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Our Orchard Projects

October 12, 2012

Since 1985 Dawn Chorus and Juno Enterprise have built up a reputation for leading on orchard projects, prior to this board members piloted interest in orchards in Essex, the West Midlands and Nottinghamshire. We liaise with a number of national groups to facilitate orchard information and network opportunities regionally. Dawn Chorus organizes orchard activities as part of our “out to learn” opportunities. We develop new and innovative orchard projects with new groups in new locations. We encourage orchard habitat creation, promote the replanting of hedgerow fruit trees (such as damson, traditional in the county, which are under particular threat) and give advice on sensitive and sustainable land management, including traditional orchard restoration and recreation with local heritage varieties. Our volunteers survey orchard fauna and flora. Evaluate data to determine conservation priorities. We have “mapped routes to market”, stimulating demand for traditional orchard products.  Community members and groups enjoy the historical and cultural activities associated with orchards, from regional wassailing to making huge apple mandalas. They learn to use wood and fruit in a range of ways such as our traditional apple bread, pictured below.

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Above: our 2015 “Be Healthy” Wassail. The old Staffordshire slip trailed mug is pressed into service every year. Barley wine is traditional for wassail in Nottinghamshire but Gregg’s Pit Herofordshire pear perry gives a very satisfying “pop” and is always popular with adults. Apple juice and apple pies – our “pips to pies project”, are a hit with children who love to try on the Holly Kings hat.

We encourage securement of heritage varieties, grafting and own root propagation methods. We carried out research with national bittersweet experts, via the Marches Group, into specific varieties. We carry out orchard mapping using historic maps and oral history projects to identify surviving and lost orchards and undertake fieldwork to establish condition, raise awareness of the wildlife and wider benefits of orchards. We are currently producing an orchard booklet.

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Orchards are a rich resource. Villages such as Lambley in Nottinghamshire had a considerable number of orchards, growing fruit for market and some varieties were ready to supply stalls for the Goose Fair. Sadly, many orchards have been lost to the development of housing, road building, industry and golf courses. We see a lack of understanding of the cultural, environmental, health and wildlife significance of orchards.Traditional management, pruning skills and grass sward care are now rare and the special habitat that they provide are under threat. Old varieties give way to modern commercial bush varieties with heritage trees often grubbed up or are not replaced due to lack of economic incentive. Modern management practice such as clearing dead wood, using pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides and strimmers are detrimental.

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Heritage orchards may occupy the same land for centuries & with low chemical input can provide a biodiversity haven. Fruit trees provide a long flowering and fruiting period, offering nectar and fruit for wildlife over the maximum periods of time. Blossom and windfalls provide nectar for bumblebees and butterflies, moths and other insects and autumn and winter food for mammals, insects, mollusks and birds, respectively. A neglected orchard may have become a rich wildlife site with a mosaic of habitats. Hedge boundaries, wood pasture features, varying vegetation, individual fruit trees, decaying wood, species rich grassland understory, nectar sources and water elements can all be important in providing food, shelter and breeding sites.

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If you have old fruit trees that no longer produce fruit, have remedial pruning by a reputable specialist to rejuvenate. Retain trees that no longer fruit or are dead as a landscape and wildlife feature on your land as long as safe to do so, they provide bat roosts, help hole nesting birds and invertebrates. Fruit trees are relatively short-lived, consequently producing more dead wood habitat more quickly. Bark provides can an anchor for lichen, moss and epiphytes invertebrates; lichens growing on the trees are used by the Hook-tip moth. The Red-belted Clearwing moth lays it’s eggs on rough, cankered large apple and pear branches, the larvae then live under the bark.

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Hedges add greater biodiversity gain, extending nest sites and nectar sources. Mistletoe gives cover for insects and has its own weevil. Apple trees support Eyed Hawk–moth larva; near-by willow and poplars would increase this month’s habitat. Orchard hedges are important to the Pinion-spotted Pug moth which may need apple and hawthorn to feed and complete its life cycle. Lunar-spotted Pinion moth will benefit from orchard hedges, where its larva can feed on elm, blackthorn and hawthorn as well as apple. Ivy should be encouraged; it provides cover for insects and nesting birds and a late nectar source for insects and berries for birds such as black birds, song thrushes, mistle thrushes, Redwing, collared doves, robins, black caps and wood-pigeon. Grass sward should be cut for hay to encourage diverse flora and could contain a ponds for the wildlife.

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Above: blossom of the Merryweather Damson.
Nottinghamshire has a number of unique fruit varieties with a traditional local mix gene pool, suited to sustainable orchard habitat management. The synergy with local wildlife can be influenced by local wild fruit that gave rise to ancient cultivars. Crab apples were often planted at the centre of orchards to aid fertility. Buy locally grown orchard fruit to encourage orchard growers to extend stock. Below: Pitmaston Dutchess is a very big and most delicious, juicy pear.

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A-apple, Py-pear, D-damson, P-plum, G-guage *local name ** locally notable
Berzock (Py)* Barnack Beauty(A) Winter Quarrendon (A)**
Louie Bonn (Py)* Barnack Orange(A) Meech’s Prolific Quince
Beeley Pippin (A) Screveton Golden(A) Bradleys king (D)**
Crimson Bramley (A)** Conference (Py) Holland Pippin(A)
Grantonian (A)** Worcester Black (Py) Early Rivers (P)
Nottingham Pippin (A)** Allington Pippin(A) James Greaves(A)
Johnny Rawes (P)** Ingall’s Pippin(A) Grimoldby Golden(A)
Pickering’s Seedling (A)** Brown’s Seedling (A) Ellison’s Orange(A)
Radford Beauty (A)** Drewdrey’s Seedling (A) Ingall’s Red(A) Sissons Worksop Newton (A)** Dr. Clifford (A) Black(Py)*
Hazel (Py) Walnut Lamb’s Seedling (A) Queen Caroline (A)
Nottingham Meddlar** Worcester Pearmain (A) St. Aildred (A)
Merryweather Seedling (D)** Victoria (P) Philodelphia(A)
Bramley’s Seedling (A)** Czar/golden/cambridge (G) Sleeping Beauty (A)
Lemmon Pippin (A) Blenheim Orange (A) Wm. Ingall (A)
Nottingham Colonel (A) Russet (A) Herring’s Pippin(A)

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Peasgood’s Nonsuch (A)** Marriage Maker (A) Dummelow’s Seedling(A)
Barron Ward (A)** Stripped Russian (A) Northern Greening (A) Domino (A) Prince Charles (A) Lord Burleigh (A)
Beauty of Stoke (A)** Meads Broading (A) Belvoire Seedling(A)
Besspool (A)** Mrs. Willmott (A) Warwickshire Drooper (P)
Flower of Kent(A) Newton Wonder(A) Annie Elizabeth)*

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Orchards can be protected directly or indirectly in a number of ways: as trees, landscape features, or habitats with biodiversity value. The 1999 Town and country planning act via TPO’s, can protect fruit trees, usually in urban areas, for amenity purposes. They can be applied to whole orchards or individual trees. Further, orchards can be designated under PPS9 Circular (para 88) if they benefit biodiversity and conservation. Wildlife associated with orchards, eg: invertebrates or the botanical grass land mix could offer protection to sites via designation. Consideration could be given to SSSI, Local Nature Reserve or County Wildlife Site potential. In the cases of semi natural or uncultivated (neglected) sites, with unimproved grass land, significant populations of BAP species, historic features or with specific landscape value, Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations could provide protection. Larger orchards should be considered under forestry EIA regulations.

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(above: Quince fruit)
If you are lucky your orchard could be home to: the Noble chafer (Gnorimus nobilis),Bumble bees (Bombus) leaf cutter bees and other wild and solitary bees. Wasps, hornets (vespa crabro) and hover flies, many Butterflies, Mistletoe Weevil (Ixapion variegatum), Mistletoe bug (Anthocoris visci), Red-belted clearwing moth (Synanthedon myopaeformis), Eyed Hawk-moth (Smerinthus ocellata), Pinion-spotted Pug (Eupithecia insigniata), Lunar-spotted Pinion (Cosmia pyralina), Beautiful Hook-tip (Laspeyria flexula). Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhulla), Song Thrush (Tardus philomelos), Mistle Thrush (Tardus viscivorus), Wood Pigeon (columba palumbus) , Linnet(Carduelis cannabina), Spotted flycatycher (Muscicapa striata),Tree creeper (Certhia familiaris), Nuthatch (Sitta europaea), Tree Sparrow (Passer montanus), Owls, Woodpeckers (eg: Green woodpecker/Picus viridus), Turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur), Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris),Redwing (Tardus iliacus),Brown Hare (Lepus europaeus),Hedgehog: (Erinaceus europaeus),Bats,Wood mouse( Apodemus sylvaticus), hedgehog, Common toad (Bufo bufo) and if you have a pond,fish, frogs ans newts including the Great crested newt (Triturus cristatus) and Grass snake (Natrix natrix). You may have a Wild crab apple Malus ssp with Mistletoe (Viscum album), Lichen (Parmelia acetabulum), mosses, Ivy (Hedera helix) and tree fungi; a grass sward with Wild daffodil (Narcissus pseudonarcissus), primrose (Primula vulgaris) or cowslip (Primula veris). If you have a hedge look out for violets, jack by the hedge and stitchwort.

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Above: quince blossom.

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