The Community Orchard is on part of the land given to the people of St.Ives by Dr Palemon Best in 1927. His vision was that the people of St.Ives should be free to use and enjoy this beautiful space and it was written in his will that the area should remain an open space for the use of the people of St Ives. The Palemon Best Charitable Trust was formed to make decisions on how it's used and it is maintained by St Ives Town Council. All in all, it's about 15 hectares (38 acres). All in all, it's about 15 hectares (38 acres). A large part of it has been turned into a recreational park with football field, playground, skatepark and daffodil field. The area that leads up to the top of the hill is about 11 hectares (27 acres) and has been left untouched and we hope to get this area recognised as a Nature Reserve to protect it into the future. The St Ives Community orchard part of the land is about 1.7 acres and was left to his son Ernest Best who then in turn also left it to the town. It used to be called Penbeagle farm. All this land was originally entrusted to St Ives Town Council but somehow in a reshuffle of councils, part of it (orchard & nature reserve area) become owned by Cornwall Council. The recreational park & skatepark are still owned by St Ives Town Council. See maps.
The land was first planted with over 150 fruit trees in 2013. The trees were originally part of a community project of PEN's (Penwith Environmental Network) that Stephanie Hirtenstein and Dylan Keating created called Penwith Edible Forest and the money was raised from a local food grant. Half of the trees were planted in Penzance on a community site they managed at the time called Love Lane Wildlife Garden and are still there. The rest of the trees were planted at Castle gate but when Dylan moved to the States, a new location needed to be found for the trees and Gavin Nicol from the Steeple Woodland group suggested this area.
Once they had the backing of the St Ives Town council and Palemon Best Trust, Gavin Nicol from Steeple Woodland Group, Stephanie Hirtenstein from PEN, Rachael from Cornwall council and Dan Richardson from Duchy college started clearing parts of the site before running the community planting days in late winter 2013. A variety of apple, pear, cherries, plum and quince were planted in the orchard area and around the entire park. Further native trees donated by Steeple Woodland group / Rupert Manley (originally donated by E-forests) were planted on the border in 2014. Rupert Manley also laid the foundation of plans for the future formation of a Nature Reserve on the adjoining hillside towards Halsetown to ensure it remains in its current wild and natural state.
Joshua Quick was the initial project manager who ran a few large work parties to clear the land and wrote a management plan which advises that the orchard is maintained using the design principles of Forest gardening. In 2015 Elise Langley offered to take over as project manager (as Joshua had become involved with a new project Wild St Ives) and together with a few keen people in St Ives, formed a community group, the 'St Ives Community Orchard & Nature Reserve Group'.
The orchard now has weekly work parties, has planted many new fruit trees and has yearly Apple Day, Wassail & other events as well. It now also has a cob oven (for baking pizza and other things), a shed & beehives. As the trees were initially planted on land that was covered with brambles & bracken, the first couple years have been a constant battle to stop them completely smothering the trees and it's been a lot of hard work to achieve mostly grass instead of mostly brambles & bracken. In Sept 2016 the orchard received an official lease from Cornwall Council for 6 years, hopefully with option to renew for many years after that. The group have also received funding from the St Ives Town Council, St Ives Community Fund & Tesco Bags of Change which has allowed us to buy more trees, tools & build a shed on the land as well as donations from other sources.
Here are a couple of earlier pictures as the orchard was starting up.