An overgrown and unkempt area of woodland is set to be transformed into an orchard. Left to its own devices for years, this is the latest development in our plans to plant trees to combat climate change and regenerate areas of Horsenden Hill.
This new orchard, which for now we are calling the apple grove, more on that later, is the woody area on the left as you enter the main gates to Horsenden Farm.
Our small but intrepid herd of two Shetland cows – Ilex and Bramble – have done lots of preparatory work for us, munching their way through leaves and branches. Now it’s time for human endeavour.
This initiative is a collaboration between the Friends of Horsenden Hill, Horsenden’s cows and pigs and ranger Jon Staples, London Borough of Ealing.
What’s the plan?
First we clear the site of brambles, and roots and branches the cows left behind, and we prepare for planting.
Our pigs will help dig over the soil before planting, adding their manure and we will spread wildflower seed and Meadow grass for Ilex and Bramble to graze.
Early in 2022 we plant the new trees, attend to hedges, install tree guards and stock fencing.
The site is flanked by living hedges of hawthorn and wild rose that provide habitat for small birds and many species of insects. The living hedges will be enhanced with apple and mulberry trees.
We will plant up to 20 bare root apple trees, each of which will grow to between 4m and 7m after ten years. We have chosen some heritage varieties, selected for their sweet juice and good cropping.
Some of these varieties have become rare in recent years as growers have concentrated on a smaller range. There have been orchards at Horsenden for hundreds of years and we want to protect that heritage.
The addition of a stock proof fence will make sure that the farm’s cows can’t just wander there when they feel like it.
This is the first of several orchard replacement plans. The sooner we exceed the target for this one we can get on with the next. Help us reach our target by sponsoring today!
Horsenden’s Orchard Heritage
Historic maps show several orchards located throughout Horsenden. These disappeared over time, just as orchards, specifically heritage orchards, right across the UK have declined in number.
Orchards are a priority habitat for biodiversity, providing food and shelter for a wealth of wildlife including bees, beetles, moths, birds, fungus and lichens. They are in sharp decline – around two thirds have been lost since the 1950s – and many existing old orchards are under threat.
Traditional orchard skills such as pruning and grafting are also being lost.
We want to reverse this loss, replacing orchards and creating new ones, planting large trees with M25 root stock as these are the closest we can get to the original heritage varieties. Plus they have a lifespan of around 100 years, and the quality of the fruit improves over time.
Modern varieties that are developed predominantly for commercial use do not have a long life. They tend to be small, short lived and fast cropping; replaced every few years when their production slows.
We aim to safeguard Horsenden’s long held tradition of growing fruit and helping to keep important skills alive.
A home for wildlife
Orchards provide a rich habitat for wildlife. Beetles and birds live in the branches, rare species like the noble chafer beetle and lesser spotted woodpecker love apple trees. Pollinators are attracted to spring blossom and the fruits provide an important food source for autumn and winter too as birds, hedgehogs and badgers feed on the windfalls.
Orchards and climate change
The devastating effects of climate change compel us to act. Here in the London Borough of Ealing, biodiversity is a top priority, protecting and nurturing our natural environments to ensure they are sustainable and resilient.
We need healthy ecosystems to help us withstand the challenges of climate change. Orchards help us to understand global changes. The flowering dates of apple trees are highly sensitive to environmental conditions. Climate scientists use these dates to monitor seasonal variation.
This orchard along with other tree planting schemes that Horsenden is engaged with, mean we can make a positive impact on the effects of climate change.
We need sponsors!
We must raise £1200 for trees, tools and materials and invite you to become a sponsor. There are four levels of sponsorship:
- Lord Derby: £10
- Annie Elizabeth: £20
- Granny Smith: £30
- King of the Pippins: £40
Sponsors are encouraged to be actively involved with the orchard and your investment brings these opportunities and benefits:
- Invitations to ground clearing, planting and tree care events
- Tuition in tree care, such as pruning, managing the soil and checking for diseases
- Exclusive events such as and pressing and juicing days and the annual Wassail where we bless the trees for a good harvest
- Regular email updates on how the trees are progressing and occasional webinars
- One year’s free membership of the Friends of Horsenden Hill
- A certificate of sponsorship
Apply now to sponsor the orchard and have a say in naming it. Here’s the application form for you to download.
What’s in a name?
The apple grove needs a name. Place names are loaded with meaning and this new orchard is no exception. The name Horsenden itself probably goes back to Saxon times, originally “Horsingdon”, the last syllable don meaning hill fortress.
The challenge is to choose a name that will stand the test of time and embraces the history of Horsenden. All orchard sponsors are invited to submit a name and we’ll hold a vote to choose the winner.
Apple action timeline
|Raising funds by inviting people to sponsor the orchard. We need £1200 for trees, tools and materials.||September onwards|
|Clearing shrubs, trees and brambles from the site. Wear suitable outdoor clothing and sturdy footwear. Bring gardening gloves if you have them. We provide tools, hot drinks, jacket potatoes for lunch and lots of healthy exercise in the fresh air. Meet in the courtyard by the farm buildings at Horsenden Farm.||Friday 8 October. 11am – 3pm|
|Clearing shrubs, trees and brambles from the site. Wear suitable outdoor clothing and sturdy footwear. Bring gardening gloves if you have them. We provide tools, hot drinks, jacket potatoes for lunch and lots of healthy exercise in the fresh air. Meet in the courtyard by the farm buildings at Horsenden Farm.||Saturday 20 November 11am – 3pm|
|Clearing shrubs, trees and brambles from the site. Wear suitable outdoor clothing and sturdy footwear. Bring gardening gloves if you have them. We provide tools, hot drinks, jacket potatoes for lunch and lots of healthy exercise in the fresh air. Meet in the courtyard by the farm buildings at Horsenden Farm.||Saturday 18 December 11am – 3pm|
|Planting the trees! The main event.||Saturday 19 March 2022|
|Orchard care days. At these regular sessions we will inspect the trees for good health and spot any signs of disease. We will perform seasonal maintenance tasks such as pruning and learn about caring for our trees from expert orchardeers.||Dates for 2022 will be announced on the Friends’ Facebook group|
Here are the varieties of fruit we will plant
King James 1st (Mulberry)
Saint Edmund’s Russet 2-year (1.75m) Bare-root M25
Adams Pearmain 2-year (1.75m) Bare-root
King of the Pippins 2-year (1.75m) Bare-root M25
King’s Acre Pippin 2-year (1.75m) Bare-root M25
Pitmaston Pine Apple 2-year (1.75m) Bare-root M25
Ribston Pippin 2-year (1.75m) Bare-rootm25
William Crump 2-year (1.75m) Bare-root M25
Blenheim Orange 2-year (1.75m) Bare-root M25
Bramley’s Seedling Original 2-year (1.75m) Bare-root M25
Lord Derby 2-year (1.75m) Bare-root M25
Newton Wonder 2-year (1.75m) Bare-root M25
Peasgood’s Nonsuch 2-year (1.75m) Bare-root M25
Scotch Bridget 2-year (1.75m) Bare-root M25
Find our more about these varieties on our supplier’s website: Fruit trees for sale – buy online from the fruit tree specialists (orangepippintrees.co.uk)