Finding an orchard in the heart of the city

Our landscapes contain an enormous number of fruit trees. In towns, cities and in the wider countryside, solitary specimens and small clusters abound. Sometimes, these can form a productive continuum – sprawls of diverse and productive trees, around and within areas of human habitation – which represent, to all intents and purposes, an informal and invisible orchard…

 

Take a look at trees that, although perhaps not originally part of a commercial or domestic orchard, are nevertheless fruiting, supporting wildlife and contributing to the local scene. Consider the role of the orchard in the community and landscape as it now exists and as we now inhabit it, taking a look at the places where orchards used to grow and where relict orchards or orchard fragments remain. While urban orchards are increasingly celebrated, there are also places where tree fruit grows unplanned and unnoticed…

 

It is important to recognize that the contemporary urban landscape has grown up from, and over, what went before. The familiar streets and the houses we live in cut across an earlier version. Our concept of permanence is in fact just the vision of a modernist of 150 years ago, profiting from the fashionable suburbs and workmen’s cottages of the day. Or, indeed, the modernist of 5 years ago, striving to cram more housing units into less space. But the critical thing is that the houses around us have been built on something: farmland, garden or, sometimes, orchard. And these places once had trees – some of which are still here.

 

Where the sites of larger traditional orchards have been repurposed, the scattering of remaining trees can cross new boundaries of ownership and use. There might be a few in the grounds of a modern hospital, several in nearby gardens, and an old specimen tree in the park beyond the houses.

Winter Roofs

A patchwork city orchard

The moment you start looking for tree fruit, miraculously it becomes visible. Suddenly there is an old, contorted tree; another is perhaps growing robustly, lushly productive and hidden in plain view. It is quite common to find clusters of trees on allotments, along the hedge of the parking area or next to the central track. These don’t ‘officially’ belong to anyone and may find themselves ignored: an irony of rotting and crushed fruit amongst an otherwise cherished harvest… As the trees become familiar, a conscious connection emerges – a delightful personal secret between you and the landscape. Wayside edibles peep through the familiar undergrowth, sharp, aromatic and fresh….

 

An excerpt from Naomi Slade’s An Orchard Odyssey

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