A PROJECT to create a community orchard in Warboys took root at the weekend following a five-year wait for a site.

More than 50 volunteers gathered on Saturday to help plant the saplings of 31 fruit trees and 100 hedgerow trees on land in Farriers Way. Hopes are the young trees will in five years time bear fruit for the entire community to pick and eat.

Members of local environmental group Greener Futures were inspired to plant an orchard in the village after hearing about a similar project in Little Downham.

Though a prime spot in Farriers Way was identified early on, issues surrounding its ownership put the brakes on the project.

The green site was earmarked to be handed over to Warboys Parish Council as part of an agreement with Persimmon Homes, the developers behind a residential development in Farriers Way.

Legal toing and froing meant the land was not passed into the hands of the parish council until last year.

Plans are to build a park and play ground on the site as well, and to name it Jubilee Park in honour of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee.

In 1887 there were 30 orchards in Warboys alone and hopes are this project will see a welcome return to the area of some local apple and pear varieties.

Vicky Morgan, committee member for Greener Futures said: "When I went to look at the old maps of 1887, there were a lot of orchards, at least 30, in Warboys alone.

"They have all gone. Maybe some people have got a tree left in their garden. A lot of people can remember orchards down by Pope's Lane.

"There were a lot of orchards in Somersham and there are local varieties of fruit such as the Willingham George apple and the Wallace Wonder plum from Bluntisham.

"There is also the Huntingdon Coblam apple and the Walden pear. We have planted a lot of local varieties of fruit trees, and some others. We have also planted a mulberry tree and a little nut tree."

The first harvest is expected to be in five years time. Before then volunteers will work alongside parish council staff to ensure the trees are regularly watered and pruned.

A £4,500 grant from the National Lottery Awards for All scheme was used to buy the saplings from charity the East of England Apples and Orchard Project.

The money was also paid for equipment and will go towards some benches and a disabled access gate on to the site.

Ms Morgan, 51, added: "The fruit will be available to pick. We are going to try to put out information when the fruit has arrived.

"You will be able to pick it yourself, though we will ask people to pick a small carrier bag worth of fruit. From time to time we might have save some fruit for an occasion.

"It is meant to be for the community."

INFORMATION: To find out more about the community orchard or Greener Futures go to http://www.facebook.com/groups/169257753179425#!/groups/169257753179425#!/profile.php?id=685373609