Following our AGM on Tuesday 26 February, we held a 'mini-symposium' on Orchard Restoration, in which no less than seven contributors, each speaking for 5-10 minutes, gave the 40-45 people present a clear picture of the variety of interest in and experience of orchards locally. John Josephi has an old orchard into which he has planted new trees of local varieties. Phil Morgan, newly arrived at Wyeside, discovered a modern orchard deeply embedded in scrub and young woodland, and has set about clearing the scrub and pruning the fruit trees. Helen Kemp and Bruce Chapple, have several old orchard trees, which they are not sure how to rehabilitate, but this has been a springboard for discussions with neighbours about jointly creating a new orchard, and to canvassing interest in creating a parish orchard. Then there were two contributors who have planted new orchards with regional varieties. One, Keith Orchard, well known as a cider maker, has faced and largely solved problems of establishment, such as deer. The other, David Clifford, has moved into Windward House, and has immediately had an orchard planted with numerous Gloucestershire varieties of fruit tree. A wider vision of orchards was given by Winifred and Les Baker of Llandogo, whose consultancy ("Reckless Orchard") uses orchards as part of the landscaping of major developments, such as schools and power stations. Finally, Chris Wedge, the orchards officer of DEFRA, was on hand to mention the grants that may be available to aspiring orchard restorers. (See Chris Wedge's follow-up information lower down this page).
This meeting demonstrated a wide interest locally in orchards, and the question now is: how should we follow up? Obviously we could leave everyone to find their own way and do their own thing, but orchards have the potential for enjoyable community collaboration which should also benefit individuals. Orchards are also, of course, a reasonably good way to use grassy fields, since the ground herbage will need to be at least kept tidy, and could still be used to cut hay or graze sheep.
The PGP will try to arrange for an orchard expert to be the main speaker at an autumn meeting, perhaps at a time when fruit from local old trees can be identified to variety. We may also try to arrange an afternoon tour of old orchard remnants.
However, it is the longer term that is more important. Three possible actions come to mind:
- Planting a parish orchard. This is the idea canvassed by Helen in Village News last year, which she says generated some interest. Here the need is for land, which is hard to find in competition with the prices paid for horse-pasturage.
- A gene-bank of local fruit tree varieties. This has much in common with a parish orchard, but the aim would be to maintain the local genetic stock.
- A social occasion associated with the fruit harvest. Many communities now have Apple Days around 21 October, and we could try something on these lines. The PGP would like to make hay-making into a social occasion, but an "apple day" might be far more practicable
The PGP committee can arrange the autumn meeting, but we would need someone to volunteer to be the orchard co-ordinator on the committee if we are to go further. We therefore have two local needs: (i) land on which a parish orchard or a gene bank can be established, and (ii) an individual who is willing to co-ordinate whatever is done. We hope we can find both of these before the autumn of 2008, and anyone who thinks they might be able to help should get in touch with any member of the PGP committee and discuss what it might involve
Chris Wedge's follow-up information
Following the meeting Chris Wedge has sent us this very useful and comprehensive list of links and contacts.
Here's a link to the page on the Defra website with info on the two strands of Environmental Stewardship (ES):
- Higher Level Stewardship (HLS) and
- (Organic) Entry Level Stewardship ((O)ELS) http://www.defra.gov.uk/erdp/schemes/es/default.htm (link no longer active)
There is also a PDF with info on ES specific to orchards on the Gloucestershire Orchards Group website (GOG) under 'grants'. I would like to be able to say that HLS could fund the restoration of orchards, but unfortunately our budgets here are still very restricted and we're not funding much apart from SSSIs at the moment. Hopefully this will change at some point soon. The GOG website also has info on Gloucestershire County Council's 'Restoring Our Landscape' grant, which also covers orchards. There are some other schemes that might also be helpful, for community orchard projects at least. Natural England has recently launched Access to Nature scheme, in conjunction with the Big Lottery Fund http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/leisure/grants-funding/. Community orchards appear to meet the three main strands of the scheme so should have a good chance of obtaining funding. Apparently the Tubney Trust (no longer appears to exist) may provide 40% costs to the purchasing of an orchard
Gloucestershire Environmental Trust http://www.glos-environment-trust.co.uk/index.php may also provide funding. The latest newsletter from the People's Trust for Endangered Species Traditional Orchard Project is interesting - click here to view a copy. The PTES are the lead partner for the BAP priority species the Noble Chafer. They are currently mapping and surveying the traditional orchards in the eight counties in England which have recent or historic Noble Chafer records, including Glos, using aerial photos and then ground-truthing by volunteers. If anyone in your group is interested in carrying out some of the surveys I'm sure they would be more than welcome! The PTES already have the location of all Gloucestershire orchards based on the aerial photos, hopefully they should have the ground- truthed maps by the middle of next year. Sustain have put together an extremely useful book on managing orchard projects http://www.sustainweb.org/page.php?id=122 The Gloucestershire Orchard Group website has lots of useful info and contacts, including info on Glos varieties and where to buy fruit trees locally http://www.gloucestershireorchardgroup.org.uk
Alternative useful places to try and have background info on varieties: