Five new orchards have been planted in Tower Hamlets this autumn. Four of these were planted in parks by the Council and the fifth by Tower Hamlets Homes.
Two of the orchards, funded by a Community Tree Planting grant from the Mayor of London, are in Mile End Park’s Ecology Park. Twelve fruit trees have been planted beside the canal, with a further 24 on the mound to the north of the Ecology Lake (photo left). The other two park orchards were funded through Section 106 money from the development of the Ocean Estate. One of these is also in Mile End Park, where 14 apple, pear and plum trees have been planted alongside Copperfield Road (see header photo). The fourth new orchard is in White Horse Road Park, where 15 trees have been planted and another four will be planted in early December.
The trees in these orchards include three old favourites, much loved for their tasty fruit – Victoria plum, Conference pear and Cox’s Orange Pippin apple. A second apple variety, Jonagold, has also been included. This is another excellent eating apple developed in America.
Tower Hamlets Homes has created the first micro-orchard on its estates. This is located beside Brodick House and contains ten fruit trees including plum, cherry, apple and pear. They have used tree logs from our felled trees to create a border for the orchard (photo left).
In addition to providing a healthy, tasty snack for park users and residents, orchards are valuable for wildlife. The flowers provide a brief boom of nectar for bees and other pollinating insects in spring, and any fruit not consumed by people is welcomed by birds and invertebrates in autumn. There are also a number of insects, particularly moths and beetles, which are specialist feeders on fruit trees, eating their leaves, flowers or dead wood. Orchards are also a reminder of the area’s history, as fruit-growing was widespread in the East End in the 18th Century. None of these old orchards survive, but place names such as Orchard Wharf and Orchard Place are a reminder of that time.
Photos by John Archer (top two) and Matus Holecko. Click to enlarge