Community Group create a beautiful space for residents

Community Group create a beautiful space for residents

20 January 2021

A NEW community orchard along several grass verges has been established for residents in the Kinghill and Tullybrannigan areas in Newcastle.

The seeds for the orchard’s success were recently sown by a team of volunteers from Phoenix Natural Gas which is working in the resort as part of a £6m investment to bring mains gas to East Down and Lecale to provide home and business owners with an additional element of choice when it 

comes to heating their respective buildings.

Nearly 30 fruit trees and more than 500 spring flowering bulbs have been planted as part of the new orchard project which is designed to provide a place for residents to come together, learn about the environment and grow fresh produce that can be shared across the whole community, resulting in neighbours being more connected and crossing age, religious and social divides.

Phoenix volunteers recently gave up their time on one of the coldest and wettest days of the year to prepare the groundworks for the community orchard, working alongside Tullybrannigan resident and orchard organiser Darren Rice.

He said that during lockdown, there was great community spirit with people spending more time than ever at home, explaining that the idea was to create a safe and sustainable place where residents could get together and grow together. 

Darren continued: “As winter approached and people were moving back to offices away from their local area, we feared we may lose that community spirit so a bunch of us got together within the Covid guidelines and thought ‘what is something simple we could deliver that brings people together?’

“A neighbour had wanted to tidy up an area of grass near his house for years which sparked the idea as there were other similar grassy areas that weren’t kept as neat and tidy so we thought of a community orchard.”

Darren added: “We were really pleased to receive the support of Newry Mourne and Down Council, Bonnie’s Caravan Park, Mourne Heritage Trust and Phoenix Natural Gas to make the community orchard a reality.”

Over four days, volunteers planted plum, cherry, apple and pear trees as well as elderberry and blackcurrant shrubs.

Among the volunteers was 12-year-old Emily Gargan, who was part of the project from the beginning and is looking forward to tasting the plums and cherries most as I’ve never had them straight from the tree before.

It is hoped the trees will yield some cherries this year, but it will be 2023 before the residents of Kinghill and Tullybrannigan will have their first significant community harvest.

In the meantime, they have installed three benches to allow residents to sit and watch their hard work come to fruition.

Phoenix Natural Gas has been supporting communities across East Down as it extends access to the natural gas network to 28,000 consumers in the area.  

Speaking about the importance of giving back to the communities it serves, Jonathan Martindale, the company’s director of business development, said a fundamental element of its business plan is to get active and involved in the communities we connect to the natural gas network. 

 “We were delighted to help the Kinghill and Tullybrannigan Community Group create a beautiful space for residents where they can grow and harvest together and which will be an asset to the community for years to come,” he said.

“Protecting and preserving the environment is important to us at Phoenix Natural Gas and in addition to the environmental and efficiency benefits householders make when moving to natural gas, we continue to look for opportunities where we can add environmental value to the communities around us.”