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Future of forgotten fruits assured by ‘gene bank’ orchard

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Rare species of fruit trees are to be saved from being lost from an area that was once one of the major fruit growing regions in England.

A ‘gene bank’ orchard is being created as part of the Grow With Wyre Landscape Partnership Scheme, which is led by the Forestry Commission. The two hectare orchard, located near Bewdley, will be planted with around 170 trees of different traditional varieties of fruit that were grown in the Wyre Forest area. Two trees are to be planted for each fruit variety.

Perry pears, plums, quince, medlar and varieties of cherry, such as Elton, Blackeagle and White Heart are to be planted in the gene bank to ensure their survival for future generations.

Saul Herbert, of Natural England with the Grow With Wyre Landscape Partnership, said:

“We have researched old records and heard from people reminiscing about what fruit used to grow in this region, and that has enabled us to produce a definitive list of fruit varieties that used to grow in the Wyre Forest.

“The Wyre Forest region was a massive fruit growing area for more than 150 years, as the orchards here produced fruit for towns and cities, like Birmingham.”

However, in the decades following the Second World War many of the traditional orchards began to be lost due to housing construction, fruit being grown in different ways and changes to dietary habits.

Two trees from each fruit variety will be planted on the site, off Dry Mill Lane, which, according to information gleaned from a Lidar survey, was once a traditional orchard site – so the scheme is helping to recreate the traditional landscape. Planting is due to take place during November and December.

There are also biodiversity benefits to the orchard gene bank, as traditional fruit trees harbour more life than fruit grown using modern methods.

Mr Herbert said:

“Traditional trees age more quickly than modern fruit bushes. This means they get signs of decay quicker, such as hollowing out and dead wood. This is fantastic for biodiversity – in particular for rare species such as the noble chafer beetle.

“The fallen fruit is also good for birds and insects – orchards in general are great for biodiversity.”

The gene bank orchard will also be used as an educational tool for schools, and as a publicly accessible reference site for people living in the area who want to discover what varieties of fruit tree they may have growing in their gardens.

Mr Herbert said:

“The gene bank orchard is a really important project because it will help ensure these fruit trees survive into future generations. Orchards are a really important part of the landscape in the Wyre Forest and we are helping this area return to looking like it did in the past.”

Funding for the new gene bank orchard is being provided by GrantScape as part of a £294,000 grant awarded through the charity’s Biodiversity Challenge Fund.

For more information about the Grow With Wyre projects visit


  1. Images of fruit trees are available by calling 0300 0602707

  2. The Forestry Commission is the lead partner in the Grow With Wyre Landscape Partnership Scheme, joined by Natural England, Shropshire County Council, Bewdley Development Trust, Butterfly Conservation, Worcester County Council, Wyre Forest Study Group, Wyre Community Land Trust, Wyre Forest District Council, Bewdley Development Trust and the National Trust.

  3. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for forestry in Great Britain. It supports woodland owners with grants; tree felling licences, regulation and advice; promotes the benefits of forests and forestry; and advises Government on forestry policy. It manages more than a million hectares (2.5 million acres) of national forest land for public benefits such as sustainable timber production, public recreation, nature conservation, and rural and community development. For further information, visit The Forestry Commission is the Lead Partner in the ‘Grow With Wyre’ Scheme.

  4. The Grow With Wyre Landscape Partnership Scheme is being delivered by a partnership of the following organisations; Heritage Lottery Fund, Forestry Commission, Natural England, Wyre Forest District Council, Worcestershire County Council, Butterfly Conservation, Shropshire County Council, Wyre Forest Community Land Trust, Wyre Forest Study Group, National Trust and Bewdley Development Trust.

  5. The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) awarded a grant of £1.86 million to the Grow With Wyre’ Landscape Partnership Scheme.  HLF enables communities to celebrate, look after and learn more about our diverse heritage. From our great museums and historic buildings to local parks and beauty spots or recording and celebrating traditions, customs and history, HLF grants open up our nation’s heritage for everyone to enjoy. They have supported more than 33,900 projects, allocating £4.4billion across the UK.  Website:

  6. GrantScape – GrantScape has a twelve-year environmental and community grant-making heritage. It is also a major funder of biodiversity projects across England and Wales (see  Since 2005, GrantScape has awarded some £10 million through its Biodiversity Challenge Fund to 25 major projects considered to deliver the most significant gains for UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority habitats and species. Grow with Wyre’s “Rejuvenating Traditional Orchards, Special Trees and Ancient Hedgerows” project was one of six grant award winners under its 2007 Biodiversity Challenge Fund.  The £294,000 grant from GrantScape is being made available through the Landfill Communities Fund, using monies provided by Waste Recycling Group Ltd.

  7. About Natural England
    Natural England is the government’s independent adviser on the natural environment. Established in 2006 our work is focused on enhancing England’s wildlife and landscapes and maximising the benefits they bring to the public.
    • We establish and care for England’s main wildlife and geological sites, ensuring that over 4,000 National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest are looked after and improved.
    • We work to ensure that England’s landscapes are effectively protected, designating England’s National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Marine Conservation Zones, and advising widely on their conservation.
    • We run Environmental Stewardship and other green farming schemes that deliver over £400 million a year to farmers and landowners, enabling them to enhance the natural environment across two thirds of England’s farmland.
    • We fund, manage, and provide scientific expertise for hundreds of conservation projects each year, improving the prospects for thousands of England’s species and habitats.
    • We promote access to the wider countryside, helping establish National Trails and coastal trails and ensuring that the public can enjoy and benefit from them.


Saul Herbert on 0300 0602707 or email
Bob Griffiths (Wyre Forest Landscape Partnership/Forestry Commission) on 01905 533838 or email or contact Alison Coggon (Administrative Officer - Grow With Wyre) on 01584-813828 or email or