One of the things we’d like to achieve with A Forgotten Landscape is getting traditional orchards in our project area better recorded and improving their condition where possible.
To help make this happen, in February we ran a fruit tree maintenance training. A mixed group of our orchard surveying volunteers and other local people had an amazing day learning the basics of fruit tree pruning from Les Davies – Westcountryman (pictured above). Les’s depth of knowledge and warm welcoming nature made learning a true pleasure! There was a lovely mix of ‘in class’ sessions and then practice on the trees. Many thanks to Olive and Heather who kindly let us use their orchard to practice on! The frosty weather failed to deter our doughty learners, and the day was beautifully finished with an improvised wassail featuring viennese whirls! As one learner put it, “What a day! Really lovely, welcoming people, a fantastic and inspiring teacher, and very entertaining!”
Olive and Heather’s orchard is a beautiful spot that has a wide collection of very local varieties. We just love the names – Mere de Mange, Tower of Glamis, Lady Sudely, Lanes Prince Albert, Peasegood Nonsuch – sounds like a children’s book just waiting to be written! To help propagate these heritage trees and keep them going for the future, in February our orchard surveying volunteers learned how to collect scions from the trees. This is the practice of taking shoots of about a year’s age and a pencil’s thickness from the tree in preparation for grafting them and so making them into new trees. Instructed by Bob Seddon of Friends of Cock Ridge Road, we collected carefully labelled bunches of scions that are now waiting for grafting. Bob will show the group how to graft the scions on to new root stock in March, and our young trees will then be nursed at TCV’s Tree Life Centre in Grimsbury Farm, Kingswood. Come next year, they’ll be ready for planting out! So our next job is to identify old orchards that need some new trees, or sites for new community orchards. If you have any ideas, we’d be happy to hear them!
If the thought of spending time in orchards appeals to you, getting to know more about them and their amazing wildlife value, we are currently looking for more orchard surveyors! Details are here.