We fully appreciate the benefits of orchards as places for people and nature. We were therefore very interested to see some breaking news from The Orchard Project - a national charity dedicated to the creation, restoration and celebration of orchards. They have a particular enthusiasm for bringing orchards to urban areas and to less prosperous communities.
Working in partnership with the Ministry of Justice, The Orchard Project is assisting in the goal of having a well-maintained orchard in every prison in England and Wales.
This sounds a very interesting initiative and will play an important part in nature recovery, and will bring benefits to prison staff and inmates, alike.
Please click on the button below to visit The Orchard Project website to see more details.
Our county of Herefordshire is well known as a fruit growing area and our community orchards in Colwall are looking at their best with spring blossom at the moment.
Slightly further afield our friends and neighbours from the Big Apple Association have a two day event celebrating the orchards and countryside of the Marcle Ridge Area on Sunday 1st May and Monday 2nd May, 2022.
This promises to have something for everybody including drop-in printmaking, sales of plants for pollinators (by COG supporters Anne Crane and Amanda Lambourne), green ideas from Sustainable Ledbury, guided orchard walks, talks and orchard skills demonstrations, Morris dancing, teas, lunches and cider tasting.
For more details please visit The Big Apple Blossomtime 2002 event webpage.
We were fortunate to once again have good weather and trees in their full Springtime glory for this year's Blossom Picnic held in the amenity/children's orchard area of our Colwall Village Garden site.
The sun shone, bees buzzed and our guests enjoyed picnics, pizza and drinks with background music provided by Eddie (pictured).
This was one of a series of events planned for the year as we return to some normality following the Covid pandemic.
Other forthcoming attractions include a Dawn Chorus Walk, Meadows Walks, Art-In-The-Orchard (part of h.Art), and Apple Day.
For more detail please see our Events page.
Learning more about the flora, fauna and geology of our site
We are indebted to our friends at Ledbury Naturalists Field Club who kindly undertook field surveys of our sites at Colwall Village Garden and Lugg's Mill Orchard, during 2021. Please use this PDF viewer to read their excellent report in its entirety.
The warm mid March weather has brought the blossom on. The National Trust has a web feature on Bringing Blossom Back such as on the damsons at Brockhampton, near Bromyard (pictured).
The recent spate of three named storms within a short period of time has taken it's toll on some of the veteran traditional orchards in our village. A handful of old trees have been battered, shattered and toppled.
Such damage has provided a good opportunity to see the structure inside the trees. Recently on a TV programme a woman cider orchard owner described how apple trees in traditional orchards were like men - best between the ages of twenty and fifty!
Traditional orchard trees can live for a long time - 100 years or so for an apple tree, maybe over 300 years for a perry pear tree.
Pictured above is the inside of a veteran apple tree - probably around a century old. Whilst the trunk is still sturdy it is amazingly hollow inside. Such a cavity provides a wonderful opportunity for wildlife. A place to live, breed, shelter and hide. Therein is the value of trees in traditional orchards compared to those in modern, short-lived, commercial orchards that don't age in this way.
A cold, but fine, Saturday morning and we are hard at work planting trees at the school orchard at The Downs, Brockhill Road, Colwall.
We were very fortunate to have assistance from a group of children from the school, who usually spend their time at this time of the week working on the school's own miniature steam railway run by the Downs Light Railway Trust.
The children have helped us to plant 10 new trees which has gone a long way to gapping up the existing orchard.
This is part of a partnering project between Colwall Orchard Group, the Downs School and the Downs Light Railway Trust (DLRT).
The DLRT is involved with a significant project to revitalise the miniature railway which is coming up for it's centenary in the next couple of years. Their work will see brand new buildings added to the railway infrastructure.
The Grange, Downton Pippin, Red Ingestrie, Yellow Ingestrie, Breinton Seedling, Bringewood Pippin, Wormsley Pippin, Yellow Siberian, Foxley Apple, Siberian Harvey, Spring Grove Codling, and Herefordshire Gilliflower. These are all apple tree varieties attributed to the famous Herefordshire plant-breeder and former President of the Royal Horticultural Society - Thomas Andrew Knight (1759-1838).
Knight's achievements are celebrated on the Apples and People website in the article 'Gentleman Of Genius'. The piece includes artwork from local fine artist Chris Hellowell - a Colwall resident and Colwall Orchard Group supporter. His work was commissioned by the Hereford Cider Museum Trust.
Chris's artwork features the 'Four Faces Of Knight' in the form of digital collages.
Find out more about Thomas Andrew Knight and see the Four Faces of Knight artwork using the button below.
Winter is the traditional time for planting new traditional orchard trees. The trees are dormant and so long as the ground is neither frozen or waterlogged it's the perfect time to get trees in the ground.
Here Andy, Rita and Bella are adding a tree cage to a newly planted apple tree.
This is at Stamp's Orchard, an old orchard site in Colwall known to have been used for growing fruit trees since the 1840s, when this field was recorded as being an orchard on the local tithe map of that period.
The orchard has, in the past, had as many as 150 trees. We are pleased to be working alongside the current owners to gap up the orchard to provide continuity of habitat.
This year we've planted twenty trees which is a major contribution to regenerating the orchard where the existing trees are reaching the end of their useful lives.
The standing dead wood in Stamp's Orchard remains a very important habitat for wildlife to feed, shelter, nest and breed. As we worked we could hear the harsh drumming of woodpeckers nearby.
We've previously shared details of a wonderfully inspiring book - Orchard: A Year In England's Eden by Benedict McDonald and Nick Gates.
Nick recently did an on-line presentation to the Moor Meadows group based in Devon featuring the orchard that the book relates to, which you may wish to look at.
Overall it's longish video (over one and a half hours) but the prologue is a visual joy. Nick is an engaging presenter, and the final section on wildlife gardening has some good ideas.
Our county of Herefordshire has a quiet reputation for being unknown and undiscovered by the bulk of the UK population. The secret has lain comfortably with us whilst we've appreciated the beauty of this place, the wonderful lifestyle to be enjoyed and how lucky we are to live here.
Back during last autumn we had a chance meeting with a journalist - Phoebe Taplin - whom we met at Colwall Village Garden whilst she was walking our Orchard Heritage Trail and we were tidying up following a fruit juicing session with local schoolchildren. Phoebe kindly bought a bottle of apple juice and we talked generally about the Colwall Orchard Group project.
We are indebted to Phil, one of our members and volunteers, who let us know of Phoebe's resulting lovely article in the Guardian newspaper. The piece has some very good publicity for Herefordshire in general, and Colwall Orchard Group gets a very positive mention. You can read the article here.
Maybe our secret is out? We're looking forward to welcoming lots more visitors and to having to bumper sales of our fruit juice and our Orchard Heritage Trail leaflet!
We are always keen to manage our sites for people and nature and strive to improve the biodiversity of flora and fauna present. We also enjoy learning and improving our knowledge of the natural world.
We've recently discovered that Herefordshire Biological Records Centre is running a series of free natural history training events during the coming year. These are on diverse subjects such as amphibians, birds, butterflies, botany, grasses and earthworms - all of which should be present in a good traditional orchard.
The courses are being held at the Herefordshire Archives and Records Centre in Rotherwas or at other locations in Herefordshire. Sadly the one on traditional orchards, scheduled for Saturday 22nd January 2022, has been postponed but we'll keep an eye on any new dates for that.
To see a full list of the courses available and see more details please visit the Events page of the Herefordshire Biological Records Centre website by clicking on the button below.
Those of you used to visiting our website will be accustomed to various group photos of our volunteers and may even recognise a few faces that regularly feature!
This image is different. We recently encountered this group of walkers at Lugg's Mill orchard. They were passing through the orchard making benefit of the new public footpath that runs through the site - greatly improving the connectivity of the community orchard with the wider public footpath network.
The walkers also used our new benches, which are growing in number at our sites by popular demand.
Walkers and visitors are always welcome at both of our sites in Old Church Road, Colwall and we'd suggest that repeat visits are useful to enjoy all that's to be seen during the changing seasons.
Taking a break during one of regular Friday morning volunteering sessions are Chiara and Rosie.
They are trying out one of our newly constructed bespoke benches. This one is sited near the pond at Colwall Village Garden and provides a lovely resting spot with views across the icy water, to the community orchard, with the Malvern Hills as a splendid backdrop.
We don't mind the cold and frosty conditions. The drop in temperatures helps with natural pest control and many types of orchard trees benefit significantly from a period of chilling during the winter months.
For us it's a time to wrap up warm, continue with our orchard maintenance tasks and enjoy the scenery.
Suddenly the build up to Xmas seems very real.
We are now into winter and the orchard seasons have changed gear yet again and we are into the time for tree planting and mistletoe management.
Here Irene can be seen bagging up freshly harvested mistletoe from Stamps Orchard in preparation for our Mistletoe Fair on 4th December.
Stamps Orchard contains many lovely old fruit trees and is a local stronghold for mistletoe and for wildlife generally. As we worked we could hear and see the green woodpeckers nearby.
We were delighted to be working in Stamps Orchard again - one of our favourite traditional orchards.
Andy and Louise take a break from work to discuss future management of the orchard which will include further removal of surplus mistletoe, and continuation of gapping up work, with a further 20 new fruit trees to be planted over the winter period.
Funding of this tree planting work is through the Farming In Protected Landscapes (FiPL) scheme, funded by DEFRA, and facilitated by the Malvern Hills AONB, as part of Colwall Orchard Group's Traditional Orchards for the Future Initiative (TOFI).
The historic venue of Colwall St James the Great Church gave us the opportunity to attract both customers and the local wildlife (!) to our carefully laid out stall.
This was part of the Colwall Craft Fair, held on Saturday 20th November, where we joined other local artist, craftspeople and artisans selling their wares.
Thanks to everyone who supported us -whether existing or new customers - and to the organisers from the Church.
We had an enjoyable and successful time.
We have a diverse group of people working quietly away in their kitchens making a wide range of produce using ingredients grown and harvested locally. Thanks team!
Pictured are the ingredients of one of our favourites - Hedgerow Jam - as part of our selection of jams, jellies, chutneys, apple cider and juice.
Missed the Fair on Saturday? Don't worry there will be another opportunity to buy your Xmas goodies from us at our Mistletoe Fair on Saturday 4th December.
Otherwise, you can also always purchase goods online if you live local to us.
A big thumbs up from one of our young visitors to the October 2021 Apple Day. It was simply a wonderful day.
The sun shone, and family groups came in their droves to visit us at Colwall Village Garden.
Apples got pressed, with the juice sampled, blended and bottled.
Tim Dixon helped identify apples.
The crowd were entertained by local band 'Banjaxed'.
Kids (and adults!) played orchard games.
Drinks flowed and those who were hungry feasted on freshly cooked fare from our barbeque and cob pizza oven, followed by home-baked cake and tea.
It was a very relaxed and convivial atmosphere and we were delighted to welcome friends old and new.
A massive thanks to all who worked so hard to make this happen, to those who supported us in a wide variety of ways and those who came on the day.
One to remember, and it was lovely to get back to some sense of normality.
A representative selection of images are displayed below.