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Villagers arrive in mass for tree planting and community living.

A perfect Sunday morning village event was held in Hanslope on Sunday the 26th of February, over 100 villagers came down to the local field behind the village hall with spades and garden forks in hand and wellies on their feet to help plant trees in the new community orchard.

It really felt like spring was in the air when the sun was shining and Hanslope village welcomed their new community orchard with a morning of tree planting and villagers coming together and looking to the future.

It was 10am on the sunniest of Sundays and a year of planning and organising had finally developed into what was a fantastic day for the team of locals who have seen their dream become a reality.

Two local environmentalists James Powell and Chris Parker had an idea for a community orchard and when the plans of two local men met the drive of a few local women, that dream became a reality.

hanslope tree planting orchard community
James Powell and Chris Parker

Hanslope is well known as a very community centred place, one of the local organisations is "Hanslope Horticulturalists". For the past two years this group of local horticulture enthusiasts have been uploading and voting on locally taken photos from around the village. Each month of the year the winning photo is displayed online and then collectively they go into a yearly calendar.

This calendar was sold in village businesses and online. When local woman Vicky Crawford started selling the calendar she wasn’t sure where the proceeds would go, all she knew was that she wanted something based around horticulture to benefit from the proceeds.

Here is when the two halves of this fabulous orchard team met.

With the funding from the calendar and the knowledge and drive from the local tree surgeons, plans for the orchard finally started coming together.

photo by Steph McCracken of Steph Loake Photography

The next challenge for the team was to find a site for the orchard. With local land already in use for recreation grounds, new housing developments or privately owned, there really wasn’t much choice or availability. They knew they wanted it to be somewhere green and open and easily accessible to all villagers.

The village hall lies on the outskirts of Hanslope and backs onto a farmers field in which many locals walk their dogs on the surrounding public footpath. Local farmer Robert Beasley who owns this land then offered up the perfect corner of his field to be leased for the project. The team of hopefuls who had started this project could then not believe their luck, the orchard was happening.

Fast forward to this sunny Sunday and the day had arrived for the planting. The village hall itself was where the sign in for tree planting started. Locals were given the opportunity to sponsor a tree, for a lifetime or for a year, and then plant said tree with their own hands.

By 10am when the tree planting officially began, the field was already full of families, neighbours and friends planting trees together.

One family scattered their beloved late dogs ashes in with their tree whilst they were planting.

The family scattering beloved pets ashes with their tree

Children were running from tree to tree with small spades and buckets of compost and the two tree surgeons James and Chris were helping everyone with advice on planting and the size of holes to be dug.

The smiles on the organisers faces expressed exactly how happy they were to see their vision becoming an actuality and how delighted they were by the huge turnout.

Local family planting their tree

The village hall itself was a busy hub of people enjoying delicious cakes and sausage rolls from local family run business “The Cake Tin”.

Children were getting their faces painted with cherries, flowers and apple trees, and some of the younger ones sat making tree themed crafts in their muddy wellies.

Around 40 new trees were planted in the orchard including apples of many varieties, plums, pears, hazelnuts, cherries and even mulberry trees.

The farmer who leased the land to the cause was there planting his sponsored tree with his family, and there were villagers of all ages joining in on the digging.

The trustees of the community orchard (Vicky Crawford, Nici Wilcox and Avril Francome) have managed to turn it into a local charity which should help in the future to gain funding to keep the site maintained and functioning.

Each local that left the planting area, whether they were planting a tree or just along to lend a helping hand, left there with a feeling of being connected to nature and community and with hope for the future and the fruit that the trees will bring.

As the very fitting greek proverb states:

“A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.”

It may not have been all old men who were there planting trees on that day, but the society and community of Hanslope Village that will benefit from this orchard for many decades to come is certainly going to be a great one.

Thanks for reading


Not Such a Soulless City

Shortened article published by MK Citizen online newspaper - click here to read.

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