On Sunday last, I made my way up into the green hills above Bury, Lancs, to help out with the first winter pruning session of the year at Holly Mount Orchard, one of the largest heritage orchards in the Greater Manchester area.
Holly Mount is a community orchard run by the Ramsbottom chapter of the Incredible Edible movement. Formerly the orchard was part of the grounds of the Holly Mount convent. When the convent site was sold off in the 1980s the orchard was abandoned and became overgrown. Volunteers from Incredible Edible Ramsbottom re-discovered the site in 2010 and in the decade since have done a truly incredible job of reclaiming it as a vital and thriving community space.
I first visited in October last year, to help out with the apple harvest. This time I was there to give a talk on pruning to the volunteers who had come along to make a start on the winter prune and then, along with my good friend Ian Prigmore, guide and help out as the volunteers got on with the work. I delivered a shortened version of the 30 minutes or so I usually do, as folks were keen to crack on, and then (because doing is usually the best form of learning) we made a start.
As you can see from the pictures below, which I took on the day, the Holly Mount trees are rather wonderful. There’s a mix of large, mature trees, some more recently planted, and more than one which in the past had become the victim of storm or subsidence (the site is on a fairly steep, south-facing slope) and had toppled over, to subsequently re-grow vertical stems and reach again towards the light.
It was a great session. The older trees, which the current custodians think may date back to the 1900s, are a joy to work on – all thick trunks sprouting twisting branches, knobbed with fruit spurs, furred with moss and lichen – and the volunteers who give their time there are a great bunch of people: hugely enthusiastic, keen to learn, happy to help, and definitely not afraid of putting in a bit of hard work with pruning saw, bow-saw, pole-saw, loppers or secateurs.
If you live in the North Manchester or South Lancashire area, do visit Holly Mount orchard at some point. As their website says, the site is open to anyone to spend time in, any time they want to visit. Or if you do have a spare first Sunday in the month coming up, you’re more than welcome to help out at a future volunteer session. There’s still plenty of pruning to do – in the the three hours we were there we worked on around a half dozen trees of the thirty-or-so on site – as well as maintenance jobs throughout the year. There’s an exciting biodiversity project in the pipeline as well, and I’m sure group organiser Ian Mayer would be more than happy to tell you all about it.
Even on a grey, grizzly afternoon in January Holly Mount Orchard is a lovely place to be, and I can’t wait to see it in full blossom later in the year. Maybe I’ll see you there at a future volunteering session, too.
How to Find Holly Mount Orchard
Photos From Holly Mount Orchard
Click the gallery thumbnails for larger versions:
All photos taken January 2020 by Darren Turpin. Available under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. Please feel free to re-use these photos in any manner, as long as appropriate credit is given and the results are similarly shareable.