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Pensford Field Orchard

The orchard was planted in 2004. When I recently took over as Chair of Pensford Field Environmental Trust, I was presented with a large carrier bag full of important documents. On my first rummage through I discovered the answer to a question that has always intrigued me – What are all the trees in the orchard? – it was the planting plan.
An hour or so spent with Google delivered the following links to information about each of the trees.

1          Red Devil                    Eating Apple
Red Devil is an attractive modern English mid-season apple, developed by the influential English apple enthusiast Hugh Ermen. It is notable for its attractive pink juice.

2          Bramley’s Seedling   Cooking apple
'Bramley's Seedling' is a culinary apple that is vigorous and partially tip bearing. It can grow to 2.5-8m in height and width, depending on the rootstock. Pale pink flowers are followed by fruit that can be used from November to February

3          Louise Bonne                        Pear
Louise Bonne of Jersey' is a richly flavoured, buttery and juicy dessert pear. It produces good, regular crops with a season of use from October to November. A hardy tree, the blossom shows some resistance to frost, but is susceptible to scab.

4          Blenheim Orange      Eating Apple
'Blenheim Orange' is both a culinary and dessert cultivar. This very vigorous tree is suitable for northerly, colder, higher rainfall areas. The light crops of apples have a yellow-green skin, becoming yellow and flushed orange-red, and a characteristic nutty flavour. Fruits can be used from late September for cooking and from October to December or January as an eater.

5          Opal                            Plum
'Opal' is a reliably fruiting, dessert gage to 2.5-4m in height depending upon the rootstock. Flowers white in early spring, green fruits in early August.

6          Orleans Reinette        Eating Apple
An old-fashioned 18th century French apple, with a good reputation for flavour, but usually not a good cropper.

7          Vranja                         Quince
‘Vranja' is a large, broad-crowned deciduous shrub, or small tree, with leaves grey-hairy beneath and pink-tinged flowers to 5cm wide. Large pear-shaped, green fragrant fruits become golden-yellow when ripe.

8          Reverend W. Wilk      Cooking Apple
One of the Reverend W. Wilks' real blessings is that it is a cooking apple that is slightly premature and so is ready to use when blackberries are ripe. Other virtues include a very large, striking green apple with bright white flesh, a good sharp flavour and reasonable resistance to all the sins of apple trees like canker, scab and mildew. 

9          Limelight                     Eating Apple
Limelight apple trees produce mid-season eating apples that store well. They are specifically bred with the amateur grower in mind and so are really easy to grow. They produce heavy crops of yellow-green eating apples that are deliciously crisp, sharp and refreshing.

10        Winter Nelis                Pear
A small russet pear with grainy flesh, which is perfect for cooking or perry and is good eaten fresh if you like a firmer bite. They store exceptionally well, until March in ideal, cold conditions and the fruit sometimes stay on the tree into the new year.

11        Egremont Russet         Eating Apple
The most well-known and delicious of the russet apples. The russet refers to where the skin becomes slightly rough and ochre coloured when the apple is fully ripe. The shape is also distinctive being slightly flattened and doughnut like while being of medium size. The flesh is cream to pale yellow coloured, firm and crisp but is quite dry in texture because, for an eating apple, it is relatively high in tannins. In spite of this the apple is sweet and has a rich, some say nutty, flavour. The tree itself is compact and is very free spurring making it crop heavily.

12        Nottingham                 Medlar
'Nottingham' is a small, deciduous tree, more upright than the species, with large, leathery leaves and cup-shaped white flowers in spring. This is a great-flavoured medlar, but the fruit are small - about 4cm across.

13        Oullins Gage               Plum
'Oullins Gage' is a reliably fruiting self-fertile dessert gage to 2.5-4m in height depending upon the rootstock. White flowers, yellow-green fruit in mid August.

A Short History of Pensford Field, Kew

George Hulme has kindly written this history of Pensford Field.

Pensford Field, of approximately 2 acres, is the remnant of an old orchard situated to the south west of Kew Village, from the 17th to the late 19th Century.

During the 18th Century, night soil from the City of London was brought down river to a wharf, near to the old sewage works, and used as a natural fertiliser for the nearby orchards and market gardens. Many broken clay pipes and pottery will be found whilst digging at Pensford Field.

In the early 20th Century, the land formed part of the Popham Estate, owned by the Leyborne Pophams, whose family seat was at Littlecote House, Wiltshire.

Following residential development in the area in the 1920’s, the land at Pensford Field was assigned for sports use for Gainsborough Secondary School and set out for both ball and field sports.

 When Gainsborough Secondary School was closed in the early 1980’s, the land was reassigned to Darell Primary School, but the playing fields remained largely unused.

In Spring 1991, Pensford Field was proposed to be sold by Richmond Council and developed for residential use. Private developers were looking to acquire two of the bungalows on North Road, so as to demolish them and give good road access into the site.
The parent governors of Darell School called a public meeting in June 1991, and asked for public support to save Pensford Field as a site for local nature conservation and for environmental education.

In March 1992, Richmond Leisure Services Committee agreed to allow the development of the site for community use. The proposal had the full support of the London Ecology Unit, the London Wildlife Trust and the local ward councillors. Councillor Serge Lourie said at the time:   “This is a victory both for local democracy and for Richmond’s Environmental Charter.”

On 19th November 1992, the first tree was planted on the site by the Mayor of Richmond, Councillor Anne Summers, with the help of local children. This was the first of over 800 trees to be planted, by the end of 1992, by schoolchildren from Darell and Queens Primary Schools and from the local community. These comprised three distinct areas called Darell Wood, Queens Wood and Pensford Wood.

The remainder of the site was principally populated by Rye Grass and Yarrow.  Tree species were planted to reflect the local habitat, including native Oak, Silver Birch, Ash, Hazel, Field Maple and Holly underplanting.

A hedgerow was planted in September 1993, running east to west along the site border with Pensford Tennis Club. The hedgerow included a variety of tree species, including Hawthorn, Maple and Hazel as well as wild shrub rose. The plants grown at the base of the hedgerow included Yarrow, Gerrymander Speedwell, thistles and cleavers. 

In 1993 and 1994, volunteers planted a variety of wildflowers across the field, including Ox Eyed Daisies, lesser Knapweed, Autumn Hawkbit, Greater Stitchwort and Musk Mallow. An annual Guy Fawkes night and the burning of a large bonfire, organised by the Kew Society, created a beneficial habitat for wildflower planting, during the late 1990’s.

With the help of the Richmond branch of the British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, the central area of the site was enclosed with cleft post and rail fencing and a latch gate and stile created for access into the site.

To increase natural diversity, the first pond was created in December 1998. Planting within and at the margins of the pond included Flowering Rush, Water Mint and Marsh Marigolds. 

 An apple tree orchard was planted in January 2003 and celebrated by a traditional wassail. The varieties of apple trees within the orchard were specially selected as older varieties, native to South-East England, and reflecting the history of this area of Kew, which was once covered by orchards in the 18th and 19th centuries. Advice on varieties was given by specialists at the Royal Botanic Gardens.  In 2005, within the mound closest to the hedgerow, volunteers constructed a reptile hibernaculum, containing a network of interconnecting tunnels and corridors, to provide an ideal location for grass snakes and slowworm to hibernate. A south facing slope was created along the mound to allow for cold-blooded reptiles to bask in the sun.

Since 2005, much progress has been made in creating further opportunities for nature conservation and environmental education. We are very much indebted to the hard work and effort of the Environmental Trust members and volunteers in continuing in this work.
Pensford Field is now a unique part of Kew’s natural environment, supporting a wide variety of plants and wildlife, and providing an invaluable educational resource, within walking distance, for local schoolchildren. 

The hedgerows act as a haven for wildlife, including nesting birds as well as small mammals and invertebrates. The pond is home to frogs, toads and common newts, in addition to numerous water invertebrates and dragonflies. 

The flora found in the area is highly diverse. By careful management of the site it is anticipated that the diversity of plant and animal life on the site will increase further.

GH/Pensford Field/1.9.17

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