Traditional Orchards

Traditional orchards are areas of land on which a range of fruit and nut trees are cultivated that are managed in a low intensity way. Permanent grassland beneath the trees was traditionally grazed by livestock.

apple orchard

Photo: Dave Kilbey

Why are they important?

  • The mosaic of habitats such as hedgerows, dead wood and fruit trees make traditional orchards important for a wide range of species
  • Traditional orchards provide a the conditions needed for many bryophytes and lichens
  • Holes and crevices in old trees provide habitat for bats and nest sites for birds such as Redstart and Bullfinch
  • Dead and decaying wood makes traditional orchards hugely important for invertebrates, lichens and fungi.

Traditional orchards in Sussex

The traditional orchards inventory lists 668 sites in West Sussex and 253 in East Sussex covering an area of over 315 hectares. It is estimated that around half of these orchards are currently in a poor condition.

What are the threats?

  • Changes in farming policy and markets has led to decline in income from traditional orchard produce
  • A decline in the skills and knowledge to manage traditional orchards can lead to neglect
  • Loss of orchards can occur as fruit trees dying of old age are not replaced
  • Lack of protection under the current planning system

Some associated species

  • Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Picoides minor
  • Noctule Nyctalus noctula
  • Lichen Running-spider Philodromus margaritatus
  • Noble Chafer Gnorimus nobilis
  • Mistletoe Viscum album
  • A lichen Ramonia chrysophaea

White-letter Hairstreak

Photo: Paul Marten/Sussex Wildlife Trust

Advice on traditional orchards

Ancient Tree Hunt
Orchard Link
Orchard Network
Peoples Trust for Endangered Species