Spring is here and our apple tree saplings will soon be in blossom. Our team of volunteers started planting grafted saplings early in January this year bringing the total number planted to 150. Later this year we intend to plant Cheshire Prune (damson) and Hazel Pear saplings. Hazel Pears are associated with Acton Bridge and were used to dye uniforms khaki during the First World War. Pocket orchards have also been planted in private gardens, the Bottom Pitch, Weaverham Cricket Club, Mere Bank Farm and the grounds of local schools. We are now very close to achieving all of our aims:
- To establish an orchard in memory of those who served in two World Wars and in more recent conflicts.
- To commemorate the centenary of the First World War.
- To save the Wareham Russet apple tree from extinction and to grow it alongside other Cheshire heritage fruit trees
- To plant additional pocket orchards of Wareham Russet apple trees in the locality.
- To provide an amenity for Weaverham, Hartford and neighbouring communities.
- To facilitate educational visits and social events.
We are extremely grateful to the many individuals, parish and CWAC councillors, Saltscape, Co-op FuneralCare, local organisations and schools who have made this possible by sponsoring trees and making donations. This has enabled us to buy rootstock and saplings, and to provide picnic tables and a notice board.
We are also grateful to the Woodland Trust for leasing us almost an acre of land so that the wishes expressed at our inception at a public meeting in December 2013 could be achieved.
This meeting had been called because it was felt that as 2014 was the centenary of the start of the First World War this should be commemorated in some way. Also 2014 was the 70th anniversary of the D-Day Landings. We also wanted to save a local apple variety, the Wareham Russet, which was common 100 years ago but now had just one known old surviving tree and three grafted from it. So a Community Orchard seemed a fitting memorial.
We then started to look for a suitable site for the orchard, and in August 2014 the Woodland Trust offered us part of Thorn Wood. We planted the first trees in February 2016 and in September 2016 we held a Service of Dedication and Remembrance which was well attended. This year we hope to hold a further Service of Remembrance, close to the centenary of Armistice Day, to mark the end of World War One in 1918.
When the trees are more mature we will welcome schools and youth organisations for educational visits and hold social events such as spring picnics, wassailing and apple days.
Our notice board shows a plan of the orchard and gives a small amount of information about each apple variety. For instance, the Wareham Russet is an eating apple variety which originated in Weaverham and was known before 1820. ‘Wareham’ is the old pronunciation of ‘Weaverham’ and people from Weaverham are nicknamed ‘Russets’ after the tree. The Minshull Crab is a full sized cooking apple from Church Minshull and has been known since 1760. You can read more about these and other Cheshire varieties we have grafted and planted when you next visit the orchard.
Our notice board is changed frequently so that we can remember some of those who have served our country. For example in July we remembered men like Private Ralph Ramsden No.1 Company 20th Service Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment. He was born in Hartford, the son of Ralph and Fanny of Coalyard Cottage, Chester Rd. He was living with his wife Francis Annie at Daleford Lane Sandiway when he joined up at the age of 21. He was in France from 7th November 1915 until his death on 30th July 1916.
Many more men are listed on the Hartford War Memorial. We know the rank, number and date of death of only a few, but nothing else. One of these is Private Gilbert Thornton 315247 1/5th Bn, Cheshire Regiment. Sadly, he died the day after Armistice Day 1918 presumably as a result of his wounds. He was 22.
Do you know anything more about him? We would be grateful to know more about anyone from Hartford who has served their country; not only those who were killed but also those who survived. Please contact us if you can help.
Please remember that The Memorial Orchard is a community orchard for the benefit of residents living in Hartford, Weaverham and neighbouring communities. Please respect it and enjoy it.
For more information see our website orchard.weaverham.org.uk and/or Facebook.com/The Memorial Orchard.
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