Seed of an idea that grew into a whole new orchard

Bill Crabtree with members of the Sibford School planting team PNL-151116-142717001
Bill Crabtree with members of the Sibford School planting team PNL-151116-142717001

Pupils at Sibford School near Banbury are creating a new heritage apple orchard.

Fifteen trees of different varieties that originated in Oxfordshire and the neighbouring counties have been planted in a field that lies at the edge of the school’s 50-acre campus.

Varieties include Thorpe’s Peach from Brackley, North Aston Non Pariel, Deddington Pippin and Blenheim Orange.

The seed of the idea came from villager Bill Crabtree who uses the field, known as Holly Tree Field, to graze his sheep.

Sibford’s director of studies, Andy Newbold, said: “Bill noticed that two apple trees that grew in the field had come to the end of their natural life. We talked about replacing them but the idea quickly took root so in the end, rather than having a couple of new trees, we have created a whole new orchard.”

The apple trees have been supplied by Marcus Roberts, founder of the Mid Shires Orchard Group, whose daughter, Abigail, attends the school.

They have been sponsored by parents and staff, together with Bill and his wife, Barbara.

Each tree has been fenced to protect it from the grazing sheep, funded by money raised from Sibford’s Clothing Bank (part of the school’s commitment to recycling).

Marcus, who supplies trees to the National Trust and other historic properties and has also helped chef Raymond Blanc create his own heritage orchard, said: “Children really enjoy growing and harvesting fruit. It gives them a real sense of connection and can be a very calming experience.

“I was delighted to be able to select and supply the trees and trust that the children will enjoy finding out more about the different varieties.”

The trees were planted by members of Sibford’s Year 10 and 11 horticultural class with the help of teachers and grounds staff.