An old school orchard with some help from new friends

Crieff Hills has a beautiful new heritage orchard, thanks to an environmental grant and a team of volunteers from our neighbours at the Mill Creek Pit extraction site.

A heritage fruit tree gets a new home.

It all started last fall, when representatives from Crieff Hills were invited to a hearing about the use of land to the north of our property. Since the 1990’s, the Maclean Estate Committee has opposed the quarries on neighbouring lands, and early on invested heavily in legal representation trying to protect the tranquility of our site and our pristine environment. Although we lost the fight, a settlement was reached in which a buffer of land was set aside between the two properties.

The Mill Creek team ready to go.

In 2018, the company announced their hope to take over that buffer.

The Maclean Estate Committee made their opposition clear and I attended the hearing on their behalf. That’s where I met representatives from Dufferin Concrete and CRH Canada Group Inc. I heard them call themselves “good neighbours,” in their report but as we watched the court decide in their favour, that’s not how it felt for Crieff Hills.

Thankfully, that was not the end of our conversation. We began to discuss what good neighbours might look like and agreed that putting the idea into action was important. Fast forward to Friday June 21st when we welcomed a team of nine volunteers, mostly workers from the local Mill Creek pit, to volunteer at Crieff Hills.

We were ready for them! A 2019 TD Friends of the Environment Grant gave us enough money to purchase the materials to plant a new fruit orchard, not unlike the one that existed on the property generations earlier. With the help of skilled volunteers, we found heritage varieties of apple, pear and paw paw (read more about paw paw here) and set aside a large patch of open grass between the picnic shelter and the lily garden. Planting holes were made with the help of a small digger. All we needed was willing labour to finish the job.

The promise of pie.

When the team from Dufferin/CRH arrived, they had their boots, work gloves and shovels ready and got right to work. All the fruit trees were planted (except the paw paw which will not be available until later in the season). The holes were filled and piles of mulch were spread around the base of each tree. Many hands made it light work and a sunny, breezy day made it even easier.

Mid-way through the day we stopped for a picnic lunch, and that gave us time to talk. Crieff Hills staff and volunteers learned about the lives of the young men working in our neighbourhood, and they learned about the history and mission of Crieff Hills. Some had heard about us; most had not. They were all amazed at how may visitors we welcome each year, and how deep the history of our fields and buildings. We heard about their long hours, their families, their career aspirations. At the end of the day our goodbyes were friendly and our gratitude genuine.

In the days since, we’ve added irrigation to keep the trees healthy through the dry summer months and we’ll keep a close eye on them as they adjust to their new home. You might think they look small now, but it will only be a few years and they will be providing fruit for pies and preserves!

Crieff Hills now has a heritage fruit orchard that will deepen our hospitality as we grow fresh, healthy food for our guests. It will add beauty to our property, too, especially in the springtime when blossoms are in full bloom. But most of all, this project is a lesson in how much can get done when friends and neighbours build relationships and work together.

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