Local Orchards: Pevensey Road, Berrylands LNR, & Park Road Allotments Isleworth


Squirrels foil  our best efforts to label trees - string, wire, cable ties - swopped in the blink of an eye. So it was with these 'heritage' apples that went to Pevensey Road orchard in the winter of 22,  now challenging us to identify. 

The above displays none of the characteristics of the  two apples I  graft:- Kingston's own heritage variety Mitchelson's Seedling Kingston's apple story ; and the russety, Claygate Pearmain. The first port of call when attempting  apple ID is the New Book of Apples by Morgan and Richards. The second is Fruit ID which contains a lot of  not - in - books info, accounting for information obtained from DNA. This includes synonymous varieties (sharing the genetic make - up) such as Chelmsford Wonder. Makes you wonder how an apple thrown into a hedge - classified as a seedling  - turned out to be the same as grafted stock.


                             Mitchelson's Seedling Berrylands Nature Reserve August 2023

But wait, I recognise this green gargantuan apple as one purchased >20 years ago from Homebase; very like a Bramley, sufficiently sweet to eat and huge. In fact, a trip round the orchards we planted 2018 - 21 indicates that of the 10 scions taken, a tree also ended up at the Berrylands Nature Reserve orchard.

There are about 40 apple trees hidden in the vegetation at Pevensey Road Local Nature Reserve, as well as a new orchard planted at the adjoining Leitrim Park. Some trees appear quite old, although the area was scorched http://bombsight.org/ WW2, so perhaps ~ 6o years old. However, as some are multi - stemmed, it is possible that they are re-growths. This means they have considerable value for wildlife.

 Surveys by PTES have indicated that 90% of traditional orchards have been lost since the 1950s to neglect, development or conversion to intensive modern orchards which contribute a negative impact on biodiversity. Furthermore, 45% of the remaining orchards surveyed in England and 35% of orchards in Wales were found to be in declining condition as a habitat. By far the most common reason for this is lack of replacement tree replanting, meaning these remaining old orchards will quickly disappear. see here for the importance of biodiversity Orchard Biodiversity

                                            Migratory male Gypsy moth on an apple at Pevensey Road

Many declining species are dependent on old fruit wood such as Stag Beetles, especially in the London area, and Noble Chafer. In summer it emerges from the larval stage after three years of chewing the decaying wood of old fruit trees. The adult is a shiny metallic green speckled with white and is 2cm long.  It spends the next six weeks of summer feeding on elderflower, hogweed and meadowsweet.

Like so many once-common species, it is the destruction of formerly numerous old orchards, the habitat its larva need to thrive, that have led to its decline.

It is on the UK’s list of species vulnerable to extinction, and that is one of the reasons that People’s Trust for Endangered Species is trying to stop the destruction of orchards with apple and cherry that are 50 to 80 years old. It also hopes people will report previously unrecorded orchards (and beetles).

Qualitative habitat information is available from MAGIC and it is an excellent resource, for example the screenshot below attests that PR is broad leaved woodland  (priority habitat) adjacent to areas of BL woodland and Open Mosaic Habitat (priority habitat) at the old Marshaling yards, but it doesn't give any information about the orchard.

Traditional orchards are priority habitat in the UK. The Orchard Project has registered PR as an community orchard, but it has not been registered on the Defra website magic.defra and perhaps should be on account of the age of the trees. Both are available to view at the PTES website Traditional Orchards & Community Orchard Read about our community and traditional orchards in Kingston Green Lane  & St John's the Baptist 

Six miles north,  at Park Road Isleworth, there is  an orchard contained within 3 acres of allotments which groups   https://isleworthsociety.org/ are fighting  to save at a Public Inquiry APP/F5540/W/22/3297232. The landowner, the Duke of Northumberland, has made an application for the erection of 80 residential dwellings, concierge building, car and cycle parking, landscaping and associated works

As well as being an asset of community value, with important wildlife features including pond; a tree survey undertaken (2018) indicated 27 apples, 11 cherries, 8 plums, 8 damsons, 3 pears, 3 greengage and cobnut, some trees (see below) exhibit the veteranised features only developed through age.

David Lawrie,  Researcher, oral historian and Exhibition Manager, of “Jam Yesterday, Jam Tomorrow” reminds us of
Thomas Milne's first published land use map coloured, according to use. The land marked in blue denotes the “specialist and market gardens” and covers a narrow band mostly on the north side of the Thames, from Westminster to Twickenham. The focus of this garden belt is from Brentford to Isleworth, characterised by orchards of upper hard fruits with soft fruits beneath – usually surrounded by high walls or raised earth mounds, in the French style. John Foot General View of the Agriculture of Middlesex 1794 noted that:

“… Brentford, Isleworth and Twickenham are almost a garden and orchard of apple trees, pears, plums, cherries etc. Isleworth is also celebrated for strawberries”.

Kingston also had a fruit heritage and there is a leaflet obtainable from me (send SAE) for two heritage apple walks Tolworth Apple Store

But even when your orchard is researched, surveyed and  registered there are still hurdles to go through, Coton Orchard, Cambridgeshire (1,000 trees); part of the orchard is registered on MAGIC as traditional and therefore priority habitat. 

There are Barbastelle bats (an Annex 2 species given higher protection) recorded using the orchard, the habitats either side, with a roost nearby. These bats are known to have a higher core sustenance zone requirement than many other species, yet the County Council have decided this is the route for a bonkersbusway which will see this area completely changed.


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