Regional variety collections
Regional collections will ensure the survival of the UK's heritage varieties
The United Kingdom Government has pledged to preserve its crop plant heritage and much work has been done with seed storage such as at Kew’s Millennium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place, but fruit varieties, which cannot be stored as seeds, are currently poorly represented. As part of our traditional orchard inventory work we have been recording the location of varieties and collections. From this we realise that many varieties are growing at very few sites, and many of them are not secure, such as in people’s back gardens and in plant nurseries, both of which are vulnerable to change of ownership and management. To this end we are seeking sites that are more likely to remain undisturbed for the foreseeable future and not be threatened with development as sites for regional collections. This could be public or private land or something owned by a charity.
We are currently seeking funding to propagate and plant the thousands of these varieties that need better protection. Many collections will be organised by provenance, which will enable us to establish collections with a regional flavour, but we also need geographically discrete duplicate collections and a home for varieites of uncertain origin. If you know of such a site, please get in touch with us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your suggestions.
Access will only be required for occasional pruning, stock-taking, and graftwood collection. This could be done as part of a site’s general management or by a local volunteer or orchard group by arrangement. The site would not receive any statutory protection, but after some decades a traditional orchard will accrue biodiversity value which may be given consideration in planning decisions, but this rarely affects outcomes. If removal of the orchard is planned, or the site is no longer available for the collection, propagation material will be needed before the trees are removed.
As collections will be created as traditional orchards, Mid and High Tier grant payments will be available (to anyone, not just farms) from the Countryside Stewardship scheme run by Natural England.