Restoring Fishgarth Orchard

Published : 26 Apr 2017

This Spring we’ve been busy in an unassuming corner of Fishgarth Wood near Ambleside, known as Fishgarth Orchard. The small triangle of overgrown land at the bottom of the wood was sold to the National Trust in 1993 by Dr. Coleville who lives close-by.

Orchard by name maybe, but orchard by nature, certainly not. Until recently the land was overgrown and looking particularly unloved. Lots of people pass through this part of the wood on their way to Loughrigg Fell, but few linger.  So we thought it was time that something was done about it and a small team of Rangers and volunteers set about improving the orchard to a state befitting of its name.

After much brush cutting, pollarding and cutting back of shrubs we were ready to plant some wonderful fruit trees and set the land well on its way to becoming a traditional orchard. We have planted about 10 trees all together, many of which were propagated by the South Lakeland Orchard Group who are passionate about orchard fruits and really know their stuff when it comes to varieties that will do well in our Cumbrian climate.

There are thousands of apple varieties to choose from in the UK, but sadly many of the rare traditional varieties are at risk of disappearing. Among the Cumbrian heritage varieties we planted are the Duke of Devonshire, bred in 1835 by Wilson, gardener to the Duke of Devonshire at Holker Hall in Cumbria and the Keswick Codlin which was originally discovered as a seedling on a rubbish heap at Gleaston Castle near Ulverston!

Like many of our traditionally managed habitats, orchards are becoming rare in the UK. Recognised as a priority habitat in the UK Biodiversity Action Plan, traditional orchards are hotspots for biodiversity in the countryside, supporting a wide range of wildlife as well as being significant to the local character of our landscapes. They often contain a mosaic of habitats, including scrub, hedgerows and grasslands, as well as fruit trees of varying ages and an abundance of dead and decaying wood, all of which can support a wide range of plants and animals.

Liam Plummer, Woodland Ranger, said: “This is something a bit different, orchards used to be quite common in Cumbria, but they’re increasingly rare now. This orchard will be a new type of habitat  in addition to the woodland, which will be great for nature and will hopefully become an interesting little place for people to visit.”

The trees  will take a couple of years to mature and start bearing fruit but we hope that with the addition of some basic natural seating and a path through the orchard people will come along and enjoy this re-discovered pocket of nature just outside of Ambleside.