Apples and pears

A community growing project is bearing fruit, writes Joanna Hopper

The Orchard Project

The Orchard Project has 700 volunteers helping to harvest and press fruit

The pungent smell of chopped apples is rife in the air as I finally locate the small industrial unit on a side street off Borwick Avenue.

I’d been wandering about in the rain trying to find a hidden gem, the Local Fox cider press. Who knew that Walthamstow housed a ‘micro-cidery’ within its residential rows? This is not an ordinary cider press either, but a rather unique project run by national environmental charity, The Orchard Project, aimed at reducing the amount of fruit London wastes and leaves to rot.

Local Fox’s cider is made purely from surplus apples and pears, collected or donated from the capital’s gardens, orchards and parks. More recently, the project has also started to receive donations from commercial supply chains, a source it hopes to pursue further as it continues to grow.

Since its inception in 2016, the Community Cider Hub, as it is more accurately called, has rescued 13 tonnes of waste fruit and transformed it into scrumptious cider and apple juice. The word ‘community’ is important here, as is evident from the enthusiastic volunteers who I meet not long after arriving.

Ready and willing to don a plastic apron and get their hands sticky, this group of nine have come for a day out of the office, organised by their employer through a volunteering scheme. Around 700 volunteers have helped to power this project in the last two years, helping with picking apples at harvest time, chopping, pressing, bottling, and other tasks.

Many who give their time to the hub are enticed by the traditional methods used here; very little machinery and natural wild yeast. Others are simply interested in learning new skills and improving their understanding of fruit trees and cider. The cider-makers who lead and instruct the volunteers ensure that everyone goes away with an increased awareness of food waste issues, and, of course, a bottle of cider to reward their efforts!

The Community Cider Hub is growing in strength, producing approximately 15,000 bottles of cider since 2016. Unfortunately, its funding is soon to come to an end. But rather than close its doors and disappoint its enthusiastic volunteers and consumers alike, The Orchard Project has launched a crowdfunding campaign with an aim of raising £17,500 to save Local Fox. If you can donate anything before it ends on Monday 10th December, they would be very grateful; liquid rewards and other Christmas gift ideas are available to those who back the project!

To support the Local Fox crowdfunder:
Visit crowdfunder.co.uk/localfox

To find out more about The Orchard Project and how you can get involved:
Visit theorchardproject.org.uk/drinks

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