Ulley Country Park ranger plants orchard to bring back sense of community

HE’S a lone ranger — the man behind a throwback to a dim and distant past.

John Jackson wants to help reproduce an era when communities looked after their own and public spiritedness was commonplace.

The Ulley Country Park ranger (47) came up with the idea of an orchard near his home in Brecks, one where free fruit will be available to anyone who picks it.

Apple, plum, cherry and pear trees have already been planted as part of a project which will see thousands of other trees emerge on former agricultural land off Brecks Road.

More fruit trees will be planted at a later date, with the aim of helping provide nutritious food to young and old — and John hasn’t ruled out a public vegetable plot either.

“My dad was brought up in Parkgate, he used to tell stories of hopping over hedgerows and fences and running along pinching apples,” he reminisced.

"This isn’t making scrumping legal, it’s just trying to make it acceptable, growing it specifically for people to take.”

The scheme’s ethos was “to bring people in the community together”, John explained.

People who probably might not mix with each other can come down.

“They can chat with each other, they can share an apple — it’s all free.

“Hopefully, they can gather the fruit up and take them home, bake a pie, share with the neighbours and get chatting.

“Especially with the digital age, people tend not to mix with people as much. “It is a great initiative.”

John said there would be no limits imposed on the fruit      gatherers.

“It is not as strict as that — when the fruit runs out, the fruit runs out!” he added.

“As long as people aren’t coming down and stripping it bare; the idea is to share with your community and not just take for yourselves.”

John said people from less well-off areas would be welcomed when the trees mature.

“Just down the road, we’ve got Herringthorpe and East Herringthorpe, Dalton, Thrybergh — they are more than welcome to come and get involved,” he said.

“I have been asked by local neighbourhood coordinators to try and do a briefing and roll that out to other wards and let other councillors have a look at it with a view to maybe pushing it into other areas of Rotherham.

“That’s definitely in the pipeline.”

Father-of-two John concluded that Rotherham “has had a tough time” but added: “The people in Rotherham are brilliant, they are very resilient, they want to get involved in projects like this, and it can only lift people’s spirits.”