STOG and Orchards East
Orchards East is an exciting new environmental and cultural project covering six counties in the east of England - Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. Funded by the Heritage Lottery fund and based in the School of History at the University of East Anglia (UEA), it is devoted to discovering and understanding the past, present and future of orchards in Eastern England, and will last for three years. The project builds on the work of Suffolk Traditional Orchards Group and other partners, including the East of England Apples and Orchards Project. A collaborative project working with existing county orchard groups, other interested organisations and orchard owners, Orchards East hopes to stimulate interest and engage a wide range of new volunteers in all things orchard!
Read more in the Orchards East newsletter OE newsletter 2017 >
To record and protect old orchard sites; to promote the new planting of traditional orchard fruit and nut varieties; and to preserve and disseminate the practice, cultural and historical value of orchards through education and publication.
- Identifying and recording old and modern orchards managed in a traditional manner in Suffolk.
- Researching and recording the history, landscape, practice and culture of traditional fruit and nut cultivation in Suffolk through archival and oral research.
- Assisting in the restoration and replanting of suitable orchard sites in Suffolk.
- Establishing county collections of traditional Suffolk fruit and nut varieties in new or restored traditional orchards
- Engaging in activities that disseminate the history and culture of orchards in Suffolk through publications and education.
See our New and Old Orchards for Suffolk Project below for more information
Why are orchards important?
Orchards are important for wildlife, people and our heritage. The majority of orchards in Suffolk are small, often less than 1 acre, and are often managed very little. It is this very lack of management that makes them havens for wildlife, encouraging the presence of mammals, birds and invertebrates and allowing mosses, lichens and wildflowers to flourish. Orchards may contain many varieties of fruits and nuts which are no longer commercially available, so they are an important source of varieties. Orchards are also part of our natural heritage, a social and cultural legacy that is bound up with the people and diverse landscapes of the county.
The orchards of Suffolk
Every county has its own local traditional orchard form and Suffolk has several very different traditions. For example, the tall standard cherry trees in parkland settings in south Suffolk; ancient cobnut coppices; and numerous small farmhouse orchards with a rich mix of crop trees. There are few large commercial orchards.
Orchards and wildlife
Traditional orchards often have a rich mix of habitats such as standing fruit and nut trees, decaying and dead wood, grassland, scrub, ponds and hedges. Many Suffolk orchards have been abandoned or hardly managed for decades, escaping the chemical spraying routines that make orchards virtually sterile. This variety of habitats is not only enjoyable for people; it allows different species to take advantage of a range of food types and hiding places. For example a Sturmer apple tree may be only 60 years old, but have the rot holes, decay and habitats of a veteran tree and so be attractive to several types of invertebrate.
To see photos of some of the species associated with orchards in Suffolk visit our Priority Species Gateway page
Natural England TIN020 Traditional Orchards, Orchards and Wildlife
STOG’s survey of Suffolk orchards
In the early 1900s, Suffolk had more than 6,000 orchards; click on the link to see the map Old Orchard Sites in Suffolk map.
Although STOG’s 3-year project, New and Old Orchards for Suffolk, has now been completed, we are still surveying how many of those orchards remain, their potential for restoration and the locations of any newly planted, traditionally managed orchards. We are also 'ground-truthing' the People's Trust for Endangered Species aerial orchard survey.
All of this is only possible thanks to an army of volunteers. If you'd like to be involved, please contact Gen Broad (see left sidebar).