On 9 July, a special event was held to launch the Amazing Grace Orchard, a new community orchard planted in Olney – the market town known as the ‘Home of Amazing Grace’.
The Orchard, located by the Queens Canopy, marks the 250th anniversary of the internationally known hymn, which was written in the town by Revd John Newton (1725-1807). Today, the town’s Cowper & Newton Museum shares the history of the life of John Newton and, when the Olney Allotment Association learned of this milestone anniversary, they set out to plant a community orchard that would stand as a lasting legacy of the Amazing Grace 250 year.
With support from Olney Town Council and local residents, over 100 fruit trees have now been planted – and with support from The MK Foundation, Co-Op community Fund and local business grants, new artwork has also been installed.
The 9 July event, was open to everyone, and began at 10.30am outside the Cowper & Newton Museum, from where “Piper” Rod Elder led people to the Orchard. At 11am there was an Amazing Grace singalong, led by acclaimed vocal coach, Sophie Garner, and her choir, followed by music from internationally renowned Dan Evans English Dulcimers. In the afternoon, the Cowper & Newton Museum held a special Sunday opening.
Commenting, Rohan Wedge, Olney Allotment Holders’ Association, said:
“The Amazing Grace Community Orchard could not have happened without the incredible support we have received from the local community, and I want to thank Olney Town Council and everyone who donated to our appeal, sponsored a tree and volunteered their time to help with planting.”
“The Orchard will have multiple benefits for our local community and wildlife, including opportunities to learn new skills in orchard management and wildlife conservation. It will also become a historical and environmental educational resource for all generations.”
“Our celebration on 9 July was a wonderful way to say a very big thank you to everyone who has helped us along the way – and what better way to start the proceedings that with a singalong to Amazing Grace?”
Jane Brushwood, Town Clerk, Olney Town Council, said: “We have been delighted to support this ongoing community project, with the orchard becoming a popular addition to our lovely allotment area. Linking the orchard to Amazing Grace, which is synonymous with Olney, is a great way of ensuring the current residents of Olney are reminded of the cultural heritage of their town’s past, as well as continuing to care for its wonderful open spaces into the future.”
Amanda Molcher, Trustee, Cowper & Newton Museum, said:
“We are delighted that Olney now has a community orchard, and that it has been inspired by our Amazing Grace 250 year.
Since it was written in Olney by the Revd John Newton – a naval seaman and slave ship captain, before he became a clergyman here in Olney and a figure in Britain’s Abolitionist Movement – Amazing Grace has been sung around the world. Over the past year we have invited people in Olney, in Milton Keynes and beyond to share what this world-famous hymn and the life of its author mean today, and this has created an opportunity for valuable learning across the community. Olney has been at the heart of our programme and the Amazing Grace Orchard is a wonderful living legacy of an amazing year!”