THE first delicious apples, pears and plums planted in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year are ready to eat.
Green-fingered students at Hayling College were given 60 fruit trees by volunteers at the Growing Together Project (GTP).
It is one of the largest orchards to be established in the area for many years and it is now flourishingRay Jones
For the past five years volunteers have been teaching children across the island how to grow plants, fruit and vegetables and even keep rabbits and chickens.
They start young with children in primary school and, by the time they are at Hayling College, they have a good knowledge of plants and where the food they eat comes from.
Ray Jones, from GTP, which was set up by Hayling Horticultural Society, oversees the schools’ orchard.
He said: ‘It’s been a great success and the trees are now bearing fruit.
‘It is one of the largest orchards to be established in the area for many years and it is now flourishing.
‘It began when a group got together to replant the traditional hedgerows with blueberries, blackberries and hazelnuts – many of which across the island were lost.
‘We then thought what a lovely idea it would be to have an orchard to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.
‘Three former pupils of Hayling College now oversee the horticulture, the hens, the pond and the orchard which have been developed as part GTP.’
GTP volunteers visit schools several days a week.
And it has inspired many pupils to get further into horticulture.
Mr Jones said: ‘Gardening teaches the young people all sorts of things.
‘Some of the children we had when we first stared GTP we planted daffodils with.
‘They wanted to know how long it would take them to grow before they could eat them.
‘And we asked some other children where potatoes come from and their hands shot up – “Tesco”, “Asda”.
‘We had those kinds of answers right from junior school children to secondary school children.
‘They have learned an awful lot over the years and one of the boys is now at horticultural college.’
To find out more about the growing together project go to haylingislandhorticulturalsociety.org.uk.