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July 27, 2011

Earlston plant the seeds for future prosperity

The economic vibrancy of Scotland’s many small towns has long been a source of concern.  With shopping patterns drifting towards the large out of town malls and the seemingly irresistible march of the supermarket, many small towns struggle to be little more than dormitories to the big cities. However, a few have managed to create a niche for themselves – Wigton and West Kilbride being good examples.  The community at Earlston are hoping their plans will bear fruit before too long

It’s crunch time for Earlston as questionnaires, asking residents to get on board with a fruity new project, start being distributed today. 

The recently-formed Earlston Community Development Trust (ECDT) wants to transform the town into a blossoming orchard. 

The project turns the idea of a community orchard on its head. Instead of a single orchard, it is hoped everyone in the town will sign up to planting trees and berry bushes in their gardens.

“We reckon people will be happy to see fruit trees and bushes cropping up on every street corner,” said trust chair Mags Powell. 

“In a few years time, Earlston will be the place to be in spring as the fruit trees display fabulous blossom. The Borders was famous for its fruit 200 years ago, and Earlston is leading the way in bringing back this lost feature of the landscape. 

“As much as 95 per cent of our orchards have been lost due to neglect or development, and it’s time to turn the tide.”

The trust believes there is no end to the potential of the project. Community harvesting, pressing, and processing of the fruit could become part of the town’s annual events and celebrations calendar. And it is hoped blossom will bring in visitors in springtime.

“Who knows, in the future commercial/cottage enterprises could grow on the back of our trees and bushes,” said Mags.

“We hope that creative juices start flowing with ideas for using the fruit, such as jam making, cider, chutney and juice pressing.

Project manager Anne Jepson, told us: “It is not the intention that fruit in private gardens then becomes accessible to the general public.

“Any fruit that people grow in their garden will be theirs for the eating, but they may wish to share the crop and engage in community fruit pressing and other fun stuff. Bushes and trees in open space will be freely available to anyone.”

David Kennedy, an ECDT member helping develop the project, explained: “We all know that we should do our best to reduce food miles and waste, and we all know that we should try to add biodiversity to the world we live in. 

“Orchards and fruit offer all this and a lot more, so we are asking the community to help us make this project grow in every sense of the word.”

The trust is looking for volunteers to help plant on open areas and school grounds, woodland walks and field margins. These volunteers could then be trained in the care, maintenance and pruning of the trees in the town’s care. The questionnaires will gauge public interest and willingness to become involved. Completed forms can be droped in the distinctive Earlston Orchard Town collection boxes at Borders Farm Supplies, Rutherford’s garage/filling station, the CO-OP or Donaldson the butchers.