Brightwell cum Sotwell Community Orchard will be planted later this month with help from a North Wessex Downs AONB SDF grant.
The village of Brightwell cum Sotwell has an unbroken history of growing fruit, spanning 150 years. In 2009, the orchard group conducted a survey of fruit trees in the village and found 78 heritage varieties of apple. However, this unique heritage asset is in jeopardy, as many of the trees are up to 100 years old and for some varieties there is only one tree remaining. No other village in Oxfordshire has such a complete record of the traditional fruit crop from July to March.
The Brightwell cum Sotwell Community Orchard will be planted by villagers with 45 heritage varieties. Each class in the village school will plant a tree so eventually every child in the village will look after a tree and grow their own apples. This orchard will become a focus for village events such as Apple Day, Blossom Picnics and Wassail, an old, traditional and curious celebration associated with apples and orchards.
The orchard will be maintained as a traditional, lightly managed orchard, which, as it matures, will support a range of wildlife species some of which are BAP priority species such as the noble chafer beetle and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. The orchard will also attract particular species of fungi and invertebrates associated with fruit trees and many species of birds that feed on the fruit and these invertebrates.
The orchard will be planted on Saturday 29th and Sunday 30th November between 10.00 and dusk. The first tree planting ceremony will be on Saturday 29th November at 11.00 am.
One of the primary purposes of the AONB Partnership is to promote sustainable forms of development that enhance the environment. With this in mind, the Partnership manages the Sustainable Development Fund (SDF) which support projects ,such as this community orchard, in order to bring environmental, social and economic benefits to the area. The partnership welcomes applications from community projects. See our grants pages for more information.