Recent media reports have highlighted the loss of orchards from the British landscape. The National Trust and Natural England put Cambridgeshire as the second worst offender with an 80% loss over the last half century. In Cambridge, the traditional orchards at Grantchester and Girton College are still there but those orchards that once existed around Midsummer Common have been lost to residential developments. There is now a national trend towards creating new orchards. The Wildlife Trust suggested creating one on the edge of Midsummer Common in Cambridge.
The Friends of Midsummer Common took up the challenge. In 2009, their members prepared a proposal for a Community Orchard and presented this to Cambridge City Council (the owner of Midsummer Common). Constructive discussions were held with Council officers before Councillors gave their final approval for a Community Orchard on the Common. FoMC was granted a licence to carry out the work and a notice was posted on the site telling the public what was happening.The planting of fruit trees started in 2010 and there are now over 50 trees growing in the Orchard. They are grown in separate groups - apples, plums and gages, pears, and cherries. Together with other trees, they have an orderly layout. Neglect and lack of care in the early years after planting can cause long-lasting problems. There are well established maintenance tasks to be carried out. Newly planted trees need regular watering. Guards, stakes and ties need regular checking. The grassland needs regular mowing and any weeds need controlling. Formative pruning needs to be carried out in order to develop a balanced tree shape with a strong branch framework - this will encourage good cropping in the future. The health of each tree needs careful monitoring - any diseases need identifying and treating. The early years are the most important period during a tree's life.
Ongoing maintenance and new plantings takes time and effort by those helping in the Community Orchard. We are looking for local volunteers to help us in these tasks. So please join us by sending an Email to the Orchard Manager.