Waitrose launches its own inspiring Apple Day orchard – in the car park

Written by Gerald Isaaman.

Operation Apple went into dramatic action in the car park of Marlborough’s Waitrose supermarket today (Wednesday), leaving customers surprised and fascinated as they arrived to shop.  (main pic: Robert Rostill)

No fewer than 20 senior supermarket branch managers took the day off to work on preparations for “a town in an orchard” project, all part of the vision of the Marlborough Apple Day and Community Orchard organisation launched last year.

They came from Waitrose branches in Wiltshire, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire with Andy Davies, the Marlborough Waitrose manager discarding his customary smart suit and tie for jumper and jeans to dig the site alongside them.

“The idea for this was born at one of the monthly meetings I have with other managers in Newbury,” Andy told Marlborough News Online. “We wanted to do something that would help with issues like climate change and make an active on-going contribution to a community project.”

“We calculate that planting 20 trees will offset the carbon footprint created by two years’ travel to and from our regional group meetings.”

He added: “None of us have done anything like this ever before. Waitrose is in the heart of the community here in Marlborough and with the help of my colleagues we will now leave the legacy of an orchard that will last for years and years.”

Then they set about clearing a 200ft long bed on the edge of the car park and preparing it for the planting of the first Waitrose-sponsored tree – an espalier heritage variety called Ellison’s Orange, which is noted for its beautiful blossom and intense aromatic quality.

The tree, which came bearing fruit, will be followed by 20 baby rare apple trees, to be planted in the spring now that the site has been dug and prepared with a lorry load of compost from Waitrose’s own orchard and mushroom farm at Leckford.

And there to supervise the operation was Philippa Davenport (pictured), founder  the first local Apple Day event, to be held again at St Mary’s Church on October 29, when the results of Marlborough Apple Day photographic competition will be revealed.  

“We were blessed by the weather and truly blessed by the most truly remarkable team of people working together, which in my experience often happens when it is gardening,” Philippa told Marlborough News Online as the car park exercise came to an end after more than four hours of hard work.

“Gardeners are so good at sharing and I think that’s why community orchards and allotments do so well.  It is the earth that brings them together just as food brings people together sitting down to break bread and share a meal.”

“So we did pick one of the apples off the Ellison’s Orange and shared that at the end of the afternoon.  Then we toasted the tree we planted, the community orchard we have started and the marvellous Waitrose team.”

“And what was really nice is that there were lots of people in the car parked who shared in it. Altogether it was an inspiring day.”

She hopes that people won’t pick the apples as they appear.  “We want the apples to be left in future years so that we may be able to juice them or make our own Marlborough cider,” Philippa explained.

“We want to share that not only among the Waitrose partners in the store but also to take it to the schools and old people’s homes.  We will have a community press in due course to do that and some beehives as well.”

The bare-rooted maiden trees to be planted next year will come from Trees for Life, one of the biggest growers in the country.  Plaques will be erected announcing them as the Marlborough Community Orchard and giving details of their varieties and date of planting.

“We needed a proper tree to start with and will follow that with the babies,” added Philippa “The other ones are going to be a whole range of Wiltshire varieties, some from our neighbouring counties too, because one of the big things about this project is to revive the biodiversity native to our area which have traditional done well here.

“Otherwise they are going to become extinct.”