Wildlife charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has launched the latest element in their ongoing orchard conservation work – an interactive community orchard map that lists around 400 community orchard groups across the UK, found at www.ptes.org/community-orchards.
PTES has identified over 35,000 traditional orchards remaining in England and over 7,000 in Wales. Alarmingly, this work revealed that 90% of traditional orchards have been lost since the 1950s, with 48% of the orchards surveyed in England and 35% of orchards in Wales found to be in declining condition.
The map allows members of the public to find their nearest community orchard, to meet others who share a common interest in orchards and wildlife, and enjoy the benefits of locally sourced fruit. Using orchards as a public green space is an effective way to protect orchards from development and sustain these rare habitats into the future.
Through PTES’ new map, people who are already running a community orchard can promote their ongoing work and recruit volunteers for apple picking, tree planting, pruning parties and pressing events at orchards across the country.
If you are involved with a community orchard that isn’t already listed, PTES is also keen to add your orchard to their map. To check if it’s already listed, visit www.ptes.org/community-orchards.
Megan Gimber, Orchard Project Officer at PTES, said: “This map is a great way of helping people who aren’t lucky enough to have an orchard of their own to get involved with one locally. Anyone can engage with this wonderful habitat, by joining existing community groups that are working to maintain and preserve their local orchards.”
Earlier this year, PTES launched FruitFinder, the first online database that lists every variety of orchard fruit grown in the British Isles (including heritage cultivars), from apples and pears to medlars and mulberries, providing a way for gardeners, cider-makers or orchard owners to find nurseries that sell them, or source grafting material of rare heritage varieties.
PTES also coordinates an orchard grant scheme which, in the last year, has distributed enough grafting kits to plant over 1,500 trees in traditional orchards. Another aspect of PTES’ orchard work is the creation of several online practical guides covering various aspects of orchard management, such as pruning and grafting new trees, to encourage orchard owners to manage their orchards in a sustainable and wildlife-friendly manner.
Steve Oram, Orchard Biodiversity Officer at PTES, concludes: “Traditional orchards are made up of several different habitats, such as woodland, hedgerow and meadow grassland, and are home to a range of wildlife, including bats, birds, insects and plant life. Orchards offer habitat stability, which is so crucial for much of our wildlife, yet this is sadly becoming so rare. It’s essential that this unique habitat is preserved, and PTES hopes that the community orchard map, alongside our other ongoing orchard conservation work, will help to do this.”
To find your nearest community orchard, discover how to set one up in your area, or to add your existing community orchard to PTES’ interactive map, visit www.ptes.org/community-orchards.
- Traditional orchards provide excellent conditions for wildlife to thrive. One study of just three orchards in Worcestershire recorded 1,868 species present, equating to about 5% of our native species.
- 402 species of saproxylic invertebrates – insects that are dependent on dead wood – have been recorded in traditional orchards to date, including 102 Red Data Book or nationally scarce species such as the noble chafer beetle.
- One study of Herefordshire’s traditional orchards recorded eight of the 19 bird species in the government’s ‘quality of life farmland bird indicator’ list, and 16 of the 33 woodland species in the equivalent woodland indicator list.
- You could eat a different variety of English apple every day for over six years without eating the same one twice
- The apple is Britain’s national fruit and botanically are members of the rose family.
- There are over 100 perry pear varieties in Gloucestershire and some of the more colourful names of the perry drink produced vividly describe their potential effect: Merrylegs; Mumblehead; Lumberskull; Drunkers and Devildrink
- PTES, a UK conservation charity created in 1977, is ensuring a future for endangered species throughout the world. We protect some of our most threatened wildlife species and habitats, and provide practical conservation support through research, grant-aid, educational programmes, wildlife surveys, publications and public events. Our current priority species and habitats include hazel dormice, hedgehogs, water voles, noble chafers, stag beetles, traditional orchards and native woodlands.
- Visit www.ptes.org for more information, or follow PTES on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ptes) and Twitter (@PTES).
- Characteristically, traditional orchards consist of a low density of trees set in semi-natural, mainly herbaceous, vegetation. They are cultivated using low-intensity methods such as the absence of pesticides and the use of grazing animals instead of machines for mowing. This important habitat is becoming rare as we rely increasingly on imports to provide cheap fruit throughout the year. This has left the traditional orchard habitat, an intrinsic feature of the English countryside, at risk from neglect, intensification of agriculture and pressure from land development.
- The PTES Traditional Orchard and Fruit Tree Survey app can be downloaded for free.
- The traditional orchard inventory for England and Wales is available to download from www.ptes.org/orchardmaps.
Image from Pixabay