Why are orchards important?
Orchards are important for wildlife, people and our heritage. The majority of orchards in Suffolk are small, often less than 1 acre, and are often managed very little. It is this very lack of management that makes them havens for wildlife, encouraging the presence of mammals, birds and invertebrates and allowing mosses, lichens and wildflowers to flourish. Orchards may contain many varieties of fruits and nuts which are no longer commercially available, so they are an important source of varieties. Orchards are also part of our natural heritage, a social and cultural legacy that is bound up with the people and diverse landscapes of the county.
The orchards of Suffolk
Every county has its own local traditional orchard form and Suffolk has several very different traditions. For example, the tall standard cherry trees in parkland settings in south Suffolk; ancient cobnut coppices; and numerous small farmhouse orchards with a rich mix of crop trees. There are few large commercial orchards.
Orchards and wildlife
Traditional orchards often have a rich mix of habitats such as standing fruit and nut trees, decaying and dead wood, grassland, scrub, ponds and hedges. Many Suffolk orchards have been abandoned or hardly managed for decades, escaping the chemical spraying routines that make orchards virtually sterile. This variety of habitats is not only enjoyable for people; it allows different species to take advantage of a range of food types and hiding places. For example a Sturmer apple tree may be only 60 years old, but have the rot holes, decay and habitats of a veteran tree and so be attractive to several types of invertebrate.
To see photos of some of the species associated with orchards in Suffolk visit our Priority Species page
Natural England TIN020 Traditional Orchards, Orchards and Wildlife