Over the next five years Tyntesfield in Wraxall, near Bristol, will see in the region on 350 fruit trees planted as the estate seeks to reconnect with its rich food growing past.
Already well underway, this major conservation project will see staff, volunteers and visitors building tree guards and planting hedgerows, whilst also learning how to prune and care for the trees on the National Trust estate. The team will harvest a range of fruits, deliver workshops and produce cider, apple juice and other products.
Planting will be spread over the course of the project, with the first batch of trees already in place. The new orchard will be split into two sections, with five acres of heritage apples and six acres of cider and juice apples, set out in a traditional spacing framework. The heritage orchard will act as a gene bank for local Somerset and Bristol fruit varieties, such as Summer Stibbert and Poor Man’s Profit, which date back to the 1830s. The area will be managed using traditional methods providing excellent conservation benefits, with swathes of wildflowers, diverse habitats of dead wood and wild areas.
In the cider and juice area there will be a more linear approach to planting as yield and accessibility will be important, and this part of the orchard will be managed with the help of grazing sheep. The estate will be planting cider and juice varieties such as Yarlington Mill and Porters Perfection, which will be transformed into bottled drinks with the aim of them being available to buy from the Tyntesfield estate shop.
As the orchard project progresses, Bristol based schools, growing projects, city farms, and local residents will be able to get involved by learning skills in grafting, pruning and plant care, and by taking part in events and workshops.
Janine Connor, a Ranger at Tyntesfield said: ‘This exciting project will not only improve nature conservation and biodiversity, but will help us build relationships with local communities and eventually generate income for further conservation. We are looking to grow a mix of traditional and modern varieties of apple and pear, as well as plum, crab apple, medlars and quinces. The orchard is open to visitors to walk around, and is currently filled with beautiful wildflowers.’
Janine and the team at Tyntesfield are following in the footsteps of the estate’s Victorian owner Antony Gibbs who presided over 3000 acres of arable, pasture farmland and orchards. He built Home Farm, introduced cattle to the estate and pursued the latest developments in agricultural technology. Today the estate looks after 540 acres of gardens, woodland, parkland and arable, which are open to visitors 364 days a year.