Blooming marvellous

20 November 2018 | Scotland

Clem Sandison

Meet Clem Sandison, the driving force behind a glorious community orchard.

When Clem Sandison was walking with her daughter in Glasgow’s Alexandra Park, she spotted an empty patch of green space. It planted the seed of an idea that has now grown into a lush ‘Food Forest’, with trees and bushes where anyone can pick delicious fresh fruit.

Clem, 38, was working for The Orchard Project, a national charity for community orchards, when she realised she wanted to bring the benefits to her own neighbours.

She said: “I was a regular visitor to Alexandra Park with my daughter. It is bordered by lots of communities and is the main green space in the East End.

“But I noticed there was an area that was empty and barely used, apart from a few dog walkers.”

After nine months of planning and consulting residents about the scheme, digging began in March 2016.

Clem recruited five schools and more than 100 volunteers to plant fruit trees and bushes in the park.

They planted 74 fruit trees and 40 fruit bushes over three days. The orchard is designed to be sustainable and self-regenerating, with lots of low maintenance perennials.

The ‘Food Forest’ is now teaching locals about seasonality and where their food comes from, as well as providing lots of delicious produce and boosting biodiversity.

Clem said: “We started with a school planting day on the Friday and lots of the children returned with their parents the next day.

“We had 120 people working in small teams and those who couldn’t physically manage the planting still came along and brought picnics.

“The turnout was amazing.”

The fruits of their labour are now starting to be enjoyed, with a bumper crop of blackcurrants this summer that were free for everyone to pick and eat.

Clem said: “We put up signs and send out social media alerts to let people know to help themselves.

“Our volunteers also meet up regularly to carry out maintenance and we’ve held workshops for schools and outdoor cookery lessons.”

Local resident Jenny Hickey, 68, took part in the tree planting and now helps out at volunteer days.

She said: "I am so happy to be involved in this wonderful project. It brings together and actively involves all ages, providing nourishment not just for today but for the years to come.”

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