A Burst of Activity in Blossom Week

The weather was largely very kind to us as we celebrated the final community events of the Fruitful Communities Project throughout FEL's May Orchard Blossom Week 2017 with a 'burst' of activity!

An intensive programme of events was held at various orchard venues around the Inner Forth, the activities being led by School Orchards' Officer, Margaret Miller, working with school pupils and community groups throughout the week.

High Valleyfield Orchard, Fife - Monday 8 May 2017

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A great time was had by Torryburn and Culross primary schools at the High Valleyfield Community Orchard, with help and support from the West Fife Woodland Group who manage the orchard.

The children had planted the trees over a year ago, and they took great delight in seeing where 'their' trees had been planted.  They had a close look at pollination and pollinators, and enjoyed the orchard blossom.

Our thanks to Torryburn and Culross primary schools, and the West Fife Woodland Group.

The Helix Nuttery and Helix Green Team, Falkirk - Tuesday, 9 May 2017

The Helix Green Team and Falkirk Community Trust staff lent their invaluable help to the activities with Victoria Primary School at the Helix Nuttery.

Richard Chatfield, FEL's Revive Falkirk & Forth Upcycling Network Project Officer worked with the pupils to make bug hotels re-using scrap wood. Well done to them for walking over to the Nuttery as part of their Daily Mile! They also enjoyed making clay bugs and looked at pollination and pollinators.

The Helix Green Team were very 'hands-on' to make a large and impressive bug hotel. They enjoyed foraging for resources around the site, and left an interesting structure for people to see.

Our thanks to Victoria Primary School, Falkirk Community Trust staff and Helix Green Team.

Muiravonside Country Park, Falkirk - Wednesday, 10 May 2017

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FEL's Richard was again in action, this time with Whitecross Primary School, to make bat boxes from scrap wood. The pupils went back to school to find out more about bats and to listen to the sounds they make. Simon Bowers, Falkirk Community Trust Countryside Ranger at the park is mounting the boxes on the trees and had promised to let us know if the bats take up residence next year!

The children loved learning about pollination and pollinators and looking at the blossom with magnifiers.  

Some of the feedback from the children included comments like:

‘It was fun and taught me new facts’

‘Mindblowing!’

‘It was a very good learning experience and I’d like to go again!’

‘I’d definitely like to do it again!’

The staff said:

‘Fantastic experience with opportunities for hands on use of tools and microscopes and it was nice that the children were trusted to use the equipment.  It was well organised and the children got a lot out of it – great outdoor learning experience!

The children learned a lot and have made a display back in school with drawings and information about the day and the facts they have learned.  If this activity is to be offered again we would definitely want to take part!’

Our thanks to Whitecross Primary School, Simon Bowers, Falkirk Community Trust Countryside Ranger, and FEL's Richard Chatfield.

Larbert High School at Kennetpans Orchard - Thursday, 11 May 2017

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As part of their Conservation Week, the high school's first year pupils had an enjoyable morning visiting the Kennetpans plum orchard near Clackmannan.

They discussed pollination and pollinators, dissected flowers to see the various parts of a flower, and made patterns from these flower-parts. Pooters - small vessels for gathering and viewing minibeasts - were used to investigate the range of insects that could be found on the Victoria Plum trees and in the grass.

Our thanks to the owners, Bryan & Fiona Frew, Larbert High School, and Kirsty McAllister (IFLI).

Tullibody Garden - Friday, 12 May 2017

St Serfs, Abercromby and Banchory primary schools in Tullibody went along to the Tullibody Orchard in the Tullibody Community Garden and had a grand time looking at flowers, learning about bumblebees, and wandering round the garden with magnifiers, exploring the plants and bugs. They also did an "Orchardeering Quiz" trail on apples.

The children also had an opportunity to see the work that the Project Manager, Sarah Watts, and the volunteers had done in the garden, including the impressive raised beds and polytunnel.

Sarah said that the schools were "buzzing" with the activities that they had done as they left!

One school said, 'The children came back enthused by what they had seen and learned. It was fabulous learning opportunity for our children'.

Our thanks to Sarah and the volunteers at Tullibody Garden, St Serfs Primary School, Abercromby Primary School and Banchory Primary School.

St Mary's Primary School, Bo'ness - Wednesday, 3 May 2017

In the week before the main May Orchard Blossom Week, Margaret visited St Mary's Primary School to work with 212 children throughout the day in the school orchard in glorious sunshine!

Margaret had worked with FEL's Master Orchardist Volunteer, Ian Shearer over the late winter to give the orchard some 'TLC' and bring it back to its best again.

The pupils dissected daffodils to see the various parts of a flower, and Margaret explained about pollination and pollinators and sent the children off to look for flower blossom, and the pollinators that could be found. The nursery children had fun doing a bee dance!

Our thanks to the staff for such positive comments,"[The orchard] looked so forlorn before when the trees were looking a bit twisted - what a difference now - and I am sure the children do notice and take pride in it, and feel part of it!"

"...getting the kids outside and aware of the seasons and all the things in nature we take for granted is great and can then make the science inside all make sense….it was fantastic, and my impression is that the staff felt that too.  I thought both they and the children seemed really appreciative…it was a really good day!"

Our thanks to St Mary's Primary School, and Ian Shearer, FEL Master Orchardist Volunteer.

Kennetpans Orchard, Clackmannan - Saturday, 13 May 2017

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We had a wonderful time in the Kennetpans Orchard on Saturday, despite the rain!

A small, but very keen group of enthusiasts gathered under the gazebo for coffee, juice and cake, and then set off on various activities in the orchard.

There was an 'Orchardeering Quiz' trail, scattered around the orchard, which the children enjoyed, and found the name of the James Grieve apple from their answers.

The children put together the different parts of a bee from the wonderful Bumblebee Conservation Trust bee kit with Margaret's tuition, and drew their own smiley bees! They also explored the orchard and did a minibeast hunt to see what they could find.

Flowers were dissected to see what was inside them, and Margaret explained the roles of each part of the flower and how the bees and other insects used them for nectar and for pollinating the fruit in the orchard. The children stuck the parts of the flower onto paper in a lovely pattern.

One of the other participants did an air quality survey, using the terrific OPAL - Explore Nature Lichen identification guides promoted by TCV Scotland. We found that the orchard had mostly nitrogen-sensitive lichens (Usnea, Evernia and Hypogymnia), meaning that the air quality is very good.

Our thanks to everyone who came along, to the owners Bryan & Fiona Frew.

Riverside Community Orchard - Sunday, 14 May 2017

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What a great time we had at the May Blossom Week - Riverside Community Orchard Family Fund Day on Sunday!

This was the last community event of the 'Fruitful Communities' Project, and the sun shone, and the community came!

There were a number of activities for people to get involved in. The 'plum-and-spoon' race was a popular event. Did we see some thumbs holding down plums?!!

Quiots was a good draw. Bottles were labelled with numbers from 1 - 11 and the competition was to see how many points could be scored in a few throws.

Flowers were dissected and inspected, and patterns made from the flower's parts on paper. Children then put together the parts of a bumblebee using the Bumblebee Conservation Trust's wonderful kit, and drew their own.

Riverside Community Orchard Group members chatted to passers-by about the orchard and raised bed that grows herbs, vegetables and flowers, and the plans for managing them. Anyone is very welcome to come along and help at any time.

We also chatted to Riverside Bowling Club about their Open events on 3/4 June and in August, and there may be possibilities of some joint working there.

To end the day, Margaret, had baked a celebration cake and her daughter had decorated the icing with a beautiful picture of a tree in blossom. It was delicious!

Our thanks to everyone who came along, the Riverside Community Orchard Group, Riverside Community Council, and Viv.