Winter might look like a quiet time for orchards but it is a busy season for orchard management. Laura Bower, Conservation Officer, gives us an update on Rough Hill and the work to convert this once neglected orchard into a wildlife haven.
Since we were last at Rough Hill, it has been flailed and looks very different, it is much more open and looking more like an orchard should. The bramble had started to climb up some of the old apple trees and suffocate them. We visited this week, and cleared some bramble that was covering old trees and also where it was encroaching onto the public footpath and starting to push over the stock proof fencing.
We were joined by a brilliant group of volunteers that come to the orchard regularly to help keep it in good condition. With their help we have battled back the bramble, just in time before spring lets it grow out of hand. The volunteer group make a huge contribution to this orchard, and are great company on our practical days there.
The Dexters cattle will be going back onto the site in spring to hopefully munch on the new bramble shoots and help keep species rich grassland open. It sounds like we don’t like bramble very much – but we definitely do like it in small patches as a great habitat for nesting birds and in the right areas even dormice. In our orchard however, it needs to be kept as open as possible to allow the sunlight to reach the trunks of the trees which creates the optimal habitat for the invertebrates that rely on the trees.
The next tasks include fencing 2 of the old trees before the cattle return, laying a section of the hedge and planting another row of plum trees.