Hungry few sink teeth into entire crop of free apples

IT was created with the “share and share alike” philosophy in mind.

But some have bitten off a bit more than their fair share from a community orchard designed to provide local residents with free fruit – by making off with the entire crop.

Hungry apple pilferers left Portobello’s community orchard bare this year, leaving other residents with no fruit.

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But those behind the community orchard are putting a brave face on the apple heist and see it as a sign the community aspect of the project is working.

The Donkey Field Orchard at the top of Brunstane Road was established as a community orchard by Portobello Energy Descent and Land Reform Group (Pedal) two years ago. Around 100 apple trees have been planted, as well as a number of others, including plum, pear and fig.

But there were few apples left when it came to staging Pedal’s own Apple Day event, forcing the group to acquire them from elsewhere.

Pedal hopes that by the time the trees are fully established in a few years’ time, there will be enough to go round. Jane Lewis, former chair of Pedal and volunteer at the community orchard, said: “The way that we plan to approach it is, as always, to welcome everyone to come and take part in events at the orchard so we can make it very much an open project.

“Hopefully people will see the value of taking part in community events.

“Most of the trees are in the very early stages so we always knew there was never going to be a big crop this year from the orchard.

“We got apples from other local trees for Apple Day.

“But once the trees become more established, there will be a much bigger crop for more people to enjoy.”

Pedal volunteer Diana Cairns added: “I would not want to be too condemnatory as it is a community orchard with apples there for all to share.

“We are happy for people to help themselves as long as they leave some for others.”

The community orchard is predominantly looked after by members of Pedal.

It organises “work days” for volunteers, while local school children also get involved with the maintenance and upkeep.

Pedal received money from the Climate Challenge Fund last year, which enabled it to buy and plant more trees.

The organisation also introduced bees into the orchard in the summer to pollinate the fruit trees and also to produce honey for local sale.

At the start of the year, six members of Pedal did a beekeeping course, with thousands of bees moving into a hive in the orchard in June.

Although the beekeeping project is in its infancy, around 30 jars of honey were produced and it is hoped another hive can be purchased for next year.

Tom Ballantine, member of Pedal and one of the beekeeping volunteers, said: “We are looking forward to next year to see if we can expand.

“We did get a bit of honey at the end and my wife said it was the best honey she has ever tasted.”