Become part of a new, friendly, creative & hands-on learning programme
February 2018–January 2019

  • Orchard Learning 2018 is an active and inspiring community learning programme being developed by Horfield Organic Community Orchard (HOCO) to mark its 20th anniversary year.
  • HOCO is a unique and diverse learning environment – more than 100 fruiting trees, including apples, pears, plums, nuts & soft fruit
  • Experience an orchard during every season in a growing year – from dormancy to harvest
  • Go beyond the basics of books, internet, and television, by looking after real trees of different ages, varieties, and conditions
  • Consider strategies for resilience in the face of weather extremes and climate change
  • Peer group activities, and sharing what you’ve learned, are the best ways to remember new knowledge and skills
  • Plan, and lead, working meetings with, and for, other HOCO members
  • Organise successful public events in an outdoor environment

Horfield Organic Community Orchard (HOCO) aims to inspire and educate more people to grow more fruit in small spaces such as gardens, allotments, and pockets of private and public land.

To mark its 20th anniversary, and maturing as a pioneering urban orchard, HOCO is launching an ambitious, orchard-based, practical learning programme. The 12-month course is in tune with the growing year, and offers participants a unique learning opportunity in a rich and diverse local food project.

Orchard Learning 2018 is being developed as a hands-on immersion in the workings of a complex, community orchard environment. During the learning year, participants will gather knowledge, skills, and confidence, to care for – and enjoy fruits from – trees of different varieties, ages, and characteristics.

Orchards do not look after themselves – people are vital for fruit trees to thrive. Participants will also gain practical experience organising large public events, and sharing what they learn with others. By the end of the year, participants will have an excellent grounding in the essentials of tree fruit growing, and applied learning of looking after a community food-growing project.

Tutor & programme developer
Shannon Smith has been an active member of HOCO for 10 years, and the orchard co-ordinator since 2010. Shannon is a lifelong gardener, professional cook, researcher, and qualified community educator. She will bring all her skills, passions, and experience to develop a course that nurtures knowledge, confidence, and pleasure,
in all those taking part.

Programme outline
• Know your trees – characteristics, history, ‘internal condition’
• Care for your trees – pests, diseases, disorders, nutrition
• Pruning all year round – why, how, and when
• Resilience in the face of climate change & weather challenges
• Good harvests – storage, preservation, health benefits
• Sharing skills and knowledge with other members & the public

Course structure
From February 2018 to January 2019, the group meets one day each month for 5 hours, for an indoor 2 hour ‘theory’ session, followed by a 2.5 hour ‘practical’ session in the orchard. The dates* and times will be confirmed in December 2017.
*Provisionally the 2nd Saturday of the month, from 12–5pm. Times may vary slightly.

Orchard Learning 2018 is being developed as a holistic and intensive learning experience. Participants are strongly encouraged to attend all 12 course days. Missing up to 2 course days would be acceptable. Participants will share responsibility (with 1 or 2 others) for two calendar months (including 4 working meetings) during the year. They will also actively organise up to 3 public events at the orchard.

HOCO is investing in the development costs of the programme for the first year. The programme is open to members of HOCO, and in addition to the membership subscription (see application form), there is a course fee of £30 (current HOCO members) or £50 (new HOCO members)*.
*In future years the course fee will be about £120.

How to apply
There is a limit of 16 places.
Applications are invited until 11 December 2017.
Places will be confirmed by 17 December 2017.
For more information, and an application pack, please contact: or 0117 373 1587 or see this website link:

Download a course leaflet:
Orchard Learning – introduction