The Glastonbury Orchard and Woodland Network was launched at Glastonbury Harvest Show in September 2017. GOWN aims to start a community orchard and restore neglected traditional orchards locally. Feed Avalon aims to support GOWN through organising orchard-related training courses, which will be publicised on our webiste.
To get involved please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about local history and what the project aims to achieve below.
Orchard Decline and History on the Island of Apples
“Orchards of tall trees are a wise way of sharing the land – a positive gift to those who will follow us” – Community Orchards Handbook, Common Ground, 2007
Glastonbury was known in ancient times as Avalon, Island of Apples and as the 1904 OS map shows there were once thousands of fruit trees and orchards large and small across the whole face of the town and its four main hills – the Tor, Chalice Hill, Wearyall Hill and St Edmunds Hill.
Sadly as elsewhere in the UK, and despite the extraordinary efforts over recent decades of the Glastonbury Conservation Societys Tree Planting teams under Major Ian Rands and Alan Fear many of these traditional orchards in Glastonbury have been lost or grubbed up in the last fifty years to make way for housing and industrial development. Nationwide traditional orchards are now becoming so endangered that in 2007 they were added to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
Orchards are still a significant part of the local character of our landscape in the Island of Apples but those remaining are often neglected as they are seen as of little food or monetary value in the present day global economy and are increasingly in danger of being destroyed for more financially rewarding development for housing and industry.
Somerset Wildlife Trust recognises orchards as vital refuges for wildlife, because of the mosaic of habitats they contain. This often includes scrub, hedgerow and grassland as well as fruit trees of varying ages and an abundance of dead and decaying wood. All this supports a wide range of plants and animals not found in other green spaces such as parks and gardens. The Peoples Trust for Endangered Species recognise each orchard is a unique habitat, created sometimes over hundreds of years. Each one destroyed is irreplaceable.
Orchards have played an important role in communities for centuries, providing a focal point for traditional skills and local customs and a gathering space where people and nature could work together to create and share and juice and preserve and store abundant harvests long before the time of global freight and apples from New Zealand and Brazil and anywhere but Somerset!
As orchards are grubbed up unique Somerset apple and fruit varieties along with the skills used to produce them are lost. Now most of the world’s commercially grown apples all come from just four or five parent varieties and yet there are more than 3000 known varieties of apple in Britain including traditional Somerset varieties such as Tom Putt, Hoary Morning and Beauty of Bath.
Orchard Restoration and Community Orchards
Fortunately, in recent years thanks in particular to the work of Common Ground the Dorset based Arts and Environmental Charity founded in 1983 Community Orchards and Apple Days have begun to flourish inspiring a revival of interest in orchards in the UK and elsewhere as ordinary people rediscover the benefits and pleasures of growing, harvesting and eating and juicing and sharing fresh fruit in a local community orchard.
Once an orchard is established, its long lived trees can provide a large yield of fruit year after year for decades, requiring little human input when compared to the growing, planting, weeding, watering, pest control involved in annual vegetables and other crops.
Community Orchards such as those in Pilton and Wedmore create vital green spaces in our towns and villages where people can connect with nature becoming custodians and planters and protectors of the trees or simply being around them enjoying their shade, beauty and fresh fruit.
Orchards invite us into connection with nature and the cycle of the growing seasons and provide a peaceful refuge in our schools, housing estates, parks and commons and green spaces, improving our health and wellbeing and making our towns and villages more pleasant places in which to live.
Arguably, community orchards have never been more important. They provide the setting for close encounters with nature. They are where young and old, rich and poor can come together on the land to roll up their sleeves and work together to care for trees and bees, hedgerows and fields and flowers and wildlife. Come the harvest we can let our hair down and celebrate the cycle of the seasons sharing in eating and cooking and juicing of the fruit and in the depths of winter we can gather to Bless and Wassail the orchard in song!
Next Steps in Glastonbury
With the public participation in the new Neighbourhood Plan for Glastonbury led by Gerard Tucker and encouraged by all parties on Glastonbury Town Council and with the work of Kevin Redpaths Trees Subgroup and Susy Martineaus Tree Conference at the Red Brick Building in November 2017, we now have a wonderful opportunity to encourage and offer practical support to local landowners and landholders who are keen to restore neglected or declining traditional orchards in Glastonbury and perhaps in return open them up not just for personal or family benefit but also offering occasional community access via open days and seasonal celebrations open to all.
By helping to restore neglected traditional orchards and creating a new community orchard in the Island of Apples GOWN hopes to benefit local people and wildlife by sharing and passing on the skills and pleasures of caring for a community orchard. We are a group of friends with many skills – smallholders, bee keepers, gardeners, orchard managers, arborists, and conservationists plus self employed local business owners and marketing and P.R. execs – keen to establish a Glastonbury community orchard and help restore neglected orchards in Avalon.
With the support of local businesses and funders and the donation of your money or your time or your skills we hope GOWN can work with Feed Avalon and others to teach and train local people, young and old how to manage and enjoy orchards by learning to plant and restore and maintain trees and hedgerows and to graze or mow the land and protect, weed, prune, graft, pick, eat, juice and celebrate and make good use of the annual harvest of fresh fruit in the kitchen.
We hope with your help and support we can restore at least one community orchard to help neglected trees and wildlife and improve community well being and enjoyment of the land as we help to pass on these beautiful and fruitful traditional orchards to future generations in Glastonbury – Island of Apples.
Please support our work by signing up for a twice yearly emailed newsletter to keep in touch with the progress of our Community Orchard Project for Glastonbury and our work in supporting the restoration and revival of traditional orchards and woodland in the Island of Apples. Pledges of donations or investment money to buy or lease land or support our work are welcomed.
Meantime, if you’d like to be involved in future visits to local orchards and woodlands including work parties and open days please sign up and we’ll contact you as and when we arrange visits.