One hundred trees are to be planted in Bute Park, creating a new orchard and replacing 50 trees damaged by vandals in September last year. The planting follows a community-led campaign set up in the wake of the vandalism, which caused thousands of pounds worth of damage.
A fundraiser, set up by Melissa Boothman, owner of The Secret Garden Café in Bute Park, has raised £5,000 so far. Now, by joining forces with the council’s Coed Caerdydd tree planting programme, two trees will be planted during the next tree planting season, for every one tree that was destroyed.
Fifty of the new trees will be native fruit trees, returning an orchard to Bute Park for the first time since it was handed over to the people of Cardiff by the Bute family in 1947. The orchard planting will be inspired by Welsh heritage varieties and provide trees that are beneficial to both the community and wildlife.
“This is the people’s park,” said Ms Boothman, “and when that attack happened, it felt like a personal attack. People were coming into the café, telling me about their experiences of the park wanting to help, to rebuild.
“The response of the community was huge and fantastic. Firstly, the “Reclaim the Park” event attracted hundreds of people to celebrate the park and spawned lots of ideas, and then the Crowdfunder exceeded all expectations. It means that the community can help to restore the damaged arboretum trees and enable the community orchard to be established. We look forward to working in partnership with the Friends of Bute Park on this exciting community initiative.”
There will be two orchard locations: a main one to the north of Blackweir playing fields, and a smaller one adjacent to the historic ‘Orchard Lawn.’ Now a popular spot for picnics and community events, it was once the site of an orchard that supplied the Bute family and their guests at Cardiff Castle with fresh produce. The intention is that this smaller site, outside the ‘Walled Garden’ which houses the Secret Garden Café, the Bute Park Visitor Centre, Plant Shop and Nurseries, will provide the ideal location to introduce park visitors to the benefits of orchards and sign-post them to the larger site.
Picture: Bute Park vandalism, September 2021
Bute Park Manager, Julia Sas, said: “The generosity shown by the community since the dark day of the vandalism attack has been heart-warming and I know everyone involved with the park is incredibly grateful. Many of the trees that were damaged in the attack were memorial trees, paid for by families and planted in memory of their loved ones, so it was really important to us that those trees were replaced like-for-like, and that couldn’t be done without the support of the community. Now, to be able to return an orchard to the park as well, feels like such a hopeful end to what was a really difficult time.”
“There are so many opportunities and stories to tell here in the park. We’re really excited by the prospect of linking the new orchard to the park’s history and seeing all the amazing, creative ideas that the community have got about how to design and use the orchards.”