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Welcome To FLOW!

You are invited to be part of a project to care for a fruit and foraging route for insects, animals and humans along the River Exe which runs through the city of Exeter!

Background

FLOW runs along the River Exe, the spine of our city, through Riverside Valley Park.  It follows a route of around 5km from Exwick Mill Field down to Double Locks.  FLOW came into being as part of an artist residency which coincided with the re-landscaping of Riverside Valley Park following substantial flood relief engineering works.  The project was led by artist, designer and educator, Anne-Marie Culhane working with people from Exwick, St. Thomas and wider Exeter.

Around 200 trees have been planted, many by local people.  People in Exeter continue to care for the route as it grows.  FLOW has been created taking into account local knowledge, the different uses of the site, different land ownership, historical links, orientation and shade, proximity to roadways, potential pollution levels, likely user groups, flooding and climate change.

The trees are a mix of fruit, nut and trees with berries for foraging.  The route is designed with insects, animals and humans in mind to encourage movement through Riverside Valley Park.  These trees complement the work of Environment Agency ecologists and Devon Wildlife Trust’s Exeter Wild City Project to support and encourage pollinators by planting wild flowers and leaving areas of long grass.

Populations of bees and other insect pollinators are in rapid decline.  Almost 90% of the world’s plants depend on pollinators.  FLOW commissioned sculptor James Bond to make three sculptural insect sculptures as part of the route.  Each one is designed to provide a habitat for insects as well as being an iconic landmark.  These mark the start, middle and end of the route.  You can see one across the flood channel from Exwick Mill Field, one in Trews Flood Relief orchard and one at the Double Locks flood wall.

FLOW is a communal orchard in a public space – anyone can pick the fruit*.  You are welcome to harvest a share of the fruit and leave the rest for other people and for wildlife.  Simply use the maps to work out where the trees are and when the fruit is ready for picking.  Once you have identified FLOW trees, you may start to spot other edible trees growing in the park!

* Only pick fruit, nuts or berries when you are 100% sure you have correctly identified them.  Remember to only harvest a few and leave plenty for others.

Which Trees Have Been Planted?

FLOW includes a wide variety of fruit and nut trees.  This includes mulberry, rowan, plum, medlar, damson, quince, pear, cherry, walnut, fig, apple, crab apple, Japanese pear, persimmon and greengage.

The project includes local and older or ‘heritage’ varieties of fruit from the South West of England as well as trees such as apricot, almonds and persimmon which are from warmer climates but are growing and ripening in the UK because of the changing climate.  Varieties have been selected to ripen at different times of the year from June through to December and to provide diversity, interest and a long harvesting season.  Some varieties if stored in the right conditions can keep for several months.  Others need to be eaten more quickly.  We have planted many crab apples (the wilder version of our domesticated apple) because they have a long blossom period, bear fruits that provide wonderful colour in autumn and provide food for wildlife into winter.  The experienced forager can also find uses for them.

Other trees which are planted primarily for wildlife include rowan.  These berries require processing if they are used for food e.g. cooking into jams or jellies.  Autumn olive trees have also been planted to fix nitrogen as well as providing berries.  Nitrogen is essential for plant growth and these trees draw nitrogen down from the atmosphere into the surrounding soils making it available to other plants.

We have the potential to grow so much food in our cities and landscapes.  The vision is that one day, FLOW will be part of a larger Orchard City where people can have access to free, local fruit growing in their neighbourhoods and on their doorstep.

How To Get Involved

If you want to find out more or be part of the growing number of people who are interested in being part of FLOW, please get in touch via floworchardexe@gmail.com.  You can join our mailing list or follow the blog on our website or our social channels.

You can also visit the Events page to find activities which have taken place or events which you can be part of or help make happen.

All images taken during the project are by Jenny Steer with additional images by Mary-Rose Lane and Anne-Marie Culhane

FLOW Exe River Orchard is registered as a CIC (Community Interest Company)