New orchards to be created in bid to reverse dramatic decline

Dozens of new orchards are to be created across England and Wales in a bid to reverse their dramatic decline in recent decades.

The National Trust said it will plant 68 new ones by 2025, after a reported 63% drop in orchards since 1950.

The boost in orchards is part of what the trust has called an ambitious plan to encourage wildlife.

The organisation said the loss of orchards, which it described as “one of Britain’s most symbolic habitats”, is mainly down to changes in agricultural practices, market forces, neglect and pressures from development.

Dr David Bullock, head of species and habitat conservation at the charity, said traditional orchards are important for conserving heritage fruit varieties and vital for people too, providing local seasonal food and drink, as well as places to gather.

He said: “We launched a new wildlife and nature strategy in 2015 which included an ambition to create 25,000 hectares 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, as well as being great for people.

“Every tree is precious because it can become a home for birds such as the lesser spotted woodpecker, bats and mistletoe moth. 

Traditional orchards are also important for conserving heritage fruit varieties (National Trust Images/Steven Haywood/PA)
Traditional orchards are also important for conserving heritage fruit varieties (National Trust Images/Steven Haywood/PA)

“The amazing number of apple and other traditional fruit varieties that we can plant reflects the wonderful diversity of life.

“Older trees spaced widely provide sunlight, shade, grasslands, wild flowers, blossom and their resulting fruit. 

“The characterful trees also often have dead wood, are very attractive to a range of insects and their prey; birds and bats.”

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