Heritage orchard planting and a whole lot more

Heritage orchard planting and a whole lot more
April 2, 2014 Adrian Walters

In spite of weather events over the past few months Sudbury can consider itself extremely fortunate. Suffolk as a whole escaped the very worst of the deluges that conspired to bring misery to so many people in southern England although coastal areas took a pounding from storm surges. In Sudbury, in particular, everyone can be grateful for the continued existence of the traditional grazing floodplain that acts as a temporary reservoir in times of excessive rainfall. This coupled with extensive river engineering work carried out in Sudbury during the 1950s continues to serve the town very well indeed. The river engineering followed on from serious flooding in March 1947 when large amounts of rapidly thawing snow caused an unprecedented amount of water to extend well beyond the normal flood plain area. This water level was recorded on the Ballingdon ‘pumping station’ wall along with a similar flood in 1918.

Although things are now decidedly spring-like the wet winter and windy weather certainly affected the work programme. With the pastures absolutely saturated or inundated for very long periods it was quite impossible to contemplate any kind of activity with the tractor so fencing work is behind schedule. The JCB work programme, which is essential to the wildlife health of the ditches and ponds on the riverside, was drastically curtailed to just absolutely essential work. There is, however, always next year!

On a considerably brighter note the final planting of the heritage orchard took place at Cornard Country Park on a gloriously sunny morning with the assistance of twenty one children from Wells Hall Primary school. The school children have been involved with this project from the start and perhaps some will return to pick the fruits of their labours in years to come. The fruit trees are old Suffolk varieties which were on the brink of being lost so here, at least, traditional fruit trees of local provenance will be safeguarded for the foreseeable future. The orchard trees include apples, pears, damsons and sweet and sour cherries and in a few years’ time their spring blossoms tumbling down the valley slope will provide a captivating site for walkers in the country park.

The effects of the tremendous gale of 28th October last year and other strong winter winds continue to make themselves felt all around the riverside. In particular a white poplar on Brundon Lane will be felled immediately following notice that the tree is beginning to crack the tarmac surface. Were this leaning tree to blow down the root ball would create an enormous hole which would be expensive to repair and cause considerable inconvenience to all those who use the lane for access.

With warmer days and growing grass the cattle will be returning to the ancient pastures of the Sudbury Common Lands over the coming weeks. The cattle act rather like haphazard lawnmowers as they eat off the pasture throughout the summer season. As a result, and with the correct grazing pressure, the springtime pastures become bejewelled with buttercups and other less showy and less common plants. Some of the younger cattle will not have experienced so many people or dogs wandering around their fields and initially they may exhibit some nervousness. As always all farmland livestock should be left well alone and hopefully the 2014 grazing season will pass without incident.