It is about 5 years since the idea of a village orchard in St James South Elmham was first mooted by the village tree warden. In 2009 work started on land which had most fortunately become available, planting started that winter and there are now around 100 trees growing, quite a few of which are already producing fruit. The range of trees includes apples – culinary, eating, crab, cider- pears, plums, damsons, nuts, apricots, cherries, quinces. . . The varieties were chosen for different reasons: being local, traditional, high vitamin C in the case of apples, rather neglected as in the case of damsons, personal favourites, keeping qualities, flavour etc. The result is an amazing array!
The orchard has been underplanted with a site-specific meadow mixture, which is useful to wildlife the year round as well as helping to create a place of great beauty. An owl box has been installed and maybe there could be beehives at some point in the future. This has all been achieved by voluntary effort in the village and backed by generous grants and awards. The next exciting development will be the positioning of a kindly donated shepherd’s hut originally sited in the village, which has now been carefully restored and will be a further useful resource at the orchard. This will be in the central clearing which last year was used for the Celebration of Planting.
The orchard is proving to be an attractive place for people to walk to from the village, a place for people to sit and paint or dream, and will in the future be a place for people to enjoy the fruits. Important too is the great value to wildlife.