Case Study

Growing Orchard Communities in South Devon

Growing Orchard Communities in South Devon

The Growing Orchard Communities project excelled in supporting local people to manage healthy orchards for the whole community to enjoy. It was run by South Devon AONB in partnership with Orchard Link, a local volunteer-run, not-for-profit organisation. The funding mix of the £86,800 project included the Heritage Lottery Fund, public and private sector grants, local authority locality budgets and S106 funds linked to development consents.

Growing Orchard Communities was a 2-year project linking 23 Community Orchard groups to the wider Orchard Link network and developed new ways of working which benefit the natural, physical and cultural heritage of the sites and the wellbeing of the communities.

The groups were supported through training, advice, networking and skill sharing to help them and their orchards become resilient and long lasting assets to their local area.

The project’s approach and outcomes have contributed to at least four of the six key areas of the 25 Year Environment Plan, including use fo land, recovering nature, connecting people with the environment and increasing resource efficiency.

South Devon NL South Devon NL - Benchmaking


What was done

During this project we:

  • Engaged local communities and equipped them with the skills and expertise to manage their orchard sites as thriving community resources. This was achieved through a programme of workshops, training and skills sharing sessions focused on managing orchard sites.
  • Worked with the groups to help them become robust and sustainable community groups, helping them to run events, recruit and work with volunteers, manage themselves and search for extra funding when needed. This was carried out through workshops, training and skill share sessions.
  • Created a community orchard network, which is a forum for sharing skills, experience and expertise. This will provide support for the groups and a chance to meet others working in the same way.
  • Produced a new Orchard Link website with a dedicated community orchards section, as a resource hub and online toolkit for community orchard groups.
  • Delivered large network events for community orchard volunteers to meet each other, learn new skills and share experiences. We also produced new display material and a touring exhibition about the project, as well as online archives on various social media platforms.

These elements were funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund grant, secured by Orchard Link. The delivery of the project was then contracted out to the Community Projects Officer at South Devon AONB, overseen by a steering group made up of members of the Orchard Link committee.

There was also a programme of site works delivered on the ground:

  • site appraisals with an expert,
  • production of site action plans,
  • small grants for site works – landscape enhancements, planting, tree protection, site signage and facilities – informed by the site action plan and carried out by volunteers in the community groups.

These elements were funded by further public and private sector grants – County Council Locality Funds and the Langage Landscape Fund (s106). This funding was secured and administered by the South Devon AONB team.

Community capacity building

  • We introduced the groups to the role that artists can play in their sites as ways to engage more people and non users. This was very successful and we produced school work, music, films, celebrations and performances which enriched the outcomes and outputs of the project.
  • Feedback from the groups involved was hugely positive. For some groups it was the catalyst they needed to reinvigorate the groups, the sites and the communities in which they lived. Without fail they all reported that the training had had a massive impact on their skills and confidence and they felt better placed to care for their orchards as a thriving community asset.
  • The opportunity to meet other volunteers doing the same thing in other villages and parishes has been paramount to the success of this project. The mingling of ideas and a shared passion for orchards has meant that everybody got on really well and enjoyed taking part. This led to a feeling of achieving something bigger than just working in the 23 small orchards and became more about working towards safeguarding and caring for orchards across South Devon.


Funding for the project was made up of:

  • Heritage Lottery Fund £40,500
  • South Devon AONB contribution £5,000
  • Orchard Link contribution £5,000
  • Langage Landscape Fund £30,000
  • S106 other grants £2,200
  • DCC Locality Funds £4,100
  • Total £86,800
  • Direct income to staff unit (delivery and management) £14,000

The fruits of our labour!

  • 3784 days (equivalent) were given by participants and volunteers.
  • 23 community orchard groups took part in the project.
  • Project social media platforms were set up – 5460 photo views on Flickr, plus Youtube, Soundcloud and Facebook.
  • 23 training workshops were held, with 317 participants.
  • 5 core groups were chosen to carry out extra community engagement work, working with schools, youth groups, local community groups, artists to form case studies. Altogether the five groups put in 228 volunteer days organising and planning 56 events. A further 403 volunteer days were put in to help run the events, which were attended by 1636 people from the local communities.
  • A new website was created for Orchard Link with 5097 page views in the first 4 months.
  • £137,150 worth of volunteer in-kind time and non-cash contributions were given.
  • Volunteers gave 1283 days of their time to the project and ran events attended by 2501 members of the community.
  • 22 orchard appraisals carried out by expert and action plans written up for each site.
South Devon NL South Devon NL - Hemerdon cordon workshop

Hemerdon cordon workshop


  • Excellent partnership with Orchard Link and a very supportive steering group (all volunteers).
  • We also had time to do a lot of consultation with the community orchard groups before putting the bid into HLF, this made a very strong case and we were able to show that the participants were keen to be involved and the level of commitment they were able to give. With the cash contribution from the AONB and Orchard Link, the percentage grant asked for was lower.
  • The HLF were keen to support non-capital works and explicitly stated they would not be interested in us planting new orchards, so we focused this money on working with existing orchards and their communities to ensure that they had the necessary skills to look after their sites and were able to engage more people from their community to be involved.
  • Once the Lottery money was secured, we were able to use this to attract other sources of funding to help the groups with landscape enhancements, small site works and planting as needed. This meant we were able to deliver a well-rounded project with landscape and community benefits.
  • We had time to build good relationships with the community orchard volunteers, and were able to respond to the consultation by designing a project they wanted and needed. His meant that they were fully engaged and on board with the scheme. This was imperative to the success as we were facilitating and enabling them to do the work on their own sites.
South Devon NL South Devon NL - Grassland Management at Huxhams Cross Community Orchard

Grassland Management at Huxhams Cross Community Orchard

Further information and links

Orchard link website

Flickr – project photo albums

Final celebration film

Evaluation film

Online toolkit and resource library from the project

This is our orchard– film made by children from Dartmouth Academy and Dartmouth community orchard group

We have been really lucky to work with such an enthusiastic group of volunteers who are all passionate about caring for orchards across the South Devon AONB. Their hard work and commitment will ensure that these special places continue to be a vital and important space for all of the community to enjoy.

Nicky Bailey, South Devon AONB Community Projects Officer

Quotes from participants of the project and members of public at one of the volunteer run events

What a fantastic network day. Really enthused now! I’ve just had a great meeting with preschool and primary school. Getting ready for a programme of ideas and events!

Penny, Volunteer at Holbeton Community Orchard Group

It was lovely having everyone, adults and children in the orchard – crafting benches, carving a sign, making a noticeboard, drinking tea and sitting around the fire. It felt like we were all creating this community space together and that all that love and enthusiasm would live on in the things that we made. It was lovely to see the orchard becoming not just a place where we grow trees but a place where we celebrate together, learn together and come together as a community.

Fiona, participant at community orchard event

The weekend really brought our community together in a way that I haven’t felt before. It was creative, supportive and bonding to all get together and work to create something of beauty for the orchard. The vibe was one of willingness and happiness. I feel like the orchard evolved in quite a substantial way that weekend, with a lot of community energy put in to it. Basically, it was a really great weekend!

Sarah (member of community, Huxhams Cross community orchard)

Watch video

Evaluation film from Growing Orchard Communities project

Watch video

This Is Our Orchard