November represented the start of the traditional tree planting season in the UK and, as you would probably have been made aware recently, there has been much talk of tree planting as a way to help tackle the ever worrying issue of climate change and biodiversity loss in the UK (and of course the rest of our planet). The Woodland Trust has even spearheaded a campaign to get One Million people to plant a tree by Nov 30th with The Big Climate Fightback campaign! This is a colossal step in the right direction driven by the Woodland Trust but it is important to remember that the tree planting season starts in November and carries right the way through until March so there is still plenty of time to get planting! On a more seasonal note December happens to be the start of the fruiting tree planting calendar, the window of which can end as late as May, so if you are thinking of planting a tree to help tackle climate change please don’t forget about the humble fruit tree. You could consider a simple fruit variety or even plant a traditional orchard. Traditional orchards have been among the chief beauties in the English landscape for many centuries and hold a special place in people’s affections. They are hotspots for biodiversity in the countryside, supporting a wide range of wildlife. The combination of fruit trees, the grassland floor, hedgerow boundaries and scrub, fallen and standing deadwood and associated features such as ponds and streams mean that traditional orchards offer a mosaic of different habitats, upon which many creatures depend. In spring when your orchard is in full blossom your trees provide a feast for local pollinator communities. Not only does this make sure you get a good harvest but it gives pollinators a good supply of nectar and pollen. Alarmingly, 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.
It is also well worth considering one of the many heritage varieties local to Surrey, like Palmers Rosie, which originated in Whyteleafe, the Crawley Reinette or the Claygate Pearmain, all but forgotten due to the Cox, the Jazz and the Gala that dominate our choice at the supermarket. Why not check out the Peoples Trust for Endangered Species fruit finder tool to find heritage varieties belonging to Surrey or even Woldingham, or contact us for a list of local heritage apples and pears. You can order some of the more unusual varieties at specialist fruit tree nurseries such as Keepers Nursery, Orange Pippin Trees and Brogdale. Additionally, they can supply useful information about selecting a suitable rootstock and pollination groups.
So, if you are thinking of giving a gift that keeps on giving, please don’t forget the humble fruit tree and, if you would be interested in planting some trees in the village itself or offering some land for an orchard, please get in touch with Looking After Woldingham’s Environment.
Also published in The Woldingham Magazine, December 2019