Fruit, glorious fruit!
People’s Trust for Endangered Species launches the first ‘FruitFinder’ database as part of ongoing orchard conservation
They say variety is the spice of life, but how many apple varieties have you tasted, and how many are there? You might be surprised to know, given that most supermarkets only stock about eight apple varieties, that there are actually thousands of native fruit varieties in the UK and FruitFinder, a new search tool from People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) is here to help you discover them. Funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, this tool is part of an ongoing effort by PTES to conserve and restore traditional orchards across the country in recognition of their amazing habitat value to local wildlife.
There are around 5,000 fruit varieties grown in the UK, many of which are specific to the geographical area from which they come, such as the Carlisle Codlin or Severn Bank apples. FruitFinder is the first online database which lists every known UK grown variety of orchard fruit, from apples and pears to medlars and mulberries, providing a way for gardeners, cider-makers or orchard owners to find nurseries that sell them or a source of grafting material of rare heritage varieties. Increasing awareness of and access to these rare and heritage varieties will help prevent them being lost over time.
Over the last 10 years, PTES’ orchards team, with the help of over 700 volunteers and nearly 1500 orchard owners, has identified over 35,000 individual orchards in England and over 7,000 in Wales. Alarmingly, this work revealed that 90% of traditional orchards have been lost since the 1950s. Furthermore, 45% of the remaining orchards surveyed in England and 35% of orchards in Wales were found to be in declining condition as a habitat. By far the most common reason for this is lack of replacement tree replanting, meaning these remaining old orchards will quickly disappear unless action is taken.
FruitFinder tackles both of these issues head on by making it easier for the public to discover and buy traditional heritage trees to replant in their orchards, safeguarding these habitats, and varieties, for future generations.
Megan Gimber, Orchard Project Officer at PTES said: “PTES FruitFinder is a great way for people to find out more about local fruit and source local heritage trees and grafting material to grow their own fruit trees. The more we can educate the public about the need for conserving traditional orchards, the more likely we are to be successful in reversing their decline.”
To help halt the decline in traditional orchards, over the last year a PTES orchard grant scheme has sent out trees and enough grafting kits to plant over 1,500 trees in traditional orchards across the UK. PTES has created several online practical guides covering various aspects of orchard management, such as pruning and grafting new trees, to encourage orchard owners to manage their orchards in a sustainable and wildlife-friendly manner.
Traditional orchards are fantastic for wildlife as they are made up of several different habitats, including elements of woodland, hedgerow and meadow grassland. This mosaic of habitats is home to a range of biodiversity, including butterflies, bumblebees, birds, bats and beetles. The unique way fruit trees age creates an indispensable habitat for a wide range of rare and interesting species.
Megan concludes: “Traditional orchards offer the habitat stability that is becoming so scarce in our countryside, yet is so valuable to the future of our wildlife”.
For more information or to access PTES’ FruitFinder, see: https://ptes.org/fruitfinder/
- Traditional orchards provide excellent conditions for wildlife to thrive. One study of just 3 orchards in Worcestershire recorded 1,868 species present, equating to about 5% of our native species.
- 402 species of saproxylic invertebrates – insects that are dependent on dead wood – have been recorded in traditional orchards to date, including 102 Red Data Book or nationally scarce species such as the noble chafer beetle
- One study of Herefordshire’s traditional orchards recorded eight of the 19 bird species in the government’s ‘quality of life farmland bird indicator’ list, and 16 of the 33 woodland species in the equivalent woodland indicator list
- You could eat a different variety of English apple every day for over 6 years without eating the same one twice
- The apple is Britain’s national fruit and botanically are members of the rose family
- There are over 100 perry pear varieties in Gloucestershire and some of the more colourful names of the perry drink produced vividly describe their potential effect: Merrylegs; Mumblehead; Lumberskull; Drunkers and Devildrink
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For further information, interview requests, or images please call Susannah Penn or Adela Cragg at Firebird PR on 01235 835 297/ 07977 459 547 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
Available for interview
- Megan Gimber, Orchard Project Officer, PTES
- Steve Oram, Orchard Biodiversity Officer, PTES
- Jill Nelson, CEO, PTES
- PTES, a UK conservation charity created in 1977, is ensuring a future for endangered species throughout the world. We protect some of our most threatened wildlife species and habitats, and provide practical conservation support through research, grant-aid, educational programmes, wildlife surveys, publications and public events. Our current priority species and habitats include hazel dormice, hedgehogs, water voles, noble chafers, stag beetles, traditional orchards and native woodlands.
- Visit www.ptes.org for more information, or follow PTES on Facebook (www.facebook.com/ptes) and Twitter (@PTES & @PTESOrchards)
- Characteristically, traditional orchards consist of a low density of trees set in semi-natural, mainly herbaceous, vegetation. They are cultivated using low-intensity methods such as the absence of pesticides and the use of grazing animals instead of machines for mowing. This important habitat is becoming rare as we rely increasingly on imports to provide cheap fruit throughout the year. This has left the traditional orchard habitat, an intrinsic feature of the English countryside, at risk from neglect, intensification of agriculture and pressure from land development.
- FruitFinder has been funded by the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation, Langdale Trust & The Martin Laing Foundation
- The PTES Traditional Orchard and Fruit Tree Survey app can be downloaded for free from your usual sources.
- The traditional orchard inventory for England and Wales is available to download from www.ptes.org/orchardmaps.
1: Summary of English & Welsh orchard sites and condition. Source: data published between 2010 – 2013
|County||Excellent||No of Sites:||Good||No of Sites:||Poor||No of Sites:|
|Bath & NE Somerset||16%||13||51%||40||33%||26|
|Isle of Wight||6%||2||22%||8||72%||26|
|Tyne & Wear||0%||0||50%||1||50%||1|
Burrough, A.E., Oines, C.M., Oram, S.P. and Robertson, H.J. 2010. Traditional Orchard Project in England – the creation of an inventory to support the UK Habitat Action Plan. Natural England Commissioned Reports
|County||Excellent||No of Sites:||Good||No of Sites:||Poor||No of Sites:|
|Isle of Anglesey||4%||8||69%||133||27%||52|
|Neath Port Talbot||20%||6||40%||13||40%||13|
|Rhondda Cynon Taff||0%||0||100%||50||0%||0|
|Vale of Glamorgan||0%||0||65%||111||35%||60|
Oram, S., Alexander, L. & Sadler, E. 2013. Traditional Orchard Habitat Inventory of Wales: Natural Resources Wales Commissioned. CCW Policy Research Report No. 13/4