Honley Community Orchard

The Beginning of the journey - Autumn 2020


The idea of creating Honley Community Orchard began with the drafting of a Land Manage-ment/Biodiversity Plan for the fields and woodland that were managed by Honley Village Commu-nity Trust CIO. This was produced towards the end of 2020. The Community Orchard received support from a couple of ‘experts’ on managing Green Spaces and so this gave the green light to take the next step.

Research on the internet into community orchards helped to develop ideas about how we might be able to proceed. Recognising that it was too late for us to start planting an orchard in 2021 our aim was to plant our first trees in Spring 2022.


Next Steps - Spring/Summer 2021


There were several strands to the development of ideas about the community orchard.

  1. Involvement of Honley JIN School. Following contact with Honley JIN School about the work of the Trust in October 2020 I approached the Headteacher in January 2021 about the involve-ment of the school in the development of the orchard. She was very keen on the idea and in summer 2021 she did an assembly on apple growing and one of the teachers, Kath, volun-teered to be the link teacher for the orchard. Kath and I were able to meet in July to discuss how the children could be involved.

  2. Fund Raising. I wanted to ensure that we had sufficient funds to both establish and develop the orchard. So in the Spring The Trust was accepted as one of the charities to be involved in The Big Green Match Fund which took place for one week towards the end of April 2021. Our aim was to raise £2500 and this would be match funded by The Oglesby Trust. This was a very successful campaign and we raised the money within 4 days, eventually raising over £6000 in total, of which £2000 was allocated for the orchard. Early in 2022 we were also successful in obtaining a grant of £1000 towards the orchard from Holme Valley Parish Council.

  3. Seeking Advice and Developing Knowledge. I was very aware that we did not have the ex-pertise within the Trust to make a success of establishing an orchard. It was recommended to me that I made contact with The Northern Fruit Group (NFG). So I had a helpful telephone con-versation with Hilary Dodson, Chair of the NFG, in January which gave some ideas of time-scales. And then, once covid lockdown ended I was able to meet with Hilary at the Dewhurst Road allotments in June. Subsequently I’ve volunteered there whenever I can make it and through Hilary and the other volunteers have begun to learn about fruit growing and orchards.

Autumn/Winter 2021


  1. School and Community Involvement. In September a small group was formed to share ideas about the orchard. This included Kath (representing the school), Sarah (a Trust volunteer and representative of Community Growers) and Phil (a local resident and musician). We decided on the simple name of Honley Community Orchard and discussed some of the aspects such as the involvement of the school and preparation of the orchard area. Hilary Dodson very kindly offered to do an apple tasting workshop at the school and Year 4 were chosen for this lesson, which took place on in November. It was very successful at generating interest in the school. The children tasted four different types of apple, drew them and described what they looked like. A similar workshop was undertaken later in the day with Trust volunteers and some of the Trustees.

  2. Developing Knowledge. During this time I volunteered at the Dewhurst Road allotments and developed my knowledge and understanding of pruning and maintaining the trees, the range of apple varieties and the process of generating new apple trees.

  3. Seating. When we had to fell some trees on Magdale this was an opportunity to use some of the trunks to create seating. The tree surgeon created a variety of shapes for the benches and these were put on one side until the orchard was planted.

  4. Music. Recognising that celebrations are an important part of a Community Orchard - wassail-ing, blossom celebration and Apple Day - I was keen to see how this could be developed. For-tunately Phil picked this up and took a real interest in the project. He composed ‘The Apple Song’ during the winter and developed it with his singing group.

Spring 2022 - Planting the Orchard


  1. Sourcing the Trees. Due to the relative shortage of apple trees this season the orchard trees were sourced from several places. Hilary and I visited Beardsworths and selected 13 trees, 8 were provided by Peter Nichol, and the rest came from Otley.

  2. School Involvement. The school were again involved prior to the planting of the orchard. On 29 March Hilary did a workshop on grafting with some of the Year 4 children and these trees were planted in the school garden. The other year 4 children completed art work related to ap-ples and also learnt “The Apple Song” composed by Phil who worked with the children with other members of his singing group. The afternoon finished off with a school assembly at which the Year 4 children sang ‘The Apple Song” to the rest of the school.

  3. Orchard Planting Day - Sunday 3 April. The planting day was advertised to Trust volunteers and on Facebook, as well as through the school newsletter. To prepare for the planting the grass had been cut and Hilary and I arrived early to mark out the location of trees. Volunteers began to arrive at 11am and the numbers gradually increased during the morning. We had all ages taking part and 25 trees were planted, all of a different variety. The ground was not easy with some large stones under the topsoil that had to be contended with.

    We had suggested to people to bring their own picnic for after the planting, but most people headed for a table of sandwiches, cakes and glasses of apple juice provided by my family. No-one went hungry! We were also entertained by ‘Cakehole', Phil’s singing group. They sang a number of songs and ended with ‘The Apple Song’. It is a song that we will sing time and again during our orchard celebration days.

    It was a most enjoyable and productive day. An excellent start to Honley Community Orchard that will be the focus of activity, contemplation and pleasure for the community for many years.

  4. Rustic Benches. A month after the planting of the orchard we positioned some rustic benches around the perimeter. The benches were created from trees on Magdale that needed to be felled due to disease. They provide an opportunity for people to sit, contemplate and admire the views around.


Spring 2023 - Additional Trees


In Spring 2023 we planted 6 pear trees, 2 crab apple trees and a mulberry tree to add to the vari-ety in the orchard. All of the trees survived the drought in 2022 with some additional watering by volunteers and by the end of 2023 there were all looking healthy. Any fruit produced has been taken off in the July of the last two years so that the energy can be focused on tree growth. We will continue to do this for another two years in the hope that this will produce more abundant fruit growth in the years to come.


Autumn 2023 - The Bee Bank


In Autumn 2023 we constructed a Bee Bank above the orchard in order to attract solitary bees, of which there are nearly 250 species in the UK. Solitary bees create short tunnels in which the fe-males lay their eggs. They carry out a vital role in pollinating our crops, flowers and trees. This will hopefully help with the orchard and wildflowers. This project was funded by a grant from Natural Kirklees. Details of the construction can be found elsewhere on the website but it is an integral part of the orchard.



Future Plans


While there are no plans to plant any more fruit trees at this stage we are not ruling that out in the future. However, we do wish to consider how we might use the Community Orchard as a venue for some related activities. These could include wassailing in January, celebrating the apple blossom in the Spring, and celebrating Apple Day in October. In the longer term we may be able to consider purchasing the equipment to produce apple juice.