An apple a day

Volunteer gardeners picking apples in the garden at Bateman's, Burwash, East Sussex, the home of Rudyard Kipling

Traditional orchards are wonderful places for fruit, wildlife and people. With huge losses in the last 60 years (as high as 90 per-cent in some counties) traditional orchards are under threat.

Our orchards

We have well over 100 orchards in our care and are also joint-leading (along with Natural England) the UK Biodiversity Action Plan for Traditional Orchards which seeks to combine efforts of a number of organisations, all striving to conserve these valuable habitats for future generations to enjoy.
In October 2008 Natural England awarded us a grant of £268,000 from their Countdown 2010 Fund. We are matching this to deliver a two and a half year project to conserve and restore traditional orchards across England.

How does the project work?

The project has enabled us to allocate funds to more than 30 National Trust orchard sites. We are also pleased to be able to support the work of an additional 17 organisations including conservation charities, wildlife trusts, schools and local orchard groups.
The aim is to restore and conserve traditional orchards, and all the wonderful fruit varieties and wildlife within them by:
  • practical management of neglected orchards e.g. pruning, scrub clearing
  • planting new traditional orchards
  • identifying heritage fruit varieties
  • surveying for wildlife
  • organising public events to raise awareness and interest
  • holding workshops in orchard management, funding and marketing
  • building an ‘Orchard Network’ website
Sustainability is at the heart of our project. The enthusiasm, knowledge, connections and core resources that have been generated throughout the project will ensure that our orchards will continue to be enjoyed, explored and cherished long after the project has finished.

A partnership project

We draw upon the vast experience and knowledge of a large number of charities, organisations, local orchard groups, businesses and individuals. Common Ground, the organisation behind Apple Day and Community Orchards, has been campaigning for the protection of our orchard heritage for over 20 years.
A large number of local orchard groups, represented by the National Orchard Forum share their knowledge and passion with the general public, often offering training, advice and helping orchard owners to source a market for their crop. The People’s Trust for Endangered Species has been mapping England’s traditional orchards, ensuring accurate and up-to-date records of their extent and distribution. We are delighted to be making our own contribution to this inspiring work.

Some of our work so far…

Looking for the Mistletoe Marble Moth
We held a training workshop with Butterfly Conservation and invited people from a range of organisations to come and learn about the ecology of the Mistletoe Marble Moth, and how to recognise it in the field. This rare moth depends on mistletoe to complete its life cycle, and traditional orchards offer the ideal habitat.
A Community Orchard for the village of Outwood
The local community of Outwood in Surrey is creating its own Community Orchard. Led by Andrew Wright (National Trust Countryside Manager) the local youth club made guards for the new trees. An expert from the National Fruit Collection at Brogdale in Kent visited to identify local fruit varieties of interest. Everyone enjoyed the inaugural Wassail event!

What you can do

You don't have to own an orchard to do something positive. Here are some things we can all do to help the plight of the traditional orchard:
  • attend an Apple Day or other orchard event - this is an excellent and fun way to find out more and meet some orchard experts
  • Join a community orchard in your area – to find out where they are, or for advice about starting one yourself you can contact Common Ground
  • many counties have an orchard group which you can join - these groups and also local colleges often run workshops in fruit tree pruning and propagating techniques
  • plant your own fruit tree – a local variety will be suited to your region’s soil type and climate and so will grow well
  • research rare, local varieties and help to ensure their survival - specialist nurseries will be able to help
  • buy orchard produce - such as fruit, cider, juice and chutney from local markets and suppliers.