No Man’s Orchard
On the boundary of Chartham and Harbledown parishes
WHAT WE DID:
No Man’s Orchard, so-called because it straddles the boundary between two parishes, is a lovely old orchard on the North Downs Way. In 1996 when the landowner decided to sell the land our goal was to save the orchard and manage it to conserve its traditional landscape and wildlife value. We were already involved with the site, helping the owner with management. In 1996, we helped the parish councils raise funds to purchase the orchard. To oversee management, a committee was formed, with four members of each Parish Council and KSCP acting as an advisor, helping the committee with ideas, fundraising and management.
Old orchards are often excellent wildlife habitats, for birds, insects, wild flowers and reptiles. The old trees are particularly notable for their lichens and mosses. We were successful in getting the orchard designated as a Local Wildlife Site, largely because of the lichen and moss flora. In 2002 we helped to designate it as a Local Nature Reserve – the first old orchard in Britain to be given this protection. Management is ongoing. Some of the original Bramley apple trees (which were planted in the 1940s) have died and we have replaced them with traditional varieties. Tree pruning and general maintenance are carried out by volunteers and roughly every other year a contractor is sought to do major pruning.
The orchard, now known as No Man’s Community Orchard, has become a focus for community activity in the local area. Many events have been held here over the years and local people can support the upkeep of the site by adopting a tree. Visitors can enjoy open access to the site and take a rest on the serpent seat sculpture.
Many traditional orchards have disappeared from the countryside since WW2, as intensively managed modern orchards with dwarf tree varieties have replaced them. By conserving this orchard, we are protecting a historic landscape very characteristic of Kent and a piece of our cultural heritage. Ongoing management also conserves the diverse wildlife of this site. Local people benefit from open access to this beautiful place, which has become a community focus for two parishes.
Chartham Parish Council, Harbledown Parish Council (joint landowners).