Community blossoms in Sunny Hunny

By Nick Gardner | April 30 2017

Community blossoms in Sunny Hunny

Blog Category: General updateBlog Tags: Children & Young People, Children & Young People, Children & Young People and Children & Young People

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    What a great day for a visit to the beach!  A typical spring day: slightly overcast with some decent sun – and a light breeze to remind us that the summer was still “around the corner”, despite what early April might have promised!

    Walking around Hunstanton in north Norfolk, this May bank holiday weekend, a quick scan of the horizon produced the odd hopeful (shirt-less men on the beach playing footie), a gang of pessimists (decked out in full wet weather gear & wellies), motorcyclists in full leathers alongside families in a range of attires. As for me, it was shorts plus hoodie and rain jacket – prepared for any eventuality… and none.

    My eldest, looking cool on the beach…

    Having survived the ever-present beach resort slot machines, giving the fish & chips brigade a wide berth, and enjoyed the first ’99 flake of the year – we had a brief wander around Hunstanton High Street. In between the discount shops & average cafes, the local bakery was doing a roaring trade, and that’s where I spotted an eye-catching sign for “Blossom Day” strapped to a lamp-post alongside an intriguing pom-pom created by the local brownie troop. My eye was caught.

    As I dragged the family off to catch the last quarter of an hour (carefully choosing to ignore calls of ‘they’re about to close‘ and ‘what’s the point?‘), we rounded the corner to an unexpected sight – a packed field outside the ‘Hunny’ Community Centre, and – to the delight of my 4-year old daughter – a fire engine AND a bouncy castle. Joy of joys!  Serious excitement from the back seats. As we parked up the car, a “told-you-so” smile still flickering at the corner of my lips, I turned my head to see the turrets of the castle sink below the eyeline of the cream tea tent as it rapidly deflated.  Walking, half-running, towards it in misplaced hope, we got a better view as the fire engine drove off.  This was definitely “pack-down” time, and I had an uphill battle to fulfil those dashed expectations.

    Luckily for me the first lady I met, selling home-made scones with her daughter, managed to put my thoughts onto more interesting things as I heard about the Hunstanton Community Orchard and was quickly introduced to the wonderful Kate Dunbar – local councillor and chief orchardist – who dragged me off for a quick tour.  

    Generously, I got a thorough tour of the site despite it being their busiest event of the year.  Over 100 fruit trees – including Norfolk apples, pears, apricot and plum – all chosen, sponsored & planted by local businesses, community groups, individuals and families.  Through Fields in Trust, the group of Trustees had secured a 999-year lease on the land which is tended and maintained by local volunteers. A back area was given over to more wild growth, fruiting hedgerow, and wildflowers.

    Children are not only welcomed, but actively involved. The local troop of ‘beavers’ had planted sunflowers, girl guides had created a wildflower meadow, and scouts had built a wonderfully-intricate bug hotel.  I met an employee of the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, and a teacher at the local school, who were both thrilled with the project! Kate announced that there was nothing she loved more than seeing children roaming free and enjoying playing games and exploring the undergrowth at the back of the site!

    Thoughtfully, the group had already carried out a baseline biodiversity survey on the site before converting it into a community orchard, and were looking forward to monitoring the results over the coming years.  

    All in all, I had stumbled upon a magnificent example of a well-thought through community project, which looks to have all the ingredients to be set up for the long term: clear tenure, a strong management and governance structure, and lashings of enthusiasm.  From the nugget of a great idea, the project is receiving lots of interest from other potential community orchards, eager to hear more about how they could replicate a similar project in their locality.

    And as I returned to the field above and the dying throes of Blossom Day, a day very much put on for the local residents rather than tourists, I found a happy daughter brandishing a toy bow-and-arrow set, the spoils of a successful fairground game. 

    All’s well that ends well!

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Nick Gardner

Nick is the co-founder & Chair of Semble. He loves nothing more than bringing people together to achieve marvellous things. Having dabbled with a few career paths, Nick found his niche working with local communities on issues that mattered to them. A trained youth worker, Nick is also on the board of Outdoor People. His favourite colour is orange, and he likes growing stuff and eating pizza.