A report warns that since the 1950s, nearly two-thirds have disappeared – the victims of developers, industrial farming and changing land use.
Dr David Bullock, head of nature conservation at the National Trust, said traditional orchards had been disappearing at an alarming rate over the last 60 years.
‘We are in real danger of losing these unique habitats – and the wildlife, local fruit varieties and their rich heritage – and if we don’t act in some cases we will not even know what local varieties of fruit have been lost,’ he said.
Traditional orchards are defined as having at least five fruit trees. The trees are widely spaced while the grass between them is grazed by livestock or mown for hay.
A staggering 95 per cent of orchards have disappeared nationwide since 1950, and along with them rich ecosystems, precious genetic material, and tangible links to our past.
In Devon each parish, and indeed individual orchards, cultivated their own apple varieties with distinct flavours, names and colours. Sadly, after years of neglect and competition from commerical fruit production at home and abroad, the market gardening industry of the Tamar valley fell into decline – along with the once flourishing orchards.
Shortage of cider apple trees
Due to a renewed interest in cider, suppliers are warning there may be a shortage of cider apple trees. So if you are thinking of planting cider apple trees make sure you place your orders early. Try to use a local supplier who is more likely to stock traditional local varieties. June Small’s ‘Apple Varieties of Somerset’ lists 160 varieties of fruit trees which have strong links with Somerset.
What you can do – get involved!
Volunteer! Give up a few hours to get outdoors, meet people, and feel great. Conservation charities like the ones listed here organise volunteer tasks in orchards near where you live:
Here is our original post, where you can learn more about orchard conservation –www.real-cider.co.uk/save-our-orchards and how you can get involved.