Over 60 fruit trees have been planted this season at the new community orchard in Chignal St James. Over the last 12 months villagers from the tiny parish of Chignal and neighbouring Mashbury have been working together to turn a once unused and inaccessible one acre site near the village hall into a productive and wildlife friendly attraction that can be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.
The Chignals & Mashbury Community Jubilee Orchard was officially opened by Philip
Taylor from Lathcoats Farm on 18 May. Inspired and supported by the Rural Community Council’s ‘Edible Essex’ project which encourages communities to increase local food production, the idea of an orchard was taken up by Chignal Parish Council and rapidly gained support amongst Parishioners and residents from Mashbury.
Sophie Blythe from Edible Essex welcomed the Parish Council’s initiative, “The Edible Essex Project aims to increase the number of people involved in growing their own food. We are delighted to have been able to have a part in creating this orchard, which will be a fantastic and valuable community resource.”
As there have been extensive gravel workings in Chignal St James since the 1960s which are now used as waste landfill sites, the orchard project was eligible for an award from the Lafarge-Tarmac Landfill Communities Fund. The funding award covered the costs of developing the orchard. Site preparation and planting were carried out by contractors Transscape in spring and a planting ceremony in April allowed residents, Councillors and funding organisations to put the last few fruit trees in the ground and to plant some of the 420 perimeter hedgerow trees and shrubs donated by The Woodland Trust. Despite heavy
showers, some 50 people turned up to show their support, some meeting for the first time and enjoying the chance to do something practical together.
There has been a focus on Essex and East Anglian varieties of fruit tree in the orchard. Enhancing the value to wildlife was part of the vision as was creating a well-managed and tidy site. An area has been cleared and seeded as a wild flower meadow and after a site survey, with the help of Chelmsford City Council’s NEAT Team, further plants will be added as plugs in the grassland.
Most importantly, the orchard will be a place where local families can enjoy and learn about the trees, the fruit and the surroundings. Every opportunity is already being used to engage as many people as possible in how the orchard grows and develops with a dedicated email firstname.lastname@example.org and with regular
briefings sent to ‘Orchard Friends’ and placed on the Chignal website www.essexinfo.net/thechignals.