Last weekend it was my pleasure to run a volunteer project for BTCV where along with 8 other passionate volunteers from all walks of life, we cared for a historic orchard in Somerset.

I have been volunteering on nature conservation projects for 15 years now, in all corners of the world. The most special projects are the ones you can revisit and see how things are working out. It’s a fantastic way of meeting new people, getting fit and feel good about doing something positive and help your local environment too!

So this project was a special one, two main tasks: To prune the dead and infected branches from the apple trees, and clear invasive scrub around the trees and orchard boundary.

It is important to remove crossing branches to encourage trees to grow in a pear shape, allowing better air flow through the tree, reducing the risk of air-borne diseases. Infected tree branches were burnt to reduce the risk of further infections. Large branches could be used to make a habitat pile for wildlife, or for firewood.

The cider apples from the orchard are used by the Heck’s family who produce award winning cider nearby in Street. There’s a fine selection of traditional Somerset apples in a collection of 100 trees, Kingston Black, Russet and Cox’s amongst others.

The orchard is known by the Heck’s family as the ‘Battle of Britain’ orchard as it was planted in the 1950’s, and Mr Heck’s back then wasn’t sure whether he was planting them ‘for the Brit’s or the Jerry’s (German’s)’.

Where some trees had fallen either by wind damage or old age, these will be replaced by new cider trees, you can see these from the photos below, ensuring this orchard will still be active well into the future.

Working at the Maidencroft orchard gave everyone a good idea of the level of work and all year round care and attention that an orchard requires to keep healthy and productive.

We hope that the trees give a healthy yield from our work in 2010’s harvest!

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