Orchard Lab 21 June

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

Orchard Ideas Lab on 21 June, a day with people from local communities of Exwick & St Thomas & the Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency & Exeter City Council considering the possibilities of the project and feeding in local knowledge and ideas.

A scorching hot day for our Orchard Ideas Lab which involved walking the route with sun hats, multiple water bottles and sun-umbrellas. People shared all sorts of ideas, wisdom and observations. Our trip included the siting of a red kite, the viewing of a sea lamprey spawning site and a deer tick tucking into Nigel’s red blood cells while we all enjoyed a pint at the Double Locks. We started at Exwick Community Hall and stopped half way through the day at the Quay House to share a lunch provided by Boatyard Bakery and have some reflection time.  Ideas shared have been drawn into the planting plan which I have created for the Environment Agency Landscape Architect who is reconfiguring the designs to include multiple varieties of edible trees and hedgerow fruits and nuts.

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

The plan includes local heritage varieties as well as more unusual varieties from further afield and overseas. This includes Loquats, which I recently found growing and fruiting successfully at Exeter University’s Streatham Campus.  The route is looking into a changing climate and considering what might be growing here in 50+ years time given climate change predictions. The route is designed with insects, birds and humans in mind and with certain trees acting as markers through the route as well as different planting emphasis in different areas. If you would like to see the plans for the route please get in touch.

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

The Orchard Ideas Lab also gave people the opportunity to have some time to consider what might be planted on the route, to create their own visions for the route and to gather inspiration. This came from the past (for example Samuel Hartlib’s Designe For Plentie (1600s) on the Plantation & Culture of Orchards a treatise ‘to turne the most hopelesse Willdernes, on a suddaine, into a rich & beautifull paradyse‘ or Henry Thoreau on cherries from The Succession of Forest Trees; conversations with each other and the work of artists.  As part of the day we were able to display Amy Shelton’s new artwork  for this project, a collaboration for the Orchard Box consisting of mounted slides of pressed blossom samples, collected in Exeter and surroundings from many of the plants that are being chosen to form part of the route.

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

Orchard Lab Walk Exeter

We ended the day at the Double Locks pub where we had a short discussion around how the project might develop and what we might each want to share and gain from it. This is Emily (Wildlife Trust) examining the tick that is attached to Nigel’s leg through bionoculars!

A couple of comment from participants reflecting on the day:

wanted to thank you for such a great event yesterday. Some brilliant people from the community on board, and it really is exciting to think about how this project will evolve

thanks for a really interesting day at the ideas Lab. It is a really exciting project and it will be a wonderful legacy


Running with Trees 28 June

Join me for a run through the park to see what we can learn about trees, each other, our breathing and the climate.

Riverside Valley Park on Wednesday 28th June at 6.30pm, meeting in front of The Malt House, Harvester pub EX2 8BP.

The run is especially suitable for beginners/improvers. The run is 3.5km along the Exe Riverside Valley Park and includes three short stops. Please wear suitable clothing and footwear. The event is free but numbers are limited so please let me know if you are coming: mail@amculhane.co.uk

Running with Trees is part of a bigger project to create a community orchard and foraging route along the River Exe. There will be a number of activities in and around St Thomas & Exwick leading to a community planting event in January 2018.

I look forward to running with you.



Sketching out the route

Documentary photographer photojournalist, Devon, Dorset, Cornwall, Somerset, Exeter, UK, abroad

Designing and sketching out the first drafts of the route have involved a series of meetings with staff from Environment Agency, contractor CH2M, Exeter City Council, Exeter College and the Wildlife Trust and have included input from local residents who I met during the research phase of the residency earlier in the year. I’ve been making site visits, researching rootstocks and varieties and going through details site plans. I’m taking into account the different uses of the site, different landownership, historical links, creating flow and linkage through the site, orientation and shade, proximity to routes and roadways (potential pollution levels), likely user groups. I’d like to consider the social aspects of the more concentrated areas of orchard planting when considering layout and design of these.

On 21 June there was an Orchard Lab day attended by 16 members of the local community. These included representatives from St Thomas in Bloom, members of Exwick community, Exwick’s Community Builder, Active Devon, Exeter City Council rangers, Devon Wildlife Trust, Devon & Cornwall House, Patient Participation Representative for St Thomas, St Thomas Community Association, Exeter Green Partnership, local ecologists, Environment Agency, local allotment holders and environmental artists. See the Orchard Lab post for more info.

Background to FLOW

My name is Anne-Marie Culhane, I live in Exmouth and work as a socially engaged eco-artist. This means that much of my creative practice happens with people in real places and involves projects that invite people into an active and enquiring relationship with each other and the land using a range of different tools, artforms and methods.

These including events, performances and long term projects and can involve drawings, photography, installation but also involves developing new ideas and projects with sustained legacy in collaboration with people and organisations.  This work is a response to the urgency of our times which calls for a radical re-alignment of our relationship to the wider world and exploratation of different ways of working together.


AM with wassail bowl created for a new Exeter wassail for 2016 at Exeter Community Garden, Streatham campus, Exeter University, part of a Soil Cultures residency with CCANW (Centre for Contemporary Art & the Natural World)

FLOW – Project Info.

I am working with Gingko Projects & East Devon Council, Exeter City Council and Devon Wildlife Trust on an Arts Council residency in Exeter along the River Exe in the Riverside Valley Park. This is a site of significant upheaval through the recent and ongoing flood prevention works by the Environment Agency. My brief is to draw people into the park, celebrate biodiversity and work in particular with the residents of St Thomas and Exwick. I had a busy research period from January to March investigating diatoms in the lab, walking the park with local residents with different perspectives on the site, learning more about Devon’s orchard heritage, deepening my understanding of the  carbon cycle and deciduous trees including the breating of fruit trees, meeting landscape architects and environment agency staff and connecting with the wider arts and environmental community in Exeter.

This work develops and extends themes I have explored in my work such as Abundance (urban fruit harvesting – winner Observer Ethical Award grassroots category); Fruit Routes & Orchard City Manifesto.


The resulting work is that I am reconfiguring part of the Environment Agency’s planting scheme to create a ribbon orchard and foraging route along the site (around 4 km) to enhance the habitat for pollinators and foragers of all descriptions. This is a complex partnership between different communities, landowners and government agencies and there are some great people involved.

The project includes an Orchard Ideas Lab on 21 June, a day with people from local communities of Exwick & St Thomas, Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency & Exeter City Council considering the possibilities of the project and feeding in local knowledge and ideas. I’ve also created a new performance piece Running With Trees taking groups running in the site to explore the relationship between trees, breath and carbon dioxide. Dr Tom Powell, earth systems scientist has been advising on scientific aspects & I’m collaborating with Amy Shelton (Honeyscribe) to make an Orchard Box to collect and share thoughts, ideas, visions, perspectives on the project with people.

Amy and myself have visited local orchards and collected blossoms from plants that are likely to be included in the scheme. These have been pressed and made into small slides which can be viewed and illuminated in the Orchard Box. The Orchard Box is visiting the St Thomas Festival on 2 & 3 September and Exwick Harvest lunch on 24 September. The planting of the trees for FLOW will happen at a public event & celebration in January 2018.  Please contact me if you would like to find out more or get involved in any aspect.