, imagine and use their senses to experience the outdoor environment and engage with one another. The sessions are carefully planned, led by trained forest school practitioners and take place outside the classroom in all weathers, and inside when needed. During the sessions, children can sing around the fire, learn to use and make tools, build dens, dig in the mud, identify bugs with magnifying glasses, make objects with natural materials such as pine cones, clay, mud, sticks etc, and enjoy food cooked on the camp fire.

 Children and their parents and carers can play and work together in a safe space, building trust and emotional bonds and creating family experiences, like eating together, that often get lost and forgotten in a society where individual pursuits and individual meals take the place of family, food and fun in helping families to bond and grow together. 

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Orchard Forest School for Mental Health

The health benefits of spending time outdoors in nature are well documented and Orchard Forest School is not just open to children and their parents. We want the ancient orchard to be accessed by the whole community -  Young Carers, over 55’s, dad’s groups, young people with SEN and adults who just want to volunteer their time to help preserve the land.

Spending time in nature has been found to help with mental health problems including anxiety and depression. For example, research into ecotherapy (a type of formal treatment which involves doing activities outside in nature) has shown it can help with mild to moderate depression. This might be due to combining regular physical activity and social contact with being outside in nature.

Being outside in natural light can also be helpful for those who experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that affects people during particular seasons or times of year. And people tell us that getting into nature has helped them with other types of mental health problems and with confidence-building.

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How the Money Will Be Spent…

Managing the orchard and running Forest School sessions is a fulltime job for four staff members plus a team of volunteers, without whom all of this would not be possible. The team are passionate about the trees and the land within the Orchard and play a big part in manging and conserving the Orchard. 

There’s a fine balance between allowing the community access to the ancient orchard and conserving the land. We are hoping to raise £1400 to help pay for the time and resources required to run an over 50's forest school group which will also serve as a team of people who meet in the orchard regularly for fresh air, exercise and social engagement but at the same time will be helping to maintain the land and receive education on environmental sustainability, the importance of nature for positive mental health and to encourage individuals, children and families to spend time outdoors in nature. We will continue to plant more trees and care for the trees and plants that are already thriving in the ancient orchard. We also want to create a wildlife pond and a vegetable garden which will be used to teach children and families about growing their own organic produce. 

Rewards…

All donor’s, if you wish to donate publicly, will be enrolled as a Friend of Orchard Forest School, be named as a member on our website and will receive regular newsletters and updates about progress that has been made in relation to this funding quest.

£1-£50 An Orchard Forest School thank you card and the knowledge that you have helped to sustain this beautiful ancient orchard.

£50 An Orchard Forest School thank you card, the knowledge that you have helped to sustain this beautiful ancient orchard and an invitation to one of our popular school holiday sessions or one of our apple harvesting days (the apples are used to make delicious Lupton Cider).

£100 An Orchard Forest School thank you card, the knowledge that you have helped to sustain this beautiful ancient orchard, an invitation to one of our popular school holiday sessions or one of our apple harvesting days and an invitation to a garden party held at the Orchard for anyone who donates £100 where you will get to plant your own tree. 

£1000 All of the above plus a personal tour of the site to witness first-hand how special it really is.

We really appreciate any support that you can give and if you can't give financially, we'd be really grateful if you can share our Crowdfunder campaign on social media!

Rewards

This project offers rewards in return for your donation.

£1 or more

£1 Reward - Thank you

An Orchard Forest School thank you card and the knowledge that you have helped to sustain this beautiful ancient orchard.

£50 or more

£50 Reward - Free Session

An Orchard Forest School thank you card, the knowledge that you have helped to sustain this beautiful ancient orchard and an invitation to one of our popular school holiday sessions or one of our apple harvesting days (the apples are used to make delicious Lupton Cider).

£100 or more

£100 Reward - Garden Party and Plant Your Own Tree

£100 An Orchard Forest School thank you card, the knowledge that you have helped to sustain this beautiful ancient orchard, an invitation to one of our popular school holiday sessions or one of our apple harvesting days and an invitation to a garden party held at the Orchard for anyone who donates £100 where you will get to plant your own tree.

£1,000 or more

£1000 Reward - Personal Tour of the Orchard

£1000 All of the above plus a personal tour of the site to witness first-hand how special it really is.


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