Traditional Orchard

 

The Traditional Orchard was acquired by Normandy Parish Council in 1989 along with the northern part of Normandy Common and is part of the Site of Nature Conservation Importance. The Orchard covers approximately half an acre and can be accessed from the Permissive Horse Ride north of the cricket pavilion. By 2010 it was realised that the old orchard was in danger of being lost and a plan was made to rejuvenate it before it was too late. Traditional orchards are an important part of our heritage, and often contain old, rare and locally significant fruit varieties. They are also extremely valuable habitats for wildlife. A grant was consequently obtained from the National Lottery Awards for All which enabled:

  • Planting of 17 new fruit trees by volunteers in January 2011. The trees included many old Surrey varieties with names like Byfleet Seedling, Crimson Drop and Duchess’s Favourite.
  • Removal of a non-native privet hedge, which grew beside the Permissive Horse Ride and the replacement with a mixed native hedge (planted in March 2011, again by volunteers).
  • The erection of a bespoke information board and bench, both constructed of native oak
  • Planting of 550 wildflower plug plants of 11 different species

Later in the winter of 2013/14 a small wildlife pond was added and 17 bird and bat boxes erected in and around the Orchard. The pond was dug by Community Service workers and funds for the pond liner, plants and boxes were provided by Guildford Borough Council.

Although 7 old fruit trees were alive in 2010, that number had declined to 4 by early 2018. The fruit trees planted in 2011 however are growing well and have started to fruit, except for the Medlar which has never done well.

Management is undertaken by volunteers and includes an annual grass cut, pruning of the newer fruit trees, scrub limitation, mowing walkway and pond maintenance. Some areas of grass are left long for voles, amphibians and skipper butterflies.  Surveying the flora and fauna continues to be undertaken to better understand the habitat and to help guide its management. By early 2018 the following had been recorded over the last ca 5 years: 10 species of mammal, 5 species of amphibian or reptile, 30 species of bird, close to 150 species of plant, over 30 species of fungi, 24 species of butterfly, over 60 species of moth and many other insects and spiders.

The information board at the Orchard’s entrance gives more details of the fruit varieties together with other information about the orchard. Additional information is available from the Parish Council’s Annual Assembly updates.

Normandy Traditional Orchard – Annual Summary May 2017

Another year has passed and thankfully there has been little change to the remaining 4 old living fruit trees. Their fruit crops were down on the previous season and the blackbird and fieldfares were only sustained into January. Of the newer fruit trees there was a very good crop again on the apple Duchess’s Favourite and the first fruit on the Black Mulberry. The Medlar is just about hanging on to life and continues to be cosseted.

The work carried out on the orchard was mostly care and maintenance. Wildlife recording continued.

The orchard continues to be a great refuge for wildlife and some of the wildlife highlights of the year were:

  • There was evidence for roe deer, fox and probable badger visits
  • The first Common Spotted-orchid flowered and this Spring we’ve counted several more plants growing
  • Stag beetles were seen in adjacent gardens with one possibly seen flying in the orchard
  • Glow-worms were recorded for the second year running
  • 7 species were counted for the Big Butterfly Count (19 July).
  • The good numbers of Ringlets, Meadow Browns, Small Skippers and the continued presence of Slow-worms and wild flowers are evidence for the success of the non-mowing regime
  • Frogs and frogspawn, one toad and a palmate newt (1st record) were recorded
  • This was the first year that two large bats were seen on several nights visiting the orchard. They were seen in daylight before dusk and could be Noctules or Serotines.

As part of  Normandy Common the Traditional Orchard is now included in this Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI).

 

Normandy Traditional Orchard – Annual Summary May 2016

It’s hard to believe that it’s over 5 years since the new fruit trees and native hedge were planted by the Parish Council in the Traditional Orchard. At that time there were 6 living veteran fruit trees alive, unfortunately that is now down to 4 and one of those is almost unrecognizable as a fruit tree because of the amount of ivy covering it. That tree continues to survive and it provides great potential for birds to nest (such as Stock dove; Amber status), shelter and nectar for insects, a potential bat roost and berries for birds. Last autumn the old Bramley had a terrific crop and it sustained Locals, Blackbirds and one or more Fieldfares (Red status) up until well into February.

More of the 5 year old trees fruited last season with the first fruit on the apples Byfleet Seedling, Claygate Permain and High View Pippin; 2 of these are on the most vigourous rootstock, M25. That means 10 of 17 fruit trees planted 5 years ago have now fruited.

The wildlife hedge is starting to finally look like a hedge! There was a superb display of Foxglove flowers beside it last June.

The work carried out on the orchard was mostly care and maintenance. Plant and animal records continued to be kept.

Some of the other highlights of the year were:

  • First Marbled White butterfly seen
  • 8 species counted for the Big Butterfly Count (19 July) including the beautiful Silver-washed Fritillary
  • First Common Spotted-orchid seen growing (slug ate the flower bud off!)
  • Increasing numbers of Glow-worms (3) recorded
  • 15-20 damselflies seen flying together around pond on June 5
  • A load of frogspawn in the wildlife pond this year
  • Numerous visits by a Kestrel (Amber status) in June 2015, hunting for voles to feed young?
  • 2 Song Thrush’s (Red status) heard singing either end of the orchard on June 10, 2015
  • Slow-worms fairly regularly seen
  • 2 wasp nests in ground and as far as is known, nobody stung!

 

Normandy Traditional Orchard – Annual Summary April 2015

The good news this year is that the bulk of the‘new’ trees continued to grow well and all of the plums bore fruit for the first time. In addition there were at least a dozen attractive apples on the first ‘new’ apple to produce, Duchess’s Favourite. Of the ‘new’ trees only the Medlar still looks sickly despite nurturing. The five old fruit trees continue to do well except for the unknown apple near the pond. Unfortunately this has now lost the bulk of it’s branches but at least it is still standing and a very valuable element to our orchard habitat (useful for saproxylic insects, roosting site for birds and bats, a home for fungi etc). There was a reasonable crop of fruit from the rest of these old trees this season although poorer than in 2013. The other great news is the wildlife pond. It remained full of water and most plants have grown and flowered well. The first dragonflies and damselflies have been recorded from the orchard in 2014 which included 4 species of dragonfly and 2 species of damselfly. Frogspawn was also recorded present in the pond on the 14th March this year!

Grasshoppers have recently been considered indicators of the health of grassland ecosystems and I’m glad to report that a reasonable number were seen or heard in the meadow grass between the fruit trees. Attempts to increase the wild flowers in the meadow grass continue, but of the introduced plants Betony and Common Knapweed have done well. The native Common Ragwort was a particularly useful plant this year for a whole host of insects.  The heads were gathered and removed at the critical seeding point to try to stop it from dominating the flora and allowing it to spread into adjacent properties where there have been horses in the recent past. The grass was cut traditionally in mid-September and removed. This year the edges and selected areas were left uncut for Skipper butterfly larvae, ant hills and Slow-worms (all three Slow-worms seen while cutting the sward were from the previously uncut areas).

The Big Butterfly count was undertaken again in the orchard on 31 July. Fewer species were seen in 2014 compared to 2013 (6 species vs 10) with fewer total butterflies (17 vs 23). However, one new species of butterfly was recorded in 2014, the Brown Argus (identity confirmed by Butterfly Conservation). This came to rest near the pond close to where one of it’s foodplant grows. This brings the number of butterfly species recorded at the orchard to 22. A poster was presented to the Friends of Normandy Wildlife on 4th December illustrating this butterfly together with some of the other more important 2014 records.

The short section of species-rich hedge planted in 2011 continues to grow well and hopefully next year it will be possible to remove the fence protecting it. The first flowers on the Blackthorn appeared this spring. The 14 bird boxes erected in March 2014 were cleaned out in the autumn and at least half had been used for nesting.

 

Normandy Traditional Orchard – Annual Update May 2014

I’m pleased to report that despite the rough winter weather, the orchard suffered no major disasters this year unless you count a bin bag of honey fungus collected in October! This was the first time the fungus had been noted and unfortunately it was found to be too widespread to contain.

Two significant new improvements have been made to the Orchard this past year, a small wildlife pond has been created and 17 bird and bat boxes erected in the area. The pond was very successfully dug by Leslie Clarke and a band of pay-back workers on December 14. The liner was subsequently put down and the record rainfall in December and January filled it up in no time! If you haven’t visited, the excess soil was landscaped over the remains of the dead oak tree hopefully providing hibernating sites for amphibians in the gaps. The bank has been seeded with wild flowers which may or may not take. A mixture of free and bought marginal plants and oxygenators have been planted in and around the pond. We have Guildford Borough Council to thank for providing funds for the pond materials, plants and bird/bat boxes; and a big thanks to Leslie for obtaining the grant.  As soon as the boxes had been put up, a number of birds were seen to be investigating them, and several pairs have subsequently taken up residence to raise young. The pond was stocked with some spawn from the neighbouring garden, and it is believed that both tadpoles and toadpoles emerged, so hopefully there will be many frogs and toads in the orchard in the coming years.

The meadow grass was given the usual traditional cut in September but this time I’ve experimented by leaving some areas to benefit the skipper butterflies and as usual leaving dead seed heads for birds and hibernating insects. I am trying to maintain low soil nutrient levels which are beneficial for wild flowers, by removing any cut material and raking leaves off in the early spring. Other tasks have included pruning, pulling excess ragwort and undertaking the Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count on 1st August 2013 (23 butterflies, 10 species!). Recently a fence was erected around the native hedge planted in March 2011, as a temporary measure to protect it from deer-browsing.

As predicted from the heavy blossom on the old fruit trees last spring, 2013 turned out to be a bumper harvest. What fruit the locals didn’t collect were eaten by numerous blackbirds and fieldfares in December and January. Even some of the new trees bore fruit: Bullace, Medlar and Duchess’s Favourite apple. This spring there has been blossom on a larger number of the new fruit trees.

The faunal and floral survey has continued. Several new plants have been recorded this year, including Pignut, Heath Speedwell and a Marsh Thistle! On the faunal side the list of butterfly species has almost doubled! Some of the very exciting highlights include Silver-washed Fritillary and two species seen to fly from the adjacent garden into the orchard: White Admiral (BAP Priority Species) and Purple Emperor (Red List – Near Threatened), both photographed in adjacent properties. Additionally another delightful species, the Glow-worm, was recorded for the first time in the orchard on midsummer night 2013. Finally a micro-moth trapped in adjacent Springhill garden in July was identified by the County macro-moth recorder to be Stenoptinea cyaneimarmorella and this was only the third specimen to be found in Surrey. Butterfly Conservation’s review of micro-moth statuses in 2012 gave this moth a proposed RDB1 status i.e. occurring in 5 or less 10km squares in Britain! The larva of this moth feeds on lichens and sometimes rotten wood from species of Prunus trees. It is highly likely that it was attracted from the old fallen cherry in the orchard!

 

Normandy Traditional Orchard – Annual Update May 2013

The new fruit trees continued to grow well during their second growing year and there has been blossom on several of them this spring. The apple and pears were pruned again in the winter according to the RHS advice sheet. The grass is kept cut around the trees and blood fish and bone fertilizer was applied recently.

Unfortunately, the old cherry that fell down in January 2011 finally died last year. The Jet Black Ant’s nest, present in the bole of the tree is still fortunately active and last autumn there was a superb display of ivy flowers over the trunk which attracted up to 10 Red Admiral butterflies. A female Stag beetle was seen investigating the tree in 2011 so it is well worth leaving to rot away naturally. This year has been an excellent year for fruit blossom so hopefully the 5 remaining trees will have a good crop, unlike last year. The top 8-10 feet of the old apple adjacent to Mount Pleasant snapped off this spring. Since it was affecting growth on the remaining part of the tree it was removed.

The new hedge got nibbled badly by the deer last year but seems to be growing strongly this spring. Most of the plants have survived.

The meadow grass, wild flowers and nettles were given their traditional cut with a scythe in September again last year and the compost heap added to. During the cut, one Slow-worm, one Grass Snake, one Field Vole and two Common Frogs were seen! Nurturing of the plug plants that were planted in the meadow continued; some have done better than others. The primroses planted in the hedge bank have been a spectacular sight this spring.

A concerted effort was made last year to undertake a plant survey. This can be used as a baseline survey and will help to show how the meadow changes with time. Over 100 species of flowering plant (excluding, hedge plants, grasses and trees) have been identified over the last year! Diversity has been increased over the year by the addition of attractive plants such as Red Campion, Sneezewort, Devil’s-bit Scabious and Wood Anemone. All new plants added to the Orchard have been recorded and their origins noted.

In addition to a floral survey, a faunal survey has been started. It included 9, possibly 10 species of mammal, two species of both reptile and amphibian, 11 species of butterfly and many moths, beetles and other insects.

Some of the less common species in the orchard include the Song Thrush (a Red List species) which has been regularly heard from the orchard or nearby trees this spring, the Stock Dove (Amber Status) which bred last year in the ivy-clad Newton Wonder tree and the Bullfinch,  (also Amber Status) which has been seen or heard in and around the orchard. The Stag Beetle (Notable B) and the Black-headed Cardinal Beetle (Notable B) were also recorded from the orchard last year.

The future plan for the Orchard is to attempt to continue to increase its diversity by further improving the habitat, including adding a pond and putting up bird and bat boxes.

 

Normandy Traditional Orchard – Annual Update May 2012

The new fruit trees have survived their first year and are all alive and seem to be doing well. The additional good news is that none of the old trees have died or blown over during the year so we still have 5 standing apple and pear trees and the cherry that was blown over is thankfully also still alive and flowered quite well this spring.

The new fruit trees and hedge were continued to be watered in May and June last year when it was very dry and blood, fish and bone was applied in July/August to the Black Mulberry, Medlar and Cherry as they seemed to be growing poorly. The apple and pear trees were given their first prune this winter according to the relevant RHS advice sheet and the plums will be pruned later in the growing season.

The meadow grass, wild flowers and nettles were given their traditional cut with a scythe in September and a compost heap built with the cut material. Some plants with unusual seedheads were left in case the seeds were useful to birds/hibernating insects.

Leslie Clark kindly delivered the Bench and Notice board from Harry Stebbing’s workshop in Norfolk. If you’ve already seen them, I think you’ll agree they are made of beautiful, sustainable English oak. They were erected in March this year. The Notice board includes the information poster that Peter Palmer and I created. I hope visitors enjoy them. The Notice board was placed just outside the orchard so that it is visible to walkers using the footpath or permissive horse ride to the cricket pitches from Pirbright Road. The bench is located so that it looks down over the orchard.

I’ve checked the wild flowers that were planted in April last year. Some have done better that others but the good news is that representatives of all eleven species have survived. The primroses have done very well and quite a few have flowered, cheered up the orchard this Spring.

Other work carried out over the year has been to improve the habitat for wildlife and to monitor and record species present. A large sycamore log was partially buried and other logs piled on top in an attempt to encourage the Stag beetles that are already present. A reptile tin was put down and 2 different slow-worms and wood mice were recorded last year. The ash tree supporting the superb hop plant has been pruned again to stop it from taking over and finally more wild flowers have been planted, seed sown and indigenous broom plants transplanted away from the main fruit tree area.

 

Normandy Traditional Orchard – Annual Update May 2011

The object of this project was to establish a Community Orchard by renovating a small old orchard just North of the cricket club that was in severe decline. Old traditional orchards can be excellent habitats for wildlife and in them can be found many old and rare varieties of fruit trees.

Unfortunately throughout the country numbers of such orchards have decreased substantially and therefore the creation of a Community Orchard is an excellent way of protecting many species of wildlife as well as preserving old local fruit varieties for future generations to enjoy, and providing a communal asset for the local people. In this orchard only a few fruit trees remained, so it was decided that new trees should be planted, leaving any standing dead wood and fallen trees in place and creating wood piles. After receiving confirmation in April 2010 that an application made for an Awards For All Lottery Grant had been sucessful, work on the orchard started in earnest.  The number, variety and rootstock of the fruit trees to be purchased was reviewed by NPC and in June, 17 trees were ordered from Keepers Nursery in Kent. Vigorous old Surrey varieties were favoured and trees varied from apple, pear, plum, cherry, medler, quince to mulberrry.

Hedges can be a very important aspect of an orchard, providing food, shelter and nesting places for birds and other animals, and so it was also decided that a mixed hedge of native species should replace the old non-native Privet hedge. The old hedge was removed in mid-October by Norris and Gardner and the roots stump ground. Two trees in the hedge that badly shaded the existing fruit trees were also removed and stump ground. Later in October, a volunteer work party cleared the area in preparation for planting the fruit trees.  Due to the intensely cold December, the delivery date for the fruit trees was delayed until after the New Year, and accordingly the planting was carried out by a group of volunteers in mid-January. Unfortunately the night before planting the old cherry tree was blown over leaving only 5 fruit trees standing.  Deer proofing was put around the new trees by Norris and Gardner. The mixed native hedge (150 plants) was then ordered and planted on the 12th of March by an excellent turnout of 9 volunteers. Luckily although Spring was early this year none of the plants had sprouted. Finally 550 plug plants of 11 different species of wild flower, suitable for the ‘meadow’ and surrounding area were ordered from British Flora. These were planted on the 6th of April and watered in. An information board, designed by myself and Peter Palmer, together with a bench, have been ordered and will be erected later in the year.

So far the fruit trees and most of the hedge plants and wild flowers appear to be doing reasonably well despite the dry weather and presence of rabbits.

 

Normandy Traditional Orchard - Annual Update May 2010 

This is a relatively new project that’s being undertaken by the Parish Council, as part of the management of Normandy Common.

An old orchard occupies a plot of land approximately half an acre to the north of the old Cricket pitch. This belongs to the Parish Council and has been a fruit orchard in the past, but has become neglected over recent years. As a result there are now only 6 live trees standing, namely 3 apple trees, 2 pears and a cherry. There is one other living tree which is a fallen apple. The other trees have one by one fallen and died.

Traditional orchards are an important part of our heritage, and often contain old, rare and locally significant fruit varieties. They are also extremely valuable habitats for wildlife, providing space for plants, fungi, and animals, with food , shelter and potential breeding sites being important factors. Dead wood is essential for many species, and it is therefore necessary to leave standing dead and some fallen trees and or to provide log piles. Unfortunately, orchard habitats have declined by more than 60% since the 1950’s. The Parish Council have therefore agreed that the orchard in question should be restored by conserving the remaining trees and planting new trees to replace those which have been lost. It is proposed that wherever possible fruit trees originating in Surrey prior to 1950 should be sourced to help preserve old and local varieties.

It is also proposed that the non-native privet hedge to the west of the orchard should be grubbed out and replaced with native hedging such as sloe and hawthorn. Furthermore, rough areas will be left around the edges, and an attempt will be made to create a wildflower meadow amongst the trees. Hopefully also mistletoe can be introduced. In the future it is proposed to carry out low intensity management. In this way it is hoped to establish a biodiverse area which will benefit many species of wildlife.

However, in addition to wildlife, it is intended that local people should also benefit from this area. Volunteer work parties will be involved in the preparatory work – i.e. carrying out maintenance work on existing trees, clearing areas for the planting of new trees and cutting back and removing scrub where necessary. Once the site has been prepared in this way local residents will be encouraged to participate in tree planting, seed sowing, hedge planting and future maintenance. Children from local schools and the Boyscout group will be encouraged to participate wherever possible. In the future it is hoped that people will visit the orchard for their enjoyment and be able to taste the old fruit varieties.

In other areas of the country where similar projects have been undertaken, it has been shown that establishing and maintaining a fruit orchard generates a stronger community identity and ultimately enables local people to enjoy the benefits of an improved rural environment with opportunity to rediscover the lost pleasure of local fruit varieties. It helps keep alive the disappearing skills involved in orchard management and enables people to relax in peaceful surroundings, to have greater awareness of the importance of biodiversity and to see at first hand the rich variety of wildlife that will be generated.

To this end, it is intended to erect a bench in the area and to create a board giving information on species identification etc. It is hoped that you will agree that this is a very worthwhile project.

We have exciting new news to tell you that the Parish Council has just won a grant from Awards For All, which gives funds from the National Lottery, to pay for grubbing the privet hedge out and replacing with native hedging, buying new fruit trees, acquisition of seeds and plants to create a wildflower meadow and paying for a seat/information board.

 

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