The TCTOP story began in 2011 when groups with an interest in traditional orchards met together to see what could be done to halt their decline.
It soon became clear that grant schemes used in the past to restore traditional orchards had not really worked. Using contractors to carry out orchard work had only provided short term benefits and , in addition, there was a real shortage of people with specialist orchard skills.
The TCTOP group decided to try a different approach – focussing on just a few areas and involving the owners and local people in the restoration of orchards, so that the skills and knowledge needed would stay in the community.
They took their inspiration from the Colwall Orchard Group, which began with two enthusiasts who wanted to save the village’s unique orchard landscape. They persuaded local orchard owners to let them help manage and restore their orchards and trained local people to help them do it. Ten years on they have over a hundred members and look after 30 orchards.
The TCTOP group drew together proposals for a project based on this idea and submitted it to the Heritage Lottery, getting approval for development funding. In 2014 they submitted their full proposals to HLF and were delighted to be awarded a grant of £340,000 for a project covering eight key orchard areas across the Three Counties; Gorsley, Kilcot and Longney in Gloucestershire, Whitbourne, Breinton and Ross on Wye in Herefordshire and Rochford & Tenbury, Evesham, Pershore and Alfrick in Worcestershire.
The work was co-ordinated by a project officer and practical training was delivered in our project orchards by mentors from our three ‘skills hubs’ – our county orchard groups. We used local experts to survey the orchards for wildlife, fruit varieties and historical features and to provide skills training, events, celebrations and walks and talks.
The project has been a huge success, thanks to a committed group of expert orchardists and a fabulous network of enthusiastic volunteers. Thanks to an extension of time by HLF the project will have run for 4 years and has become the ‘go to’ place for orchard news, views and expertise in the Three Counties. Its’ legacy is the restoration of 34 orchards, the people in orchard communities who now have the skills to do orchard work, the re-energising of local groups and the amazing Orchard Champions who are ‘flying the flag’ for traditional orchards.