Victorian orchard brought back to life to explore history of fruit

A Victorian orchard is being brought back to life to tell the story of how apple trees were brought from Kazakhstan and Russia thousands of years ago.

Two new orchards will be created at Brockhampton, Herefordshire, which is cared for by the National Trust, on a 21-acre site where research into the estate revealed the original Victorian orchard stood.

The first of these, a “re-imagined orchard”, on land currently used for grazing, will tell the story of how fruit trees such as apples, pears and damson arrived in the UK, the Trust said.

Land where the new orchards will be planted (John Miller/National Trust/PA)
Land where the new orchards will be planted (John Miller/National Trust/PA)

It has been developed by a collaboration between artists Walter Jack Studio and chartered landscape architects Rathbone Partnership.

Ellie Jones, project manager at the National Trust said: “The planting design has taken inspiration from the humble, yet very important apple.

“It will look almost like the five seed chambers that you can see when you cut through an apple horizontally.”

She said the orchard will be planted with circular “rooms” containing unusual and rare varieties chosen to tell the history of the eating apple from its origins in Kazakhstan to its cultural significance as “the people’s apple” of Russia.

The orchard, which will be planted this year and next with the support of community groups, will also share the story of the well-known and traditional Herefordshire cider apples.

“We’re also celebrating our damson heritage, we have the largest number of Shropshire Prune trees in Herefordshire which is one of the oldest varieties of damson, and one of the circles will be solely planted with Brockhampton damsons,” she said.

The planting will celebrate Brockhampton's damson heritage (John Miller/National Trust/PA)
The planting will celebrate Brockhampton’s damson heritage (John Miller/National Trust/PA)

The second orchard on a neighbouring tenant’s farmland aims to create more nature-friendly habitats, with traditional varieties of damson tree planted alongside meadow grass with native wildflowers to encourage pollinators.

The project has received an award of £140,000 from Postcode Earth Trust, raised by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, and funds from Arts Council England.

Will Humpington, from People’s Postcode Lottery said: “This project is not only a great way of telling the story of how the humble apple made its way to the UK, it also, very importantly creating new habitats and improving and increasing the diversity of wildlife at this historic estate.”

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