Pupils at the school attacked by arsonists ahead of a visit by the Duchess of Cambridge, are smiling again as they feast their eyes on the start of a new school orchard – aptly featuring Katya, or Katy, apples.
Last week firebugs destroyed a play area at The Willows Primary in Wythenshawe – just hours after the Royal visit was announced.
Since then the school and wider community has vowed to fight back to be ready for the royal engagement tomorrow (Tuesday 23 April).
And now, cider-maker Dan Hasler has added to that optimism with the planting of the first apple trees at the school, so that pupils can get fresh fruit to eat.
Dan Hasler, 31, who makes ‘Moss Cider’ from Manchester-grown apples, applied for funding from the We Love MCR charity – which is the new name for the Lord Mayor of Manchester’s Charity appeal trust – to buy apple trees for two primary schools in Manchester.
He made the funding application at Christmas for the Willows Primary in Wythenshawe and also the Divine Mercy RC Primary in Moss Side after reading about the difficulties facing some families struggling to feed their children.
Last year Anne Whitehead, head at the Willows Primary – where 60 per cent of the children are eligible for free meals – spoke about the difficulties facing some families in the recession. Mrs Whitehead also said she’d heard of some parents going without food so that they could feed their children.
This was the trigger which motivated Dan, aged 31, to take action.
Dan said: “When I heard about children and their parents going without, I tried to come up with a way to help.
”My expertise lies in growing apples, so I thought planting trees in primary schools would not only help the youngsters to learn about horticulture, but also give the children chance to take the apples home.”
The first trees have now been planted in both schools and the Katy apples will be ready to be harvested in July – when the royal baby is due.
Miss Whitehead, said: “The apples will be built into our cookery and breakfast clubs and have a very poignant meaning for the children, especially as they are known as Katy apples. Examples like this of community support along with the Royal visit are a great way of showing that resilience and faith in human nature are always worthwhile.”
Ann Walsh, head at Divine Mercy Primary, said: “Our children are thrilled at the prospect of growing their own fruit. They are also looking forward to swapping tips and making new friends with their contemporaries in Wythenshawe.”
Councillor Jim Battle, Deputy Leader at Manchester City Council, with responsibility for regeneration, said: “This project will have far-reaching effects in many ways as families see that Manchester people really care about the city’s youngsters”.
Lord Mayor of Manchester, Councillor Elaine Boyes, said: “This project is exactly the sort of work we back because it has a direct benefit for residents. It’s also a great way of empowering youngsters to reap- and eat – the rewards of their labour.”