Monday, October 12, 2009

An orchard from the 1890s at Girton College, Cambridge

I was in Cambridge today and headed up to Girton College on the bus to check out their orchards. The head gardener, Mr Robert Bramley helpfully filled me in on what is known of the Old Orchard and its history and upkeep. Planted in the 1890s to provide a supply of fruit for the College's kitchens, it has plum, pear, apple and cobnut trees with over thirty varieties. Its really beautiful- many of the original trees remain in good condition and the area is a haven for wildlife (including lichens apparently). The visit provided an invigorating contrast to the bland planting schemes and quick turnover borders that Cambridge Colleges can be tempted by in their courts.

Can you spot the treecreeper?

This tree in the foreground is a fine example of a Blenheim Orange. Note the characteristically gnarly bark that is reminiscent of some of those veteran trees from Mount Pleasant, Warwickshire. This variety should like the heavy clay in Charingworth.

Girton College has not been very pro-orchard in recent years. A quite extensive orchard was planted in 1948 as an alternative fruit source to the Old Orchard. Recently it was removed to allow for a 're-organisation' of their sports pitches. My friend Lester was at Girton at the time and signed a petition to try and stop this, but to no avail. I think the trees were all only semi-dwarfing and so its some consolation to think it wasn't a majestic orchard of standards. Fortunately the Old Orchard at Girton is rather more respected but it's frightening how little protection these places have currently have under British law.

The area highlighted in blue was the 1948 orchard circa 2006. Now it's a rugby pitch. Ouch.

I also met Sir David Attenborough who was in Borders for a book signing to promote his new book 'Life Stories'. I couldn't resist giving the Charingworth Orchard Trust a little plug and he said: 'Ancient orchards are very precious places'. Here here! I got really star-struck and nearly wandered out without paying for my book.

1 comment:

  1. Henry those are lovely photos. And what a fab comment from David Attenborough - we should have it printed on T shirts!
    When you are next in Cambridge, do call in at the Trumpington Orchard and have a look.


Related Posts with Thumbnails