When you think about orchards, it is easy to focus solely on the trees. But, orchards are much more than a collection of fruit trees. A traditional orchard is a mosaic of different habitats, the grasses, herbs and vegetation on the ground – known as the sward – scrub, and hedgerows. Each plays a vital role in the life of the orchard – both for its custodian and the wildlife it supports.
Hedgerows are the traditional boundary for orchards. They perform a number of functions. As well as determining its limits, once established, hedgerows can provide an extra source of fruit [crab apples, plums, damsons and cherries are often planted in them]. They prevent livestock from escaping and create natural windbreaks. Continue reading
Stroll along any countryside lane in the autumn and you will discover the hedgerows are full of wild apple trees – the progeny of discarded apple cores or an apple pip dispersed by an animal or bird. Known as wildings, they can also be evidence of a ‘lost’ orchard where a lone apple tree has survived and been incorporated into the hedgerow. Variable in size, texture and colour these accidental apple trees are often mistaken for crab apples, the original wild form of the tree. Continue reading
What a difference a week makes. We went back to the orchard on the Shropshire/Herefordshire border [see Damson Surprise] and the damsons had ripened nicely and were now perfect for picking. We filled another crate which we took to the Houghton Project where the damsons were washed and frozen ready for jam-making.
Walking round the orchard we were intrigued as to why the owner had planted so many damson trees. We counted over a dozen. Damsons have always been a popular culinary fruit and in the past had been much in demand by the jam industry in that area, but perhaps a clue lies with another of their qualities. Continue reading