Traditional Orchards

Habitat Description

Orchards are collections of cultivated 'top-fruit' and/or edible nut bearing trees. By common agreement among present orchard-researchers the number of trees required is greater than five. Traditional Orchards are a subset of such orchards and may be described as those dominated by older, less intensively-managed 'standard' trees, with main branches above the reach of grazing animals, and planted at relatively low densities. Associated habitats of hedgerows and the ground flora may also be diverse depending upon their historical and present management. Traditionally grazing of the under-storey in such orchards was not uncommon but is now in some cases mimicked by appropriate mowing regimes.

Traditional orchards can have significant ecological value and wildlife diversity. Ongoing research, in both the UK and abroad, has identified their importance for birds (including the woodpeckers, bullfinch, fieldfare and redwing) and for many other groups of species. In particular, a great part of the diversity has been recorded as depending upon the microhabitats present in, for instance, dead or decaying wood - both lying on the ground and in the trees and to be mediated by rich assemblages of fungi present and by the diversity of saproxylic invertebrate species.

Current UK Status and Trends

Declining

Estimated Current Northants Resource

Between 15 and 90 hectares.

Progress Towards BAP Targets 2002-2007

Survey to identify the extent of remaining traditional orchards, and restoration work at a number of orchards such as Wilson's.

Lead Partner

South Court Environmental

Main Issues and Threats

Insensitive management e.g. Use for horse-grazing which has a number of deleterious effects; Removal of dying trees or parts of trees; Use for overwintering livestock with feed-spillage over-enriching the ground; Lack of re-planting regime to maintain sustained missed-age orchards.

  • Agricultural removal, partial removal or fragmentation. In general for the purpose of seeking more financially productive use of the land.
  • Development removal, partial removal or fragmentation. This may be either for "site improvement" in the case of an individual house-and-land or, more generally, for housing or other development, the latter especially as orchards frequently fall under the designation of 'brownfield' sites. This has lead to speculative removal of orchards in the past ahead of building permission having been granted.
  • Neglect of traditional management. Although pear trees are known to live for over 200 years and frequently longer, apple and prunus species (plum etc) have much shorter lives, typically 100 and 50 years respectively. A regime of rolling replacement of trees over a period of decades is therefore required if the orchard's tree assemblage is not to deteriorate. As orchards have in general been created all-of-a-piece at one time, they typically also stand in danger of failing within a short time-period if not appropriately managed for sustainability.
  • Isolation: Northamptonshire, in common with many other counties, has experienced ongoing decline in the number of orchards surviving. This tends to isolate remaining orchards from another with consequent local extinction effects on less mobile species.

General Strategy

  • The identification and maintenance of the current resource.
  • The enhancement of current resource: The planned enhancement of management of orchards in accordance with traditional prescriptions, and the increase in the number and the area of extant orchards managed traditionally in the county
  • The restoration of degraded orchards: This can be accomplished by the updating of the management of, and the in-fill planting of, degraded traditional orchards and by extending their size as appropriate. It may also be accomplished, in some cases, by adopting and applying enhancements to management regimes for degraded non-traditional orchards in some cases.
  • The establishment of additional traditionally managed orchards: By identification of suitable sites and subsequently planting and managing new orchards in accordance with traditional management regimes, additional traditional orchards can be established.
  • The enhancement of the perceived or actual economic and cultural, health and well-being values to be derived from traditionally managed orchards with a view to increasing the attractiveness of adopting such management.

Associated National Priority Species

  • Common bullfinch
  • Lesser-spotted woodpecker

Specific Management Required for Associated Species

Species

Northamptonshire Status

Management Prescriptions

Key Sites

Common bullfinch

Breeding

Provision of plants that provide seed or fruit buds at different times of year (e.g. herbaceous plants produce seed in autumn, trees in winter, and buds on fruit trees in spring).

Unknown

Targets

Target Code

Target Type

Target Description

Target Units

Northants Baseline Resource

Target

By

Unit Cost £

Total Cost £

NOR_TOR_T1

Maintain Extent

Maintain the current extent of traditional orchards.

Hectares

40

No Loss

2015

Unknown

 

NOR_TOR_T2

Achieving Condition

Maintain the condition of orchards already qualifying as LWS and improve the condition of those that don't so that they do meet LWS criteria.

Hectares

12

40

2015

Unknown

 

NOR_TOR_T3

Restoration

Restore 5 ha of heavily degraded and historic orchard to LWS standard.

Hectares

0

5

2015

Unknown

 

NOR_TOR_T4

Expansion

Establish 5 ha of orchard on land of low conservation value.

Hectares

0

5

2015

Unknown

 

Actions

Action Code

Action Description

Lead Partner

Support Partner(s)

Related Target

NOR_TOR_SU_A1

Undertake survey work on orchards (area, distribution in the county, i.e. Phase I surveying) and survey work on the measurable biodiversity value as habitats of individual orchards (character, management, species and habitats present i.e. Phase II surveying).

South Court Environmental

 

NOR_TOR_T1&T2

NOR_TOR_CA_A2

Provide information on appropriate management for orchards to their owners and to those wishing to plant orchards in order to attain, maintain and enhance the biodiversity of their habitats.

South Court Environmental

Natural England

NOR_TOR_T1,2&3

NOR_TOR_HC_A3

Identify appropriate sites for the creation of additional traditionally managed orchards and undertake, or encourage there to be undertaken, the planting and maintenance of such orchards.

South Court Environmental

The Wildlife Trust, Natural England

NOR_TOR_T4

NOR_TOR_CA_A4

Identify and undertake, or cause there to be undertaken, appropriate education and training activities for promoting the wider understanding of orchards as priority habitats for wildlife diversity and for their additional cultural, health and well-being and community values.

South Court Environmental

Groundwork

NOR_TOR_T1

NOR_TOR_CA_A5

Identify the means whereby those undertaking traditional management of their orchards have access to appropriate financial gain from doing so, for instance by the sale of products and the provision of services (e.g. education) and Higher Level Stewardship.

South Court Environmental

Natural England

 

NOR_TOR_T1&2

NOR_TOR_CA_A6

Produce criteria for assessing traditional orchards for selection as Local Wildlife Sites, and assess all existing and newly identified orchards against these criteria.

South Court Environmental, NBRC

The Wildlife Trust

NOR_TOR_T2

NOR_TOR_CA_A7

Encourage communities to highlight the biodiversity value of orchards in Parish Plans.

NACRE, Local Authorities

 

NOR_TOR_T1

NOR_TOR_SP_A8

Where appropriate apply Tree Preservation Orders to safeguard orchard trees.

Local Authorities

 

NOR_TOR_T1