National Trust vows to ‘bring back the blossom’ as new research reveals massive drop in orchards since 1900s - National Trust

Apple blossom in the orchard at Cotehele in Cornwall. Credit NT Images & Ross Hoddinott
Apple blossom in the orchard at Cotehele in Cornwall. Credit NT Images & Ross Hoddinott

The area of orchards in England and Wales has halved since the early 1900s according to new research by the National Trust resulting in huge losses in habitats for nature, and meaning fewer people can enjoy one of nature’s great spectacles – spring blossom.

Results are published today as the conservation charity kicks off this year’s #BlossomWatch campaign, now in its second full year.

BlossomWatch is the Trust’s annual campaign to encourage people to enjoy and celebrate spring blossom, with the aim of embedding an annual cultural event similar to Japan’s ‘hanami’ in the UK. It includes digital sharing of images as blossom sweeps up the land from south to north, and events and installations at National Trust places including everything from ‘blossom hammocks’ to painting workshops.

Last year the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan and National Trust Director-General Hilary McGrady opened the London Blossom Garden and this year there will be city-wide installations in Birmingham as part of the Birmingham 2022 Festival.

Today’s study is the first comprehensive review of both traditional and modern orchards in England and Wales using data from the National Library of Scotland’s historic map collection, data from People’s Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) and Natural England, and analysed using artificial intelligence (AI) mapping technologies from ArchAI Ltd. It is aimed at improving understanding of the historic loss of blossom across landscapes, and the impact on nature and wildlife.

The results reveal a loss in orchards of 56 per cent, with just 43,017Ha left growing today – equivalent to an area slightly larger than the Isle of Wight.

The research also exposed a huge 81 per cent decline, (78,874Ha), in traditional orchards in England and Wales – equivalent to an area close to the size of the west Midlands - spelling bad news for nature.

And, even when taking each country in isolation, England’s figures alone revealed a loss of 82 per cent of traditionally managed orchards (77,926Ha) – twice the size of the Isle of Wight.

‘Total blossom’, ie the area from orchards in England has more than halved (56 per cent) since around 1900, with 41,777Ha left growing today.

In Wales a loss of 948Ha of traditionally managed orchards, 48 per cent, since around 1900, is significant but compares much more favourably than England, likely due to the number of orchards in Wales which are small family-scale orchards that are not exposed to the development and modernisation pressures experienced in England, particularly in the commercial sector.

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Posted On: 24/03/2022

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