Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Scottish Orchards Gathering

The Scottish Orchards event in the Royal Botanic Gardens on the 16th of June was quite a remarkable place to be. The dark rain clouds hanging over the capital all day did little to dampen the enthusiasm of the 100 plus delegates who listened to a wide range of speakers who outlined their projects and their hopes for furthering the cause of fruit growing in Scotland.

Two MSPs were present to give their support after the introduction by John Hancox and then there was a talk by Dr Jim Paterson of the Entire Kintyre campaign. Over 1400 fruit trees have been planted on the Kintyre peninsula. Jim has a vision of such regional orchards all over Scotland. I attended his workshop in the afternoon to find out more about his project. He simply began by asking schools, housing associations and other public bodies and voluntary groups if they would like some trees and if they could donate funds to the campaign. It worked remarkably well and is still continuing as those participating come up with more funds for trees.

Interesting too was Charles Winstanley, chair of NHS Lothian who talked about the creation of community gardens on NHS land for fruit and veg growing. The only drawback here are short-term leases as the land available may be needed for development in the future. Charles outlined the health benefits of patients, staff and local communities growing their own food.

Officialdom was represented by Keith Geddes, the Chair of Central Scotland Green Network. He focused on how activists can influence politicians.

And then there were details from representatives of many of the ongoing projects in Scotland ranging from orchards on public land in Glasgow, St Andrews and Buckhaven to restoration type projects in walled gardens not open to the public.

All the delegates seemed determined to extend the concept of communities growing their own fruit throughout Scotland. I’m sure many plotters and others in Nairn interested in growing fruit and veg would have found themselves instantly at home in the company of the Scottish Orchards folk. Growing your own food can have an empowering effect on individuals and communities as we have witnessed in Nairn and the idea of planting more fruit trees in the community can have the same effect.

John Hancox the chair of Scottish Orchards will be coming to Nairn in November as a guest of Nairn Allotment Society and will be giving a talk in the Community Centre. Watch the website for more details nearer the date.

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