Orchards are beautiful. Traditional orchards are a haven for a wide variety of wildlife, including bees. Orchards, like woods and other tree cover, protect soil from erosion and nutrient depletion; they help to hold rain and protect groundwater from pollution; and they store carbon and so help to protect the climate.
Orchards can produce food which is not just local and low-impact but healthy and delicious. Britain’s gardeners have bred hundreds of varieties of fruits and nuts. The National Fruit Collection at Brogdale in Kent is one of the biggest and best in the world. Altogether you’d think orchards were just what we need for a sustainable future, and the kind of thing we’d have done everything we could to protect. But we’ve lost most of the orchards Britain used to have.
So in the last few years local orchard groups have been springing up, and now the Isle of Wight is joining in. Back in May the West Wight Landscape Partnership invited Islanders to join an Isle of Wight Orchard Group to conserve, promote and celebrate orchards and fruit and nut trees on the Isle of Wight. About thirty people came along, and they now have over a hundred people on their mailing list.
Since that first meeting they’ve discussed all sorts of things they might want to do, and out of a long list of possibilities they’ve decided their first priority is to help bring at least one orchard back into production. Many of the group’s members are also volunteering for the national survey of traditional orchards organised by the People’s Trust for Endangered Species (details are on their website, www.ptes.org).
The PTES did a survey of the whole of England using maps and aerial photographs, and on the Island they found 232 possible traditional orchard sites. About 30 Island volunteers are now checking these on the ground. When they meet orchard owners whose orchards are neglected because the owners can’t manage their orchard anymore, for whatever reason, the volunteer surveyors can ask if they’d like some help from the Isle of Wight Orchard Group.
Members of the Orchard Group have also helped the Green Gym recently when they worked in Gift to Nature’s community orchard at Sandown Wetlands.
If you would like to join the Orchard Group, or let them know about an orchard in need of help, or just to find out more, you can call them on 759779, email email@example.com, or visit wwlp.co.uk.
The next meeting is at 7 pm on Monday 5 September at 6th Newport Scout Hall, Trafalgar Road, Newport. All welcome!
Photo credit to wimbledonian