Orchard expansion as new site is added

Roger Brown from Steyning Community Orchard holds the apple tree while Steyning Downland Scheme trustee Alan Chilver spades in the soil, watched by members of both groups
Roger Brown from Steyning Community Orchard holds the apple tree while Steyning Downland Scheme trustee Alan Chilver spades in the soil, watched by members of both groups

It has been a fruitful few weeks for Steyning Community Orchard, with the volunteers busy on two separate sites.

Not only have more trees been added to the orchard in Memorial Playing Field but a whole new orchard has been created on the Steyning Downland Scheme.

Celebrating the completion of the planting, including large stakes to help protect the trees against deer browsing

Celebrating the completion of the planting, including large stakes to help protect the trees against deer browsing

The first apple trees for the new community orchard were planted at Steyning Rifle Range on Monday.

Matthew Thomas, project manager for Steyning Downland Scheme, said: “Warm spring sunshine greeted a joint team for the first planting of fruit trees in a brand-new community orchard for Steyning.

“The volunteers, from the Steyning Downland Scheme and Steyning Community Orchard, planted three traditional apple varieties at a specially-selected location on the old Steyning Rifle Range, off Mouse Lane.”

The Co-op Local Community Fund, which is paying for the project, has already raised more than £1,000 to help towards the costs of fencing and an information board.

Six more trees have been planted to complete the orchard on Memorial Playing Field

Six more trees have been planted to complete the orchard on Memorial Playing Field

Alec Harden, Steyning Community Orchard lead, said: “The planting was a great success, helped by a beautiful spring morning.

“We’re very grateful to the Steyning Downland Scheme and to the Wiston Estate for making the land available for this new venture for Steyning.”

The orchard will be managed organically by orchard volunteers and in time will bring local nature conservation benefits and a new habitat to the downland.

Richard Goring, chairman of trustees for the downland scheme, said: “What a wonderful, fun morning. Thanks you to everyone for coming along. We’re thrilled to be working with the SCO and looking forward to trying the first fruits in years to come.”

Meanwhile, back at the original site, six more trees have been planted to complete the orchard.

The trees were sponsored by residents, who assisted with the planting at ceremonies on March 4 and 11.

The first weekend, Peter Legge planted a pear, Beth, and another pear, Concorde, was planted by Bruce and Marion Jeffrey, while Pat Carroll planted a Sussex heritage variety apple, Michaelmas Red.

Most of the trees planted in the orchard are heritage varieties and often have odd names and the plum planted by Lynne Read was no exception. It was a Warwickshire Drooper.

The following Saturday, Anne Jennings planted a Herefordshire Russet, while Leslie and Andrew Slater planted an apple, Margil.

This last variety is included in a list of apple trees planted in an historic orchard owned by the Chequer Inn in Steyning. Local historian Dr Janet Pennington found the list in an archive and passed it on to the community orchard group.

Leslie and Andrew Slater recall having an apple tree of this variety in their garden and this may have been the last survivor of the original Chequer orchard.

Their tree was destroyed by a storm and they were very pleased to be able to plant a tree of the same variety in the revitalised orchard.

Alec Harden, chairman of the orchard steering group, said it was a very fitting end to this phase of the orchard project to complete the planting with a variety with a known connection to one of Steyning’s historic orchards.

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