Have you ever tasted a London Pippin, a Merton Joy or a Hounslow Wonder? Did you know that Heathrow used to be home to vast orchards?
Look through old maps and you’ll see that Greater London was once full of orchards – from market gardens and small-scale orchards in centre of the Victorian city, to major commercial orchards in leafy Middlesex. Hospitals, universities, prisons and other institutions each had their own orchards, growing and harvesting all the fruit they needed.
As London has grown over the years, many of these orchards have been lost. Those that remain are often neglected: overgrown with brambles and in need of pruning that will make the trees productive again.
The London Orchard Project is helping Londoners to “Rediscover London’s Lost Orchard Heritage” through a 2-year programme of orchard restoration. Over the next 2 years we will work with Londoners to restore 10 neglected orchards across the capital, giving them new life as productive, fruitful community spaces. We'll also be doing a service to biodiversity by protecting these UK BAP priority habitats and raising awareness about their worth to local communities.
We will arrange a programme of cultural events to complement the orchard restoration, from wassailing in the East End, to workshops on how to cook with forgotten heritage fruit that can still be found in London (like medlars – a medieval favourite!).
If you know of an old orchard near you in need of restoration, or if you want to be kept up to date with volunteering, training and events, send us an email at heritage [at] thelondonorchardproject [dot] org [dot] uk.
Our Rediscovering London’s Lost Orchard Heritage programme is generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.