Map shows orchard decline

Wildlife charity People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) has launched the latest element in their ongoing orchard conservation work: an interactive community orchard map that lists around 400 community orchard groups across the UK.

Image: Megan Gimber
Image: Megan Gimber

The map, found at: identifies more than 35,000 traditional orchards remaining in England and over 7,000 in Wales.

This work revealed that 90 per cent of traditional orchards have been lost since the 1950s, with 48 per cent of the orchards surveyed in England and 35 per cent of orchards in Wales found to be in declining condition.

The map allows members of the public to find their nearest community orchard.

Megan Gimber, orchard project officer at PTES said: "This map is a great way of helping people who aren’t lucky enough to have an orchard of their own to get involved with one locally. Anyone can engage with this wonderful habitat, by joining existing community groups that are working to maintain and preserve their local orchards."

Earlier this year, PTES launched FruitFinder, the first online database which lists every variety of orchard fruit grown in the British Isles (including heritage cultivars) from apples and pears to medlars and mulberries, providing a way for gardeners, cider-makers or orchard owners to find nurseries that sell them, or source grafting material of rare heritage varieties.

PTES also coordinates an orchard grant scheme which, in the last year, has distributed enough grafting kits to plant over 1,500 trees in traditional orchards. Another aspect of PTES’ orchard work is the creation of several online practical guides covering various aspects of orchard management, such as pruning and grafting new trees, to encourage orchard owners to manage their orchards in a sustainable and wildlife-friendly manner.

Steve Oram, orchard biodiversity officer at PTES, said: "Traditional orchards are made up of several different habitats, such as woodland, hedgerow and meadow grassland, and are home to a range of wildlife, including bats, birds, insects and plant life. Orchards offer habitat stability which is so crucial for much of our wildlife, yet this is sadly becoming so rare. It’s essential that this unique habitat is preserved, and PTES hopes that the community orchard map, alongside our other ongoing orchard conservation work, will help to do this."

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