Fruit Tree Survey
Over the past 10 years, research and monitoring nationally has concluded that traditional orchards are in danger of disappearing from the English landscape. Since the 1950s more than 70% have vanished, lost to housing development, converted to other uses, or grubbed up to farm more lucrative crops. As a result the countryside faces the loss of continuity in the landscape, important habitats for rare and endangered species and the disappearance of many varieties of fruit.
With its slightly elevated south facing aspect and favourable geology the village has near perfect conditions for growing fruit. A map from 1883 shows fruit trees densely planted amongst properties and within orchards throughout the village. Subsequent maps showing orchards throughout the village suggest that it is possible that many of the trees now in private gardens are remnants of old orchards and may be over 100 years old.
In 2009 the Group carried out a survey counting all the fruit trees in the village and identifying the different varieties. The group counted 450 fruit trees in gardens and abandoned orchards and identified a staggering 78 heritage varieties of apple covering a continuous cropping period from July to November with storing to April. Other fruit trees included plum, pear, walnut, quince, cob nuts and medlar.
The oldest tree is a very large Bramley apple growing in the Swan Allotments. Ron Wood, aged 95, remembered climbing the tree when he was a boy so we believe that the tree is approximately 130 years old.
In autumn 2009 the Group held the first village Apple Day at the Red Lion, the highlight being a formal display of many of the varieties by retired fruit farmer, Paul Chilton. Visitors were able to taste heritage varieties of apple as well as buy juice pressed using the new village press.
Following the fruit tree survey in 2009 a Community Orchard of 45 trees has been planted next to the Swan Allotments. For more details see the Orchard Group blog page at http://brightwellorchards.blogspot.co.uk/