Community picking project is launched

Mark Elliston and Chris Blastock with fruit trees at Buckswood School
Mark Elliston and Chris Blastock with fruit trees at Buckswood School

TWO budding fruit fanatics have begun a new project in Hastings and St Leonards – and they need your trees.

Chris Blastock and Mark Elliston have launched The Fruit Tree Project in a bid to stop apples, pears and other locally-grown fruit rotting where they fall, and to provide voluntary opportunities for local residents.

They are currently building up a database of trees that owners would like harvested come the autumn and are also on the hunt for people to get involved with picking process.

Mr Blastock told the Observer: “The idea came to me last summer because there seemed to be a heck of a lot of fruit trees around not being picked. A lot of people who have fruit trees in their garden don’t know what to do with them.

“The list for utilising the fruit is endless. The recycling element of the project will be carried out at every stage of the process, from pulping the old fruit for animal feed or compost to ensuring that the waste from pruned trees is used for smoking fish.”

The not-for-profit organisation is particularly keen to hear from orchards struggling in the current financial climate but the bosses will consider even single trees, although they can’t promise to get round to everyone.

Mr Blastock is confident there is a market for locally-sourced fruit products and thinks the opportunity to take part could help people who are struggling to get a job, building communictaion skills and self-confidence.

“I was in Berlin recently and right in the centre there was a little orchard on wheels with its own cafe,” he said.

“I think a lot of people would rather have something local than something that has been flown half way round the world. It is early days at the moment but I think if the project takes off it will become a really massive thing.

“I can’t imagine anything better than being outside picking fruit and we will really look after our volunteers – they are at the heart of the Fruit Tree Project as it is their commitment and goodwill that will drive the project forward.

“We consider this to be an enormously exciting project that will, in time, benefit our local community,” he added.

Anyone who donates a tree or trees will receive 25 per cent of the fruit that is picked if they wish - visit www.fruittreeproject.org or text 07758 371328 to find out more or register your interest.