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Isleham Community orchard

Orchards were once widespread throughout the British Isles; almost every farm and suburban garden had its own fruit trees. Pressure on land for new houses has caused the loss of many of these small orchards. In order to reverse this trend “Common Ground”, a national charity, has pioneered the Community Orchard Scheme.

We planted our community orchard in February 2013, on an area of unused Parish Council allotment land. The trees are mostly heritage varieties obtained from the East of England Apples and Orchards Project. They have been sponsored and planted by people from the  village and will be maintained by volunteers from within the community.

In addition to the production of local varieties of apples, there are many benefits to be gained from a community orchard. It can provide educational opportunities for children, a rich habitat for wildlife and a place to walk or just sit. Over the course of the next few years we hope the orchard will become an attractive amenity for every one to enjoy.  

Community Orchard Update April 2015

Most of the 36 trees in the Community Orchard were planted as whips in February 2013. They were sourced from EAOP. This is a nursery that specialises in East of England heritage fruit trees. We bought a mixture of culinary and dessert apples, choosing as many as possible that originated from near Isleham. These include a Morley’s Seedling which was first grown in Fordham, Chiver’s Delight from Histon and a Clapton Red from Wickambrook. There are some, however, from further afield – a Russet from Somerset, James Grieve from Scotland, Newton Wonder from Derbyshire and the ubiquitous Braeburn from New Zealand. Only one tree, a Bramley, has failed.

We intend to plant a replacement next winter. The orchard is a community orchard and, in addition to those who sponsored the trees, many people have helped in its management and maintenance. Clive Winters keeps the grass mown and has created a path around the trees. He also trims the hedging, tops up the water tank and generally keeps the site tidy. We are very grateful to Louise Parker, who has helped us by pruning the trees this year, and to Mervyn Crawford who made the attractive sign at the entrance to the site.

We recently acquired a small area of land adjacent to the orchards. Three concrete benches have been supplied by Brian Prince of JKH

Drainage, installed by SP Landscapes, with lettering by Mildenhall Monuments; all at no cost to the Parish Council; an extremely generous

and much appreciated gesture. When the grass has been mown a few times we hope this will provide a pleasant seating area.

At the present time we have someone designing an information board which will indicate the position of each tree. We are also having

engraved metal labels made.

It may be a year or two before the trees produce much fruit but, once the orchard is established, people will be free to take the apples. We will put up a sign to indicate which trees have fruit that is ripe. JM