Buckingham Railway Walk
Conservation Group



Community Orchard

 

The orchard which is located alongside Berties’ Walk was originally planted by a railway worker Mr Herbert Williams, who rented the land from the London, Midland and Scottish Railway Company from the first world war onwards. The orchard was plantedover time by Mr Williams, to commemorate each anniversary in his family.
The local community now benefit from apple and plum trees that Mr Williams planted.

Scientific studies have shown that well managed traditional mature orchards not only produce excellent fruit but also support many forms of wildlife.
The orchard alongside Berties' Walk does not fall into the category of a mature orchard, it is quite young in comparison, however it does offer a supportive environment for a wide variety of wildlife. Pollinating insects visit the trees while they are in flower, some insects use the trees as habitats and birds and insects feed on the fruit.

When we first identified the orchard as an area where we could make improvements, it was apparent that the fruit trees had not received any attention for quite some time. Scrub growth was running riot, and ash and elder trees had grown in between the fruit trees increasing competition for light and circulating air. Access to the trees was generally difficult, so harvesting the fruit could not have been easy.

A typical view of the orchard before commencement of work to clear the overgrown and neglected orchard.

We did not have much experience of caring for fruit trees, so our first course of action was to tackle the problems of access and competition for space. Having cleared the scrub growth and removed some of the young ash and elder trees we contacted Aylesbury Vale District Council who agreed to include the orchard in their annual grass cutting programme. Nettle and bramble growth at the base of the trees is now kept in check.

How it looked after 4hrs of hard work by willing volunteers.

Seeing the difference that can be achieved in just one session, is enough to make each volunteer return monthly to tackle the next task that is collectively agreed upon. 

The following year we contacted the Midshires Orchard Group and in December 2009 Andy Howard came along and trained us in the techniques of restorative pruning of fruit trees and general care of orchards.

Andy helped us tackle some of the apple trees, we had made a start! Following Andy's advice, we left the plum trees alone, because there is a risk of silver disease if they are pruned in winter.

Andy had bought along some heritage fruit trees and the date of his visit coincided with the BBC Breathing Places Tree O'clock world record breaking attempt to plant a record number of trees in an hour. It was an opportunity to take part in the event, and we planted a Victoria Plum, a Quince and a Medlar to enhance the existing selection of fruits on the site.

In February 2010 some of us attended a talk and hands-on demonstration by Jonathan Briggs from the Mistletoe Matters Consultancy based in Gloucester. Jonathan had travelled to Buckingham to pass on his knowledge of Mistletoe to another Buckingham group of volunteers (Maids Moreton Avenue Conservation Group), and we were invited to attend. We learnt about Mistletoe habitats, its host plants, how to grow it and the biodiversity value of this plant. In March 2010 we put our knowledge into practice and planted fresh berries on some of the apple and hawthorn trees. We labelled the branches to allow us to monitor the progress of the seeds and a few weeks later were pleased to see successful germination had taken place (top of this page). At this stage the tiny plants are very susceptible to weather conditions and being eaten by birds and invertebrates. Mistletoe has very particular growth requirement and it takes 4 or 5 years to mature and produce berries.

 

With permission from Aylesbury Vale District Council we planted four more apple trees in March 2010. Three local varieties were chosen, a Langley Pippin, Captain Kernel and a Golden Blenheim, and because we had read that the Blenheim Orange has very hard wood which in the past was used to make coggs for railways, this variety was also planted.
All the trees were staked and protected with tree guards which will stay in place until they are more mature.


We have included regular pruning sessions in our diary of tasks to help keep the trees healthy, removing dead and diseased wood and bringing some shape back to the trees, encouraging growth for a good crop. Work also continues to clear and cutback non fruiting trees which are competing for space in the area.

The orchard includes varieties of apple, plum and cherry trees and also a very tall pear tree which we are unable to prune because of its height, a walnut and a hazel tree. A few damson trees can also be found in the vicinity. The local community regularly harvest the plums and apples, however grey squirrels are the main beneficaries of the nuts produced by the hazel and walnut trees! Insects and birds, including ducks from the nearby River Great Ouse, feast on any windfalls left on the groud due to damage, so there is very little wastage.

The care of the orchard is very much  'work in progress'. Our aim is to ensure the fruit trees remain viable so that whether the harvest is used for jam, desserts, wine or just a snack, there will be a free local source of fruit for many years to come.








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