Earlier this month, with the help of the Mid-shires Orchard Group, we planted a new orchard in Wolverton Mill, planting local and heritage varieties of apple, pear, plum and quince. The new orchard aims to provide a mosaic of habitat types, with mixed age fruit trees and hedgerow species and incorporating fallen deadwood to attract a wide range of native wildlife.
The presence of traditional orchards in the UK landscape has decreased dramatically in recent years, and as a result they have been recognised as a national priority habitat, as they provide refuge for a number of rare, protected species, such as Dormouse, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatcher and Great Crested Newt. Orchards are also home to several nationally rare and scarce invertebrates, including orchard specialist species; Noble Chafer and Mistletoe Marble Moth. The diversity of wildlife found in traditional orchards is largely due to their low-intensity management; allowing trees to mature to old age and omitting insecticides and fertilisers commonly used in orchards managed intensively for fruit production.
Although it will be many years before the fruit trees are mature enough to support the rarer specialist species, the Wolverton Mill orchard will provide annual forage opportunities for many widespread and common species, including nectar sources in early spring for pollinators and autumn/winter food sources for invertebrates, mammals and birds.