Hilly Fields orchard, January 15th

Transition Brockley is organising a community planting day tomorrow, at which everyone is welcome. The orchard is being planted to promote the growing of fruit locally (in an area which previously had many fruit orchards), to provide habitat for wildlife, and for people to enjoy.


Anonymous said...

Since my previous comment was censored for using cockney rhyming slang term for our local Greens I feel compelled to repost. This really is an example of the most empty symbolism I've ever come across. Lets face it, if the day ever comes when this city has to feed itself from trees on Hilly Fields or even from the fruits and cereals of hobby farmers and their ideological torch bearers, we are all toast.

I know of many apple and pear trees locally where the fruits literally rot on the tree. One overhangs a pavement and still has no takers of its fat pears. Personally I feel lucky to live in a society where this can happen, though of course it is a waste. As to encouraging wild life and the enjoyment of the public, well both are spurious points, given the low number of trees and the fact that many people, myself included, find apple trees, unattractive.

I would be disappointed if any public money is going into this crass ideologically inspired waste of public space.

fwd said...

The pear that fall off those local trees aren't terribly good, v bland taste. Most people wouldn't turn their nose up to delicious free fruit.

thisisengland said...

The Victorian pear trees that people turn their noses up at bear fruit that is intended to be cooked or maybe turned into perry. I collected kilos of fallen pears this year and we made endless pear pies and tarts.

Google Warden Pie recipe.

I agree with anon, lets plant more trees, but do we have to call it an orchard? Transition Brockley could be a bit more proactive with collecting unwanted fruit from old local trees.

Brockley Nick said...

Do we have to call it an Orchard?

No, I suppose not, but it helps to explain to people what it is and it sounds nice. If you want to refer to them as fruit trees, you're free to do so.

DJ said...

Wow. How much of a dick do you have to be to moan about people planting a few trees?! Amazing.

Anonymous said...


A big swinging one with the grey matter to match, since you ask.

Still personal insult is easier than horrible head-hurty debate isn't it?

Matt-Z said...

A few years ago I was talking to a family who lived in basement flat in the conservation area, seemed a nice enough bunch. Yet the kids (primary school age) had no idea what the blackberries growing in their garden were, let alone that they could eat them. A few more fruit trees in a park may just inform and enlighten some more people, many of whom don't have a garden of their own.

Anonymous said...

"Yet the kids (primary school age) had no idea what the blackberries growing in their garden were, let alone that they could eat them."

To be fair, we have had this problem since the industrial revolution first kicked off.

Anonymous said...

"Yet the kids (primary school age) had no idea what the blackberries growing in their garden were, let alone that they could eat them."

To be fair, we have had this problem since the industrial revolution first kicked off.

Monkeyboy said...

They're planting some trees in a park.... Trees, parks. Good things both, especially when co-located. Is there anything to get in a froth about? It's not as if it's a lewisham year zero thing. Chairman Bullock forcing the inteligensia to work the land.

Anonymous said...


transition brockley were collecting unwanted fruit from trees last autumn.

Cox's orange pippin said...

@ anon
Good grief how did you get yourself in such a tizzy over some apple trees. Are you Lou?
By the way there were some ideas mooted about how to collect unused fruit.
You don't seem to have any reasoned argument just a dislike of 'idealogical torch bearers'. I'm glad I live in a society where not everyone is as cynical as you are.

Anonymous II said...

Tending to agree with anonymous about what exactly is being achieved here. If anyone thinks this makes more than a tiny, symbolic contribution towards Brockley feeding itself then they're much mistaken. As for brightening up the area, I like Hilly Fields for its sense of space and its views, and I can't help thinking lots more trees would get in the way of that

Brockley Nick said...

@Anonymous II -

"If anyone thinks this makes more than a tiny, symbolic contribution towards Brockley feeding itself then they're much mistaken."

As far as I am aware, no-one thinks or claims this.

DJ said...

Anonymous II - It's 7 trees, in an area that is already fairly wooded. The space and views will be unaffected.
Anonymous - there is no debate to be had, despite your rather sad attempts to stir things up. It's a few fruit trees in a park - the only who people can possibly have a problem with that are terminally joyless dullards.
Or dicks, as I like to call them.

thisisengland said...

Maybe calling it an 'orchard' is a bit pretentious? A bit of unnecessary marketing-speak?

Dreaming of.. said...

An orchard "a collection of fruit trees especially cultivated".

Somewhere in local news there was a feature on people going and collecting unharvested fruit in Brockley. I think if we investigate further we will discover it was Transition Brockley.

Transition Brockley put together a leaflet showing the orchard, so if you are familiar with the park then you'll know it isn't blocking out views. It also has the friends logo, so we aren't talking about those odd trees that get planted without permission or regard for views or bigger picture.

Maybe when all the volunteers talk about their next tasks with regards to the collection of cultivated fruit trees. They will find it easier to call it an "orchard"? So what if Anon's or others think it is pretentious.

Enlightenment Dude said...

The future for our species as regards to feeding the increasing human population undoubtably lies in advances in science and technology, ie GM. Scavenging and planting a couple of fruit trees, which if they escape being vandalised, will undoubtably die of bad husbandry or simple neglect, is such a trivial act it doesn't even register as irrelevant.

If transition towns were a serious attempt to address the real issues, which some of us actually care about, as opposed to using as an identity, they would be building support for GM and nuclear power, and getting people to think big about big problems. Instead of which they spend their time digging holes for feel good trees, which is quite impressive, given how difficult this must be when their heads are so firmly stuck in the sands of romantic pastoralism.

(The subsistence idyll will need protein too. Perhaps if a pulse could be grown on Hilly Fields too this would give the scheme more credibility. I wonder if anyone knows of suitable beans?)

Anonymous said...

Is the act of planting some trees making hilly fields materially worse? I'd venture to say no. Get over it, you don't have to go oolong with the whole idea to welcome a bit of planting.

m said...

Have you no poetry in your heart?

max said...

The problem with GM is that it bounds growers to multinationals with an agenda of making people dependant from their produce, so resistance to these people is a legitimate struggle.

The attitude of GM companies against farmers unwilling to take on their seeds has been awful and it's a shame on the American government to support these guys (as exposed by the wikileaks).

I'd also add that biological diversity is actually very important, makes the world better, the food tastier and is a natural way to select the most resistent crops.

Enlightenment Dude said...

But what's this...five minutes googling turns up this upcoming transitions event...

"Anti-GM update, networking and strategy session for NGO grassroots and campaigners

Saturday 22nd January 10am - 6pm, London

"No place for the use of genetically modified crops in what will be a more sustainable system of agriculture."
- Rob Hopkins, Transition founder"

Marching backwards. The same voices opposed the green revolution that allowed hundreds of millions of extra mouths to be fed. Transition to what one is forced to ask; subsistence and poverty and the pestilant intolerances they breed.

But the point of transition and the whole environmental bandwagon is not really about facing the future, but running from it, while propping up the identity of a few well meaning but insuffiently intellectually curious folk. Such essentially romantic refusal of the industrial is as old as that same industralism.

I'm not against the trees by the way Anon @20.51 just the very bad ideas hiding in them.

Anonymous said...

I'm no torch bearer for GM but the crop varieties we're familiar with and the domesticated animals we eat have been developed over thousands of years. Selective breeding have increased yields and increased resistance to disease. bronze age farmers practiced science without knowing it. The test should be whether it is harmful not whether it's 'natural', an empty term. Uranium is natural, ergot (a nasty and potentially lethal fungus that grows on cereal crops) are both natural but you wouldnt sprinkle them on your cornflakes. Agree about the dodgy practices, but that isn't the same argument. Seed supposes already manipulate the Market, thats a regulatory thing not a technology thing.

Anonymous said...

'supposes' should read 'suppliers'...

The orchard planting is great by the way.

Enlightenment Dude said...

Deary me. As a supporter of science and technology I have an essentially optimistic view of this world and my fellow man. I love poetry, literature and music, and indulge fully in the spiritual fruits all the arts offer.

But the kids in Tunsia being shot in the streets were not rioting for want of more Seamus Heaney anthologies. No, many of them were hungry. Food supply is important, as full bellies help foster full hearts in my experience.

Still nice romantic curve ball there.

max said...

Well, in the world we don't have a problem of shortage of food, the problem is that it's badly distributed.
Making the stocks of unsold produce bigger is the answer to the wrong question.

Anonymous said...

Enlightenment chap, your lumping the entire environmental movement with the "anti science" thing. A bit of a broad generalisation. What about campaign for the reduction of fossil fuel use? Environmentalists and many scientists, and scientists who would call them selves environmentalists, would agree on that point. Some scientists advocate nuclear power as the least bad option. It's ok to like the tree planting and not agree with the transition town thing. They're just trees, go hug one.

I'm a car owning, meat eating, supermarket shopping chartered engineer before you make a lame mung bean joke by the way.

Enlightenment Dude said...


But you are ignoring population growth and climate change. GM technology essentially offers the possibility of increased yields from similar inputs through improved nutrient uptake and pest control.

Lets face it, nature doesn't care about us. Without our civilisation most of us wouldn't reach 30. I feel personally like a world historical winner to have been born in a time when I am protected, at least to some small extent, from the myriad ways nature could kill me if I did not have the support and advantages of an advanced industrial society's life sustaining technologies. Nature is not our friend.

Enlightenment Dude said...

Fair enough, but I think you have a rather sanguine view of the environmental movement if you think that pointing out its deep anti science bent is anything other than, for the most part, a statement of simple fact.

I am partial to hugging a few trees myself, I cycle and I am a rigorous recycler. But I don't kid myself that this is doing anything to deal with the very real problems our world faces. I reject the individualistic and essentially consumerist approach at the heart of feel good stuff like planting a couple of trees. If people enjoyed doing it, good. But if they came away thinking they had done anything for 'the planet', they are unfortunately deluded.

It is because I take these problems seriously that it irritates me to see an anti GM group suggest that the solution to the BIG problems the world faces lies in such facile symbolism.

Anonymous said...

When you say "the environmental movement" being anti science, what do you mean? Some may be but by no means all and you weaken your argument by suggesting so. The politics of global warming and the "the environmental movement" you deride is science based. And there was a slip in my typing above , some environmentalists support nuclear power. It's a broad church. Your arguing about solutions and the interpretation of the facts, scientists on both sides of the argument do that. Also, politics and the conception about how resources and shared equitably go beyond science into politics, but that's another story.

max said...

I'm not trying to ignore issues such as increased population and climate change, I am genuinely uneducated about them be so clearly set.

Your argument about Tunisia was about today though, today's population and today's climate, and you were using it to justify support for GM, so I don't think I'm wrong in saying that you were indeed trying to ignore issues in order to support your position, and you can't call yourself pro-science when you do away with proper analysis.

I don't think that it's a either/or type of situation.
Traditional farming has its place and value, organic farming has it too, and if legislation on trademard of GM crops to avoid making farmers around the world slaves to multinationals was brought forward then there would be a situation where people can be asked to support GM where appropriate.

Enlightenment Dude said...

I'd be interested if you could, excepting James Lovelock, name any prominent environmentalist or environmentalist group that supports nuclear power or GM.

If being concerned about global warming makes one an environmentalist, well then count me in. But unfortunately we are talking about a movement that is essentially ideological in character. A reformulation of a rag bag of old mostly failed ideas, romanticism, anti-industrialism, socialism, the rejection in short of mass industrial societies.

You are right about the political aspect of all of this. I forgot in my list above to include puritanism, an old vice, much indulged by the hair shirtists in these movements. The problem is most of the groups who are self identified as environmentalist, are rigid and moralistic in their approach to the problems that global warming may bring. That such problems will arise, and will have to be dealt with by mature industrial societies, I have no doubt. Lets not simplify them is all I'm saying, and lets not delude ourselves that technologies such as nuclear power and GM foods, 'unnatural' as they might be, are not going to be part of our response to these problems.

Enlightenment Dude said...


My point about Tunisia was a response to M about poetry not GM,if you read it closely.

Organic farming belongs in the dustbin of history. There is no evidence whatsoever for the benefits its cultish front organisation claims for it.

Unlike some of its proponents though I don't feel the need to trash any trials it might have going on. It is a pity the environmentalist movement do not extend the same basic decency to scientists conducting GM field experiments.

Still if the Daily Mail says they are MONSTER FOODS, they must be, right?

Tamsin said...

Read New Scientist and the articles on "Themageddon" (sorry the original features need a subscription to get to) - the next generation and even more so the one after it are going to face huge, huge problems.

Mankind survived such traumas before but when the population to support was much smaller and so more flexible - there was space to migrate away from the encroaching ice - and the resources to recreate and rebuild more accessible - iron ore could be surface mined.

We will need open minds and altruism to survive - the GM technology, but not the essential selfishness that drives the big multi-national companies.

max said...

Enlightment Dude, please change your moniker, Voltaire doesn't deserve you.

You've bundled environmentalists, organic farmers and supporters, Daily Mail readers and just about anyone else that has any kind of reservations on GM into the same bunch and applied to this very large chunk of humanity a pretty damning judgement of lacking "some basic decency".

Believe me, in that bunch there are many shades of grey.
I for example find organic food to be excellent, I am aware that its nutritional values aren't any better than well farmed food, and I am aware of the shortcomings of the scheme and I hope it will be improved, still I buy it because I value the concept and the effort to try to mainein the soil in the best state, something that intensive farming doesn't consider, and there are few things as sad as impoverished farmland. I also buy it because it's a guarantee of quality.

On GM. there may be GM varieties that are worth culivating and yet, since this comes in a bundle with an attempt to basically enslave the world's farming industry to the financial interests of large multinationals whose sole aim is to make as much money as possible, and as it has now emerged this effort has the covert support of the American Government, then it should be opposed as the interests at play are skewing the debate about what's good and what's not.
When issues about copyrights of genes and its fair use will have been solved then we'll all be able to have a debate, until then it's legitimate to ask for a ban.
It's not about the work of the scientists, but of the people that employ them, it is unfortunate but they have made a misery of the lives of many farmers, and they are as much a menace for humanity than the otehr important considerations they claim to address.
Behind this operation there is the same greed of edge funds and investment banks that made a mess of the world's housing and financial market, why should't one be totally opposed to them getting their little dirty hands on the food market?

max said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Enlightenment Dude said...

Certainly not.

Your assertions about organic food are all scientifically false. Soil quality doesn't differ between organically and conventionally farmed land the best long term studies have found. If you want to spend your hard earned cash on organics, then that's your choice, but you are doing nothing to help the environment or your families health by doing so.

The world's food supply is already controlled by global capitalist corporations, and markets serve largely benign roles in ensuring plentiful food in free societies. Despite the many restrictions that still constipate free trade, especially with African economies, markets work well in this area. What is the alternative?

Anonymous said...

Markets work well in africa? Yep, no famine there.

max said...

"Your assertions about organic food are all scientifically false. Soil quality doesn't differ between organically and conventionally farmed land the best long term studies have found."


Enlightenment Dude said...

I'll dig out the references if you force me to. Sounds like this weed killer has had major advantages. The more soil is tilled the worse it is for both the soil and the environment. Organic farmers use tilling to control weeds, it is energy intensive and damages tbe soil.

Btw I don't take newspaper reports on scientific issues seriously, generally speaking. If the agenda of the journalist doesn't get in the way, their scientific illiteracy does.

Anonymous said...

tilling "damages the soil"... what was that about scientific literacy again?

max said...

Looks like a balanced article to me. And a very good story.

Sold herbicide, then sold herbicide-resistant GM seeds because told that they can rely on it, then told to use horrible old herbicide because old weeds adapted to the new one much faster than they would have if the approach to fight them would have been one more diversified than the single solution offered by the GM seed.
Brilliant. A very clear example of the danger that a top down approach brings.
Ironically rather reminding of the scenario on Frederick Forsith's the Devil Alternative where the Soviet Union is on the brink of starvation because of a central office mistake in the dosage of fertilizer which destroy the whole wheat crop across the country in one stroke.
Funny how a Soviet Union fictional scenario of 30 years ago is now applicable to today's capitalism.

Anyway, you're opposing organic to GM, when the majority of farms are neither.

But I do find that organic food is generally better than non-organic, as I already said I'm fully aware that the organic certification system is full of issues, and that there are plenty of non-organic farms that are just as good or better than the average organic, but as far as I'm concerned it goes in the right direction, in fact since it has come on the market the non-organic food had to raise to the challenge and has improved, not sure it would have done so without this competition.

Focus on quality, not quantity. Variety instead of standardization.
More people doing it their own different way, not an industry standard aimed at increasing production and decreasing costs but without care for what this stuff is actually about.
Whether it is organic or non-organic is not the matter, but it's got to be honest food, and if in this paradigma GM companies can sell stuff to informed farmers then good luck to them, I doubt they'll be selling as much as they would without the claim that they're solving the problems of the world though.

Anonymous said...

With a debate on organic farming here and Waitrose deliveries on another story, the blog has never felt so Mung Bean.

Anonymous said...

All this after the original article was just about planting a few fruit frees,oh dear.

Enlightenment Dude said...


I agree with a lot of what you write. I don't want organic farming banned, I just want the claims it makes to be subject to scientific evaluation. I am glad that you see a place for GM, and I would, like you, insist on proper oversight and regulation of this technology. Where we would disagree I suspect is that I think that this is largely in place.

I am glad you enjoy organic food, but unfortunately any benefits you may feel you are gaining from it are probably illusory (though there is some good news possibly - though more about that anon). So where is my evidence?

Well to start with the Food Standards Agency has failed to find any difference in the nutritional value of organically and conventionally produced food. This was a review of research on the subject over the last 50 years lead by a professor at the LSE.


People often claim that they find that organic food tastes better. This is easy to test scientifically by using blind tasting. When they do this researchers find that tasting better is influenced by freshness not how the food was produced.


In a ten year study in Essex, it has been shown that organic farming has no benefits for the environment compared with the widely used conventional farming practice of Integrated Farm Management. This requires that farmers manage hedge rows and leave margins around fields. Organic food was superior in one category in the study however; profitability.


Lots of people choose organic because they fear pesticide residues in their food will damage their health. Again the science seems to show this is an unjustified fear. Farmers, who of course have much higher exposure to pesticides than the general population have broadly speaking half the cancer rates. Toxicity is a factor of dosage. Water will kill you if you drink enough of it, arsenic is harmless in very low doses. The amount of pesticide residue left on food stuffs is at such low levels, that most scientists in the field (bad pun) say it is not an issue for human health. There is a famous statement from the then Chair of the FSA Sir John Klebs which puts the risk nicely in perspective:
"A single cup of coffee contains natural carcinogens equal to a year's worth of carcinogenic synthetic residues in the diet"

And we know also that pesticides do not seem to negatively impact wild life in farms run with IFM systems, from the Boarded Farms study above.

This is for me the big one. The UK produces 60% of its own food. If climate change impacts are going to be as severe as some predict, we may well have to increase this figure. Unfortunately organic yields are 20-50% lower than from conventional farming. Quantity matters, and will matter more in the future with population increases and climate impacts. If the quality of organic food were higher then we might be able to justify this hit on efficiency, but it isn't. It is a bit like saying motoring would be better if everyone was forced to drive a car based on a design from the 1940's.

The ideas underlying organic farming (an oxymoronic name, since what is non-organic farming; salt mining?) are a mish mash of myths and scientific howlers. The frequently well meaning proponents of the method (when they are not just hard headed farmers out for a quick buck from woolly brained townies) by their fundamentalist approach to new agricultural technologies, like GM, ultimately place blockages in the way of solutions to the problems the world faces.

Finally I did see a study today in the paper from the University of Newcastle suggesting organically produced milk is healthier (less bad and more good fats) than conventional equivilants. It is only one study, but reminds us that all scientific truths are contingent. But currently the weigh of evidence doesn't cast organics in a good light.

Enlightenment Dude said...


I agree with a lot of what you write. I don't want organic farming banned, I just want the claims it makes to be subject to scientific evaluation. I am glad that you see a place for GM, and I would, like you, insist on proper oversight and regulation of this technology. Where we would disagree I suspect is that I think that this is largely in place.

I am glad you enjoy organic food, but unfortunately any benefits you may feel you are gaining from it are probably illusory (though there is some good news possibly - though more about that anon). So where is my evidence?

Enlightenment Dude said...

'All this after the original article was just about planting a few fruit frees,oh dear.'

Hmmm.....classic example of not seeing the wood for the trees, I'd say. ;)

Enlightenment Dude said...


So where is my evidence?

Well it got eaten by the internet, probably because it lacked sufficient pith.

I may re-post it later if anyone provokes me into doing so.

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