National Trust has joined with Natural England to begin a project to bring awareness and conservation to the traditional orchard. Traditional orchards are in danger of becoming a thing of the past, with most fruit trees now being grown intensively with the use of chemicals and small scale fruit producers having been hit by difficult economic situations over the years.
One of the major reasons behind the project is concern for the future of many rare varieties of apple, such as the Polly White Hair and the Hangy-Down. Plum and pear varieties are also affected, as are habitats of creatures such as bats, birds, insects and small mammals. National Trust’s head of nature conservation, David Bullock, commented,
“Traditional orchards have been disappearing at an alarming rate over the last 60 years. We are in real danger of losing these unique habitats – and the wildlife, local fruit varieties and their rich heritage – and if we don’t act in some cases we will not even know what local varieties of fruit have been lost.”
The project will provide £500,000 of funding which will go towards securing and preserving existing and neglected orchards and creating new ones, creating awareness of orchards and the biodiversity they are crucial to, and holding workshops to help people learn how to prune and graft fruit trees.
Acting Chair of Natural England, Poul Christensen, said
“Traditional orchards are a classic feature of the English landscape and are ideal habitats for threatened and protected species. Successful orchards are worth their weight in gold, not just for the valuable contribution they make to the economy but to the subsequent enhancement of these precious wildlife habitats.”