Transition Kensal to Kilburn, is a well established eco-minded community group. Below report from Michael Stewart

Summary: more fruit picked (2.5 tons locally), more people leading harvests, more local charities sharing our fruit, more harvesting groups starting, planted 45 apple trees, working in South Kilburn and using the juice press much more.

Looking ahead to next year, we’ll have a social event in the new year and also a meeting to plan what we want to do next year. 

Fuller report 

This year 43 of us picked 1.5 tons of mostly pears and apples on 34 picks, compared with 936kg last year. Loquats were a new fruit and we hope to still pick medlars. Our sister group in Mapesbury harvested over a ton making a total of 2.5 tons! 

Because fruit ripened before schools opened we put more effort into finding different organisations to give fruit away to. Most of these work around mental health and learning disabilities eg Brent MIND, Kids Company, Brent Centre for Young People, a day centre on Shoot-Up Hill and PIP. Several groups took part or want to harvest with us and that was a highlight. For example, PIP, a learning disability charity for older teenagers harvested with us and then made chutney to sell at Maida Hill market. Our fruit also went to Rubies in the Rubble in Kings X, a social enterprise that employs marginalised people to make chutney, and two Jewish New Year celebrations.

We held 3 jam and chutney workshops for about 20 people in a local school making about 120 jars. They were popular and enjoyed if long days. Thanks to Marjory Fraser, Janet Cummins and Jon Daniels for leading these. We also had a publicity push for finding local jam and chutney makers aiming to create a virtual jam factory but not many people took this up.

Even better than picking all the fruit ourselves is helping others to do so. We lent the picking tool out more through the library in Queens Park (7 times) and by word of mouth (5 times). The fruit press was very well used this year – 10 times in all, 5 by ourselves and 5 by 3 organisations including schools. We got very good feedback from that.

Pruning training was popular in the winter again with 12 people trained here and another 12 in neighbouring Mapesbury. Thanks to Laurence Usherwood, Brent Council’s Tree Officer.

A highlight of the year was planting 45 dwarf apple trees in a group of town houses on South Kilburn housing estate. I was surprised by the high level of interest in fruit trees. Even though these houses have very small and often paved gardens 44 out of 66 eligible properties took up the offer. Also on this estate we harvested and made juice from a large apple tree with the local residents group, Friends of Chippenham Gardens. We also finally harvested crab apples from nearby streets, picking 70kg of an estimated 750kg. We made jelly and gave some to the houses facing the trees.

Another highlight was making apple juice outside Argos on Kilburn High Road, which was very popular with passers by. This and a lot of our other activities were covered by the very supportive Kilburn Times. Together with the activities in South Kilburn we’ve now covered every part of our patch including the less leafy areas.

This year 3 other people led harvests, following a training session – thanks to Marjory, Matthew and Sanchia. I was very encouraged by that and would like it to increase again next year. For the group to be sustainable we need to continue to spread the organising and leading.

We have helped with a few picks in neighbouring Willesden, who have started a Transition group this year and are storing apples to make into a hot punch for the ‘Willesden Green Wassail’ in the new year – a local event now in its third year. 2012’s is at Willesden Green station at 2.15pm on Sunday January 22nd. We’re also helping possible harvesting groups start in Cricklewood.

We’re deliberately not promoting the scheme too widely to match what we can pick but still had to turn a few more trees down this year. We got some great photos http://tinyurl.com/d4v3k9x this year from the wonderful Jonathan Goldberg  and were also filmed. At times we had more camera people than harvesters!

Possibilities for next year include creating sub-groups; making cider with a local pub, increase contacts with schools; try to distribute through charity shops; maybe focus more on raising awareness of fruit waste; get designed signs and publicity material such as photos on a banner; promote picks for people who’ve never picked with us before; involve circus performers to climb trees.

Michael Stuart - Michael.stuart6@gmail.com