The Wendover Community Orchard has been planted in Rope Walk Meadow, Chapel Lane via Wendover Parish Council to mark the centenary of World War I, with sixty fruit trees commemorating the 59 brave Wendover servicemen whose names we know and who lost their lives in that war. The orchard provides free public access to local heritage fruits originating from the Vale of Aylesbury and other local regions, producing a delicious year round supply of mixed apples, pears, cherries, plums, gages, mulberries, quinces and medlars which cannot be found in any supermarket or store.
The trees range from Buckinghamshire Sheep’s Nose, Bazeley, Long Reinette, Mary Morgan, Aylesbury Prune, Stewkley Red, Duke Of Buckingham, Prestwood White Heart and Ronalds Heart to name but a few, and cover around half an acre of what was previously an out of control wild flower meadow, but is now an area of natural beauty and heritage for all to enjoy. With picnic areas, walkways, an open air classroom and a plentiful supply of fresh heritage fruits, it is the perfect place to take a relaxing family picnic, walk the dog, enjoy local fruits, settle under a tree for a spot of reading, meander through the wild flowers, paint a watercolour, brush up on some photography skills and explore the wildlife and insects who flourish from the delicious fruits. From educational to celebratory purposes, the orchard is a welcome retreat for all.
Steven Worth, currently a member of the Amenities Committee of Wendover Parish Council, first started his plans for the community orchard back in 2011 and had been looking for a suitable location for some time. With funding from Wendover Parish Council together with a grant of £1,000 from Aylesbury Vale Community Chest run by Aylesbury Vale Disctrict Council and the Vale Of Aylesbury Housing Trust, the orchard has delightfully come into fruition and will continue evolving and maturing for many years to come. It took a great deal of planning to bring together such a site of natural beauty and purpose, as the soil differs in type from one end of the meadow to another turning from chalk to clay and influencing the position of each species of tree. The best match of tree to soil conditions has been achieved. Similarly, pollination partners, have been planted within close proximity to maximise successful fruit production which is achieved through insects and wind.
It will take around three years for the orchard to establish itself and bear fruit which will then regularly display beautiful blossom from as early as January through to April or even May, followed by the blooming of wild flowers, two managed cuttings per year, the turning and falling of the leaves with the changing of seasons; an absolute feast for the senses with every coming month. There is also a fenced off water well located within the orchard marking the location of ancient Wendover nearer to the church than most of the current housing. From what was once a single flowered wild meadow, with the trees taking away richness and moisture from the soil, new opportunistic or planted wild flowers will now be able to flourish, bringing colour and diversity of species to the orchard. All of these will merrily attract a whole host of wildlife from badgers and hedgehogs nibbling on fermenting apples, to foxes and shrews, muntjac deer, squirrels, doormice, birds, owls, bats, newts and insects such as butterflies, bees and moths as they explore their way along the wildlife corridor leading into the village. At the moment the orchard’s funding and upkeep is managed by the Wendover Parish Council Amenities Commitee, but this has potential to develop into a more general Community Project. You can visit the Wendover Community Orchard at Rope Walk Meadow off Chapel Lane, off South Street, Wendover, Bucks HP22 6NN or just walk along the Heron Path from near the Clock Tower at the bottom of Wendover High Street. It is also easily accessible from Church Lane.
It’s been almost three months since the Wendover Community Orchard was planted so I’ve returned for a spring visit to see how it’s getting on; and thankfully all seems to be settling in rather nicely. The once bare grass is now blossoming with a flood of vibrant yellow cowslips that were seeded four years ago when preparations for the wild flower meadow first began, choosing this year to come out in full bloom and bring a splash of sunshine yellow to the orchard. Along with beautifully ornate purple selfheal, wild garlic and proud white oxeye daisies, the wildflower meadow is set to be a sensational mix of natures finest come the summer. The wildflower meadow will be cut twice annually at the start and end of the summer to allow the flowers to flourish and reestablish, changing the colour of the meadow, height and coverage as the months roll by.
And the trees are also taking well to their new surroundings, with each one surviving the chilly winter months and now showing signs of growth. The emerging spring blossom and flowers are trimmed from the trees to prevent them from fruiting this year, as it’s important that they develop a strong root system instead, and they’ll be kept under a watchful eye and maintained throughout the year to give them the best start possible. Each tree is protected by a special casing which will stay intact for the next 18months-2years before being replaced by a wire trunk cover to prevent wandering wild deer and rabbits from nibbling away at the bark.
The beauty of the orchard lays within the roots of its setting, as the plants and trees which are now growing all have a local connection and are in remembrance of the brave war heros of our village. Take for example the Aylesbury Plum that fruits just six weeks of the year, to growers this heritage tree is not commercially viable for its small yield, and without the orchard it could easily be lost and forgotten. Now families, schools and walkers alike can hand pick and sample a whole new range of forgotten and rare fruits at their most fresh and finest. It’s expected to take around two years until the orchard is fully fruiting, although it’s ultimately down to Mother Nature to set her clock as the weather, success of pollination and amount of ground frost play a big part. Nevertheless the Wendover Community Orchard is already an area of tranquility and natural beauty that will only become more breathtaking with time.