Brightwell cum Sotwell community orchard will promote heritage varieties and protect wildlife
Brightwell Village Orchard Group in Brightwell cum Sotwell, Oxfordshire, has secured a £3,160 grant from Biffa Award; a multi-million pound fund that helps to build communities and transform lives through awarding grants to community and environmental projects across the UK, as part of the Landfill Communities Fund.
The village of Brightwell cum Sotwell has an unbroken history of growing fruit, spanning 200 years. In 2009, the orchard group conducted a survey of local fruit trees and found 78 heritage varieties of apple. However, this unique heritage asset is in jeopardy, as many of the trees are up to 100 years old and for some varieties there is only one tree remaining.
The Brightwell cum Sotwell Community Orchard project, which was awarded funding under Biffa Award’s Rebuilding Biodiversity theme, will plant a community orchard in the centre of the village. The orchard will boast 35 heritage varieties in a traditional, lightly managed orchard, which will support a range of wildlife species some of which are BAP priority species such as the noble chafer beetle and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. The orchard will also attract particular species of fungi and invertebrates associated with fruit trees and many species of birds that feed on the fruit and these invertebrates.
Robert Field, Chairman, Brightwell Village Orchard Group, said:
“Our community orchard offers us an opportunity to continue the history of growing fruit in this village and save many of the heritage apple varieties found here. As it matures in the years to come it will be a place for children to play and quiet contemplation as well as become a refuge for wildlife.”
Paul Chilton, Retired Fruit Farmer and apple expert, Brightwell Village Orchard Group, said:
“My family has been growing fruit in Brightwell cum Sotwell since the 1930s so this orchard is a wonderful chance to continue this history. This new orchard will be planted by village children who will return to it for years to come and remember it as their own.”
Gillian French, Biffa Award Programme Manager, said:
“This project is an excellent example of how the Landfill Communities Fund can help support habitat protection for nature and the local community. We’re pleased to be able to support Brightwell Village Orchard Group as they strive to protect this important historical asset for the future.”