The Chairmans Report was given at the first AGM of the Weaverham Community Memorial Orchard on the 19th May 2015
2014 marked the centenary of the start of the First World War and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings. Following a public meeting on December 17th 2013 an Action Group was formed with the aim of planting a Community Orchard of Wareham Russet Apple trees, Cheshire Prunes (damsons), Hazel Pears and other Cheshire Heritage fruit trees, in memory of those villagers (known as Russets) who were killed or injured in both world wars and subsequent conflicts. ‘Wareham/Wairham’ is based on an old pronounciation of Weaverham, and the Wareham/Wairham Russet tree was once prolific in the village until the orchards were cut down to build houses after the Second World War. We aim to bring the tree back from near extinction.
The Action Group met for the first time on Tuesday, 21st January 2014 and have held monthly meetings since then. In March of that year we formed a constitution, and we are now registered as a charity with HMRC. Our charity reference number is EW23706. This means that any donations or sponsorship money we receive from individuals can be gift aided. We are also in the process of applying to become a Company Limited by Guarantee.
Pat Daffern made us an excellent display, which we have taken to the Rose Fete and the Village Show. We also took it to meetings of the Mothers’ Union and the Weaverham History Society, when we were also allowed to give a brief talk about our aims.
We are pleased to say that we have the support of many village organisations, all the schools, St Mary’s Church, and many individual villagers. Our MP, Graham Evans, also supports our project and, in November 2013, provided us with some helpful information. He invited two of us to meet him at his surgery on 7th March 2014, and offered to write a letter of support when we apply for Lottery funding.
In April 2014 we were presented with £125 as start-up funding by the Parish Council, and in November, our three CWAC Councillors, Charles Fifield, John Grimshaw and Alan McKie, awarded us £250 each (totalling £750), from their discretionary community funds.
Alan and Jane Bracegirdle kindly allowed us to send samples of the fruit and leaves from both grafts on their tree to The National Apple Collection at Brogdale in Kent, for formal confirmation that both were Wareham Russets. Since then, they have allowed us to take scions from their tree which have been grafted onto root stock ready for planting next winter.
Our contribution to the Weaverham News has resulted in more interest in our project. We have learnt of more old trees that MAY be Wareham Russets, and, as well as individual villagers expressing an interest in the orchard, Co-op Funeralcare, Northwich has generously offered a contribution towards the cost of the orchard.
Some of us have recently visited Mary Eastwood at Trafford Drive Allotments Community Orchard and Tom Hughes and Paul Quigley at Norton Priory where we also viewed the orchard. We found these visits very helpful.
We spent much of our time searching for a suitable site for the orchard near the village centre, but our applications for land were unsuccessful. However, on 1st July 2014 we met with Neil Oxley, the Woodland Trust site manager, Cheshire and Merseyside. He was very supportive of our project, and offered us the lease of 0.37 hectares (that is: 3700 square metres) of land in Thorn Wood. Although we will have to make an initial contribution to the legal fees, we will only have to pay a peppercorn rent of £1 per year. We are still in negotiations and discussions with the Woodland Trust legal team and the lease has not yet completed.
We intend to join the TCV (The Conservation Volunteers), as their public liability insurance offers a good deal for us. Once we have signed our lease, we will distribute handbills around the village in the hope of getting more sponsorship, and will be in a position to apply to the Lottery Fund, or to large organisations, for funding. We will also need the help of a large band of volunteers to help prepare the land and plant the trees.
Obviously, we will have to plant the orchard over a number of years. We would like to have an information board telling villagers about the orchard and the trees, as well as a notice board with up to date information. It would be good to have picnic benches and seats. The schools and youth groups will be able to pay educational visits to the orchard, and we would like to hold public events, such as Apple Days and Wassailing. This is the future.
I would like to thank the members of the Action Group who have worked so hard to make this project possible: Irene Bush, Steve Doughton, John Freeman, Mike Hornby (our secretary), Peter Sayers, Brian Williams (our treasurer), and Jacquie Williams. I would also like to thank Bethany Hughes for designing our logo, Chris Bell, Janet Birkenhead and Jamie Hughes for their time, and Glen Gidley for his legal advice. Finally, I wish to thank all of you for your continued support, and for coming here this evening.
Tina Johnson, Chairman, May 19th 2015