The vision of Fruit Routes is to plant fruit, nut trees and edible plants along footpaths and cycle paths across the university campus creating a spring snowfall of blossom and an autumnal abundance of fresh fruits and berries for harvesting, eating and distributing. Different varieties of pears, plums, damsons, greengages, hazels, almonds, apples and hedgerow species suited to the local environment and the changing climate will be planted with and cared for by people who live, work and pass through these places providing an annual feast for years to come, providing an enriched habitat for people, plants, insects and animals and a location for cultural activities and outdoor learning.

Anne-Marie Culhane, 2011

The Fruit Routes charter is a guide to the ethos of Fruit Routes and how it works. Its principles have emerged as the result of ten years of shared learning on this project on Loughborough University Campus.  Together, they underpin the evolution, design and culture of the project as a living, participatory and collaborative eco-artwork.

Fruit Routes Guiding Ethos

Fruit Routes is informed by the three permaculture ethics:

  • Earthcare
  • Fairshare
  • Peoplecare 

Permaculture is the art of designing beneficial relationships to create harmonious and productive life-sustaining environments.

Earthcare involves working to ensure abundant resources for the survival, flourishing and continuation of life on earth. It promotes systems that minimise extraction and negative impact on the Earth’s natural environment and species.

Fairshare is about sharing the resources we have, not taking more than we need and redistributing any surplus; making sure resources are shared fairly with people, animals and plants with consideration of the future. For example if you are picking fruit from an apple tree, rather than stripping the tree bare for your own use, you could leave some fruit for wildlife or for other people, give some away to friends or neighbours and leave some to rot back into the ground to feed the soil.

Peoplecare involves taking care of ourselves and others, taking into consideration not only the basics of food and shelter but also peoples’ emotional, social and spiritual needs. Looking beyond ourselves, this ethic aims to ensure access for all people to different resources and opportunities, to ensure the well-being of all.

How Fruit Routes works

The trees

The trees are grown without the application of chemical fertilisers or pesticides and are cared for by the university gardens team with occasional volunteers for pruning, mulching and harvesting. A wide range of orchard species are planted in response to climate change and the uncertainty of future environmental conditions. This includes local, heritage varieties which may or may not be able to respond quickly as the climate changes, and varieties from warmer climates.

More-than-Humans

Fruit Routes is intended as a resource of food, pollen, habitat and shelter for other beings who live on campus eg wildlife such as birds, insects and bats – as well as humans. We explore the lives of other living beings and how they are interwoven with ours and the life of the orchards and campus through events and walks.

Collaborating and sharing information and knowledge

Fruit Routes is encouraging a local food culture on campus, supporting outdoor learning and sharing of knowledge across staff, students and local people. Fruit Routes explores transdisciplinary (crossing many disciplines or between, across and beyond disciplines) approaches to sharing information and learning and favours collaborative and participatory events. Fruit Routes values different ways of knowing the world and questions conventional hierarchies of knowledge.

Spreading the word

The Fruit Routes website documents and shares information about events and the Fruit Routes map enables people to get to know the route better as well as find out about each tree, each variety of fruit, its uses and when it ripens. Participants are encouraged to run their own events, sign up to the mailing list or link on social media to stay connected to the project. Information about Fruit Routes is shared through the Fruit Routes website, mailing list, social media, staff, student and community information platforms and through talks and presentations.

Well-being at events

Visitors to Fruit Routes may be members of the public, from the very young to the elderly, new students or those who may not have English as a first language. Fruit Routes invites everyone to take responsibility for making all those who visit Fruit Routes feel part of the project, cared for and safe. Special care is taken in welcoming the local community to campus. These visitors may be tentative about their access rights on campus or may feel unsure about being in an academic setting or excluded by the use of academic language.

Local food

Visitors to the route are encouraged to see and taste the benefits of growing and eating locally-grown food. Events provide high quality plant-based food and drink which is organic, local or foraged. All food ingredients are clearly labelled and foraging is undertaken by experienced foragers. The Fruit Routes Recipe Book encourages people to try out different recipes throughout the year. The Campus Apple Bake Off is as a playful celebration of the potential of cooking with locally-grown and harvested fruit. Fruit Routes works with University catering teams to encourage cooking with ingredients from campus and with the LAGS (Landscaping and Gardening Society) group to source fresh produce.

Multiple forms of activity

Fruit Routes is a place for experimentation and evolving new forms of creative participation – head, heart, mouth, hands! Fruit Routes events often combine:

  • free foraged or locally sourced food and drink (refreshments and socialising)
  • learning about ecology, the natural world and environment through talks and walks (environmental learning)
  • participatory creative interventions and ritual, performances, workshops and creative collaborations (arts, making and performance)

Events are designed to be of interest to people of different ages, academic disciplines and cultures and to enable people to move freely from one event to another. This offers the potential for someone to take part in something they wouldn’t normally do by feeling safe and open to try something new. In recent years Fruit Routes Spring/Summer events focused on three underlying themes of biodiversity, climate change, and food systems. Events mostly chime with key seasonal moments in the orchard calendar eg harvest, blossom, wassail. This cyclical pulse enables people to maintain repeat engagement over many years. Families, students, staff and community have different schedules which are taken into consideration. Events are outdoors whenever possible and at different times of day to enable people to participate during lunchbreaks, after work or at weekends.

Accessibility

Most of Fruit Routes is on level ground apart from a small section. There is some on-site seating in the Barefoot Orchard and Transcendental Orchard. There is a mix of hard surfaces and informal paths. Access information for events and walks is provided in advance. Fruit Routes aims to continue to improve access to the route and at events. Where private transport is necessary a car park and taxi rank can be found located close to the route.

Involvement and Participation

Fruit Routes is available as a research, learning lab or teaching space. It has been used as part of teaching and research for undergraduates and postgraduates by the school of Design and Creative Arts, Geography, English, Architecture and Advanced Studies as well as for primary schools, home educated groups and families and scientific monitoring. For example the Architecture Summer School has taken place over a number of years. Fruit Routes has been part of campus well-being events and is used as a student study space. The Fruit Routes Steering Group is a group of staff, students and local people who oversee the care of the route. People are invited to approach the Fruit Routes Steering Group to get involved and find out about the route for research, events and gatherings.

Local and sustainable sourcing

Fruit trees are sourced from the UK and where we can from local suppliers who are supporting the propagation of unusual, specialist and heritage varieties. Fruit Routes is mindful of the social and environmental costs of running events. Recycled and low environmental impact materials are used for events for example recycled papers, reusable china cups, biodegradable twine. Plastic is avoided as much as possible and all waste is recycled appropriately. Preference is given to organic, co-operative suppliers or local suppliers who are mindful of their impact and resource use.

Sustainable transport

Fruit Routes encourages arriving at Fruit Routes by public transport, walking or by bike. There is a bus stop very close to Fruit Routes which runs regularly to the town and train station.

Design and Aesthetics

Fruit Routes design and promotional material uses ‘friendly’, varied, hand-drawn visual imagery and design rather than ‘clip art’ or generic corporate promotional material. Careful consideration is made in terms of the aesthetics and materials used in displays and at events.

Conviviality

Fruit Routes encourages visitors to meet one another and mix across age groups in a friendly setting. This atmosphere is nurtured by creating activities which encourage exchange and dialogue and shared, informal learning.

Gratitude

Fruit Routes is anchored in gratitude for the abundance of the natural world.

The Charter is an evolving document and can be found online along with the Fruit Routes book, an overview of the first years of the project, the Fruit Routes recipe book and the Fruit Routes Map. For paper copies please contact the email below.

Get in touch via environment@lboro.ac.uk if you would like to find out more, contact the Fruit Routes Steering Group or to join the mailing list.

Written by Anne-Marie Culhane with Jo Shields, May 2022

with thanks to the Gardens team, the Sustainability team, Paul Conneally, Gillian Whiteley, Jo Salter, Marsha Meskimmon, Martha Worsching, David Bell, LU Arts, Landscaping & Gardening Society and Transition Loughborough

We need to create opportunities for conversations about how we can collectively begin to experiment with new ways of living. And in education, this means supporting students not only to learn about questions of sustainability, but to engage in meaningful active participation in communities to experiment and act carefully and in partnership with others.Kerry Facer, visiting Zennström Professor in Climate Change Leadership at Uppsala University in Sweden.