Chilterns Orchards

Chilterns Orchards

The Chilterns Orchards project is discovering the history of traditional orchards and training communities to restore and manage them

Spotting a lone cherry tree in the middle of a piece of grassland could be the key to discovering a unique feature of the old Chilterns – large, productive orchards with mature trees set among grassland, which provided a tourist attraction when in blossom and fruiting, vital seasonal work for local people, and a supply of fresh fruit and other fruit products for London and nearby towns.

But these traditional orchards have all but disappeared, replaced by commercial growing, the expansion of farming, and local development. Those that do remain are largely untended, leading to the loss of both special fruit varieties and the rich Chiltern culture that grew up around them.

While it’s still not too late, our Chiltern Orchards project is looking into the history of the orchards and the fruit varieties which were developed locally – such as the Aylesbury prune and Prestwood Black cherry. It is training communities to restore and manage old orchards, as well as passing on skills to help others to set up their own community orchards, using traditional methods and fruits, and providing significant habitat for some scarce flora and fauna.

Our focus is on cherries as the Central Chilterns were renowned for these fruits, with cherry festivals once a highlight of the year. But all local fruit are essential to the project and to rejuvenating our orchards. Volunteers are being encouraged to get involved, to learn new skills, to share information and knowledge, and to tell the stories of the cherry orchards. As part of the project, we can provide practical training, resources and advice to groups who are managing and setting up community orchards.

The Berks, Bucks & Oxon Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) are leading on our Orchards project. Katie Horgan from BBOWT’s Community Team has been working with a small number of Community Orchard groups in Bucks, offering funding, advice and training to look after them. These include Donkey Lane Orchard in Chinnor, Downley Orchard near High Wycombe, the new Heritage Orchard at Lindengate in Wendover, and West Wycombe Community Orchard.

Read BBOWT’s Team Wilder blog about the work community group, Greening Chinnor, have achieved for Donkey Lane Orchard 

Find out more about Greening Chinnor and Donkey Lane Orchard

Chilterns ANOB

An apple a day....

For anyone involved with heritage and community orchards, October is traditionally apple month as the fruit ripens and is ready for harvest. October 21 is Apple Day but the harvest often starts sooner depending on when each variety of apple, plum or pear ripens, so September and October tend to be the months when orchard groups hold apple days. Traditional Orchards offer havens to wildlife with high conservation priority because they have veteran trees, pasture and meadows, as well as traditional boundary features. All of these provide habitat for mammals, nesting birds, hundreds of invertebrate species, and fungi.

Read more on our blog

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Chilterns ANOB
Chilterns ANOB

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