A group of Forest School pupils from St. Dubricius in Porlock, have worked with the local National Trust countryside ranger team and Horner Farm tenants to help to plant an orchard of local Somerset fruit trees.
On Tuesday 13 March the pupils aged between 3 and 5 years helped to plant 20 local fruit tree varieties including Dunster Plums and Court of Wick Apple trees at Horner Farm, near Horner Wood on the Holnicote Estate. They were taking part in a scheme set up to encourage outdoor learning experiences for young primary school students.
Alison Oakley, Deputy Head teacher at St Dubricius said: ‘The children in Oak Nursery and St Dubricius reception class had a fantastic time planting the fruit trees, especially to be given the opportunity to use the tools using trowels and big spades to dig. The weather was perfect and the children really benefited from being enabled to do the planting themselves. We really feel privileged to be asked to take part in the initiative.’
The children were also given a tour of Horner Farm’s lambing shed by farm tenant Holly Purdey, allowing the children to see new born lambs up close.
St Dubricius School and the National Trust have a long-standing partnership; school groups often visit the Holnicote Estate as part of their weekly Forest School outings. Visits to the estate have included planting of a Legacy Tree to celebrate the 800 year anniversary of the first tree charter and being involved in annual survey work with the Trust where they spotted a Hazel Dormouse.
George Layton, National Trust volunteer ranger said: ‘Both the children and adults gained valuable experience from tree planting. The beautiful weather added to the whole experience, in addition to being involved in keeping the Somerset traditions alive. It is important to educate kids on how valuable trees are within the landscape and continuing to plant them for future generations.’
Holly Purdey, Horner Farm tenant continued: ‘We are hoping to build a positive partnership with St Dubricius, so that working together throughout the year allows the pupils to engage in curriculum based outdoor education on their doorstep here at the farm. The orchard planting was a perfect first day with the children having named their trees so in time they can return to harvest the produce.’
Eighty fruit trees have been planted to date under Countryside Stewardship, a government funded environmental benefits scheme. In order to preserve local heritage the majority of varieties planted have Somerset origins. Also in accordance with Countryside Stewardship, work within Horner Farm has included extension of woodland habitat, reseeding of fields with legume crop mixes and 700 meters of hedge laying.
The National Trust looks after over 12,000 acres of Exmoor National Park, known as the Holnicote Estate. This area includes the villages of Selworthy and Bossington, popular spots for walkers both with tea room and parking facilities.