Townsend Community Orchard – a new heart for the village

Overview

All the trees planted by people who live and work in Haddenham survived their first winter and have thrived through the summer. It has been a pleasure to see a wide range of wild flowers and grasses bursting through to create an idyllic setting for this new community resource. Between May and July over 25 wildflower species were identified in the orchard including ox-eye daisy, creeping buttercup, red/white campions, common vetch, ragged robin, black medick, red/white clover, common field speedwell and cut-leaved cranesbill. About ten different meadow grass species were also seen but next year we need a grass expert to come and help identify them – any volunteers?”.

We have not been expecting much in the way of produce from the trees but are delighted to see that some are fruiting. The Orchard group and the many helpers will continue to monitor the trees and take action wherever required.

Environment Care

From the start the orchard has been planned as a community project and not a commercial orchard. This has meant encouraging wild flowers and meadow grasses to create a natural feel and provide a green space that everyone can enjoy. We will cut the grass just twice a year but will keep the space clear around each tree and will cut pathways so that walkers can fully enjoy the orchard. This will give the wildflowers the best chance to thrive.

What’s Next?

You will have noticed a space that is clear of trees and wildflowers. This area is ‘The Core’, and is designed as an event space, outdoor classroom, open air theatre, and picnic area. Efforts are currently underway to secure funds for ‘natural’ seating that will be flexible enough to cater for all needs. We will also design and install an information board and identification plaques for each tree.

Lessons Learnt

We have been monitoring common ragwort, thistle and cow parsley. These can be an issue but are not a problem at this stage. A few visitors to the orchard have been a little concerned by apparent inaction. We need to respond a bit quicker next year, and are reviewing our management strategy in Autumn.

The orchard group enthusiastically embraced the idea of soft fruit bushes. These plants need more regular maintenance and care than the trees and so next year will need a clearer plan to look after these plants and improve the harvest.

Upcoming Events

We plan a ‘traditional harvest day’ at the end of August where volunteers will help create haystacks with the cut grass. Bring a sandwich and get a glass of cider (not locally produced!)
  • Friday October 21st School day at the orchard to recognise National Apple Day
  • Saturday October 22nd marking National Apple Day, bring your apples to the orchard for mass apple pressing. Make your own juice to preserve, drink on the day or to make cider. In later years the apples will come from the orchard. This year you will need to bring your own, and a container for the juice.
  • Look out for Wassailing on 7th January, this could include a traditional procession from Fort End.
  • The Mummers will be keeping a tradition alive with another performance of this ancient pay at the orchard in January.
  • There is talk of a performance of ‘A Mid-summer Nights’ Dream’ or Thomas Hardy’s ‘The Woodlanders’.