Orchards are a distinctive and unique feature of the landscape, with a habitat value which is only starting to be properly acknowledged. The dramatic decline of British orchards, especially traditional orchards, in recent years needs to be reversed, their profile and value promoted.

One approach to the problem which many groups are seizing on is to establish communityorchards. They have attributes and assets, even beyond traditional orchards:

  • They are usually community-inspired, offering opportunities to express the enthusiasm and expertise of local people
  • They constitute resource in which the community can take pride and another focus of care and management by the community with its consequent social benefits
  • Other community-building initiatives can be organised around the orchard, eg Blossom
  • Time and Apple Day events
  • They are aesthetic, tranquil places and wildlife-rich
  • They can act as a nursery to develop skills in orcharding, pruning, grafting
  • The fruit harvest can play an important role in healthy living through promoting the consumption of organic fruit, conversion to such products as fresh apple juice, cider vinegar and real cider
  • They can draw in local schools through making the orchard an educational resource
The Coalbrookdale community orchard

In collaboration with the Severn Gorge Countryside Trust, Shropshire Apple Trust has helped to establish a community orchard on 0.6 ha in Coalbrookdale in the Ironbridge Gorge. The orchard comprises some 25 mixed trees, standard and dwarfing rootstock, of dessert, culinary and cider varieties.

When thinking of establishing a community orchard, some of the considerations which need to be taken into account (quite apart from funding) are:

  • Location and aspect of the land from a horticultural and perhaps social point of view the lie of the land with respect to drainage, frosts etc
  • Planting distances between trees depending on type
  • Flowering category of trees being planted with respect to cross fertilisation
  • Early maintenance with respect to grass growth and pest control
  • Long term maintenance
  • Choice and mix of fruit trees with respect to varieties
  • Orchard floor and boundary hedge planting to promote wildlife

The experience and expertise of good local nurseries will prove invaluable for getting advice and supply of trees.

Some Useful Groups:

Marcher Apple Network:-
Network co-ordinator Mrs Sheila Leitch Tel: 01497 847354
Membership Secretary Mr J Aldridge Tel: 01432 820304
or email: membershipsecretary@marcherapple.net

Northern Fruit Group:-
Organising group with large database of fruit groups and orchard groups
email: simon.clark@northernfruitgroup.com