The government’s ‘carrier bag levy’ was started in April 2013; it meant you had to pay a 5p charge when you chose to take a shop’s plastic bag with your groceries. This has raised over £3m since then, much of which has been channelled into the NI Environment Agency’s NGO Challenge Fund, available to community and voluntary organisations for environmental projects.
Transition Town Whitehead has been one of the beneficiaries; we’ve got a grant of almost £8,500 from the fund for our ‘Edible Landscape’ project. With the ready co-operation of Carrickfergus Council, we intend to plant a sustainable and edible community orchard in the Diamond Jubilee Wood.
The grant will enable us to buy almost 200 fruit and nut trees – apples, pears, cherries, damsons, walnut, hazelnut - and a mixture of berry bushes. Within a few years, these trees will be bearing fruit, for the benefit of everyone who visits the wood and, indeed, for the bird population as well.
The planting of this community orchard will take place on the afternoon of Sunday 23rd February, starting at 1pm. We’re planning a full-on family event so, apart from the tree-planting, there’ll be guided walks, artistic endeavours and other attractions. We’ll have experts on hand to tell you the stories of the trees, show you how to forage food for free, teach you how to keep a hedge under control. We’ll help you to build your own bird-box, hang some feeders and make a leaf-print.
Our main task, however, is to plant these trees. We’ll make it easy for you by digging all the holes before you get there so that all you’ll have to do is put the tree in the hole, fill it up with compost and flatten down the soil. Then you can write your name on a label and make it ‘your’ tree.
Jim Kitchen, from Transition Town Whitehead, said, “Planting these trees this year is our investment in the future. In a few years’ time, we’ll literally be able to use the fruits of our labour by making puddings, jams and chutneys from the produce of this orchard. We hope this is the first step in what will become an edible landscape – over the next few years, we can add beehives, fruiting hedgerows and, maybe one day, a full scale community allotment scheme.
So, why don’t you come along and help us take the first steps. It’s all happening on Sunday 23rd February from 1pm to about 4pm. If it’s still raining, put on your boots and waterproofs, bring a spade if you have one, and join us for this planting party. You don’t need to know anything about planting trees; you just need a wee bit of enthusiasm.
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