Thursday 9 May 2019

National Trust to create 68 orchards by 2025 to boost wildlife

Bird and insect habitats lost as number of traditional orchards more than halved since 1950
Sat 27 Apr 2019 07.00 BSTLast modified on Sat 27 Apr 2019 07.21 BST

Dozens of traditional orchards are to be planted across England and Wales by the National Trust in an attempt to tackle the dramatic decline of one of Britain’s most cherished habitats.
The charity will create 68 new orchards by 2025 as part of a wider programme to boost the number of wildlife-rich areas.
Orchards are to be planted in places including the Penrose estate, in south Cornwall, and Mottisfont, in Hampshire. Gardeners will also plant apple, plum, pear and damson trees at spots including Gunby Estate, in Lincolnshire, and on the Gower peninsula, in south Wales.
The National Trust, which looks after nearly 200 orchards, said it was concerned that about 60% of small traditional orchards in England had disappeared since 1950 as a result of changes in agricultural practices, market forces, neglect and development.
David Bullock, the head of species and habitat conservation at the charity, said: “We launched a new wildlife and nature strategy in 2015, which included an ambition to create 25,000ha [62,000 acres] of priority habitat by 2025. We identified traditional orchards as being of particular importance because they provide the perfect home for a variety of birds, pollinators and insects.
“Every tree is precious because it can become a home for birds such as the lesser spotted woodpecker, bats and mistletoe moth. The amazing number of apple and other traditional fruit varieties that we can plant reflects the wonderful diversity of life.”
The trust was keen to use the programme to help preserve heritage fruit varieties, such as the cider apple variety jackets and petticoats, and the dessert apple Ashmead’s kernel.
Dr Bullock said: “Orchards are also vital for people. They provide us with delicious local and seasonal food and drink, they are places for people to enjoy and gather, have great cultural significance, and are places of beauty.”

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