Old orchards have an irresistible appeal. Their ancient trees and obscure fruit varieties seem to provide a direct link with the lost rural world of our ancestors, a time when the pace of life was slower and people had a strong and intimate connection with their local environment. They are also of critical importance for sustaining biodiversity, providing habitats, in particular, for a range of rare invertebrates. Not surprisingly, orchards and the fruit they contain have attracted an increasing amount of attention over the last few decades, from both enthusiastic bands of amateurs and official conservation bodies. But much of what has been written about them is historically vague, romanticised and nostalgic. Orchards have become a symbol of unspoilt, picturesque rural England.
English Orchards attempts, for the first time, to provide a comprehensive review of the development of orchards in England from the Middle Ages to the present day. It describes the various different kinds of orchard and explains how, and when, they appeared in the landscape – and why they have disappeared, at a catastrophic rate, over the last six decades. Chapters discuss the contrasting histories of fruit growing in different regions of England, the complex story of 'traditional' fruit varieties and the role of orchards in wildlife conservation. In addition, a chapter on researching orchards provides a practical guide for those wishing to investigate the history and archaeology of particular examples.
List of Illustrations
1. Introducing Orchards
2. Types of Orchard: Farmhouse and Commercial
3. Types of Orchard: Gardens and Institutions
4. The Orchard Countries: Western England
5. The Orchard Countries: South-East England
6. The Orchard Countries: East Anglia and the Fens
7. The Recent History of Orchards
8. Studying Old Orchards
9. The Importance of Orchards: Biodiversity
10. The Importance of Orchards: Culture and History
Gerry Barnes MBE is an honorary research fellow at the University of East Anglia and co-author with Tom Williamson of numerous books, including Ancient Trees in the Landscape, Trees in England: Management and Disease Since 1600 and Rethinking Ancient Woodland.
Tom Williamson is Professor of Landscape History at the University of East Anglia. He has written widely on landscape archaeology, environmental history and the history of landscape design.