A group of volunteers is blazing a trail through Buckland and Landport to provide opportunities for local people and to create a link to the city's Dickensian roots.

The Charles Dickens Trail is a walking route in Portsmouth, the city of his birth. Between Thursday 15 March and Saturday 17 March, local volunteers will be joined by the Lord Mayor of Portsmouth Cllr Ken Ellcome, local school children, residents, Tree Council representatives, local tree wardens, Friends of the Earth, Food Portsmouth, Abundance Portsmouth and Fratton Big Local. They'll be planting fruit trees and hedging at designated areas along the trail.

The route takes in 15 attractions linked to the great writer, including the Charles Dickens Birthplace Museum, St Mary's Church and the Hard.

Dickens was an advocate of an apple a day for health and historically there was a cherry orchard between his birthplace and St. Mary's Church. It was a natural choice to use part of the route of the trail for a new orchard planting initiative which will provide free fruit for local people, plus opportunities to learn about trees, hedges and growing food. The project has been funded by the Tree Council and is supported by Portsmouth City Council.

Cllr Donna Jones, Leader of Portsmouth City Council, said:

"It's so important that Portsmouth is recognised as the birthplace of one of the world's most famous literary legends. This is a fantastic initiative that will see a historic trail brought to life through the hard work of dedicated volunteers. I'm sure Dickens would be proud to know that this innovative project bears his name."

The project has developed out of the successful community orchard project at Cornwallis Crescent in Landport and is the brainchild of resident and lead volunteer Dennis David, who has become a Portsmouth and Southsea tree warden with the Tree Council.

Dennis said:

"I have lived locally all my life and I saw an opportunity to improve the area by providing a future legacy for young people. I thought it was a good idea to provide free fruit for local people and encourage wildlife while providing educational opportunities. The orchard connects us with other groups and brings together projects in the city as well as making the area look beautiful."

"All the community groups have come together to make this project a success and I am very grateful to the council for their support and to all those involved in our first phase of this amazing project."

Now growing into its third year, the Cornwallis Crescent Community Orchard has already had a positive impact on the local community. The former derelict site next to the play area behind All Saints Church now provides a pleasant space for local residents to enjoy, with seating areas, attractive planting, a meadow area and fruit trees.

The team of up to 60 volunteers who plant and maintain the orchard have benefited from training, have developed new skills, made friends and enjoyed positive rewards for their community.

Cllr Jennie Brent, Portsmouth City Council's Cabinet Member for Property and Housing, said:

"It's wonderful to see these hard-working volunteers giving up their time and getting involved with the orchards trail. They are all doing a splendid job by creating a sense of community with the added benefit of learning new skills, as well as passing on their own experience to new members. This initiative benefits so many people and will provide a long-lasting natural legacy for future generations to enjoy."

The planting of small trees will take place on Thursday 15, Friday 16 and Saturday 17 March with the first tree to be planted by the Lord Mayor on Thursday.

Do you have a few hours to spare and can help with the planting?

Contact Trish Bell on 023 9284 1698 to get involved.

You don't need any previous experience as local tree wardens and experienced volunteers will be on hand to assist, although later this year there will be educational opportunities for volunteers to learn how to care for the trees and harvest the fruit. 

To find out more search for 'Cornwallis Crescent Community Orchard volunteers' on Facebook; visit www.treecouncil.org.uk,www.portsmouthtree.org.uk.