25th June 2024

Newcastle Community Orchard – a Fruitful Benefit For Everyone!

An area of amenity grassland in Newcastle has been transformed into a vibrant community orchard during Spring 2023. This ambitious project, a partnership initiative between Newry Mourne and Down District Council and Mourne Heritage Trust, has brought together local’s and environmentalists to cultivate a shared vision of sustainability and community enrichment.

The new orchard, located in Donard Park, is now home to a several varieties of apple, plum and pear trees providing fresh, locally grown produce. By planting a range of fruit trees, the initiative also creates a green oasis that fosters biodiversity. Once fully established, the fruit trees will support and feed a variety of wildlife. In spring, their blossoms will offer a vital food source for pollinators emerging at the end of winter, and in autumn, any remaining fruit will serve as a valuable food supply for birds such as thrushes and blackbirds.

Newry Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Pete Byrne said, “This is a wonderful initiative; orchards are a great space for everyone and offer many opportunities for community and educational activities. From winter or summer pruning and fruit thinning work parties to summer picnics and autumn picking sessions the orchard enables people to connect with nature by becoming custodians of these trees. I encourage the people of Newcastle to visit the orchard, to take ownership of it and to enjoy the fruits it will be produce in the coming years.”

Martin Carey, Chief Executive of the Mourne Heritage Trust, said, “The Mourne Heritage Trust is pleased to have collaborated with the Council to enhance this prominent site for both biodiversity and the community. Our staff and volunteers enjoyed engaging with locals and park users throughout the project. We look forward to seeing our much needed and under-pressure pollinator insects as well as bird populations, benefit from this natural larder.”

During its first year, the orchard, faced some challenges, including vandalism that resulted in some of the trees being damaged and destroyed. Additionally, local wild deer, heavily browsed some of the young trees despite efforts to prevent this, leading to further losses.

These trees have now been replaced by dedicated volunteers with the Mourne Heritage Trust, and additional tree guards and natural deer repellents have been added for protection to ensure the orchard’s long-term success. Further options for repelling browsing deer will be applied in late Autumn.

This project is funded through the NIEA Environment Fund. Funding from NIEA is provided from the proceeds of the Carrier Bag Levy.

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