As part of its efforts to halt the alarming decline of traditional orchards, conservation charity People’s Trust for Endangered Species has launched an online Planning Protection Toolkit (www.ptes.org/toolkit), which is designed to help individuals and communities protect orchards and other wildlife-rich sites when development threatens.
Since the 1950s the UK has lost around 90% of traditionally managed orchards, and nearly half of those left are in a poor condition. The root causes for the decline are neglect, conversion to modern intensive farming methods, cheaper imports from abroad, and development.
PTES Orchard Biodiversity Officer Steve Oram said: “Habitat conservation is one of our top priorities at PTES, and orchards are frequently in the crosshairs of development, so we created the Planning Protection Toolkit to help individuals or communities mount a strong defence.”
The Toolkit is part of a suite of resources developed by PTES to promote good orchard management. These include:
• a series of practical guides and videos to encourage orchard owners to manage their orchards in a way that is sympathetic to wildlife and that helps improves their condition, covering everything from pruning and grafting fruit trees to grass management;
• FruitFinder, a searchable online database of fruit varieties, including where to buy native or heritage varieties;
• a grants scheme to help individuals or community groups plant new trees on their sites and improve habitat condition;
• the PTES Traditional Orchard and Fruit Tree Survey apps, which can be downloaded for free from your usual sources;
• an online community orchard map, which people can search for their nearest community orchard.
These resources are available online at www.ptes.org/orchards.
• Traditional orchards provide excellent conditions for wildlife to thrive and are home to at least 1800 species of wildlife
• 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
• 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
• 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
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For more information, to arrange interviews, or obtain images please call Susannah Penn or Adela Cragg at Firebird PR on 01235 835297/ 07977 459 547
Notes for Editors
• PTES is a UK conservation charity created in 1977 to ensure a future for endangered species throughout the world. Working to protect some of our most threatened wildlife species and habitats, it provides practical conservation support through research, grant-aid and educational programmes, including wildlife surveys, publications and public events.
• 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.
• In 2011, PTES produced the first habitat inventory of traditional orchards for 51 counties in England, followed by an inventory for 22 counties in Wales published in 2013. Condition assessments were carried out by hundreds of volunteers, and 45% of the orchards in England and 35% in Wales were found to be in declining condition. In contrast, less than 10% of orchards were rated as excellent in each country.
• Support for PTES traditional orchards resources has been provided by Esmée Fairbairn Foundation, The Martin Laing Foundation and Langdale Trust.
• The traditional orchard inventory for England and Wales is available to download from www.ptes.org/orchardmaps.