Wallsworth Hall, an imposing C18 house, just north of Gloucester at Twigworth, is home to one of the UK’s most important national charities promoting conservation through the medium of art – in all its many forms. Established in 1988, Nature in Art (N in A) is now a unique centre, with an expanding membership and visitor base. It is dedicated, among other aims, to show how the visual and aesthetic qualities of art can help support ecology and encourage participation in realising common objectives.
The large garden area surrounding Wallsworth Hall provides space for many sculptures and a site for a busy Education Centre with outreach work with schools, art groups and visiting artists in residence. The garden is also very popular with visitors, with circular walks and picnic places, and it has an excellent range of wildlife. However, the far end of the garden had been left largely untouched and had become overgrown and inaccessible. N in A’s Trustees decided to restore this area – of around a 1/4 acre – by establishing a small orchard of local varieties of apples to supplement some older fruit trees around the partially walled boundary.
Following enquiries from N in A’s staff, contact with the Gloucestershire Orchard Trust (GOT) was made which led to discussions on how plans for the new orchard could be made and put in train. GOT (and N in A) member Keith Turner agreed to collaborate with N in A Director Simon Trapnell and the Education Officer Catherine Bunn in drawing up practical plans. These included using N in A volunteers first, to clear, by hand, the area of its jungle of briars, nettles and invasive elder; and then to prepare the new area for planting up to 15 fruit trees, mainly apples. The emphasis would be on heritage varieties – a mixture of culinary, cider and dessert types, which would be sourced from GOT member Rob Watkins’ Lodge Farm Trees nursery near Berkeley. A mix of native grass and wildflower seed will be broadcast under the trees to augment the existing flora and so form a natural sward under the trees for wildlife conservation, especially habitat for bees, butterflies and moths.
Sufficient ground was ready by autumn 2019 for the first trees to be planted, but continued wet conditions delayed planting until early 2020. These trees soon established and made good growth in 2020. Meanwhile, the remainder of the area was prepared for clearing and planting which took place the following winter. Consisting of grafts on M25, MM106 and MM111 rootstocks, all were local Gloucestershire or regional Three Counties varieties/cultivars. Examples include Ashmeads Kernel, Longney Russet, Arlingham Schoolboy, Yellow Willy etc. One perry pear has also been included in the mix for a special spot in the new orchard.
The plantings were completed in early 2021 with a total of 16 trees well established, but leaving a legacy of further work by N in A volunteers to maintain the new orchard over the next few years. There was, very likely, an earlier orchard at Wallsworth Hall which would have provided fruit for the house and its residents. So it’s very satisfying that the new trees will restore these links and again be part of the future history of this lovely house.
Keith Turner 6/1/22
More information on Nature in Art: Located at Twigworth off the A38, near Gloucester GL2 9PA. https://natureinart.org.uk/