Historic community orchard
Historic community orchard, Conwy
The fertile south-facing slopes west of the walled town of Conwy were historically used to grow fruit and vegetables for the inhabitants. The site fell into neglect in the second half of the 20th century, as mass production of food became established. Local residents continued to help themselves to the occasional apple, plum or pear, but most of the fruit was beyond reach and was wasted.
In 2007, the Conwy Orchard Community Group was formed to maintain and improve the orchard. It works alongside Conwy County Borough Council, which owns the land. Some invasive plants, such as a sycamore tree, have been selectively removed but the area around the trees is left in an overgrown state for the benefit of wildlife and to produce blackberries and rosehips (ingredients for preserves and drinks made by volunteers from the group). Careful pruning of the fruit trees has increased the crop, which the group harvests for distribution in the community.
Some of the trees await identification. Some have been identified as old varieties, including the largest known group of Denbigh Plum trees (which would have been named Conwy Plum had this group been discovered first!). Some of the apple varieties date back to the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries, including Court Pendu Plat, Ashmead’s Kernel and Devonshire Quarrenden.
The group also conducts a Wassail ceremony at the orchard each January, reviving an ancient rite to thank the trees for last season’s harvest and wake them for the year to come.