Long ago, there were orchards in Harold’s Cross. I know I’ve mentioned it before but I like to imagine what the area might’ve looked like back in the 17th. century. The map below from the 1870s shows four large orchards (circled in green) in the countryside around the village green.
So we had the idea for a project to re-establish the tradition of growing apples in Harold’s Cross. We decided to plant new communal orchards in our public spaces, in the parks and urban squares with the aim of raising awareness about biodiversity, the importance of pollination and indeed, the very future health of the planet.
We started with ten apple trees. These were traditional Irish Heritage apple trees which we sourced from Irish Seed Savers in Co. Clare. We organised for representatives from the various streets to take responsibility for individual trees. We had two wonderful events in which the community came together to plant the trees. We then organised a rota so that families would monitor and care for the different saplings.
This is an ongoing project (and more apple trees are planned for autumn 2021) but, to go back to the beginning, it all started with the HX Grow project.
It was just before the first Covid lockdown that the people got together in the neighbourhood to see what could be done about the Climate Crisis. We decided to grow vegetables. We began by planting seeds in germinators. As they sprouted we moved them into the newly established HX Grow polytunnels. We then transferred the seedings into single pots and gradually ‘hardened them off’ so that they got used to being outdoors. Then the sharing began!
We had all got different seeds, some got lettuce, some scallions, some kale etc. Some people got wildflowers to attract the bees. We were learning from each other and we swopped plants so that everyone had a greater variety of plants to care for.
There are now over 150 households involved in the project at this stage. There is a renewed enthusiasm for gardening and learning about the environment – across all the age groups.
There is growing awareness of the natural world and our place in it. Once you’re involved in planting, you begin to notice other things. You become more aware of the weather, the bees, the worms, the slugs, biodiversity, climate change, life, the universe, EVERYTHING.
Most of all, there is a new community spirit developing in the area.
The apple trees are our pride and joy. They are small at the moment but they will grow. We will be planting more trees each year and we look forward to the project developing and flourishing as the years go by.
See below, a short film of the first planting days.
I am putting together a visual record of the project as it continues to develop. The blossoming community spirit and the growing awareness of our place in the natural world feeds into my own artistic practice.
I wrote a special blog post about the project on the 17th of August. I have also been working on a series of apple paintings and some of these can still be seen at the Olivier Cornet Gallery.