Orchards, Trees & Orchard Produce
Where to get help
The Apple Cause has been formed out of South Court Environmental's work with a large community orchard in Northampton. The group continues to restore and manage Wilsons' Orchard (see below) while expanding their remit to research orchards and varieties in the county. They now also manage other orchards in Northampton. Contact: Peter Nalder, 34 Bostock Avenue, Northampton NN1 4LW, +44(0)1604 630719, nalder.southcourt[at]tiscali.co.uk, www.scenorthampton.org.uk
The Midshires Orchard Group covers Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. In 2007 the group formed a partnership with Stowe Landscape gardens, a National Trust property, where they will create a home orchard, help to restore the estates old orchard and fruit trees, run events and run training courses in pruning and grafting including restorative pruning of old fruit trees and traditional orchard management. The founders of the group, Andy Howard and Marcus Roberts already provide local varieties from the Heritage Fruit Tree Company, having grafted from local trees (see below). Contact: Midshires Orchard Group, +44(0)1295 712272, mandm.roberts[at]ukgateway.net or see www.msog.btik.com
Orchards and Community Orchards to visit
Badby Youth Hostel is a 17th century thatched cottage on the church green with a large garden and old orchard, cared for by staff with two working parties a year for grass cutting and harvesting the apples. The hostel was originally several, home to estate workers of the Fawsley estate. To stay here contact the YHA on +44(0)870 770 5680.
Daventry Country Park Community Orchard, Daventry Country Park, Northern Way, Daventry NN11 2JB (Grid ref: 577642). A small orchard on a quarter of an acre within Daventry Country Park, planted in 2000 by Daventry Countryside Services with help from Reverend Wilkes. The orchard has been planted on reclaimed sewerage land, converted to meadow, a triangular piece of land. Standard trees of apples, pear, plum, cherry, mulberry, walnut and hazel have been planted including the Northamptonshire apple, Barnack Beauty. Grass is kept long for most of the year and insect boxes have been installed. A new hazel hedge has been planted. The existing meadow supports many types of grass and insects, butterflies, moths, birds and mammals, and it is hoped that more pollinating insects will be attracted including red mason bees and butterflies. There is full public access. Apples are available for passer-by to pick, used for juicing and cider and given away at the visitor centre. Wassailing has been celebrated since the orchard was planted with a Mummers Play, morris team, traditional musicians, bonfire, singing, banging pots and cake and mulled apple juice. Children hand toast in the trees for the robin, the guardian of the orchard. It is one of the Parks most well-attended events. Contact: Dewi Morris, Reservoir Cottage, Daventry Country Park, Northern Way, Daventry NN11 2JB, +44(0)1327 877193, countrysideservices[at]daventrydc.gov.uk
An orchard at Lyveden New Bield, a National Trust property near Oundle is being recreated. The Trust has asked the RHS to help track down the pear varieties originally planted there. The varieties of damson, walnut, cherry and apple have been found with the help of National Collection at Brogdale in Kent. The original positions of trees have been discovered from an aerial photograph taken in the 1940s. For more information contact +44(0)1832 205358 or see the National Trust web-site.
The Nuttery, Newnham (Grid ref: SP582595). A small wood owned by the Woodland Trust, originally planted as a commercial cobnut plat at the turn of the 19th century. Coppicing stopped in 1975 but the Trust returned to actively coppicing the hazel in 1991 with one line being cut every year. The 10-15 year cycle has now returned to cutting these a second time. One area of 150 stools is being left to grow and decay naturally to provide a wild life refuge of the older more established habitat. Ash and sycamore seedlings are removed or left for coppicing , and the snowdrops that were once harvested are being left to regenerate, including some of the rare double flowered variety Galanthus Nivalis. There are also wood anemones celandine, corydalis and some garden escapes. Boundary hedgerow are managed using traditional techniques of laying, coppicing and gapping up. The Nuttery has full open access with a circular path, and local people can harvest the nuts for home use, although some are taken by squirrels. Contact: Woodland Trust, Autumn Park, Dysart Road, Grantham, Lincs NG31 6LL, +44(0)1476 581111 or see www.woodland-trust.org.uk
Old Orchard, Mill End, Warmington (from roundabout on A605, take first left over small crossroads, take next left, a dead end with orchard gate to left). Old orchard is the remnant of a much larger orchard that stood in the grounds of Mill House and is thought to be around sixty years old. A recent by-pass cut through the orchard and the remaining quarter of a hectare was adopted as one of Warmington’s Pocket Parks, owned by Northamptonshire County Council. The orchard has standard apple, plum, pear and cherry trees including local varieties. The crop is free for local people to pick. There are many wildflowers including yellow rattle, snowdrops, bluebells, daffodils and wild life including badgers, foxes, muntjac dear and many birds. Hedgehog refuges have been installed, the orchard has new and old hedgerows. Management is carried out by volunteers of Warmington Pocket Parks. There have been Apple Day events, picnics, grafting days, school visits and an open air concert. Contact: DJ Rowell, 43 Pierce Crescent, Warmington, Peterborough PE8 6UG, +44(0)1832 280473, derek.rowell[at]virgin.net
Wilsons’ Orchard (left), off Billing Road East, Northampton (take Billing Road East roundabout to Bouganvillea, then Magnolia where you can ark, walk a tarmac track to a set of gates, turn right onto path to the orchard). An old orchard of 3.6ha dating from around 1916 with around 200 standard apple trees. The trees are mostly Bramley’s with some cherry, pear, plum, quince, medlar, hazelnut and walnut, elder and sloe trees. New trees have been planted with varieties that are suitable pollinators and that extend the cropping season. Research is ongoing to find local varieties to propagate in the orchard. Many apples are left unpicked as the trees are very large, some is collected for local distribution to those in need, and scrumping is encouraged. Apple juice is made around Apple Day, while around half of windfalls are left for wild life. It was one of two orchards, the second was felled to build a housing estate. In the 1990s more homes were planned for the remaining orchard. Local residents, and a local environmental group, South Court Environmental, objected to the potential loss of the orchard to more homes, and began discussions with the developer Persimmon and Northampton Borough Council. Persimmon were persuaded to retain the orchard and initially considered offering it in lots to the new residents, but the rest of the community felt this would not safeguard the orchard as a whole and might restrict public access. Northampton Borough Council’s Planning Department recognised the orchard’s importance and outlined it as a Green Space in the Local Plan and collaborations with South Court Environmental have led to its establishment as a Community Orchard. The orchard is bounded by new housing, and by a river and a large pond and wetland area has been created for wild life. Foxes, field voles, moles have been seen plus three species of woodpecker, kingfishers, pheasants and a sparrowhawk. There are cuckoo-flowers and a rare moss. Beekeeping has been introduced in the orchard. There are ongoing wild life surveys that inform the management plan. There is ongoing gentle management with deadwood removed only over pathways and where is poses a risk to adjacent properties. Deadwood and fallen trees are retained where possible. Experimental pollarding of some of the apple trees is being carried out as a way of preserving the most reduced trees. Pathways are mown to aid access. Hedges have been established and will be layed on a 7/8 year cycle. A willow nursery has been established to provide material for fencing and other structures. Peter Nalder of SCE says that the community support garnered at the time, and since has been vital. A community group called the Apple Cause has been set up and continues to restore and manage the orchard. The group includes residents who know the orchard of old, who are relied upon for their knowledge and insight. The group has since expanded their remit to research orchards and varieties in the county and they now also manage other orchards in Northampton. There is an event on average every month including Apple Day, Wassailing, Tree Dressing Day, pruning and grafting courses, Christmas party in the barn, ‘Nettle Nosh Night’ in March and ‘Mad and Merry Magic Month of May’. There is full access in daylight hours. A fruit tree nursery is being established and there are plans to add apples to a local box scheme and to plant a stepover maze. Contact: Peter Nalder (Co-director of South Court Environmental) 34 Bostock Avenue, Northampton NN1 4LW, +44(0)1604 630719, nalder.southcourt[at]tiscali.co.uk, www.scenorthampton.org.uk
Where to buy apples and orchard produce
New Creation Farm Shop, Furnace Lane, Nether Heyford, Northampton N7 3LB, +44(0)1327 344511. Grow over 20 varieties of English apples across the season, several pear varieties, around 5 plum varieties, plus soft fruit. Also apple juice from their own apples, and honey from hives that browse the orchard blossom. Apples available in farm shop until February. The Farm Shop is open 6 days a week.
Windmill Vineyard, Hellidon, Daventry. As well as wine, Windmill Vineyard produce cider and perry from their own orchards, planted in 1997 with cider and perry varieties. They also make cider vinegar, and cyser, which is fermented apple juice and honey which creates a sweet, strong cider. All sales are direct from the farm gate, open all summer, and a month before Christmas. The Farm is southwest of Daventry off the A361. Telephone +44(0) 1327 262023 or email windmillvineyard[at]hellidon.wanadoo.co.uk
Where to buy fruit trees
Heritage Fruit Tree Company, local varieties for Buckinghamshire, Northamptonshire, Oxfordshire and Warwickshire. Contact: Andy Howard on +44(0)1295 810516 or Marcus Roberts on +44(0)1295 712272 or mandm.roberts[at]ukgateway.net for more information.