WOLDS END ORCHARD: A SITE OF NATIONAL IMPORTANCE
Report by Derek Tolman, Bernwode Fruit Trees
About Berwode Trees:
We have spent the past 30 years researching old orchards and re-discovering ‘lost’ old fruit varieties. Through our nursery, Bernwode Fruit Trees, we propagate, disseminate and re-establish these old varieties in their local places of origin and elsewhere. We work closely with orchard and conservation groups, enthusiasts, local councils, and national bodies, building up research into historical land use, local custom and specific local varieties, when it comes to fruit trees and orchards.
We hold one of the largest collections of traditional fruit trees, of national significance, and are currently working on the largest ever single work of description for old apples. Our work encompasses the whole of the UK and sometimes overseas, in search of varieties lost here.
Wolds End Orchard:
In our view, Wolds End Orchard is of national importance and ranks very highly in comparison to the many old orchards we have visited. Its importance is further amplified by its location within such a significant town as Chipping Campden. It comes as a great surprise, in the modern era, that it is being considered a useful piece of real estate for modern purposes, at complete variance with the increasing national acceptance that such rare orchards should be protected and enhanced, for local amenity, research and preservation of local history. From our view the loss of any part of the orchard would be a calamity.
The orchard is important for three significant reasons, but not only these reasons:
It is very old, well preserved and close to the heart of ‘old’ Chipping Campden, having a clear history in relation to the surrounding area, such as Weighbridge Court and Cider Mill Lane, as well as being part of the centuries old local industry of cider and perry making.
The land it occupies is some of the best preserved mediaeval ridge and furrow land we have seen and is equally of national importance, within the definitions of English Heritage, who record a catastrophic decline in such well preserved field systems. The National Planning Policy Framework (2019) requires the conservation of veteran trees and their historic context.
The orchard would, if left alone, probably reveal in time that it contains rare, if not unique, apple and pear varieties, now ‘lost’ or never recorded outside the locality. We have already learned enough from the site to suggest this. The method of grafting of some of the trees there also presents some searching questions, with examples never previously observed by us or recorded. The trees and the site itself need long-term observation.
We have known of car parks that have been removed to make way for community orchards. It is also true that orchards are still being lost to development, but we have not encountered the destruction, even in part, of such an important orchard in such an important place. It is our guess that the orchard predates the 1790s Enclosure Act for Chipping Campden, and local research might confirm this.
Every part of the Wolds End Orchard is historically integral to the whole parcel of land, which is a remarkable survivor so close within an historic town.
Derek Tolman 2020
For more information on Bernwode’s conservation work visit http://www.bernwodeplants.co.uk/