By Peter Barnett
Little orchards will soon be blossoming at Thanet’s Viking Academy Trust schools.
A variety of fruit trees have been planted at Upton Juniors in Broadstairs, Chilton Primary, Ramsgate, and Ramsgate Arts Primary – the Trust’s three partners.
The imaginative project that involved pupils at the preparation and planting stages is thanks to partnerships with The Tree Council’s Farm/Forest at RAPS, and the Harmony Project at Upton and Chilton.
Pupils will play a large part in tending and caring for the trees and they will also form part of ongoing school learning about the environment, nature, sustainability and the need to protect and nurture ecology.
RAPS has received 18 trees – eight apple, three cherry, two pear, three damson and two gage; while 27 various fruit trees are shared between Chilton -13 trees- and Upton receiving 14 trees.
All the fruit will be ready in term time and all varieties are ‘pick and eat’ which will be lovely for the children to be able to graze on fruit that they have picked.
The trees will also provide a bird-friendly environment and will provide them with natural food, as well as attracting other creatures including bees and butterflies.
The preparation at each school was meticulous with specified space between the trees measured, holes dug to the exact depth for the root systems to easily adapt with the nutrients added during planting out, and secure stake supports properly attached.
Executive Head Teacher of Viking Academy Trust Michaela Lewis said: “This is a fantastic project with two excellent experienced partners in The Tree Council and The Harmony Project whose expertise is invaluable.
“The orchards are planted out according to specific instructions and will help expand our existing forest school and open learning spaces on each of the schools fields.
“The value of outdoor learning is well-known and it is something we have been progressing very actively with our Trust – the benefits for children experiencing and developing a range of learning and social skills are so important.
“Our boys and girls will have their own duty of care to look after their orchards, as they do with the diverse planting projects already blossoming in our grounds.
“It will be a lovely fulfilling moment when our children can pick and taste the fruit they have been tending – it will be an object lesson in caring for their environment and supporting sustainability.”
The Tree Council is a firm believer in encouraging young people to actively care for trees.
It states: “We believe in working together for the love of trees.
“We look forward to seeing the orchards grow. We are also encouraging schools to celebrate a new initiative called The Gift of Blossom with some fantastic, fun ideas and resources to inspire young people to stop and enjoy the fleeting magic of spring blossom. They can then use these activities to fill their Orchards for Schools gift box, which they are encouraged to then share with another school to inspire their students to join our growing #ForceForNature.
“We inspire and empower organisations, government, communities and individuals with the knowledge and tools to create positive, lasting change at a national and local level.”
By engaging schools in planting their own orchards, The Harmony Project hopes to reconnect children to the story of where their fruit has traditionally come from and to help them to see how they can be part of the re-creation of local fruit orchards in their communities.
The Harmony Project’s Richard Dunne said: “Learning how to plant an apple tree is not only a wonderful experience for children, it gets them to reconnect to the soil and understand the importance of growing local, heritage varieties of fruit. With so much of our fruit coming from overseas, it is a great way to help children appreciate locally sourced food and to enjoy the different varieties of apple in their orchard.”
The carefully selected heritage fruit trees have been grafted by Grow at Brogdale, the specialist fruit tree centre based at the home of the National Fruit Collection in Faversham.