An 18th century farm orchard, with rare, local, apple trees, has benefited from restoration work by National Trust rangers taking a break from their regular job of repairing upland footpaths for the Fix the Fells partnership.
In February, in conjunction with the tenant at Moor Farm, Keswick the Trust’s North Lakes upland team replaced the fence, removed cherry suckers and stock-proofed the orchard to prevent livestock grazing on any new tree growth.
As Ted Everitt-Stewart, from the conservation charity explained: “For eight months of the year we carry out footpath repairs on the high fells and in winter we work on projects in the valley bottoms. A favourite has been restoring the orchard at Moor Farm.
“Most of the farms in north Cumbria had a small orchard to supply fruit for the family and farm workers and Moor Farm was no exception. The orchard was planted in the 1700s when the farm was built, providing a seasonal bounty for the farmhouse across the road. In the last 30 years, for several reasons, the orchard went into decline. In 1997, it was re-stocked with local varieties of fruit trees, by the North Cumbria Orchard Group, including the rare Keswick Codlin.”
Ted says the task of replacing the fence was a good opportunity to try untreated native hardwood sweet chestnut posts, as opposed to tanalised softwood.
“The environmental benefits of sweet chestnut posts are huge,” said Ted.
“The timber isn’t imported or treated with chemicals and the posts, which last longer, can be left to rot onsite providing a habitat for invertebrates that, in turn, are food for wildlife. We think they are much more in keeping with the surrounding landscape too,” added Ted
Removal of Cherry suckers is allowing more light to reach the fruit trees. “This made such an incredible difference to the feel of the orchard, and the snowdrops and daffodils are flourishing already,” said Ted.
The next set of tasks for the team are improving the drainage, establishing a hay meadow and learning how to prune the fruit trees. And, for that, the team will call on the expertise of National Trust gardener, Amanda Thackeray, at Wordsworth House and Garden in Cockermouth, and the North Cumbria Orchard Group.
But for now, says Ted, it’s about giving the orchard time to respond to the new conditions and to see how the trees fair as they are exposed to the light. The team also hope to involve the local community with the summer and winter pruning and to continue working closely with the tenant farmer.