Help to make area’s orchards grow

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Volunteers are needed to help protect Bedfordshire’s orchard heritage.

The plea follows a successful lottery bid for a three-year project, Orchard’s East, to survey and record traditonal orchards across the east of England.

The project’s Bedfordshire launch is on 11 November and anyone interested in orchards is invited to attend the event in Fairfield for a morning of presentations, including an introduction to historical orchard research by Tom Williamson, Professor of Landscape History at UEA and Head of the Landscape Group. There will also be an afternoon visit to the historic Fairfield Orchard.

The region’s orchards are an integral part of the landscape and an important source of biodiversity. They are also a rich, but under-researched, historical record.

The Landscape Group, part of the University of East Anglia’s (UEA’s) School of History, has been awarded £477,700 of National Lottery funding for the project.

The cash was awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund and extends initiatives already developed by partner organisations, the Suffolk Traditional Orchards Group and the East of England Apples and Orchards Project, across Bedfordshire, Cambridge, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk.

Prof Tom Williamson said “We’re hoping that people will volunteer to work with us on the project to help us discover more about Bedfordshire’s rich history of fruit cultivation.

“We’ll examine traditional orchards’ environmental and cultural impact by identifying surviving sites, researching the history of fruit growing, surveying wildlife in orchards, as well as restoring important old orchards and creating new community orchards.”

Fairfield has two historic orchards where many of the trees are believed to be about 100 years old with some as old as 150 years. Work is currently underway to restore and maintain the neglected orchards.

The launch is at Fairfield Community Hall, Fairfield, Hitchin. The event is free but booking is necessary. For more details email gen@orchardseast.org.uk or go to www.orchardseast.org.uk