Quantock Hills Blog

Con-cider Orchards?

- Quantock projects aiming to improve our orchards

Iain Porter

Posted by Iain Porter on 29 February 2016

Con-cider Orchards? An enthusiastic group had a wonderful Saturday learning about establishing and managing orchards. Neil MacDonald, Orchard Parks Farm, led us through how to plan, plant and manage an orchard, including the art of pruning. It was a great opportunity for those who attended to ask detailed questions about their own orchards or plans for orchards.

The afternoon was a great opportunity to visit a nearby orchard to look at the practicalities of orchard management. Attendees had the opportunity to practice pruning and discuss how to manage your trees to promote healthy fruit and long life. We also looked at the value of orchards, not just from a product point of view, but also in terms of heritage, landscape and biodiversity.


A few years ago the AONB Service – See Marianna Dudley’s blog 25 June 2013 – undertook a project in partnership with the University of Bristol looking at the importance of orchards in the Quantock landscape. We were aware of Somerset’s long heritage of cider making and orchards – did you know the Vale of Avalon near Glastonbury is derived from ‘aballon’ the old Welsh word for apple – but wanted to explore the local importance. Using Tithe maps, which had recently been digitised, and more recent sources we found that there were 1,401 orchards, covering an area of 642.8Ha in the 1840s. By 2007 there were 42 orchards covering an area of 35Ha. This vast decline has had a huge landscape impact as well as the loss of biodiversity interest – orchards broadly have ten times the biodiversity value of pasture.


To counter the loss of orchards, the Quantock Hills AONB Service has successfully secured funding for 2 projects. One of these, the Greater Quantock Landscape Development Fund http://www.quantockhills.com/online_resources/view/greater_quantock_landscape_development_fund/ , is able to provide funding for orchard planting scheme and the other is running a series of workshops open to the public, local communities, farmers and landowners providing the skills in orchard management and fruit production. It is hoped that these projects, along with other initiatives, will reverse the decline in orchards reconnecting people with the heritage and culture so long associated with the Quantock Hills.


If you are interested in planting an orchard or would like to know more about upcoming workshops please contact us on 01823 45188401823 451884 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)


Finally I have to extend our thanks to Neil for leading such an enthusiastic day and to local farmer Terry Ayres for allowing us to use his orchard.


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