Kea plums and their orchards are a wonderfully distinctive feature of the upper Fal estuary. Not only culturally and historically important, these spaces are a haven for a wide variety of wildlife. Over the last 50 years, most of the orchards around the river have disappeared with only a small area around the Coombe and Cowlands creeks surviving.
Here at Trelissick we have started planting a 3 acre community orchard at Tregew, just above Lamouth Creek and next to the historic Roundwood Quay. It will consist of Kea and other local Cornish varieties of plum and apple. This year we intend to plant around 20 more trees!
The fields at Tregew were taken out of intensive agricultural production by the National Trust in 2008 and have since been managed as a grassland meadow for the benefit of local wildlife, as well as for reducing soil erosion and run-off into the estuary. The area has reverted rapidly over the past 6 years and now supports a vast range of wildlife, from barn owls to burnet moths. It is also a sanctuary for Britain’s smallest mammal; the harvest mouse, now a rare sight throughout the country, owing to habitat loss.
Tregew community orchard will not only support our wildlife by preserving these traditional varieties of local fruit trees, but will see the return of the orchard as an important community resource, as it once was, many years ago.
The orchard will be a space to relax, play and learn, and should become a communal asset for the whole parish. It will offer a place for quiet contemplation and a centre for local festivities, such as wassailing, as well as a great opportunity to come together and share new skills and stories.
Orchards and their importance for wildlife:
Traditional fruit orchards, whilst being of artificial origin, have often escaped the intensification of agriculture and are therefore an important haven for a wide range of wildlife.
A number of these species that frequent orchards are conservation priorities under the national Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) – these include dormouse, lesser spotted woodpecker, great crested newt, noble chafer, orchard tooth fungus and mistletoe marble moth.
The number of traditional orchards has declined drastically in recent years, making the conservation of remaining orchards a high priority. In recognition of this fact and their importance to wildlife, orchards themselves have been designated a national priority BAP habitat.
Small orchards can contain just as many species as large ones depending on the continuity of habitat within the greater landscape. If a certain area contains enough suitable sites then wildlife can expand and move freely between one site and another. This is one of the reasons why it is incredibly important that we retain and expand upon the historical network of orchards along the upper Fal estuary.
Traditional orchards often naturally contain a mosaic of smaller habitats such as the cavities within older fruit trees, scrub, fallen dead wood, hedgerows, un-improved grassland and ponds. Much orchard wildlife depends upon this mosaic, such as beetles that live as larvae in dead wood and emerge to feed as adults on the flowers of tall herbs or the many bumblebee species’ which help pollinate fruit trees and need tussocky grassland for nesting and hedgerows or scrub to hibernate under for the winter.
This is just a small overview of a rich and complex habitat with a special cultural and historical relevance within the countryside that surrounds Trelissick but hopefully it serves as a suggestion of the wonderful potential of our new orchard project over at Tregew.
How can you get involved?
Your support in building the success of Tregew community orchard is vital and there are many ways in which you can get involved:
- Volunteer with the ranger team to help deliver the practical aspects such as planting and managing of the orchard.
- Come along to organised volunteer days to share or learn new skills, covering all aspects of orchards, from grafting and pruning to chutney or cider making.
- Sign up to our mailing list to receive news and updates regarding the project.
- Sponsor the propagation, planting, establishment and upkeep of one of our fruit trees and help safeguard a very special piece of Cornish heritage.
If you would like to join our mailing list for updates, volunteer open days and courses, please send your e-mail address to firstname.lastname@example.org
Tregew Community Orchard is also on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/tregewcommunityorchard