Nantwich’s Community Orchard has been spruced up by Reaseheath College horticulture students and Nantwich in Bloom volunteers in readiness for spring.

Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Level 2 Certificate in Practical Horticulture students plus community volunteers spent a tutored session winter pruning the fruit trees in the orchard, which is on Nantwich Riverside near Shrewbridge Road.

The community orchard was established in 2008 to help preserve and maintain traditional fruit varieties and has 47 fruit trees including 27 apple varieties, three types of pear tree and three types of plum tree.  Any passer-by can pick and sample the fruit during the harvesting period.

Old Cheshire apple varieties include ‘Minshull Crab’, ‘Arthur Barnes’ and ‘Millicent Barnes’,  which were raised at Eaton Hall, while rare northern English varieties include ‘Golden Spire’ and ‘Keswick Codlin’. All require expert pruning so the students and volunteers were supervised by Master of Horticulture and retired Reaseheath lecturer Harry Delaney.

The orchard was the idea of nurseryman Tony Gentil, a former deputy head of horticulture at Reaseheath, and his wife Liz, a fellow college lecturer.  It was dedicated to Tony’s memory following his death in 2012 and Reaseheath has maintained its links by planting new trees, carrying out the annual pruning and offering expertise.

Nantwich in Bloom volunteers led by Malcolm Reid and Sue Sherwood carry out the general maintenance of the orchard, while Cheshire East Council is responsible for mowing the grass.

Nantwich in Bloom Chair Sue Sherwood said: “We are very grateful for the continued support of Reaseheath staff and students in the maintenance of Nantwich Community Orchard.

“This partnership emphasises the co-operation between Reaseheath and the local community and also provides valuable hands-on experience for the adult students who are studying for a part-time RHS practical horticultural qualification.

“We were delighted that Harry Delaney gave up his time to lead the workshop and to instruct the students and Nantwich in Bloom volunteers in the art and science of pruning.”

Student Lisa Podmore of Nantwich said: “It was really interesting to be learning specialised skills from such an enthusiastic and knowledgeable expert, and to be improving the orchard at the same time.”

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