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Scotland's living cultural heritage on our doorstep

3rd June 2014

Photograph of Scotland's living cultural heritage on our doorstep

A desktop survey of candidate orchards found 1728 likely orchards. An orchard is defined as a collection of five or more fruit trees and many of these sites have been in decline for several decades.

But while new smaller orchards are being planted, large traditional orchards are still in decline and therefore in danger.

Traditional orchards contain many veteran trees some with pear trees of up to 300 years old and the desktop survey by CW Hayes Associates across local authority areas in Scotland highlighted that:

Orchards were found in 31 out of 32 local council areas;

South Lanarkshire, followed by Fife, has the largest number of candidate orchards at 213 and 186 respectively;

Comhairle nan Eilean Siar was found to have just one candidate orchard while in Shetland none were found;

Dumfries and Galloway, Highland, Perth and Kinross and Scottish Borders have more than 100 candidate orchards each.

Speaking before the Gardening Scotland event at the Royal Highland Show in Ingliston, near Edinburgh, Kate Holl, the project officer for SNH, said: "Some of our large traditional orchards may have been lost forever, but this valuable work does much to pinpoint where our remaining orchards are.

"This desktop survey has helped locate 1728 sites which will now go forward as candidate orchards for more detailed study as part of a field survey involving volunteers across Scotland. Despite the losses in orchards, we were pleasantly surprised to discover they can be found throughout Scotland, and not just those areas more traditionally associated with fruit production.

"We could do with finding more and if anyone knows about orchards in Shetland please let us know.

"If we know where the orchards are across Scotland we can target resources and effort to halt the decline. The work has also helped us understand the orchard as an ecosystem and its role in providing food and shelter for a range of local bugs and beasties. We need orchards, and they in turn are a valuable safe haven for our birds and insects as well as providing us with seasonal fruit."

Dr Crispin Hayes of CW Hayes Associates was contracted by SNH to carry out the work and added: "It is clear from our work that Scotland's orchards are a real and living cultural heritage and provide us with a link to the past as well as being an opportunity for barometer of the future.

"Orchards are a source of local food products, including fresh fruit, and the work gives an insight into, and involvement with, the cultural heritage that orchards represent in Scotland.

"Orchards are also a source of local fruit, cider, and other foods such as honey, but they also hold an important place in the cultural heritage of many parts of Scotland. Old orchards are places of living history and we would like their value to be better recognised."

The report is available at

The Report - Pdf

Purple Prince Crabapple, Malus 'Purple Prince'
Photographer Bruce Marlin under Creative Commons license via Wikiepedia

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