Finding the Orchard
Holcombe Community Orchard is situated in Smugglers Lane in the village of Holcombe about a mile and a half north-east of Teignmouth centre. It’s on the boundary of the geographical area I am including in this blog about Teignmouth in verse. You can reach the orchard by car along the main Teignmouth to Dawlish road or, which is much better, try the walk along the seawall from Teignmouth which leads you to Smugglers Cove at the bottom of Smugglers Lane.
Part of the inspiration for the orchard was a short memoir from Bryan Weston’s book “Captured in Time” about Holcombe village. The memoir was written in 1902, shortly after Queen Victoria’s jubilee, by Beatrice Cresswell who described:
“…. Holcombe valley is bespread with orchard lawns. May is the month in which to see it, when all around is a mass of rosy blossoms and the white wild narcissus, ‘butter and eggs’, flower under the trees.”
The traditional orchards of Holcombe have long since disappeared. Worryingly the same picture has occurred throughout the UK, with over 90% of our traditional orchard groves being grubbed out, the result of commercial incentives. The vision of the Holcombe Community Orchard is to help restore the balance. Perhaps this new community orchard can recreate some idea of Holcombe’s past; and, with phase 1 completed before the end of December 2012, it can also surely be called a Jubilee Orchard.
- To create and maintain an orchard in Holcombe as a living resource which villagers can enjoy and serve as a focal point for various village activities throughout the year;
- To contribute to the preservation of fruit species;
- To promote ecological awareness, providing an environment which is “wild-life friendly” and, where possible, is managed organically;
- To provide an educational opportunity for local school-children;
- To share knowledge and experience with other similar local groups.
The start was a completely overgrown piece of land in Smugglers Lane. This was surveyed and then completely cleared of bramble, nettles, ivy. Unwanted self-seeded trees were removed, tree stumps grubbed out and formed into two stumperies.
The whole land was raked over and de-stoned before being sown with a hardy pasture mix and planted with some natural daffodil bulbs. Then December 8th 2012 saw the grand opening when 14 trees, a mix of apples, pears and plums were planted as phase 1 of the orchard.
In 2013 a further 17 trees were planted, hedging from the Woodland Trust was laid around the boundaries, a collection of violets was started to be gradually introduced onto the banks (the violet trade was once an integral part of village life, with violets being sent each day by train up to Covent Garden).
Looking back over the last eighteen months it seems remarkable how much has been achieved in such a short time. This could not have happened without the tremendous support of a lot of people. There has been professional advice and financial support from the HoGCo organisation (Home Grown Community Owned), serious practical assistance from Bovis, professional advice from an orchard expert, Charles Staniland, and of course a lot of hard graft from a core team of volunteers. There have also been individual financial contributions to help in the purchase of these first trees, bulbs and grass seed.
T.R.A.I.L. is an Artists led organisation exploring the themes of recycling and the environment through an annual gallery exhibition and sculpture trail along the sea-front in Teignmouth. Through a joint agreement with the local community arts centre (TAAG – Teignmouth Arts Action Group) the orchard has been lucky to be able to provide a permanent home to some of the exhibits after TRAIL finishes each year.