0716 GMT December 05, 2019
The charity will create 68 new orchards by 2025 as part of a wider program to boost the number of wildlife-rich areas, theguardian.com reported.
Orchards are to be planted in places including the Penrose estate, in south Cornwall, and Mottisfont, in Hampshire. Gardeners will also plant apple, plum, pear and damson trees at spots including Gunby Estate, in Lincolnshire, and on the Gower peninsula, in south Wales.
The UK National Trust, which looks after nearly 200 orchards, said it was concerned that about 60 percent of small traditional orchards in England had disappeared since 1950 as a result of changes in agricultural practices, market forces, neglect and development.
David Bullock, the head of species and habitat conservation at the charity, said: “We launched a new wildlife and nature strategy in 2015, which included an ambition to create 25,000ha [62,000 acres] of priority habitat by 2025. We identified traditional orchards as being of particular importance because they provide the perfect home for a variety of birds, pollinators and insects.
“Every tree is precious because it can become a home for birds such as the lesser spotted woodpecker, bats and mistletoe moth. The amazing number of apple and other traditional fruit varieties that we can plant reflects the wonderful diversity of life.”
The trust was keen to use the program to help preserve heritage fruit varieties, such as the cider apple variety jackets and petticoats, and the dessert apple Ashmead’s kernel.
Bullock said: “Orchards are also vital for people. They provide us with delicious local and seasonal food and drink, they are places for people to enjoy and gather, have great cultural significance, and are places of beauty.”
The Cotehele garden in Cornwall is usually the first of the trust’s orchards to bloom each year. Its seven orchards cover 6ha and are home to more than 125 varieties of apple tree.
David Bouch, the head gardener at Cotehele, said: “As we’re so far south, many flowers and trees come into bloom slightly earlier than elsewhere in the country because we experience milder winter temperatures.
“Apple blossom is such a delicate flower. It starts off with a tinge of pink when in bud, before bursting forth to reveal a fragile, snowy white flower, which, for me is hopefully a sign of the last of the frosts and the orchard bursting into life: From the bees to the wildflowers, to the hope of a successful apple harvest.
“They are the gauge of all the seasons: From bare branches springs new life in the spring, and with the help of pollinating insects, blossom becomes fruit over the summer, which we pick in the autumn and create food and drink, before the trees power down for their winter sleep.”