More than 50 people turned out on Saturday to plant a community orchard in Cowick Barton Fields.
Families, local residents and tree enthusiasts all braved the mud and cold wind with shovels, wheelbarrows and 15 native, locally grown trees in hand.
The orchard is part of a project funded by Alcoa that has seen Active Devon team up with Exeter City Council to create an activity trail across Cowick Barton Fields.
This means that, rather than being a conventionally shaped orchard, the trees – including pear, mulberry, damson and cherry – run in a line that will allow people to follow the trail and enjoy the trees’ produce.
Laura Robinson, Community Organiser and coordinator for the Activity Trail, hopes that the orchard and the trail as a whole will have a positive impact on the local community and the health and wellbeing of its residents: The aim of the activity trail is to increase the amount of physical activity locally. The trees will enhance the space and provide more opportunities for community events such as harvesting and food education.
In addition to the community orchard, the event was also used to plant a new Lucombe Oak, a variety of tree that was originally grown in William Lucombe’s nursery around 250 years ago in what is now Pinces Gardens.
This particular tree was grafted from an original Lucombe Oak, now sited at Killerton House, just outside Exeter. Local residents Yvonne Fryer and Julia Harbor, who have done extensive research on the Lucombe Oak’s relationship with Exeter and were the driving force behind its reintroduction to Cowick Barton Fields, had the honour of planting the tree, with support and enthusiasm from a small crowd of onlookers and spade bearers.
Everyone present felt the event was a huge success and Laura Robinson felt it reflected the strength of the local community: "The day highlighted the amazing community spirit of St Thomas, from residents and local groups that have been involved as well as new faces coming together to enhance this treasured green space."
Members of the public are being encouraged to take pictures of the trees and share them @activedevon @laurarobinsonCO #activetrail to raise awareness of the community orchard.