We have approximately 3/4 acre of land gifted to the village of Messing by Essex County Council. The parish council is developing this into a community orchard for the benefit of the village and the surrounding area. Once completed there will be full public access, and we aim to make it access friendly for those with mobility difficulties. We already have funding promised for a mobility access gateway and an outdoor classroom.
The image below shows the proposed ambitious plan for this site.
We are now looking for further support to develop disabled car parking facilities and a disabled-access pathway round the site.
In 2007 traditional orchards were designated as a priority habitat in the UK biodiversity action plan because of the variety of flora and fauna that can be supported in this environment. At one time orchards were common, often at the centre of village life and a cornerstone to rural economy, but in recent years over 70% have been lost and with this loss came the loss of an important wildlife habitat. We aim to create a site that will form part of the Living Landscape in North Essex and a home for birds, bees, other insects, mammals etc. with a mix of local heritage and commercial fruit trees.
We will sell some of the fruit produced to help maintain the orchard and this will assist in reducing food miles, giving local people access to local produce. Essex wildlife Trust are supporting this project with valuable guidance and inspiration to ensure we maximise the environmental benefits.
We all need places where we can relax, work, play, and learn. A place where people of all differing backgrounds and abilities can come together and join in a shared activity, building and maintaining a valuable asset for the whole community.
We aim to ensure the orchard will enable access for all with a mobility kissing gate to allow access for wheelchairs and pushchairs, 2 disabled car parking spaces and an easy access path round the site.
The orchard will also be the focus of community events such as teddy bears picnics and egg hunts, outdoor plays and music events, wildlife events such as bat and moth evenings and annual apple days.
The site is within a short walk of the local primary school who will be using the outdoor classroom for environmental studies, learning about fruit production and the value of orchard sites to wildlife. The outdoor classroom will double as a bird hide to enable close views of winter thrushes feeding on windfall fruit.
When not in use by the school the outdoor classroom will be used by the local community as a base for learning skills such as pruning and hedge laying, fruit juice production, birdwatching and other environmental activities.
Local Economy Benefits
The orchard will provide an important habitat for pollinators such as bees. The value of bees in pollinating agricultural crops has been estimated between £120 -200m per year but they are susceptible to diseases which can kill them. Community orchards such as ours are known to provide valuable havens for bees and other pollinating insects, enabling them to thrive.
Where possible we will use local trades people to help provide the infrastructure and trees for the orchard giving direct benefit to the local economy.