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Help to map London apples

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The London Orchard Project have restored the orchard at Bethlem Royal Hospital to its former glory credit: The London Orchard Project

An ambitious six-month project to create a map of every orchard in Greater London is looking for volunteers.

Recruits to the Orchard Discoverers initiative will visit potential sites in their local area, helping to rediscover lost orchards, identify collections of trees in need of restoration, and find new sources of fruit for community harvesting projects.

“It’ll also help us identify sites that could become conservation areas, especially if any rare species are discovered. The trees themselves may be old heritage varieties, many of which are in danger of being lost forever. Scion material could be taken from these to graft into new trees,” says Kath Rosen, chief executive officer of The London Orchard Project which is running the initiative.

Between now and April 2013, it is hoped that volunteers from all over London will visit more than 250 sites identified as potential orchards from existing data such as aerial photographs and anecdotal evidence, note what fruit trees are there and assess their condition. Training to accurately survey the orchards will be provided and volunteers will be free to choose when they visit the sites.

Once the map is complete, the project will continue to support volunteers to monitor the state of the orchards.

“We have lost about 60% of our orchards since the 1950s alone, in part due to pressures on land by development and a trade system that favours cheap fruit from the other side of the world over local, fresh produce. Orchards have long played an important role in our cultural heritage, as well as being an important source of nutrition for people. They are also host to a range of species, with mature trees in particular providing important habitats for invertebrates, birds and fungi. This project will help us to identify London’s remnant orchards so they can be protected, restored and valued once more by communities,” says Kath.

If you’re interested in taking part in the project, visit http://thelondonorchardproject.org/volunteer-opportunities or email jamie@thelondonorchardproject.org

 

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