Editing notes - this page needs some more original copy, examples of courses and pictures of courses in progress, perhaps as a slide show
Run by Dave Kaspar and Helen Brent-Smith of Day’s Cottage Apple Juice, the Orchard & Rural Skills Centre is based at Brookthorpe, just south of Gloucester.
This exciting venture started in early 2009 when Gloucestershire Orchard Trust received a grant from the Gloucestershire Environment Trust to establish an Orchard Skills Centre – an outdoor centre for running workshops on all aspects of orchard management and other rural skills.
(needs reference to CPRE 2012 award)
Working with the Gloucestershire Orchard Trust Dave and Helen have noticed an increase in orchard activity with many community groups and schools planting mini orchards. “However, the age old skills of looking after fruit trees have been lost over the years with the demise of orchards,” explained Dave “and we are hoping to help reverse that trend by providing accessible, affordable courses.”
Dave, a teacher before he became interested in orchards, is highly experienced at running courses.
”My aim is to demystify the processes of pruning, grafting and budding, and to give people hands on practice. The pruning courses teach people to create productive and beautiful trees – whether its one small tree in a garden, or an orchard of old trees. Grafting and Budding are methods of propagating fruit trees.”
“Many people aren’t aware that you can’t simply plant an apple pip and grow a tree that will produce the same apple. Our courses teach people the ancient arts of grafting and budding, and give them the satisfaction of creating a new tree for themselves, sometimes from a much loved old tree in a relative’s garden.” explained Helen.
The centre, nestling amongst the old orchards at Day’s Cottage, is designed to be as low impact and sustainable as possible, with temporary buildings using local resources wherever possible. The unique 12 sided, canvas roofed outdoor workshop is constructed from local sweet chestnut with pegged joints. A warm indoor space is provided by a locally made yurt surrounded by a circular garden of fruit trees, grown as cordons and espaliers.
A demonstration orchard has also been planted for pruning courses, and a new nursery bed for newly grafted trees for sale, mainly of local Gloucestershire varieties. The facilities also include a composting toilet (with a stained glass window!) A beautiful outdoor wood fired oven produces tasty pizzas for workshop participants and other users of the site.
Helen and Dave are planning to make the facilities available for other rural skills workshops and aim to gradually develop an annual programme including living willow, basket making, green woodwork, dry stone walling and hedge laying.
For more details of the Centre and current courses visit the Day’s Cottage website.
Please note that the Centre is not open for casual visitors, please only visit by arrangement or at events or courses.