Off to Sheffield next week for a conference on Orchards and Groves: Their History, Ecology, Culture and Archaeology. It's at Sheffield Hallam University – and should be a good chance for the great range of people involved in traditional orchards to get together and compare notes – on what's going well, and badly, in traditional orchard conservation.
It's a complex and growing field, with loads of stuff going on (next month's Apple Day celebrations give a flavour, often literally, of some of the work) but there's still a lot more to be done. Traditional orchards of all sorts (not just Apples) need much more active protection and (this is most important!) active use if they are to survive. Protection doesn't, in itself, help – there is a real need to get the trees managed and the fruit used – these orchards are a key part of the UK's heritage in every sense – farming, history, landscape and biodiversity.
This is a mistletoe blog, not an orchards one – and I won't pretend to be an expert on orchards – browse around Common Ground's website and the National Orchard Forum for more on orchards themselves. But mistletoe does grow best on apple trees, and orchards and gardens are its favourite habitat (click on the graphs on the left for more info on this) – so I do keep a close watch on orchard affairs.
I'm speaking at the conference (programme here for those interested) on mistletoe – it's place in culture, history and orchards, and I'll be promoting the theme of mistletoe management I started up last year. I'll say more on this later this season but the key point is that Christmas mistletoe supply is closely linked to mistletoe growing in orchards – and neglect and/or misguided management is leading, ironically, to many older orchards getting overgrown with mistletoe – to the detriment of the host apple trees and ultimately the mistletoe too. Orchard mistletoe needs a lot more active management – and there is a real risk we'll lose it all if we don't sort this out soon…