Community orchard getting ready for Spring!

Friday 9 February 2024

Pupils from Roddensvale School in Larne recently returned to the vibrant community orchard they helped plant in Larne Town Park to check on its progress and help with its maintenance.

Pupils from Roddensvale School with their teacher Cllr Donnelly, Lynsey Poole, Chairperson of Larne Area Community Support Group and Council staff.

Accompanied by their teacher, Councillor Maeve Donnelly, the green-fingered students helped MEA Council’s Parks and Open Spaces Development and Operational Teams to mulch around the thriving fruit trees that have been planted since the Climate Canopy project began in March 2023 across the Borough.

Mulch is a thick layer of material placed over the soil and around plants - used to suppress weeds and lock moisture into the soil - while acting as a physical barrier to drying winds and direct sun. This means the trees will stay hydrated and the need for watering will be reduced.

When the mulch breaks down it also provides organic matter and minerals for the young trees which will help blossom and grow fruit. Mulch also helps to improve the soil structure by encouraging the activity of beneficial organisms such as earthworms, fungi and bacteria.

Councillor Donnelly said: “My students have really relished helping-out with the orchard.  They couldn't wait to get back to check its progress.  The orchard project has given them great pride and they love to know that their hard work will reap benefits for all the community in the years to come. They can't wait to see the fruits of their labour in the Autumn when we return.”

Chris Wood, Council’s Woodland Engagement Officer added: “Thanks to the Woodland Trust we have secured funding to enable pupils and the wider community to be involved in tree planting projects. This orchard is a great example of a multi-beneficial project as it is helping increase tree cover plus the added benefit of food for free. This type of project can be replicated on any small site and can be enjoyed for generations to come.”

The community orchard is a co-operative project with Larne Community Fridge - an environmental activity run by Larne Area Community Support Group.  Lynsey Poole, Chairperson of Larne Area Community Support Group, said: “The orchard continues to grow and thrive with loving care from students, volunteers and Council. It is the hope that this collaborative community project will be used for generations to come, providing a space for education, foraging and sharing of fruit surplus - along with a habitat for local wildlife, breathing new life into an otherwise unused space.”

Orchards can provide food and shelter for a variety of animals, such as insects, birds, bats, foxes and small mammals. Fruit trees produce nectar, pollen, fruits and seeds that will attract and nourish different species. They also offer nesting sites, roosting spaces and hiding spots for animals. Orchards can create habitat diversity by adding different layers of vegetation and can connect with other habitats, such as hedgerows, ponds, and woodlands, to form ecological corridors.

For further information or if you would like to plant some trees, please email Chris Wood, Woodland Engagement Officer, at E: