Planting in a pandemic: St Paul’s Church's orchard project
Those familiar with St Paul’s Church in Sketty will know that it has a large churchyard, about one half of it taken up with the graveyard and buildings – the church, parish centre and vicarage. The rest of it, which adjoins Singleton Park, is parkland.
In our move towards becoming more ecologically sound and to do our small bit to combat global warming, it was decided to plant an orchard on part of that land and we were fortunate to receive a generous grant for this. This was planned before the pandemic struck whereupon everything came to a halt. Towards late autumn 2020 we were alerted that action needed to be taken on the orchard otherwise the grant would be withdrawn. The lockdowns increased our problems considerably with the lack of meetings and face to face contact although flurries of emails ensued.
The area for the proposed orchard was measured and marked out and the number of trees to be planted determined by taking into account the spread of the canopy of each tree and to allow for sufficient room for the occasional mowing between the trees. Markers were placed exactly where each tree would eventually be planted, 25 in total.
Trees, such as plums, cherries, crab apples and medlars, were meticulously sourced focusing on Welsh varieties or ones which are suitable for our mild and damp climate. By early December twenty two young tress had been delivered which needed rapid ‘heeling in’ to various parishioners’ vegetable plots in order protect their roots.
Some days later a socially distanced few met with our sharpened spades for a demonstration by members of the Orchard Project on the method of planting these young ‘maiden’ trees to give them the best possible chance of survival and growth. This was a revelation for us who thought that a hole would be dug and the trees interred! We were rapidly disillusioned! At the end of that morning we had planted and staked two trees.
The Saturday before Christmas a mixed age, distanced group of 18, met to carry out the planting of half the trees, the previously taught being the teachers showing the intricacies of planting in the approved fashion and all worked with a will. A further planting was planned for the new year but along came another lockdown so that had to be abandoned.
Earlier this month an experienced horticulturist in our team warned that the remaining heeled in trees needed planting permanently without delay as damage could ensue in their present position so a small group of - by this time - experienced volunteers planted them.
Meanwhile, a couple of cases of Covid-19 had struck the suppliers of the tree accoutrements, such as weed mats, and the company promptly closed doors for some weeks delaying their arrival.
Sadly, because of current restrictions due to the pandemic, community involvement at the present time has of necessity been strictly limited although opportunities will occur in the future.
It is good to think that in years to come the community will benefit from the fruits of our labours even if it is only to aid the local wildlife! And every tree planted will in a small part help to support our fragile planet.
Elaine C Gale.