Traditional orchards are a much loved part of our British heritage and countryside. They generally consist of large trees grown on vigorous rootstocks planted at low densities. Often occupying the same piece of land for centuries, and managed without chemical input, these sites are hotspots for biodiversity and have been shown to provide a refuge for over 1800 species spanning the plant, fungi and animal kingdoms. In addition to the well-known apple orchard, plums, pears, damsons, cherries and quince are all grown in orchards, and cobnuts (a type of cultivated hazel) are grown in a type of orchard called a plat. The area of orchard habitat across England has declined by more than 60% since the 1950’s. This is due neglect, intensification of agriculture and pressure from land development. Supermarkets have long been importing cheap fruit from overseas which has led to orchard habitats becoming economically unviable and increasingly rare.
In Eynsham there was a famous old orchard from where comes a whole list of 20th century local apples from the Wastie family. These include the Eynsham Dumpling, Eynsham Challenger, Jennifer Wastie, Jennifer, Oxford Yeoman and Old Fred. It is now beneath the A40. Eynsham’s GreenTEA has played an important role in Eynsham in preserving and planting out a number of varieties of Wastie apple around the village. More recently, Long Mead and the Peace Oak Community Orchard have developed whole orchards to preserve and perpetuate this rare habitat. Jonathan Ferrier is developing small ‘family trees’ of various varieties that will be suitable for small gardens. Long Mead’s trees are on M25 rootstocks so the trees will eventually grow large, providing food for humans and wildlife alike.
If you’re interested in joining the Peace Oak Community Orchard please contact Kate Shaw: firstname.lastname@example.org. If you are interested in pruning or grafting courses please contact Catriona Bass: email@example.com