Volunteering chances for green-fingered

Volunteers at the Bullfield Community Orchard in Alnwick.
Volunteers at the Bullfield Community Orchard in Alnwick.

Alnwick Town Council is hosting a Volunteers Job Fair on Saturday, June 27, to try to match organisations with volunteers with the right skills. In the run-up to the event, we will be running articles highlighting some of the voluntary organisations in the town.

Alnwick enjoys the benefit of a number of green-fingered volunteers and organisations who add real value to the town’s environment.

Many in Alnwick are aware of the hanging baskets which adorn Bondgate Within each year, provided and planted by volunteers from Alnwick in Bloom, but do you know of the whole breadth of their involvement in all areas of the town?

Last year, Alnwick in Bloom enlisted the help of offenders, supervised by Northumbria Probation Trust, to help the team to clear and tidy pathways to improve Column Field.

The Community Payback team cleared leaves and litter and swept the paths, which made the area stand out in terms of tidiness. They continued the good work by clearing weeds from path edgeways and improving the general look of a wonderful recreation area for local people.

Sue Allcroft, secretary of Alnwick in Bloom, said: “We really appreciated the hard work and dedication shown by the people carrying out their Community Payback hours.”

Alnwick in Bloom also draws volunteers from the whole community, including children. Budding young gardeners are called upon to join the Sunflower Challenge, run in partnership with the Gazette.

In 2014, employees of Halifax Building Society adopted a neglected part of Greenwell Road and transformed it by planting a herbaceous border and funded the planting of spring bulbs on Column Field.

These and other volunteers such as Clare O’Donnell, who manages Alnwick Garden’s Roots and Shoots garden and her Forget-me-Not programme for disabled and disadvantaged children, together with Jenny MacDowell, who has transformed Gardeners House, were recognised with Civic Awards.

But other groups are also at work in Alnwick. The Friends of the Bullfield Community Orchard was established in 2010 and has now grown to include more than 40 supporters.

The Bullfield Community Orchard is located on the site of an old market garden on Weavers Way; it was neglected for many years and overgrown with weeds.

A small group of enthusiasts established a Community Orchard, freely available to all residents of Alnwick. Northumberland County Council provided the land on a 99-year lease and the Bullfield Community Orchard volunteers have planted a range of fruit and nut trees, soft fruit bushes and created a wildflower area. This year they have added an herb garden too.

One of the volunteers, Martin Swinbank, said: “Working in the orchard has given me new skills. I have learnt so much about tree planting and pruning from other volunteers and get so much pleasure in seeing my efforts with the plants thrive. Our aim when we started was to provide a community amenity. Anyone can come and pick free fruit directly from the trees when it is ripe or help themselves to herbs from the garden. What can be healthier?

“Although the trees are still young, with the passing of each year, they are producing more and more. We encourage children and adults alike to come and use the area for play and recreation.”

Another of the volunteers, Sue Patience, added: ”I get so much from my involvement here, I meet new people, and although I pass on my knowledge to others, I think I get much, much more in return and it’s fun. We would welcome more and more volunteers.”

These are only some of Alnwick’s horticultural and environmental groups who will be attending the Volunteer Fair to be held in the Northumberland Hall on Saturday, June 27, from 10am to 2pm,

So why not go along and talk to one of the many groups who would welcome your involvement.