Tree Wardenswade muggleton orchards

Worcestershire is one of the original Tree Warden Networks, and Wade Muggleton, Senior Greenspace Officer at the County Council, began coordinating the group around 18 years ago.  In 2018, Wade shared his passion and expertise on BBC Gardeners World. This month we are delighted that Wade agreed to share a little more about his orchards work with us. Read on to discover Wade’s top tips for Tree Wardens wishing to start their own orchard, as well as further resources he has been working on with others to bring the joy of orchards to us all.

A passion for orchards that just grew over time

Although not born in Somerset, a county of orchards, I grew up there. I have also lived in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire, a town with many orchards. However, it was not really until I moved to Worcestershire in 1999 that my interest in them really bloomed. At Worcestershire County Council we had a long-running scheme in conjunction with a local nursery promoting the planting of the heritage varieties of the county, so I became quite knowledgeable about a wide range of fruit varieties.

We now have more than twenty community orchards in Worcestershire, and Tree Wardens have been instrumental in either creating or looking after several of these. In my view, a community orchard is a great project for Tree Wardens to lead.

I very much hope that after years of struggling with budget restrictions at the local authority, the renewed interest in environmental volunteering will help reinvigorate the local Tree Warden Network and that developing community orchards will be instrumental in getting more people involved in their local trees.

Top tips for Tree Wardens wanting to start an orchard

When starting an orchard of any scale it is important to be clear about your objectives. This will allow you to be sure you get the right trees for your site. Do you ultimately want big old-fashioned standard trees or smaller semi-dwarfing trees, which may be easier to manage. In terms of layout of your orchard, try and envisage what those trees will look like and what space they will occupy when fully grown – this is key to deciding where to plant them.

When it comes to choosing varieties, select those that are likely to be used, so good ‘eaters’ or top-notch ‘cookers’. An orchard should be productive, and that fruit should be used by the local community, with some left for the wildlife.

My journey over the last few years and the impact of lockdown

As part of my job, I worked for three years on The Three Counties Orchard Project, an Heritage Lottery Fund project which aimed to raise awareness of traditional orchards, restore some orchards and train people in orchard skills. Several of our Tree Wardens were involved in this and undertook the training. As part of the project outcomes, I published two books “The Apples and Orchards of Worcestershire” and “The Worcester Black Pear”, both of which are available from the Marcher Apple Network website.

My own orchard is a collection of 130 or so varieties of fruit tree including 105 different apples. Lockdown has given me more time than ever to spend in the orchard and my most recent activity has been guarding the trees so we can graze it with our two sheep. I have also spent lockdown writing a new book for Permanent Publications on all aspect of orchards and my own journey in creating mine, which will hopefully be out this year. I am also the secretary of The Marcher Apple Network  our website is a huge resource of useful information.

Catch up on Wade’s appearance on BBC Gardener’s World here.