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
The plum trees are in blossom. The delicate white flowers emerge before the leaves, but their appearance is fleeting. Ten days and they are gone. For the keen wild forager, now is the time to scour the local hedgerows and woodlands for the plum’s early flowering cousins, the damson, bullace and sloe. Their white blossom is equally ephemeral but at this time of year these wild and semi-wild plums are easy to spot in the hedgerows. Make a mental note of their location and return in the late summer to harvest the delicious fruit. Continue reading
According to research about 40% of us make New Year’s resolutions, but most of us will fail to keep them beyond the first month. Here are 5 simple promises that should be easy to fulfil and will benefit our orchards and wildlife. Continue reading