Call for action as Wales has lost half its traditional orchards since 1900 – but ‘compares favourably’ to England
The National Trust has called for action after it was revealed that Wales had lost half its traditional orchards since 1900 – but said the situation “compares much more favourably” than England where 82 per cent of traditionally managed orchards had been lost.
Wales has lost 948Ha of traditionally managed orchards, 48 per cent, since around 1900. The loss appears to have been driven by changing land use to ‘improved grassland’ (57 per cent), deciduous woodland (18 per cent) and urban and suburban (16 per cent), the National Trust said.
Together with England both nations had lost equivalent to an area close to the size of the West Midlands, they said, resulting in huge losses in habitats for nature.
Maps were analysed using artificial intelligence (AI) mapping technologies from ArchAI Ltd to detect the loss of ochards.
Results are published today as the conservation charity kicks off this year’s #BlossomWatch campaign, now in its second full year.
BlossomWatch is the Trust’s annual campaign to encourage people to enjoy and celebrate spring blossom, with the aim of embedding an annual cultural event similar to Japan’s ‘hanami’ in the UK. It includes digital sharing of images as blossom sweeps up the land from south to north, and events and installations at National Trust places including everything from ‘blossom hammocks’ to painting workshops.
Tom Dommett, Head of Historic Environment at the National Trust says: “Using cutting edge technology we now have a much better understanding of how we’ve managed landscapes in the past, which is invaluable when thinking about how to tackle the nature and biodiversity crisis that we are facing, and restoring nature.”
The National Trust has now vowed to plant four million blossoming trees as part of its commitment to plant and establish 20 million trees across England, Wales and Northern Ireland by 2030.
John Deakin, Head of Trees and Woodland at the National Trust says: “Traditional orchards and the blossom they bring creates valuable early nectar sources for insects which are often foraging for scarce resources in the early spring.
“These native, historic varieties, together with other trees like blackthorn and hawthorn which also have amazing spring blossom, mature at a faster rate than other larger native species such as oak.
“They therefore provide an important bridge for insects that rely on their particular eco systems which is one of the reasons why planting more blossom trees is such a vital part of our ambitions.”
Annie Reilly, the National Trust’s Blossom Programme Manager says: “Many of the orchards which were once on the peripheries of our towns and cities in the 18th and 19th Centuries have been lost with urban expansion and often remain as map evidence or street names only.
“Here in Birmingham we are aiming to recreate botanical history, recreating the shadow of past orchards that encircled the city through ornamental cherry tree planting. Our trees will join the city’s thousands of street trees to ensure that more of the city can enjoy this fleeting moment of spring.”
The National Trust is now planning to take the AI techniques further, building on the extent and accuracy of the existing data and looking at other sources of blossom in the landscape.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.