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Sustainable water comes to Whyke Community Orchard

Jenny Cole from Whyke Community Orchard tells us how the team have got together to build a truely sustainable water supply for their trees:


We have baby trees on the Whyke Community Orchard, none of them have been in the soil here for more than a year yet. Like all babies they need to drink frequently or they will dry out. Our heritage sussex apple trees came from the Brighton Permaculture Trust who have helped to plant orchards all around Sussex. The visiting expert Peter May has written a book on the subject with Brian Shorter: Apples & Orchards in Sussex.

Rain, or lack of....

This year it rained in October, and I think it also rained in April quite a lot. There was a long time in between that was dry, so we had to take water up to the orchard to keep the trees going. There’s no outside tap on site or anywhere vaguely nearby, and even if there were, the nearest houses are about 200ft away, a long hose indeed.

So what to do about water?

How about a roof on legs with water butts underneath?

The community gets onboard

The team asked around on the Whyke estate for wood, and people were very happy to give donations. There was a heap from a widow who had been wondering who could use the pile of planks and posts she’d inherited. Also an accumulated bonfires' worth from someone who couldn’t bear to throw away anything useful, and more from another family whose fence had been repaired, which gave us three longish and sturdy 3 by 3inch posts; so there was plenty of wood.

We also found some wavy roofing material made from corrugated cement down the bottom of our garden, left over from shed re-roofing. This looked easy enough to use, provided we drilled holes in it. With all this moved onto the orchard site and the hole-digging tool, which I’m told is called a clam, as that what it looks like, we measured up and dug holes for the posts that would be the legs of the structure. The upright posts went in more or less vertically, and Nick who is skilled in carpentry, turned up in the nick of time to help with cross beams and skew nailing on the first work party morning.

The fourth post wasn’t donated, but came from Covers Building Merchants on Quarry Lane. They gave us a discount as it was for a community project (many thanks Covers). They said they didn’t do roofing nails but that Goodrowes down the road did. Goodrowes on Quarry Lane sells garden machinery, so after a quick fantasy about a ride-on-mower for our 100ft x 30ft plot I ended up at the Hornet branch of Goodrowes. Again friendly service and good advice about what size drill to try, together with 14 roofing nails and community discount (thank you Goodrowes).

Rainwater goods

More donations, especially from Pete who made sure we had a downpipe, and from Alf a gutter to catch the water off the roof, and an elbow send it at an angle into the waiting wheelie bin (also from Alf.) It took a bit of time to work out how to connect all the black sleeving together, it was like a jigsaw puzzle without all the bits, but with the help of some gaffer tape and a few cable ties everything eventually did do what it was supposed to do. The wheelie bin has a tap midway down, so can be used to fill watering cans or carboys.

Having got this far through the project, now all we need is the rain to fill the water container plumbed into the system. We could also make use of three more water containers and a hose between them. I think I’ll try Freegle next. They’re usually a good source of recycled goods. We’re just about to double the number of trees on site at the Whyke Community Orchard with another hundred saplings to make the rest of our new hedge, but that’s a tale for another time....

Perhaps you‘d like to be on the work party; planting tree saplings, or making improvements and maintaining the orchard? If so please email me and I’ll add you to the list of willing workers. Jenny.music@lycos.com , or via the web on Grow Chichester (see newsletter section at the bottom of the site).