A GROUP of volunteers have planted 40 apple trees in a Dartmoor parish field to transform it into a new community orchard, writes Grace Stanhope.

The team worked in the drizzling rain, fuelled by cakes and sausage rolls, to transform the small field in Widecombe-in-the-Moor, into, what will be known as, Jubilee Orchard.

The village was bequeathed the field in 1983 for the enjoyment of the parishioners. However, the space had been left for grazing.

Rev Geoffrey Fenton, Widecombe’s team vicar, and project leader Michael Brown, had a vision that the field could be transformed into a special space that the community could use and enjoy.

Geoffrey said: ‘As a Parish Councillor, I was saddened that a small field given 40 years ago for the benefit of the parish was simply being let for grazing.

‘Now it’s a Jubilee Orchard.’

The orchard project took four years of planning.

Michael said: ‘When we were asked to develop the parish field into an orchard, and to do so without a budget, it seemed quite a challenge.

‘However, once word got out that we were looking for a sponsor for each tree, the money started to flow in.’

The project secured grant funding from Devon Wildlife Trust and the People’s Trust for Endangered Species.

Their contributions covered the costs of everything and produced a small surplus.

Geoffrey said he hopes that the orchard can be used for community events, including Wassailing, enjoying the spring blossom, autumn picking and ‘juicing’ the surplus produce from the orchard.

He said: ‘When vital trees are being lost in many places in the world, our apples will now flourish in our parish.

‘Planting traditional apple trees in an ancient sheep-grazed meadow chimes with the need to increase biodiversity and carbon capture, along with food production.’

While the trees are planted, the field still has maintenance work that needs to be completed, including hedge laying and clearing, fence straightening, and more practical jobs to help the transformation.

The fundraising for the orchard will continue over the coming months to raise money to purchase an apple press for use by the villagers.

Michael said: ‘When these trees start to produce fruit we are going to have an awful lot of apples to process, so we are going to need it!’