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Volunteers needed to help protect region’s orchard heritage

The region’s orchards are an integral part of the landscape and an important source of biodiversity. They are also a rich, but under-researched, historical record.

The Landscape Group, part of the University of East Anglia’s (UEA’s) School of History, has been awarded £477,700 of National Lottery funding for a three-year project, Orchard’s East, to survey and record traditional orchards across the East of England.

The cash was awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and extends initiatives already developed by partner organisations, the Suffolk Traditional Orchards Group and the East of England Apples and Orchards Project, across Bedfordshire, Cambridge, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

The project is set to launch in Bedfordshire and Norfolk in November, after commencing in Hertfordshire last month.

The project’s Norfolk launch is on 4 November and anyone interested in orchards is invited to attend the event at the Green Britain Centre in Swaffham for a morning of presentations including an introduction to historical orchard research by Tom Williamson, Professor of Landscape History at UEA and Head of the Landscape Group, there will also be an introduction to the Green Britain Centre’s orchard by apple expert Bob Lever.

The Bedfordshire launch is on 11 November in Fairfield. There will also be an afternoon visit to the historic Fairfield Orchard.

Prof Tom Williamson said “We’re hoping that people will volunteer to work with us on the project to help us discover more about Bedfordshire’s rich history of fruit cultivation.”

“We’ll examine traditional orchards’ environmental and cultural impact by identifying surviving sites, researching the history of fruit growing, surveying wildlife in orchards, as well as restoring important old orchards and creating new community orchards.”

Fairfield has two historic orchards where many of the trees are believed to be about 100 years old with some as old as 150 years. Work is currently underway to restore and maintain the orchards after they have been neglected for over 20 years.

The launch is at Fairfield Community Hall, Fairfield, Hitchin SG5 4GY. The event is free but booking is necessary. Please bring your own lunch, when there will be an opportunity to talk, look at stands and try something fruity. Tea, coffee and juice are provided.

For more details or to book, email gen@orchardseast.org.uk or visit www.orchardseast.org.uk