Orchards and Biodiversity
Orchards are places of beauty, of tranquility, of timelessness. They’ve been their ages seeing the seasons in and out, gently changing their appearance from blossom to fresh leaves, to fruiting and joyful harvesting. Often unseen by us much other wildlife benefits too.
Orchards may have been around for decades, and traditional ones for centuries. Grassland, hedges and trees provide for the wide diversity of wildlife that has become established. And there were many such in the Welsh Marches. Sadly over 80% have disappeared.
Orchards have been given added importance in that Traditional Orchards were recently added to Local Biodiversity Action Plans.
Many Wildlife Trusts have also been restoring traditional orchards and establishing new ones https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/wildlife/habitats/traditional-orchard.
They are working with farmers and land-owners for emphasizing traditional management techniques, including grazing, hay-cutting and scrub clearance. There are many opportunities for you to volunteer with and learn new skills Wildlife Trusts. Some orchards that you can visit are listed under “Orchards to Visit”.
Often bee-keepers are pleased to site their hives near to an orchard. We’re just as keen that they do so too. A pleasing collaboration. We encourage bee-keepers to have hives near our orchards. MAN attends Beep-keeping Shows at Builth Wells and Harper Adams.
Tits, wood warblers, and pied flycatchers can be good friends keeping aphids numbers under control. In winter redwings help control numbers of insects, slugs, and other wildlife that might otherwise become a nuisance, sometimes we’ve seen flocks exceeding a 100 in number. Birds are another collaboration.
But then crows sometimes peck fruit as it ripens and make themselves unwelcome.
Peoples Trust for Endangered Species https://ptes.org/ have been active in locating orchards, over 42000 in England and Wales so far. They have surveyed over 8000 already and are keen for more owners and volunteers to contribute. They provide an illuminating overview of the distribution and condition of our orchards. https://ptes.org/get-involved/surveys/countryside-2/traditional-orchard-survey/
The South and West Wales Wildlife Trust have an orchard at St. Dogmaels in Pembrokeshire. It wsa from this area that several of the unusual Welsh Apples that MAN has found were obtained https://www.welshwildlife.org/events/the-peoples-orchard-st-dogmaels/
Orchards to visit
Orchards in the Welsh Marches
MAN has five museum orchards and Members are welcome to visit these by prior arrangement (see MAN Orchards)
Berrington Hall, near Leominster in Herefordshire https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/berrington-hall. This classical 18th Century mansion was designed by Henry Holland and is gracefully set in a park landscaped by “Capability” Brown. There is an enclosed orchard of traditional apple and pear varieties; it is the National collection of Herefordshire and Worcestershire apple varieties.
Colwall Orchard Group have recently established a community orchard which comprises of nearly 300 apple and pear trees http://colwallorchardgroup.org. It replaces the former “Gas Orchard” lost over 50 years ago. It is open to the public and is a grand example of what can be achieved by a committed community.
Marcle Ridge. Orchard visits are included during the twice yearly Big AppleBig Apple (www.bigapple.org.uk) weekends.
The privately owned Kemerton Estate is owned by the Darby Family and currently managed by Adrian Darby, formerly chairman of the RSPB and later chairman of Plantlife. It has grown from 300 acres in 1949 to 1150 acres in 2003. The estate is in South Worcestershire, near Tewkesbury, rising from the Carrant Brook and the River Avon to the South Western Slopes of Bredon Hill. The estate contains several traditional orchards which have undergone restoration in recent years. About 250 varieties of apples and pears are grown on some 500 trees. Lillians orchard has a comprehensive collection of apple and cider apple varieties, being managed by the Kemerton Conservation Trust http://kemerton.org/. For group visits to The Orchards or other parts of the estate contact the Conservation Advisor email@example.com or by phone on 01386 725 653.
National Apple Day on 21st October 1994 saw the start of the planting of the Ebley Linear Community Orchard near Stroud, Gloucestershire. This is an orchard alongside an ex-railway line, now a cycletrack. Seventy trees along a half mile of the track have been planted. Each traditional and some rare varieties are interpreted by individual information boards giving such details as date of origin and uses of the apple per variety. Gloucester Underleaf, Ashmead’s Kernel and Gillyflower of Gloucester are just some of the varieties planted. The Community Orchard is now well established and is well worth a visit. It can be found on the left hand side of the Ebley bypass A419 from Stonehouse to Stroud. A car park is provided at the Kings Stanley turning.
The Vale of Evesham Blossom Trail https://www.visitevesham.co.uk/about-vale/blossom-trail/ may be enjoyed between the end of March and mid May. Details can be found on a leaflet available from information centres in Worcestershire.
At Comberton Abbey, Whitchurch, Shropshire SY13 4AJ https://combermereabbey.co.uk/gardens/ there is a fruit maze. Only a limited number of non traditional varieties are used but the maze provides a large scale example of the pruner’s skills in creating espalier trees. The maze is only open to groups of 20 or more, booked in advance.
Three circular walks through orchards at Breinton, Mordiford and Woolhope near Hereford are listed on the Cider Museum website https://www.cidermuseum.co.uk/orchard-walks/ There are informative pamphlets about each of these.
Common Ground has a Website “England in Particular” lists many orchards throughout England that may be possible to visit http://www.englandinparticular.info/orchards/o-counties.html
In addition Orange Pippin website lists more orchards in England that may be visited
In Gloucestershire, there are many community orchards. Gloucestershire Orchard Trust https://glosorchards.org/home/got-orchards/ gives details of two orchards that they own at Longney on the banks of the Severn. Two are long established traditional orchards containing apples, pears and plums, with many local varieties, one is being planted with the full collection of Gloucestershire apples and the fourth with a collection of plums (many local) and cherries. The orchards are open to the public, but parking is very limited. Best to make prior arrangements via firstname.lastname@example.org
National Apple Day on 21st October 1994 saw the start of the planting of the Ebley Linear Community Orchard near Stroud, Gloucestershire https://glosorchards.org/home/orchardadvice/local-and-community-orchards-old-list/. This is an orchard alongside an ex-railway line, now a cycletrack. Seventy trees along a half mile of the track have been planted. The Community can be found on the left hand side of the Ebley bypass A419 from Stonehouse to Stroud. A car park is provided at the Kings Stanley turning.
Also the delightful Hartpury Orchard Centre hosts the National Collection of perry pears, currently number 105 varieties. Jim Chapman generously established this over the period 1999-2003 as a compliment to the earlier work by Charles Martell finding and planting 59 varieties of perry pears at the Three Counties Agricultural Society showground at Malvern by 1998. Visitors are welcome to walk in the Hartpury orchards (leaflet available) at any time. https://www.hartpuryheritage.org.uk/heritage/the-national-perry-pear-centre/background/
Westbury Court, Westbury-on-Severn, Gloucestershire has an interesting collection of old varieties in the walled garden of the property owned by the National Trust http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/westbury-court-garden
In Worcestershire Biological Records Centre http://www.wbrc.org.uk/WBRC/WOCS.pdf there are accounts of a number of varied traditional orchards being brought back into productivity by owners and managers is given in http://www.wbrc.org.uk/WBRC/WOCS.pdf
Orchards in Wales
In Wales, at the Middleton Hall, National Botanic Garden of Wales there is a comprehensive collection of Welsh apple varieties http://www.gardenofwales.org.uk/
Powis Castle, Welshpool, the National Trust has a small orchard of Victorian apple varieties. http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/powis-castle-and-garden
Erddig Hall, Wrexham, has a good collection of old varieties in the walled garden plus others in an adjacent area and in the car park. It is maintained by the National Trust http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/erddig
Plant Heritage https://www.plantheritage.org.uk/ lists all national plant collections. It is possible to search for all National Collections of Fruit.
It is well outside the Marches but Cannon Hall Walled Garden https://www.parksandgardens.org/places/cannon-hall-walled-garden has a collection of some 38 pear cultivars. The garden is at Cawthorne, 5 miles West of Barnsley. Tel 01226 790720.