Half-mile long fruit tree avenue on Leeds estate will be visible from motorway

Community orchard tree planting at an earlier event at Beck Meadows in Barwick in Elmet.

Community orchard tree planting at an earlier event at Beck Meadows in Barwick in Elmet.

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A half-mile long avenue of fruit trees is set to be created on a Leeds estate - and organisers hope it will be visible from the nearby motorway when it is fully established.

The first trees in the community orchard on the Cottingley Hall estate will be planted on Monday as part of what residents say could be a record-breaking 100 tree community orchard.

Several varieties of apple tree, including heritage varieties such as Lord Lambourne, plum, pear, mulberry, olive, walnut, sweet chestnut and almond trees, will be planted on the land that used to be considered a dumping ground.

On Monday, volunteers will be planting the first trees on the estate, which has the intercity railway at one end, a ring road encircling it and the M621 junction at the other end.

Eight sites across Leeds are being turned into community orchards in the coming weeks as part of a major tree-planting campaign being carried out across the country.

Fruit trees are being planted at locations including Morley, Killingbeck, Swarcliffe and Farsley, while a hidden council-owned tree orchard at Ouzlewell Green is being restored.

It is part of the Helping Britain Blossom project, aiming to plant and restore 100 community orchards nationwide by 2017.

Alan Thornton , Helping Britain Blossom Leeds project manager said: “The location of the Cottingley Hall orchard is testimony to the fact that you don’t have to live in the country to have

a community orchard.

“What you do need is a passionate group of people to take on its care, which is what Cottingley Hall has with its dedicated Cottingley in Bloom volunteers, who’ve been known to plant 7,000 daffodil bulbs in less than two hours.

“They’ve got the enthusiasm. Our involvement is to provide the knowledge, tools and trees needed to create a sustainable orchard.”

Helping Britain Blossom is working alongside environmental regeneration charity Groundwork to encourage the 1,200 Cottingley Hall estate residents to get involved.

Neil Whiting of Cottingley in Bloom said: “There are a lot of people in the tower blocks who keep to themselves, as well as people living in sheltered accommodation and those with special needs.

“The orchard is a wonderful vehicle through which to integrate the diverse communities that live here.

“Having something physical to do which unites everyone behind a common cause is less intimidating than turning up at a coffee morning.

“Gardening is a great leveller because everyone gets dirt beneath their finger nails and they’re in the outdoors joining in a healthy past-time as well.

“Once the orchard is established and fruit is ready to pick, we intend holding events such as wassails and apple days.

“One idea is to ask people from different backgrounds to cook dishes using the fruit. People in the estate are curious about what their neighbours eat so it would be superb to create an event like this as people all over the world feel at ease communicating through food.”

Councillor Angela Gabriel, who also chairs Cottingley in Bloom, said: “I’m delighted at the prospect of a community orchard, which is and will continue to bring residents together for community events, such as fruit picking and pie making.

“We planted a few fruit trees 10 years ago, but we didn’t know what we were doing, so they didn’t survive.

“This time, with Helping Britain Blossom’s teaching, tools and support we’re much more confident and have made group decisions about what to plant and where.

“We’re planting some large apple trees to help protect houses from the motorway traffic noise and are planting early, mid and late flowering varieties of fruit tree which will blossom across a succession of seasons and when established will be seen by M621 drivers.

“We’re hoping an area which one time was a dumping ground will become a record-breaking orchard, possibly the longest in the UK, something Cottingley can be truly proud of.”

- Anyone interested in helping out on Monday should meet at 9.30 am at the Community Centre, Cottingley Approach, LS11 OHQ.