Summer 2014 – Last Abundance event at the orchard?
This summer we’ve planted four new plum, damson and greengage trees, which seem to do better on the site than apples and pears. While we were planting them we were overjoyed to see some of the other stone fruits we planted last year were in fruit – happy days!
Due to other commitments for volunteers, this is our last formal activity at the orchard, we are taking a step back to leave local residents to continue looking after it. We are very proud of all we’ve done there and would like to thank everyone who has been involved – from coming on courses and volunteer days to leading workshops. Everyone’s input has given the orchard a much brighter future.
Our most recent day at the orchard was spent doing some pruning of the surviving apple trees, sadly removing some dead trees, and happily planting five new plums, damsons and greengages. We’ve been advised not to plant any more apples on the site because they are so susceptible to the damp conditions and diseases associated with it (mostly canker in this case).
We were led by Rod Everett from the Lancashire Apple Project, he’s got 30 years experience managing organic orchards, and everyone learned loads.
Thanks for the support from Real Food Wythenshawe who funded our new trees.
Kenworthy Orchard is a community orchard with public access, just outside Chorlton Waterpark in South Manchester. It was planted in 1997 as part of the Kenworthy woodland, one of four community woods created to celebrate the Co-operative Bank’s 125th anniversary that year. It contains around 100 fruit and nut trees, plus several beds of soft fruit. It is administered by the Mersey Valley Wardens but funds to look after it have been scarce, and the orchard has therefore suffered from neglect.
In 2009, after stumbling across Kenworthy, Abundance Manchester ran a pruning workshop at the orchard. Discussions on the day led us to investigate the management of the site and having discovered the lack of it, decided to do something about it. In November 2010 a small group visited the site with Rod Everett of the Middle Wood Ecological Trust. Rod planted an orchard at Middle Wood, just outside Lancaster, in 1980 and has run it on organic principles ever since. Particularly interested in using and preserving old NW varieties, he also runs the Lancashire Apple Project. We invited him to visit the orchard with us to help us assess its health and his advice, along with other experts we have consulted, helped determine the priorities for its maintenance. Notes from this visit can be found at the bottom of this page.
Since the summer of 2010 Abundance has been looking after the orchard by running practical training days and volunteer days including apple pruning, stone fruit pruning, organic feeding of the trees, soft fruit pruning, installing rabbit guards and tree and bush planting. Our success has been partial – the orchard is still in some difficulty with more of the trees having died (having been ‘ring-barked’ by the rabbits and suffering from canker and other diseases), and occasional vandalism of new young trees and the rabbit guards can make it a difficult task. We’ve taken to disguising new trees instead of celebrating them! However we have made much progress, with about 13 of the new trees we’ve planted still going strong (as of Spring 2014). About 70 people have benefited from workshops and practical training days, and we remain committed to keeping the orchard not only alive but developing it for the benefit of the community.
Although Abundance is also a fruit harvesting group, we DO NOT harvest from Kenworthy, because the fruit is used by the community.
By our activities at the orchard we aim to
- Improve the health and yields of the orchard
- Increase local use of the orchard whilst not spoiling its wildness or ‘secret’ atmosphere
- Increase knowledge about the orchard amongst the people who use it (i.e. fruit varieties & cropping times)
- Maintain and encourage wildlife on the site
- Utilise its potential as a training ground for local people in orchard management and fruit production
We invite anyone who shares these aims to get in touch & get involved, email and phone numbers are on the contact page.
Over time we plan to map the site, plotting and identifying the current trees and their cropping times etc., making this information public to make sure people are getting the most out of the orchard. We also plan to add some Lancashire & Cheshire apple varieties. Further plans are dependent on who gets involved in the project and what they want to do!
Look out on this page for events coming up and how to book onto workshops. Or sign up to the Abundance email list to hear first! And drop us an email if there’s any other ways you’d like to get involved (see contact page), the more local people get involved in the orchard, the better!
Directions to Kenworthy Orchard
The orchard (marked in dark green on map below) is located just south of Chorlton Waterpark, on the east side of the lane marked as Riverside Avenue.
If arriving from the north of the park e.g. from Chorlton/Barlow Moor Road, the main entrance/toilets/carpark are at the end of Maitland Avenue, Chorlton, M21 7WH. Enter the waterpark and take the path left around the lake. Leave the waterpark via the iron bridge on your left over the River Mersey, then head about 150 metres up the track. The orchard is on the left through an unmarked gap in the hedge.
The orchard is also accessible on foot through Kenworthy Woods from Willenhall Rd in Wythenshawe. Follow Willenhall Rd as it passes under the M60 then take the lane straight ahead (closed to vehicles with a barrier) that leads into Chorlton Waterpark. About 150 metres before you get to the bridge over the Mersey, there is an unmarked gap in the hedge on your right, the orchard is in here.
BLOG OF PAST ACTIVITIES
In October we spent a day replacing some dead trees with 6 new ones. In the three years we’ve been involved with the orchard, we’ve realised that all the original stone fruit trees (the damsons, cherries and plums) have survived and thrived, as have the soft fruit bushes which are very productive and well-used. Whereas the apples and pears have been steadily dying off for about 10 years (See below for more info on the challenges of this site). So, we are only planting stone fruits and fruit bushes from now on. On this occasion we put in 2 damsons, 2 plums and 2 greengages, see if you can spot them – they’re dotted amongst the old apple trees at the south end, and at the north end where the rest of the new trees are. Not labelled because it attracts vandals unfortunately.
Over the winter we hope to replace the rest of the dead trees with new ones. We’re lucky enough to have someone with a chainsaw licence so it’s not too big a job, we’ll just need some help with removing all the dead wood and more excitingly, planting the new trees! There are also ongoing maintenance jobs to be done like replacing and securing missing rabbit guards. So, get in touch if you want to help out!
We’ve recently run several free training and volunteer events at the orchard. Most recently a picnic and planting/maintenance day in May, which was timed perfectly to enjoy the late blossoming of the fruit trees, and some sunshine! We managed to plant lots of new raspberry canes and gooseberry bushes, weed the beds, plant a new yellow plum tree and finish mapping the site. Watch this space for a map of the orchard!
Back in early March, we ran a FREE fruit tree ‘grafting’ course, which allows propagation of news trees ‘true to type’ i.e. exact replicas of the parent tree. Each participant was able to take a completed tree home and we grafted 30 trees that will eventually come to live in the orchard, once they’ve got established. Thanks to the Big Dig project for funding and organising this. February saw us pruning the apple trees with the help of Hilary Dodson, chair of the Northern Fruit Group. A group of 12 of us managed to prune about 10 of the trees, removing dead and diseased branches, and opening up the structure of the tree to allow light and air in, essential to reduce disease and improve fruiting.
The following weekend we spent a Sunday morning on various tasks, including putting up tree guards around the trees that didn’t have them. Rabbits, though cute, have done an enormous amount of damage to the orchard because they nibble away the bark around the lowest few feet of each tree trunk. On some of the trees the bark is gone completely from the bottom, this is known as ring-barking, and eventually kills the tree – see an explanation of why here. We also planted about 10 new raspberry plants, pruned the redcurrant bushes (for guidance on how to do this see the rhs website) litter-picked and propped up a tree that had fallen over, a satisfying task getting up upright again! And finally, we planted 4 new apple and pear trees, which we hope will survive the vandalism some of the other trees have experienced.
Soft Fruit, Hard Graft
On Sunday 12th August 2012 nine volunteers enjoyed an afternoon’s expert guidance on pruning stone fruit trees, primarily plums and damsons, from the chair of the Northern Fruit Group, Hilary Dodson. Abundance workshops at Kenworthy are always a very practical combination of learning and doing – both because that’s the best way to pick up the skills, and also because the orchard is managed solely by volunteers, and training days are when most of the maintenance is carried out!
Hilary began with the basics of removing dead, diseased and crossing branches – this is to give the trees an open structure allowing air to flow freely, and to reduce the spread of any disease. Unlike apples and pears, stone fruits are pruned in the summer months as winter pruning can leave them prone to a disease called silver leaf. They need time for the pruning cuts to heal up before winter, so mid August is about as late as you can safely leave it. We started on the large stand of plum trees, which generally crop well (not this year though – like everything, they have been affected by the terrible weather) As well as pruning the plums themselves we tackled the sweet chestnut hedge behind it – over the years it’s been encroaching on the plum trees cutting out much needed light and air. The results were pretty impressive – many hands really do make light work! Similar work was carried out on the damson trees. Hilary explained that damsons naturally have a more bushy dense structure, and that they generally require less pruning, but after several years of neglect there was still plenty to remove.
Most of the participants had done some fruit tree pruning before, but it was invaluable to have Hilary on hand to provide guidance and reassure us we were working along the right lines. She’s also offered to run a grafting course over the winter, and provide scions (for creating new trees) which she knows thrive in the North of England. This will help not only teach us a new skill, but also means we can restock the orchard with varieties that do well in northern conditions and at a fraction of the cost of buying trees from a nursery.
Over the last few months we’ve been extremely sad to see that all eleven of the fruit trees we planted in January (see below) have been stolen/vandalised. However, we refuse to be discouraged and are trying to come up with ways we can restock the orchard without creating a target for vandals. Anyone out there with ideas on this please get in touch!
Pruning Day 19 Feb 2012
The Kindling Trust’s Land Army project funded us to run a third pruning course at the orchard, and we spent a great sunny day doing so on Sunday 19th Feb, led by Rod Everett from the Middlewood Ecological Trust. We pruned about 6 trees and learned tonnes – as always – Rod’s pruning courses are not just pruning courses.
As well as pruning tips, other advice we need to act on includes:
New trees we’ve planted: the ones on dwarfing (M26) rootstock will need bigger stakes than we’ve given them, and will need staking all their lives. We also learned that the trees we’ve planted on larger rootstock (MM106) will last over a hundred years compared to only 30 or so for the smaller ones.
The new trees should be mulched to avoid grass competing, but not fed or watered much in first year or so. This encourages them to develop a good root system as they have to spread out to get water and food.
Fruiting should be discouraged in the first 2 years – need to rub off the flowers or pick off fruit when small. Allows the tree to put energy into estabishng itself and growing.
We should decide what height we want the new trees to start branching, and cut the main trunk back to that point this winter.
Older trees: We could try mulching with cardboard around the bases of the trees we haven’t cleared yet, and putting manure on top of that. We could also feed with diluted comfrey tea. Feeding should be done in a ring around edge of branches, not at base of tree.
We should try dealing with disease with a spray made from mares tail which has anti-fungal properties (who knew it had a use?!)
We need to give the trees at the South end more air flow by taking the woodland back to the old hedge line.
Volunteer Day 22 Jan 2012
About 12 of us spent a really productive Sunday working on various parts of the site. We cleared both raspberry beds, pruning back old stock and planting around 20 new canes. The raspberries seem to be a lot of peoples’ favourite thing at the orchard so we hope this year will see decent crops and particularly that people will be able to access the fruit more easily – we’ve tried to open up the beds a bit better so you can get to the fruit. The new canes might not produce tonnes of fruit this year but hopefully we’ll see some good crops in years to come.
Even more excitingly we planted 11 new fruit trees – a mixture of apple, pear, plum, damson and greengage. The open space at the bottom of the orchard is now full of new stock. Again, maybe not much of a crop this year but give it a few years and there will be some excicting new varieties to taste.
The pruning workshop on Feb 19th is now fully booked – watch this space for more upcoming events!
Please get in touch on 07967 227 981 if you’d like to come and help, or just see what we’re up to!
Autumn/Winter 2011 Update
In terms of fruit production, the Kenworthy apple trees haven’t been doing too well for a few years, and this year we discovered that after flowering and fruiting as normal, the trees dropped most of their leaves and nearly all the developing fruit in early July, well before anyone had a chance to pick them.
After panicking slightly about a range of diseases we thought they may have, we brought in some expert help from local horticultualist and founder of Timperley Community Orchard, Mary Eastwood. Mary has about 60 years experience of horticulture and specialises in fruit trees, so we were really lucky to have her involvement. Her conclusion, and it makes perfect sense, is that the trees are simply under-nourished, very badly so. They have not been fed for much of the 15 years they’ve been established and cultivated trees like apples just can’t cope with such a lack of food. Apples are apparently the most sensitive fruit tree to under-nourishment which is why they are suffering much more than the plums, damsons and cherries. It may be that they will never get back to healthy fruiting after so much neglect, but we’re going to have a go at feeding them intensively this winter and see what happens. In case we can’t rescue them, we’re also planning on planting new trees for a new generation of apple lovers!
Already during November we’ve cleared the grass and weeds from around the bases of about 10 of the apples trees in order to get some fertiliser into the soil, and added manure from a local farmer. Thanks Mr Thorburn for the free manure we really appreciate it!!
The first priority we identified was putting in rabbit guards on the affected trees – rabbits eat the bark at the bases of the trees stopping the flow of nutrients up and down the tree which can eventually kill it. We spent a snowy Sunday in December 20110 starting this task (see left) – a cold but very satisfying day! And we finished it early in 2011.
The second priority was pruning the apple trees. These were most in need of pruning as they had grown very crowded and tangled. Regular pruning helps improve the health of the tree by concentrating its energy into a smaller number of branches, and improves the yield and quality of the fruit too. Two pruning days in January & February 2011 made a lot of headway with these, although it will be an ongoing task each winter.
Our next activity (Feb 2011) was to lay a small length of the west border hedge to provide a proper buffer from the track and retain the valuable hedge habitat for small mammals and birds.
March saw us transforming the incredibly overgrown currant beds into something resembling currant beds. Currants and other soft fruit require annual pruning but these had not been touched in the 15 or so years they’ve been there! We cut back a lot, took some out, and replanted a few too as the bushes are all nearing the end of their productive life. See photos for what a difference it’s made.
In the summer of 2011 we carried out pruning of the cherry and plum trees, they are all very old and not in good health, and will need replacing eventually, but hopefully we have cheered them up a little. The soft fruit, cherry and plum workshops were all run very successfully by Katherine Barton, for more details of her work see http://www.growbetween.co.uk
October 2011 saw us open the orchard up for an open day, with a kids treasure hunt, apple juicing and much more. We hope to make this an annual event so watch this space.
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