Orchard planning and design update

Our plans for the orchard are continuing to develop. At the centre of the orchard, there will be an open space, surrounded by 7 large apple trees most closely associated with Histon, Impington, Cottenham and Cambridge. This space will be large enough for schools to use as an outdoor classroom.

On the South side of the orchard, closest to the busway, will be an area of smaller fruit trees, planted in a quincunx pattern, where the pattern of trees matches the five dots on a dice. This is typical of orchards planted in this area in the late 19th and early 20th century. These trees will eventually grow to be about 3-4m high, and so will be relatively easy to pick. We plan to plant the first of these trees early in 2013, and they should start to fruit in 2016.

On the northern side of the orchard, we’re planning an area of much larger fruit trees. This type of planting was used hundreds of years ago, when each farm might have had a few fruit trees to provide fruit for the house and local workers. These trees will eventually grow to be 4-6m high, possibly higher, and have the potential to live for well over 100 years. These trees are particularly good for wildlife; as well as encouraging birds, insects and small mammals, ancient apple trees provide a habitat for mosses and other plants such as liverworts.

The trees in this area will be planted from early in 2014. In the meantime we plan to establish this as a wildflower meadow so that we create a rich wildlife habitat which will evolve as the trees are planted and grow.

The orchard will be enclosed by a native hedge, parts of which will include fruit trees within the hedge. Plenty of space will be available for other features within the orchard, such as seating, bee hives, or other orchard-compatible planting. We have asked the local school children for suggestions, and we’d love to hear from anyone who has ideas that could form projects that use these spaces and would enhance the orchard.

Orders have been placed for the 7 trees that form the central clearing and for 18 trees for the Southern section. The varieties chosen are described below.

Apple trees

Tree Description
Histon Favourite A dessert apple, raised by John Chivers of Histon in 1800. Pale yellow skinned with a scattering of pink stripes. Sharp and crisp flavour when picked, mellowing with storage.
Chivers Delight A dessert apple, raised by Stephen Chivers of Histon in 1920. A medium to large sized dull green skinned apple that is occasionally flushed golden brown. Sold by Marks & Spencer in the 1990s.
Murfitt’s Seedling A cooker that was once popular in the Cottenham and Histon areas. Large and angular with a dull green coloured skin. Holds shape well when cooked and needs virtually no sugar.
Wayside A dessert apple, raised by Miss Cunningham of ‘Wayside’, on Huntington Road in Cambridge. It has a very distinctive fruity taste.
Cottenham seedling Another culinary apple, raised by Robert Norman of Cottenham. A long keeping cooking apple that is picked in October, and will keep through to March.
New Rock Pippin Raised in the Barnwell area of Cambridge and first exhibited in 1821. A spice-like flavour and long lasting fruit; fruit picked in October will keep through until May.
Jolly Miller A culinary apple that was popular in the Cottenham area and believed to be named after the pub in the village where fruit was once traded.
St Edmund’s Russet A Suffolk apple from Bury St Edmunds, dating back to 1845. A sweet, juicy and rich russet, which when really ripe has an almost pear like quality. Excellent for apple juice.
Perfection Another apple that is particularly good for juicing. This is from Bluntisham, and is a cross between a Cox?s Orange Pippin and Worcester Pearmain.
Lord Peckover This apple arose at Peckover House gardens in Wisbech. It is a very early dessert variety, best eaten in August. Its skin has a peach-like white bloom.
D’Arcy Spice An old variety, dating back to 1785. It is a very long keeper which develops a complex spice-like flavour over time. It has a scruffy appearance with irregular russeting over greenish golden skin and is quite oblong and ribbed in shape.
Norfolk Beefing One for keen cooks. This is another old variety dating back to 1698. Excellent for making dried apple rings, and for baking slowly in a moderate oven to make ‘Biffin cakes’ – once a popular Victorian delicacy around Christmas.
Neild’s Drooper An interesting tree with a distinctive weeping habit. This variety is from Woburn Park and was first raised in 1915.
Discovery An apple that is available in supermarkets! The original tree still survives in Langham, Essex. We?re including it as it is particularly good for juicing.
Sturmer Pippin A medium sized ribbed and occasionally oblong apple with a dull green skin and brownish orange flush. This is another long keeping variety; it will keep until June. It is very crisp and firm to eat early in the season but becomes less sharp with storage.
Lady Hollendale One of the earlier apples, that is best picked and eaten in August. This is a crisp and juicy red apple, and was grown for the Wisbech fruit markets in the 1920-30s.
Suffolk Pink This is the newest variety and was first raised in 1990. It is a more highly coloured ‘sport’ of the New Zealand apple Gala, which is another supermarket stalwart. It is now enjoying some commercial success in Suffolk, where it was first raised.
Five Crowned Pippin The oldest variety, dating back to 1500. A culinary apple, whose flavour is described as quite acidic and nutty.


Tree Description
Cambridge Gage A greenish yellow skinned gage that is probably a seedling of Green Gage. A more prolific cropper than Green Gage with sweet, soft, juicy flesh.
Willingham Gage Raised at Willingham as a seedling of a Green Gage. Selected by the RHS for its good cropping and excellent fruit quality.
Wallice’s Wonder Raised at Simpsons of Fordham for Eric Wallis of Bluntisham, by crossing the varieties Severn Cross and Victoria. A medium to large sized purple skinned plum with soft, sweet flesh.


Tree Description
Warden A culinary Bedfordshire pear; the name is derived from the Cistercian Abbey at Warden, where the fruit may have originated, possibly as early as the 1300s. It is a large cooking pear with greenish brown rough skin usually flushed dark red. The flesh is coarse and firm. Excellent for bottling and also roasting.
Beth A dessert pear, developed at the East Malling Research Station in Kent in the 1930s, this is an excellent early-season pear. Beth has a particularly good flavour, with the characteristic melting texture usually associated with the French pear varieties.