Limpsfield Common community orchard
Tucked away just off the busy A25 road near the Limpsfield Chart Golf Club is the Limpsfield Community Orchard. This haven for wildlife and wildflowers was started 8 years ago by Helen Ellson, who still has an active mangement role.
"I had heard about community orchards back in 2008 and was looking to start one here in Limpsfield. At the same time the National Trust was looking to set up some orchards on its land. Mark Richards, the local ranger, was interested in starting something locally so the two of us got together" explains Helen.
The Trust had a patch of land that was very overgrown and too small for other uses and so proposed it as a site. It is perfect. Enclosed by hedges it provides space for an assortment of fruit trees - six pear, 24 apple, three damson and three mirabelle wild plums.
The Trust helped with clearing the land and the Surrey Community Foundation and local sponsors contributed funds to buy the trees. Sweet chestnut posts from Outwood are used for the fruit guards, protecting against marauding deer and rabbits.
Hand in hand with the community
The orchard works with the local school, organising an annual poetry competition for the children. There is an annual apple tasting day in September for the village and the January wassail procession and ceremony is very popular. After the harvest, spare apples are donated to the village through the harvest festival, memorial shop and school.
Helen is passionate about the orchard and its trees. "I did a lot of research on the best apples for strength and resilience, consulting with experts at Brogdale - Home to the National Fruit Collection - and Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) at Wisley."
The orchard is managed by a hardworking team of five committee members and maintained by a team of about 20 regular volunteers. RHS fruit expert mentor Jan Lambourn provides specialist advice and overseas the pruning.The orchard is run on organic lines with no pesticides or watering and this has created a wonderful wildlife environment. Bees and butterflies hover around the fruit, especially in springtime when the orchard is full of blossom and wildflowers. It is a delightful place for a quiet picnic.
"We are delighted with the way this project has blossomed," comments Mark Richards."It is a real part of village life here at Limpsfield Common, helping the community and the wildlife to thrive."
Find out more and keep up to date with the Limpsfield Common community orchard blog