Community enjoying fruits of its labours

Residents in Peterculter are enjoying the fruits of their labours as the first harvest was picked at a community orchard at the same as the final touches to the area’s WWI memorial area were also put in place.

A plaque was also unveiled today to commemorate the completion of the project, which started out as a barren piece of land in the area next to Millside in Peterculter and was a joint venture between the City Council and community group Culter in Bloom.

The area was gifted to Aberdeen City Council by Barratt Homes and, after it was cleared and cleaned up, was planted with 25 fruit trees and 50 soft fruit shrubs last year with the help of local residents and the Council’s Volunteer Rangers team but dozens more have been added to the green space since then.

The idea for the orchard was put forward by the Culter In Bloom group and was taken forward by Aberdeen City Council Deputy Leader Councillor Marie Boulton along with the Council’s grounds maintenance and countryside rangers teams. The orchard was also planted as a memorial to commemorate WWI.

The area, which was previously rough grass and mature beech, one of which had fallen in a storm and others were near the end of their life span, has now been planted with new young fruit trees - including apple, cherry and plum - and shrubs such as gooseberry, blackcurrant and redcurrant.

Cllr Boulton said: “This fantastic project has made such a difference to the community by not only having the orchard which is available to the public but also having a war memorial in a more accessible place.

“It really is a testament to the work carried out by Culter In Bloom along with all the volunteers and it’s great now that some of the first harvest is now available for residents to pick.

“We’d encourage other communities around the city to be inspired by this project as it brings people from all different backgrounds and ages together.”

New initiatives on the site since the original planting include an area planted native species hedge – hawthorn, blackthorn, hazel and wild rose – planted by Culter Boys Brigade – some wildflower sowing on the upper part of the site – by the Guides – and two raised beds growing potatoes and vegetables – tended by – and in this case for consumption only by - the Cubs.

A major new feature in the orchard which has just been finished is a curved stone bench and small paved courtyard, with a central commemorative stone bearing the words ‘lest we forget’. It was designed by Ian Anderson of Maryculter who also designed the striking St Peter statue at the west end of the village.

All the developments after the iniital tree planting were led by Culter in Bloom and the main source of its funds was local environmental trust Aberdeen Greenspace, but it was also supported by several local companies, either by donation or work in kind. The companies include Balmoral Group, JR Donald & Son, Robertson Memorials, and Loftus Signs.

Culter in Bloom chairman Erik Stien said: “The time of the plaque unveiling ceremony was planned to coincide with the arrival of two judges from the Beautiful Scotland competition.

“We wanted to emphasise to them that our objective is not just to put planters around the village as environmental responsibility and community involvement are at the heart of what we try to achieve and these qualities are also assessed in the Beautiful Scotland awards scheme.

“Our motto is ‘Planting pride in the community’ and this is what we are really trying to achieve, with very welcome co-operation from the City Council, residents, donors, and local businesses alike.”