community orchards and fruit trees

Forest Garden at BedZED - the “Social Orchard”


Context and history

Amongst the residents of Hackbridge there has been ongoing interest in healthy initiatives and a number of Government and university research projects have focused on this community as an area of particular ‘hidden’ deprivation. In a number of consultations held in the neighbourhood, the development of green leisure space has been prominent. Since 2009 there have been several sketches showing potential concepts for the development of landscaping to create amenity space in the public realm and these are tied in conjunction with the Neighbourhood Development Plan drawn up by a group of locals.

The aim of the Social Orchard project was the planting of a “food forest” accessible to local residents along a walking route (the Wandle Trail) giving access into the forthcoming regional park - setting an exemplar of best practice for community food-growing, enhancing biodiversity, increasing 'green' space (carbon-fixing and slowing rainwater (stopping flooding)), creating an oasis of calm and community cohesion. This would provide free fruit for the community, raise profile of local work (especially with plans to grow hops - and brew beer!) and healthy exercise, linked into work of local partner organisations.

The vision of the project is to provide a community resource that draws people together, to deliver free healthy food and provide opportunities for exercise, whilst creating a green space for leisure and relaxation.

Benefits of a forest garden;
● Health and exercise - improve mental wellbeing and physical mobility, improving strength and coordination at individual’s pace
● Free healthy nutritious food
● Gateway for Wandle Valley Regional Park - raises profile
● Inclusive activity delivering community cohesion - mixing of population demographics, intergenerational and socio-economic and ability
● Physical improvement of an open space
● Protecting or improving biodiversity
● Promoting physical activity
● Improving wellbeing
● Increasing community safety
● Mitigating or adapting to climate change
● Improving access to open spaces by under-represented groups

Consultation - Who’s involved

This had been a topic of discussion with management committee of Pavilion since 2009; we conducted numerous consultations with community on BedZED estate and all over Hackbridge, church and community groups etc, local special need college (based next to site) want to be involved, as do both local primary schools.

The motivation for seeking the funding was some detailed continuing consultation with Hackbridge residents about the future of green spaces around Hackbridge [particularly BedZED Field] as an employee of BedZED Pavilion (community centre project manager) and All Saints Church (community games night coordinator).

● BioRegional environmental consultants and ZED Factory Architectural Practice
● Local college for special educational needs
● Local school
● LB Sutton Biodiversity and Conservation Officer
● Local residents - Hackbridge Development Plan group, Hackbridge Action Group
● Community church (All Saints)
● Resident’s Association - BedZED
● Housing Associaton (Sutton Housing Partnership and Peabody Trust)
● LB Sutton Head of Parks

Long-term management plan
● Low maintenance garden
● Residents - ‘tree guardian’ group - possibly linked to wider scheme e.g. Beddington Park
● Little Oak (tree surgeons) have offered to provide ongoing care and maintenance
Land Contamination
Land analysis report indicates a level of chemical contamination. This appears to be below advisory parameters for public health.


  • Julia Fisher 
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Robert Thomas Walker 
Carshalton, Greater London, United Kingdom
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