The Leith Links Children’s Orchard was planted in April 2010.
At least one class from each of the local schools in Leith helped to plant the trees, along with TCV and Greener Leith volunteers who built the fences and prepared the ground before hand.
Afterwards, local fire fighters were even roped in to help to water the trees.
Funding to establish the orchard came from the People’s Post Code Lottery Trust. Since then, the orchard has been looked after by local volunteers and council staff.
From the outset the orchard has been managed for wildlife, and as an educational resource, so the grass is cut far less frequently in the orchard than it is in the rest of Leith Links.
There are currently 17 different varieties of apple tree, 3 different varieties of plum and three different types of pear. There is one variety of cherry tree and one damson, as well as 9 ‘unknown’ trees.
There are currently 78 fruit trees in the orchard. Most of the trees are rare variety fruit trees, that you’d be very hard pressed to find in any shop.
Some of the rare varieties are from Scotland, but there’s also a good number from further afield in the orchard too.
Part of the reason we have some welsh varieties in the orchard is simply because we had trouble sourcing enough rare variety Scottish fruit trees when we were planting, so we had to look further afield for interesting trees.
There are also numerous gooseberries, elder, rowan, blackberries, raspberries and currant bushes planted in the hedge that runs along the edge of the orchard, making it an excellent place to forage from late summer onwards.
Leith Links is a public park, and the orchard is public access, so anyone is welcome to pick and use the fruit that grows there.
At least three volunteer work days happen each year to try to keep the orchard trees pruned, free of litter and well maintained.
In 2012, the council upgraded the cycle path between Leith and Portobello which meant that the orchard was cut into two sections.
Despite this disruption, the council worked hard to minimise the damage to the orchard and in the end only a few trees needed to be moved.
In 2013, Greener Leith worked with two local artists, Fraser Gray and Richie Cumming, to paint a mural on the back wall of the orchard.
In 2014, Greener Leith was successful in obtaining a further grant from the Big Lottery Fund to pay for a series of educational sessions for local Primary School pupils, and better public interpretation of the site – including some ‘smart’ labels on the trees which link to this website.
Volunteers have continued to work in the orchard.
We’re particularly grateful to volunteers from Leith based, Toshiba Medical Visualisation Systems for helping out in 2014.
In the same year, Edinburgh company Mara Seaweed, donated a batch of seaweed for us to use as mulch this year.
And a mystery person also planted hundreds of non-native flowers in the orchard.
Since the orchard was first planted in 2010, 11 trees have died for one reason or another, and although most of them have been replaced, the fact that a number of the trees have been moved or replaced is the main reason why there is such a diversity of trees.
It’s also why there are some ‘unknown’ trees too!
Greener Leith is very grateful for the ongoing support of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh’s Edible Gardening Project, whose staff and volunteers have used the growing trees to provide free fruit pruning lessons to local people on several occasions.
The City of Edinburgh Council also play a significant ongoing role in maintaining the orchard, as parks staff cut the grass, and occasionally supply compost or mulch for the trees.
Lastly, but by no means least, we should also thank all local volunteers who have pitched in at some point over the years to help maintain the orchard.