The orchard at Wandlebury Country Park is a favourite spot for many. We think it dates from 1912: when former warden Bill Clark felled a tree during restoration in the early 1990’s and counted the rings, this is the date he arrived at.  

The kitchen garden for the main house was on the other, more sheltered, side of the wall and the biggest and oldest apple trees can still be found there. One of them has fallen over and re-shooted, which apples seem happy to do: these phoenix trees rise again after their apparent death.  

Cambridgeshire once had many more orchards than it does now. Many have been built on. Orchards East is a Heritage Lottery-Funded project based at the University of East Anglia.  It records orchards both lost and present, encourages new plantings and educates through training workshops. We have been lucky enough to benefit Orchards East who ran a pruning workshop in our Wandlebury orchard last winter. It was led by the knowledgeable Bob Lever and attended by some of our wardens.  Best of all, we pruned the orchard in half a day.

We manage the orchard not just for the health of the trees, but for the wildlife too. Invertebrates live in the grass and rotting wood; birds such as woodpeckers feed on invertebrates; mice and deer feed on the windfall fruit; and foxes will almost eat any of the above.

We leave cut wood to rot as long as it is not diseased and we rotate cutting the grass and edges so there is always somewhere to harbour wildlife. Trees are pruned regularly to ensure they stay healthy and provide a good crop.

For the first time, this year we are going to be working with the Cambridge Cider Company, who will hopefully be picking our apples and turning them into cider. This gives the orchard a purpose above its aesthetic and wildlife benefits and will hopefully raise the money needed for new trees and pruning equipment.

We will soon install a new information panel in the orchard, kindly sponsored by the Cambridgeshire Bee Keepers Association. The panel will inform visitors about our orchard’s history, the wildlife it supports and, of course, bees.

If you’d like to learn about pruning and help us manage the orchard, then click here to get in touch.

Published August 2018