Hansard – Community Orchards

I stumbled on this speech, by the Blackpool North and Cleveleys MP Paul Maynard, in the online version of Hansard, the official parliamentary record, and posted it to the History Society Facebook page.

This is what got the current idea to create a community orchard started – though the idea had sort of rumbled in the background for several years; for instance Mike Hornby had enquired a few years ago about using the former Nook Farm orchard, which is in private ownership.


Hansard 27 Jun 2011 : Column 727
Community Orchards

Paul Maynard (Blackpool North and Cleveleys) (Con): I am pleased, both as a Conservative Member of Parliament and as the Member for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, to speak about this important subject of community orchards. However, I am more pleased still, because I am also a russet, which is not merely a type of apple, but the name given to those who originate from the tiny village of Weaverham in the centre of Cheshire, which is where the Wareham russet was first invented. I am a true Wareham russet.

It is a pleasure to talk about community orchards. My home village of Weaverham was once awash with them. They grew both apples—Wareham russets—and our famous damsons, but in the immediate post-war period, they were all grubbed up to make way for council housing, to provide accommodation for those who went to work at the great Imperial Chemical Industries plant in Northwich.

We lost our community orchards, but sadly, we were not alone in our loss. Since 1945, we have lost 63% of our orchards one way or another. Indeed, in the traditional fruit-growing counties, such as Herefordshire, Kent and Worcestershire, the losses have been greater still.

However, things are stirring in the orchard world—a susurrus whistling through the bows, that some in the House have not yet quite heard. I should like to pay tribute to a very large number of organisations that I have contacted in the past week which have helped me to put my speech together. Common Ground, which is based in Shaftesbury in Dorset, is a particularly worthwhile organisation that has done much to promote apple day, which falls on 21 October, the same day as Trafalgar day. In fact, that gives added credence to the idea of making Trafalgar day our new bank holiday. We could perhaps call it apple day. Other groups, such as the Orchard Network and the Northern Fruit Group—the list is endless—do sterling work to protect heritage fruit species that I feel so passionate about. The People’s Trust for Endangered Species has just completed the national orchard inventory as part of its work to protect the noble chafer beetle. That is an example of biodiversity in action, which encompasses much of what orchards stand for.

However, I am sure the Minister is wondering why I summoned him on a Monday night, to sit here at the end of the day to talk about community orchards. I am sure he is not overly amused, but let me explain why I have come here tonight. This debate is not just about orchards, but about the meaning of localism. There is a need to recognise the distinctiveness of our towns, villages and communities, and orchards are a wonderful way of doing that.

Many people, when they heard that I would have this debate, asked, “What is a community orchard?” and I had to explain that they are orchards that are in the community. Anyone can go in and enjoy them at any time, and those people can come together as a community. They can be the focal point for a village, an estate or even just a block of flats. The concern that animates our national debate on cloned town centres, with their identical chains of shops, is also behind community orchards. We need distinctiveness and difference.

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