Orchards, Trees & Orchard Produce
Where to get help
The East of England Apples and Orchards Project began life as the Norfolk Apples and Orchards project and was set up to promote a greater awareness of Norfolk's apple heritage. It has recently extended its brief to cover the other Eastern counties of Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Essex, Hertfordshire, Lincolnshire, Norfolk and Suffolk. They are surveying the area's existing orchards and helping to establish new orchards with Eastern county varieties - they produce a most comprehensive range of local apples and pears. Contact them for details of price and stock availability. They also organise Apple Day celebrations. Contact Clare Stimson or Martin Skipper at School House, Rougham, Kings Lynn PE32 2SE, or call +44(0)1328 838403, and take a look at the project web-site. They also sell trees.
Orchards and Community Orchards to visit
Broadfields Orchard, Thames Chase Forest Centre, Broadfields, Pike Lane, Cranham, Upminster RM14 3NS. An 1.5ha orchard of standard trees planted in 1996 as part of a community woodland at the visitor centre of Thames Chase Forest. The woodland and orchard are the focal point of 40 square miles of forest within the greenbelt and urban fringe, on Forestry Commission land. Essex varieties were chosen including D’arcy Spice, Discovery, Sturmer Pippin, Pearl, George Cave, Chelmsford Wonder, Tun, Queen, Waltham Abbey and Grey Pippin. Fruit is collected by passers-by. Apple Day has been celebrated every year since the orchard was planted and by 2006 received over 1000 visitors. Contact: Simon Aguss / Pam Worden on +44(0)1708 641880, enquiries[at]thameschase.org.uk or see www.thameschase.org.uk
Chelmer Park Orchard, Chelmer Park, Beehive Lane, Chelmsford (Grid ref: TL704038). An orchard of half a hectare dating from the 1950s or earlier with 53 standard trees mostly of the early dessert apples, George Cave from Essex and Scarlet Pimpernel from the USA although further identification will confirm the varieties. The orchard is owned by Chelmsford Borough Council who also manage it for people and wild life with help from the Great Baddow and Galleywood Environmental Group. The Group have carried out a plant survey, recording species including yarrow, campion, cuckoo pint, daisy, shepherds purse, bittercress, celandine, thistle, penny wort, black meddick, buttercup, garlic mustard and white clover. They hope to play a more active role in the orchard’s management in future and to encourage more community involvement. It is bounded by housing, sports and play areas. The orchard is a remnant of a larger orchard lost to development. It was run commercially until the 1970s. There is full access at all times. Contact: David For, Parks Services, Chelmsford Borough Council, Civic Centre, Duke Street, Chelmsford CM1 1JE, +44(0)1245 60688, david.ford[at]chelmsford.gov.uk
Epping Community Orchard. Planning agreement was given by the local authority for this new community orchard to be planted on disused allotment land in April 2001. The Epping Map Group who are co-ordinating the project intend planting local varieties of apples and other top fruit, keeping bees and selling the produce in local shops. Contact: Paul Flack, 56 St John’s Road, Epping, Essex, CM16 5DP, +44(0)1992 574534.
Grove Woods, between Raleigh and Eastwood, Rochford. Grove Woods are 15 hectares of disused plotlands owned by Rochford District Council. The plotlands or champagne gardens as they were also known, were large plots bought by Londoners to grow fruit and vegetables and enjoy the outdoors. Many had fruit trees and summerhouses. The plots were abandoned in the 1950s and 60s and woodland has grown up on much of the land. A central area has a concentration of several tall old apple and pear trees and ten or so more fruit trees were added in 1991 including pears, medlars, quince, mulberry, damson, plum and crab apple. Some Essex varieties were chosen. This area is kept clear of scrub and woodland and has the remains of a boundary hedge. The woods are managed by Rochford District Council to preserve the historic landscape and encourage plants and wildlife. The old trees are not pruned for productivity. Grove Woods have full public access, The fruit is picked and used by local people, the plums being particularly popular with local school children. A car park and a network of paths has been established through the woods. A walks leaflet is available from the Council Offices. Contact: Patrick Mckenna, Head of Woodlands & Enviroment, Rochford District Council, +44(0)1702 318117, patrick.mckenna[at]rochford.gov.uk
Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve, Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve was officially opened in 1995 after the overgrown grounds of the demolished Hainault Lodge were acquired by the London Borough of Redbridge in 1986. An old orchard was uncovered with apple, pear, quince, plum, damson trees and a magnificent mulberry tree by Havering & Redbridge Wildlife and Countryside Group who began to manage the land in 1990 in partnership with the Borough's Nature Conservation Section. An expert on old varieties of fruit was called in to identify the varieties. The reserve covers 6.8 hectares. Paths were cleared and some areas cleared to show the extent of the gardens and the site of the house. The main drive, service road, croquet lawn and tennis court were uncovered. The stable area and courtyard were uncovered to show an intricate pattern of cobbles, tiles and drains marking out the horse stalls. There are old oak trees and hornbeam pollards, remnants of Hainault Forest. A Nature trail has takes visitors and school parties through the Reserve and there is a view of the London skyline including the Dome, Millennium wheel, Canary Wharf and the QEII bridge, with Fairlop Waters, the location of Fairlop Fair in the foreground. Species lists are kept, and butterflies such as Orange tip, Purple hairstreak and Speckled wood have been recorded. There are woodmice, bank voles and yellow-necked mice. and the Reserve is an important site for this species. The Countryside group meet on most Sunday mornings throughout the year. Contact: Havering & Redbridge Wildlife & Countryside Group, Mrs. M. Carter, 12 St. Ivians Drive, Gidea Park, Romford RM2 5LD.
Hedingham School Orchard, Sible Hedingham. This school orchard was planted in 1997 with the intention of creating a ‘living library’ of Essex fruit varieties. They have discover 32 varieties so far and the first four were planted in 1997 with grating material being sought for the remainder to be planted in 1998. The school uses the orchard as an outdoor classroom. Contact: Mrs Trim, Rural Science Dept, Hedingham School, Yeldham Road, Sible Hedingham, Essex CO9 3QH.
Langdon Orchard. Contact: Jonathan Wisbey, Essex Wildlife Trust, Langdon Conservation Centre, Third Avenue, Basildon SS16 6EB, +44(0)7881 815993.
Leigh Allotments Orchard (left, photo with permission from David Hammond), Manchester Drive Allotments, Manchester Drive, Leigh-on-Sea (parallel to and to the north of the A13 main road into Southend). A small orchard of dwarf apple trees planted in 2003 on five adjoining allotments in Leigh-on-Sea by Leigh Allotments Group. Leigh Town Council own the land and supported the orchard allowing the first three plots to be managed rent free. The allotments were underused and neglected but uptake is increasing with new enthusiastic plotholders. The trees are on M26 and MM106 rootstocks, with one or two on their own roots, and planted 15ft apart. There are around fifteen Essex varieties of apple: Acme, D’arcy Spice, Discovery, George Cave, Monarch, Pearl, Queen, Braintree Seedling, Chelmsford Wonder, Rosy Blenheim, Seabrook’s Red, Maldon Wonder, Ruby, Red James Grieve, Topaz, Sturmer Pippin, West View Seedling, Doctor Harvey, Edith Hopwood, Excelsior, Tun Apple, Flame, Opal, Amber, Sunburn, Eros and Garnet. It is hoped more room can be found to plant all known Essex varieties. There are also two pear trees of Improved fertility and Johnny Mount Pear, a green gage and an unknown plum tree, a black mulberry and a hedge of Lambert’s Filberts. The Filberts having been grown from seed, and all costs have been met by donations from plot holders. Most of the fruit is currently scrumped but as the harvest increases it will be distributed amongst plotholders and on the Allotment Open Day. Leigh Allotments Orchard Group formed to manage the orchard. It is an informal group of interested plotholders. The orchard is being managed for the enjoyment of allotment holders and wildlife. A small pond is made from a sunken bath, a row of blackcurrants have been added, wild flowers have been transplanted into the area, and an area of blackberries and blackthorn is being retained and a new hedge of blackthorn, dogrose, field maple, sea buckthorn has been planted. The grass is cut once annually. Foxes, mice and birds including finches and blackbirds enjoy the orchard. Frogs, slow worms and butterflies including red admirals, skippers, marbled whites, speckled wood, orange tip and more have since been recorded in the orchard plus over 30 types of wild flowers, not including grasses. There is a pond made from an old bath sunk into the ground to its rim. There has been some problems with vandals damaging trees. There is access at all times to plotholders and on Saturday and Sunday mornings between 10am-12 noon for escorted visitors. There is an allotment open day in September each year. Contact: David Hammond, 19 Medway Crescent, Leigh on Sea SS9 2UX on +44(0)1702 476711, dhamleigh2[at]btinternet.com or see www.leighallotments.co.uk
Orchard Farm, Wet Lane, Boxted, Colchester on the Suffolk/Essex border has been under Countryside Stewardship since 1995 which has ensured the survival of a walnut orchard, cobnut plat, sweet chestnut coppice, and damson terraces in a steep valley. The walnut trees were planted in 1935 and include East Anglian varieties such as Champion of Ixworth, Bardwel and Stowlangtoft.The farm now qualifies for Higher Level Stewardship under Defra's Environmental Stewardship Scheme. Contact Dave Thompson on +44(0)1206 728629.
Orchard Meadows (left, photo with permission from Roy Read), off Southfield Way, Southminster. The orchard was part of a smallholding, bought in the 1990s by a developer and left to deteriorate. The land came into public ownership in 2002 as part of a Section 106 agreement with a nearby housing development. The land is now owned by Maldon District Council and managed in partnership with a community group called Friends of Southminster Community Open Spaces, and Southminster Parish Council. Some of the trees are thought to be 70-100 years old and are being restored. Varieties include Bramley, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Lane’s Prince Albert from Hertfordshire, Chiver’s Delight from Cambridgeshire, Crawley Beauty, the Essex apple Monarch and the very local Maldon Wonder. Many trees have been lost. Some new trees have been planted in the gaps including the Essex varieties D’arcy Spice, Seabrook’s Red, Eros, Acme, Sunburn, Flame, Montfort, Nolan’s Pippin, Garnet and West View Seedling. Twenty pear trees, twelve plum, a greengage and walnut have also been planted. The crops is small at present. The orchard is bounded by hedgerows. Rough grassland has been restored to encourage more butterflies, grasshoppers, lizards etc. Bird boxes have been installed and log piles left for invertebrates and lizards. Bird and moth surveys are being carried out. Funds are being raised for interpretation boards, seating, more bird and bat boxes and wildflower plugs. As well as working parties, there have so far been guided walks, a moth night and school visits, more of which are planned. Contact: Roy Read, Maldon District Council, Princes Road, Maldon CM9 5DL, +44(0)1621 875836, r.read[at]maldon.gov.uk
Plym Place Orchard, Allotments off Plym Place, Grays, Thurrock. A 1.32 acre orchard on unused allotments in Grays, surrounded by housing and a factory. It was planted in 2007 by volunteers from Thurrock Council’s Horticulture Section and Youth Offending Team. Some apple and pear trees thought to date from the 1960s were already present, and apples, pears, plums, cherries, quince and mulberry were added including some local varieties. The orchard will be managed with wildlife in mind, and kept as wild as possible while still allowing public access. There is full public access and the fruit is available from anyone to pick for domestic use. Contact: Nick Burke, 3rd Floor, Horticulture Section, Thurrock Council, Civic Offices, new Road, Grays RM17 6SL, +44(0)1375 652314, nburke[at]thurrock.gov.uk
Roydon Community Orchard (left), Roydon village allotments. A small orchard planted in 1995 on unused allotment plots in Roydon village by the Roydon Countrycare section of the Roydon Society who continue to maintain the orchard. The land is owned by the Parish Council. Half standard apple trees plus medlar, quince and mulberry have been planted, and a local pear variety, Improved Fertility is to be added. The apple varieties chosen are mainly from Essex including George Cave, Monarch, Discovery, Chelmsford Wonder, D’arcy Spice and Sturmer Pippin. There is one old hedgerow and another has been planted. The crop is still quite small and much of it is given to Roydon School. The children have seen pruning and grafting demonstrations. Contact: Alan Burgess, 57 High Street, Roydon, Essex CM19 5EA, +44(0)1279 792209, burgessgodfrey[at]btinternet.com
Salthaven Community Orchard, Marsh Farm Country Park, South Woodham Ferrers (access from the mini roundabout at the junction of Creekview Road and Broughton Road). An orchard within Marsh Farm Country Park that was originally part of a farm. The land was bought by Essex County Council in 1975 for development with the area around, including the orchard, designated as a Country Park. The orchard has about fifteen standard trees thought to date from the 1960s and around forty new trees planted between 1994 and 1998, mainly apple with some pear trees. The varieties of the existing trees are unknown but additional trees have been planted including some Essex apples such as Sturmer Pippin and Discovery. Paths are cut through the grass two or three times a year, with areas left long for insects particularly grasshoppers and crickets. Apple Day is celebrated each year. Contact: Nicola Ward, Marsh Farm Country Park, Marsh Farm Road, South Woodham Ferrers, Chelmsford CM3 5WP, +44(0)1245 321552, nicola.ward[at]essexcc.gov.uk or see www.marshfarmcountrypark.co.uk
Sergeants Orchard, Balls Chase, Fordham Road, Mount Bures. A three and a half hectare farm orchard within an Essex Wildlife Trust Reserve, given to the Trust in 1996. It is thought to date from the 1930s although it may be much earlier. The existing trees are standard apple trees of Worcester Pearmain Blenheim Orange, Newton Pippin, Newton Wonder, Warner’s King and pears Williams, Duchess D’Angouleme, Black Worcester, Pitmaston Duchess, and other unidentified pears. New trees were added in 2006 choosing varieties that are already in the orchard and those found in local gardens plus the Essex apple D’Arcy Spice. The apples are mainly left for wild life, partly as the old trees are very tall. The orchard has a pond, which attracts Smooth Newts. A barn owl box has been erected. The surrounding hedges are managed for wild life. An invertebrate survey was carried out in 2004 and a botanical survey in 2007 to discover more. Plants already noted are Red Bartsia, Fleabane, Common Centaury, Grass Vetchling. There have been sightings of Roe Deer, Bullfinch, Skylark, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, White Throat, Song Thrush and Long Tailed Tit. There have been training days in the orchard to teach grafting. There is open access to the reserve except in areas where sheep are grazing. Contact: David & Shirley Green (volunteer wardens), 2 Crepping Hall Cottages, Wakes Colne, Colchester CO6 2AL, +44(0)1206 240005.
St Laurence Historic Orchard, Southend. An old orchard which is part of St Laurence Park in Southend dating from around 1920.The land was leased by Essex County Council to soldiers from the nearby Shoeburyness Barracks after the First World War and one of the tenants, Robert Peacock, planted the orchard. In 2000 the ownership transferred to Southend Council and in 2003 the orchard was due to be felled as part of a development plan for the area. However, the orchard was recognised for its historical and wild life value and retained. In 2005 Trust Links, a local mental health charity who run a horticultural project ‘Growing Together’, took on management of the orchard. Deadwood is retained in woodpiles where possible, grass cutting and planting is variable in different areas designated as amenity areas, wildflower and invertebrate areas to aid biodiversity. The orchard is mainly Bramley apple trees, with rows of pollinating apples in between such as King of the Pippins. There are also pears, plums and greengages. The first Apple Day was held in 2007 to encourage local people to visit the orchard. Contact:Trust Links, Growing Together Gardens, 47 Fairfax Drive, Westcliff on Sea, Essex, SS0 9AG, +44(0)1702 348109 / 354227, garden[at]trustlinks.org, www.trustlinks.org
Where to buy apples and orchard produce
Crapes Fruit Farm, Andrew Tann, Rectory Road, Aldham, Colchester C06 3RR +44(0)1206 212375 - See the image on the left - over 150 varieties of apple grown, available from the farm shop or in mixed seasonal 71b, 81b, 131b or 201b boxes by mail order. They make wonderful Apple Day, Christmas or New Year gifts. Some plums, cherries, pears and quince, also Mr Browning’s honey is made from hives in the orchard.
Lathcoats Farm, Philip Taylor, Beehive Lane, Galleywood, Chelmsford CM2 8LX, +44(0)1245 353021 - Queen, raised in Billericay in 1858, is just one of forty different varieties grown, which, along with 12 single variety juices, are available from farm shop. They have a web-site you can visit.
Matching Cider Company, 4 Mill Lane, Moreton CMS 0DN +44(0)1277 890519.
Orchard Farm, Wet Lane, Boxted, Colchester on the Suffolk/Essex border has an old walnut orchard, cobnut plat, sweet chestnut coppice, and damson terraces in a steep valley. The walnut trees were planted in 1935 and include East Anglian varieties such as Champion of Ixworth, Bardwel and Stowlangtoft. Cobnuts and walnuts available in season. Contact Dave Thompson on +44(0)1206 728629.
Park Fruit Farm, Pork Lane, Great Holland, Frinton-on-Sea C013 0ES. +44(0)1255 674621 - cider made from Bramleys and other cooking apples.
Spencer's Farm Shop, Wickham Fruit Farm, Wickham St Pauls, Halstead C09 2PX +44(0)1787 269476 or see their website.
The Tiptree Heath factory of Wilkins & Sons and Elsenham Quality Foods at Elsenham Court both developed at the end of the 19th century. Sugar was cheaper in England than elsewhere in Europe and jam provided a market for surplus and poor-quality fruit.
Wilkins of Tiptree is still supporting the orchards of Essex and Cambridgeshire and is the one major grower of the Cambridge Gage. "This variety is considered to have such a good flavour that it is the only variety of greengage used in its jams." Amongst their extensive acreage of soft and top fruit, they grow 8 - 10 acres of quinces and have a dozen very old mulberry trees and medlars for their quince and medlar jellies and mulberry jam.
At the visitor centre you can buy all the jams, marmalades and jellies and look at the museum of jam making. Contact +44(0)1621 814524.
Where to buy fruit trees
Trees can be purchased from East of England Apples and Orchards Project. Contact: treesales [at] applesandorchards .org .uk or call +44(0)1328 838403 for a catalogue of 170 varieties local to the East of England.
Ken Muir Ltd, Honeypot farm, Rectory Road, Weeley Heath, Clacton on Sea, C016 9BJ. Call +44(0)870 7479111 or look at their web-site. More than thirty varieties of apples, pears, plums, cherries, quince, mulberries &c.
You can order trees mail order from a number of nurseries that stock a wide range including:
Keepers Nursery in Kent +44(0)1622 726465 or see their web-site.
Thornhayes in Devon +44(0)1884 266746 or see their web-site.
Please let us know if you know of any other good fruit tree nurseries in Essex : email info [at] commonground.org.uk