Volunteers and students spent a fruitful afternoon planting apple and pear trees at Edinburgh College’s Milton Road Campus to complete new orchards for use in education and by the community.
More than 100 orchard trees were donated to the college by its coffee supplier, Coffee Conscience, in partnership with Scottish Fruit Trees. The college has planted the trees across all campuses to create new community orchards. The orchards are part of the college’s Community Gardens project, which provides learning opportunities to students and community groups, including many people with additional support needs.
A group of 20 volunteers, including students, Coffee Conscience staff, Scottish Fruit Trees and support staff, planted the last of the trees to complete the orchard.
Community Garden coordinator at Edinburgh College Severine Monvoison said: “This is an ideal time of year for planting trees and an exciting project for students and volunteers to improve their basic skills, develop confidence and prepare for further study or training. This activity promotes group exercises, project work and outdoor activities, and I am very pleased with the outcome. Not every college can say they have their own orchard. We’ll be using the orchard to continue our excellent community engagement work."
Managing director of Coffee Conscience Billy Miller said: “We sponsored these orchard trees because we are committed to helping communities to create orchards across Scotland and we are raising awareness on carbon reduction and offset initiatives.”
The gardens at the college’s Milton Road and Sighthill campuses, and its new orchards, help students and community groups including people returning to education to develop core skills, communication, numeracy, enterprise skills and, personal and social development opportunities while enhancing their general employability skills.
The student volunteer tree planters are on the Entry to Learning (E2L) course, which involves activities in the garden that count towards achieving the John Muir Award. This Award is an environmental award scheme focused on caring for wild places and designed to help people from all backgrounds to connect with nature in a non-competitive, inclusive and accessible manner. John Muir was an explorer, mountaineer, conservationist, botanist, amateur geologist and writer who developed a passion for wild places growing up in Dunbar.
College lecturer Rosie Nimmo’s students on community courses use the garden and orchards in their education.
She said: “Community courses help young people make the jump from school to college and I’m a big fan of students doing gardening because it develops their teamworking skills and allows them to see the benefits of planting seeds and saplings, which is so rewarding. It’s good for young folk to be outdoors and connecting with nature.”
Edinburgh College’s community garden and orchard project won major UK and worldwide awards last year for its work getting students excited and engaged about sustainability. The college won both the UK and International Student Engagement Awards at the Green Gown Awards in Bristol, beating competition from colleges and universities across the UK and the rest of the world. Edinburgh College was the only college up for the UK Student Engagement award, and the community garden project won against schemes from eight UK universities. The community garden team topped the evening with the International Green Gown Student Engagement Award, competing against educational institutes from the UK, Australasia, French speaking Europe and Canada.