Rough Hill orchard

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Thanks to your donations we are transforming this area from a piece of land invaded by scrub with many dead and dying trees, to a fine example of a traditional orchard and wildlife reserve.

Rough Hill orchard is certainly a work in progress although we have achieved a lot over the years including reinstating grazing, planting 90 new fruit trees (of local varieties), and battling the ever encroaching scrub. Scrub itself is an important habitat for nesting birds, small mammals and other wildlife but we have to strike a delicate balance between preserving an important haven for wildlife and making sure that there isn’t so much that it ceases to be an orchard. Similarly, mistletoe requires careful management. We have to retain enough to ensure there is plenty of habitat for the insects that reply on it but without damaging the fruit trees themselves.

It is a tricky site as it is on a very steep slope and the old trees are just that – very old and many have died or have fallen over. Whilst they are undoubtedly amazing dead wood habitat, it is important to plant new fruit trees to provide the continuous habitat.  The orchard is home to a number of rare and interesting species. It is particularly important for saproxylic (dead wood loving) invertebrates because of the old trees which are have rot holes and splits.

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Latest news

  • freshly picked Bramley apples

    freshly picked Bramley apples

    5 Dexters (the smallest British breed of cattle) have been grazing since June. They are very shy but we did spot them a few times during a recent visit. We removed a lot of bramble and weeds from around the planted trees, and scrub encroaching on a old Bramley tree. We picked lots of juicy Bramleys, some sweet Worcester Pearmains and sharp Betty Geeson apples and took them back to share with the PTES staff. We will be back in winter to prune the apple trees and clear around the plum trees.

  • Another interesting bee has been recorded at the orchard this summer. Lasioglossum malachurum is eusocial bee which means it has queens and workers similar to honey bees. They nest in aggregations, females individually dig separate nesting burrows close together in hard soil. These aggregations, sometimes containing hundreds of burrows, are not “colonies”, as each nest burrow is distinct from another; each burrow contains a separate colony. Although not rare – this is a very interesting species to have at Rough Hill.

Why is Rough Hill so special?

Traditional Orchards are a Priority Habitat for conservation. They are a haven for wildlife especially those species which rely on dead wood, yet they are sadly in decline across the UK.

Red-belted clearwing

Red-belted clearwing

The insects of Rough Hill have featured in a recent scientific journal. The article about saproxylic (dead wood loving) insects by Keith Alexander, in collaboration with Laura Bower at PTES, was published in the British Journal of Entomological Natural History.

The orchard floor is also of national significance. Unimproved pasture of this kind, once common-place in the UK, is now an extremely rare type of habitat. Of the total amount of unimproved pasture known to exist in 1947, only 3% now remains and even though much of the grassland in the orchard has been over run by scrub, it still manages to support over 110 species of plants, including agrimony, black knapweed, wild carrot, quaking grass, and the great dodder.

Visit us and find out more

If you would like to see the site for yourself or even volunteer with us please contact laura.bower@ptes.org for more details. We can also advise on how to manage a traditional orchard- please contact steve.oram@ptes.org.

Butterfly Treefrog

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