Pioneering agro-forestry project offers a green recovery for farming

Heritage Apple Varieties

Greater Manchester is to gain twelve thousand new fruit and nut trees thanks to a DEFRA grant we have been awarded to help to kick-start environmental renewal in our region whilst creating and retaining jobs in the wake of the pandemic.

Half of the trees are destined for the Kindling Farm; set to become one of the region’s largest agro-forestry farms, with the rest given away to volunteers and community orchards across the North West.

Today we begin this ambitious task; employing three people and training up an army of fruit tree enthusiasts to create what we believe will be the region's largest heritage fruit tree nursery. The project has been made possible after securing nearly £1/4 million of funding from DEFRA’s Green Recovery Challenge Fund, and by working with Unicorn Grocery, on whose farmland the nursery will be sited. The nursery, a few miles west of Manchester, will produce and nurture twelve thousand heritage apple, pear, plum, damson and hazelnut trees over the next fifteen months.

We'll be training up a new generation in the age old art of grafting and budding to create apple, pear and plum trees. It is the largest training and empowerment project we have undertaken to date, seeking to connect people with nature as well as addressing the climate crisis and securing the future of endangered and climate-resilient fruit varieties. Despite the challenges of covid we are confident we can tap into the surge of concern for environmental issues and a desire to build back better after the challenges of 2020.

Apple grafting and budding are techniques of propagating new fruit trees using buds or twigs – the 'scion wood’ from an existing tree and fusing it onto a branch or stem of another tree – the 'rootstock’, which is selected for size, suitability to site and tolerance of certain soil conditions.

The North has many hundreds of endangered varieties of fruit trees discarded for more uniform and visually pleasing types, with only a handful of varieties available in supermarkets. These forgotten trees have survived in small numbers in community orchards and by passionate enthusiasts, like the late Mary Eastwood who established the community orchard in Timperley, Trafford. These trees not only have fascinating histories, they offer genetic diversity that may provide us with disease resistance and resilience to climate change for the future challenges gardeners and farmers will face.

Cheshire alone boasts 32 apple cultivars with fantastic names like Bee Bench, Chester Pearmain, Millicent Barnes, Minshull Crab, Moston Seedling, Open Heart, Watlingford Pippin and Withington Welter. Minshull Crab (not a crab apple) gets its name from the original tree that was in Church Minshull in 1777. Bee Bench comes from an area near Crewe and gets its name from the Victorian habit of beekeepers putting bee skips into orchards so the insects could aid pollination. The Withington Welter is a huge dessert apple, the size of a grapefruit, ideal for sauces, and it has a lot more flavour than the Bramley cooking apple.

“We are so excited by this opportunity given to us by the Green Recovery Fund. Not only is it the start of a hugely important fight back for diversity in agriculture, but it is our first tangible step to establish a nationally important example of Agroforestry using heritage fruit varieties on the planned Kindling Farm”.  

Helen Woodcock, Kindling Co-founder

“Supporting our natural environment is one of the most valuable things we can do right now. All these projects are of huge benefit to our beautiful countryside and wildlife, but will also support jobs, health and wellbeing, which are vitally important as we begin to emerge from the coronavirus crisis.”

Ros Kerslake, Chief Executive, National Lottery Heritage Fund

If you would like to get involved, please email us at mail@kindling.org.uk

#GreenRecoveryChallengeFund  #TogetherForOurPlanet 

The Green Recovery Challenge Fund is funded by Defra and is being delivered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund in partnership with Natural England and the Environment Agency.

 

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