Perfect Picnic Place Below the Blossom

The final event of Chelsea Fringe Henley was a Picnic Below the Blossom at the new community orchard (between Paradise Road and Lever Road) on Saturday.

The orchard was planted out in January this year by volunteers and boasts 21 different fruit trees which include pears, plums, cherries, and nine apple varieties (one being the local Blenheim Orange) along with an edible hedge of blackberries and raspberries plus a line of grape vines donated by Jan Mirkowsi from the Fairmile Vineyard in Henley.

Jan told us, “In order to ensure that the first crop of grapes are good, the vines need to be kept pruned back for the first two years.  Although the grapes are wine making grapes, they can be eaten although they have a tough outer skin and lots of pips in them.”

As well as Jan giving a talk to the picnickers about the vines, Tuc Ahmed, a Governor at Badgemore School talked about community orchards as he has helped plant one at the school and Jessica Sinclair talked about the river clean up project she is involved.  Kyle Dowling, a new Henley Town Council Park Warden specialising in horticultural also spoke to everyone about how the community could help look after the orchard i.e. weeding, watering, litter and leaf collection (in the Autumn) and checking the stakes and ties on the trees.

Chair of Henley in Bloom, Councillor Kellie Hinton was delighted to see the Morello cherry tree that her and her daughter Hallie had planted.  “I’m chuffed to see that it looks like it has grown quite a lot already in just a few months and can’t wait to see the fruits that have grown too ripen.  I’m really pleased how well the event was supported. It just shows how the community is getting behind this new orchard and the talks were really interesting. We’re very lucky to have found Kyle who has extensive knowledge of horticultural and has taken over the responsibility of the orchard from our former Conservation Park Ward, Marcus Militello whose idea it was who has sadly left the Council.”

Victoria Newton, Co Founder of Chelsea Fringe in Henley said, “The event went extremely well. Thanks to Jan for talking about the vines, Tuc about community orchards and Jess telling us about the river clean up project were all informative and engaging. Most importantly perhaps was the walk about with Kyle from the parks team to give us all ideas about tasks we can safely and usefully perform on our own in the orchard in any spare moments we have. The plants and trees are all establishing well but it’s really key now that local people continue to be involved in looking after and enjoying their orchard.”