Fairfield Parish Council

Citation for West Orchard 2010

Fairfield West Orchard CWS Survey August and September 2010

The site is located in the west of Fairfield Park. It is bordered to the east by a walled garden of Fairfield Hall and to the west by a road and new housing development.

The orchard comprises two parts in an ‘L’ shape. It is typical of a traditional orchard containing of a mixture of 161 mature traditional cultivated fruit and nut trees in close proximity with semi-natural grassland below.

The orchard was originally planted for use by Fairfield Hall patients (previously a mental hospital) which was opened in 1860. Records are known to exist for the purchase of the apple trees.

In the north it is largely open in character with a good grassland sward below a mix of apple, pear, plum, damson, hazel and walnut trees. These vary in size from 10cm diameter at breast height (dbh) up to 70cm dbh so representing a veteran fruit tree.

To the south the orchard is more ordered with regular, uniform rows of apple trees. These vary in size from 10cm dbh up to 45cm dbh, representing interesting orchard trees, the larger trees are on the periphery of this planting, i.e. on the north and south sides.

Apple varieties so far identified include Bramley’s Seedling, Codlin, Cox’s Orange Pippin, Ellison’s Orange, Hambling’s Seedling  (a Beds variety), Lady Studeley, Laxton’s Epicure (a Beds variety), Laxton’s Fortune (a Beds variery), Laxton’s Superb (a Beds variety), Lord Suffield, Monarch, Newton Wonder, and Owen Thomas (a Beds variety), plus a line of Kentish Cob trees known as Lambert’s Filbert, and three plum varieties. Variety identification is to continue.

There is evidence of extensive lichen populations and some of the trees in the shade of the southern tree line have moss growing on them. 36 species of lichen have so far been identified growing on the fruit trees, and 34 species on the adjacent wall.

Some trees show evidence of structural characteristics of veteran trees (over 70cm dbh) and biological significance with a number having holes in trunks and branches and also deadwood in the crown.

Some deadwood is also present on the ground, some of which had recently fallen due to stresses from drought conditions and weight of fruit on branches.

The grassland is continuous across the site but some trees are overgrown and as such have shaded out the sward leaving mosses and ivy below in places.

Grasses noted across the site included, cock’s foot (Dactylis glomerata), red fescue (Festuca rubra), perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne), Yorkshire fog (Holcus lanatus), false oat grass (Arrhenatherum elatius) and creeping bent (Agrostis stolonifera).

Herbs recorded across the site include dandelion (Taraxacum officinale agg.), white clover (Trifolium repens), daisy (Bellis perennis), field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), hogweed (Heracleum sphondyliurn), creeping thistle (Cirsium arvensis), germander speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys), Ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata), wood avens (Geum urbanum), black medick (Medicago lupulina) cut-leaved crane’s bill (Geranium dissectum), selfheal (prunella vulgaris), ragwort (Senecio jacobea), smooth hawksbeard (Crepis capillaries). Lady’s bedstraw (Galium verum) was widespread in the northern part of the orchard as were yellow meadow ant hills. Viola sp was noted in the northern part of the east ‘leg’.

Consultants surveying the site for a planning proposal identified common spotted orchid (Dactylorhiza fuchsia) in this area also.

A tall hedge / tree line bounds the site to the south and this contains blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), privet (Ligustrum vulgare), sycamore (acer pseudoplantanus), holly (ilex aquifolium), yew (Taxus baccata), dog rose (Rosa canina), elder (Sambucus nigra) and wych elm (Ulmus glabra). Bramble (Rubus fruticosus agg.) and laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) are encroaching into some trees in the north of the east ‘leg’ and a line of old hazel coppice adjacent to the walled garden is enveloping a number of apple and plum trees, there is also a young walnut to the north of this line which is currently in good health.

This site supports 29 grassland species and 20 woody species.

The site clearly exceeds the threshold for recognition as a Traditional Orchard County Wildlife Site, containing 161 fruit and nut trees including local varieties, an extensive lichen population and veteran or biologically significant trees.

Traditional Orchards are a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority habitat.

The site is covered by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO 7/9/09).

There has been a great deal of support for the orchard amongst the local residents who value it as an area of open space, for the wildlife that’s found there and for the fruit it produces. There is an opportunity for the site to be appropriately managed as a community orchard.

Citation for east Orchard click here

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