Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Rick Stein and the BBC in the Charingworth orchards

An extract from an episode of Rick Stein's 'Food Heroes' series for the BBC. The slope he drives down is along the highest boundary of the 1940s Bramley orchard. This was filmed a few years ago when the orchards were still being managed commercially. The trees Margaret and Rick are picking from are the modern 'bush' style, with smaller semi-dwarfing root-stocks than the standard trees found in traditional orchards. This allows for picking and pruning without ladders, and as a result they are much more economical and are thus favoured by most commercial fruit producers. There are three rows of these trees in the centre of this orchard, flanked on both sides by much older, standard trees. However, apple trees on semi-dwarfing rootstocks are far less valuable for wildlife because they will never develop into the big old trees that have an abundance of valuable 'veteran tree' features such as rot holes and standing dead wood.

We can see in a snapshot some of the problems associated with traditional orchard conservation; primarily an active tension between the trend towards intensive management of younger, smaller trees for economically viable production and the long time periods and more extensive management that allows the orchard-woodpasture habitat to develop and become home to so many species.

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