From Russia with love - blooming lovely orchards to tell story of fruit heritage
A Victorian orchard is being brought back to life to tell the story of how apple trees were brought to England from Kazakhstan and Russia thousands of years ago.
Thanks to an award of £140,000 from Postcode Earth Trust, raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, and funds from Arts Council England, two new orchards will be created on the original 21 acre site at Brockhampton, cared for by the National Trust, in Herefordshire.
The ‘reimagined orchard’, currently used for grazing, will tell the story of how various fruit trees like apple, pear and damson ended up in the UK, and has been developed by a collaboration between Artists Walter Jack Studio and chartered landscape architects Rathbone Partnership.
Ellie Jones, project manager at the National Trust said: “The planting design has taken inspiration from the humble, yet very important apple. It will look almost like the five seed chambers that you can see when you cut through an apple horizontally.
“The orchard will be planted with circular ‘orchard rooms’ containing unusual and rare varieties specially chosen to tell the story of the history of the eating apple; from its origins in Kazakhstan to its cultural significance as ‘the people’s apple’ of Russia, as well as sharing the story of the well-known and traditional Herefordshire cider apples.
“We’re also celebrating our damson heritage – we have the largest number of Shropshire Prune trees in Herefordshire which is one of the oldest varieties of damson, and one of the circles will be solely planted with Brockhampton damsons.”
Artist Walter Jack said: “Getting a good fruit tree is about being lucky, spotting you’ve been lucky and very skilfully seizing your luck. That’s how we’ve got the delicious apples, damsons and other fruits we eat today. These circular orchards, are about telling this story of fruit at Brockhampton and where it began a few miles away and a few thousand miles away. This is about the geographical connections that are the extraordinary story of fruit.”
The paths and orchard rooms in two of the three fields will be developed and planted this year, with the remainder planted in 2020. This work will be done with the help of community groups and supported by ignite cic, a Herefordshire based not-for-profit community interest company, focusing on bringing communities together and empowering people to be creative & healthy.
Ellie continued: “Nowadays it is so important for us all to ensure we are taking care of our health and well-being and we hope that this project will enable more people to feel included in our work and able to spend more time in the outdoors and closer to nature”
The second orchard on a neighbouring tenant’s farmland will be planted as part of their ambition to diversify and to create more nature friendly habitats, where a large number of traditional varieties damson trees will be planted along with new meadow grass which will include native wildflowers to encourage a diversity of pollinators such as bees and butterflies.
As well as creating new homes for wildlife, the new orchards will be designed and restored to improve drainage and culverts, which will allow water to flow more efficiently between fields.
Will Humpington, Climate Change and Environmental Programmes Advisor at People’s Postcode Lottery added: “This project is not only a great way of telling the story of how the humble apple made its way to the UK, it also, very importantly creating new habitats and improving and increasing the diversity of wildlife at this historic estate.”
More information and updates about this project can be found by visiting www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brockhampton or by following @NTBrockhampton on social media.