March 29th 2021

Unlocking Nature

Lockdown has limited all of us in many ways, but it has meant major restrictions for both inmates and staff in prisons. When rules are relaxed the opportunity to spend time in an orchard will come as a huge release for many. That’s why it has been so important that despite operational difficulties, winter planting has been done to ensure there are trees ready for this year’s growing season.

We have two pilot orchards underway. One at Onley Prison near Rugby, where we found a neglected orchard dating back to possibly well before the prison was built. Existing trees with potential needed pruning whilst others needed to be removed.

Our second pilot is at Woodhill Prison in Milton Keynes where just one apple tree was growing. This has been joined by a number of new trees, much to the delight of the Governor who has a dream that every prisoner can see trees from their cells. That will be quite a task, but The Conservation Foundation’s orchard expert Andy Howard reports that his latest two-day planting session created real interest amongst prisoners and staff. Despite the stringent lockdown regulations some men were allowed to join Andy and begin their training. Prisoners shared how some keep their gardening interests alive by growing chilli peppers and other plants on their window sills.

Now they have limited access to the orchard they will be able to look after trees in the important early stages when it can be vital to ensure newly planted trees get the care they need. Although numbers are limited to four inmates and two members of staff, Andy found considerable interest around the prison in the new orchard with many questions coming from those who were able to watch the planting activity.

Notes from our Director David Shreeve


Image source: Sergey Semin