2005 marked 10 years of committed vision and effort by Diana Richards of Sawbridgeworth and Susan Clark of the Rural Enterprise Project in recognising the value of the Rivers site and gathering support to restore the historic Orchard. Over this time they led a dedicated volunteer group in transforming a thicket of briar and hawthorn into viable old variety fruit-bearing trees and giving the site back to Sawbridgeworth as a Community Orchard. When Diana retired from public life in 2007, she also resigned from the Rivers group and when the Rural Enterprise was reorganized, Susan’s post as consultant for the Rivers group ceased too.
A number of the volunteers who had been working in the Rivers Orchard have regrouped, ratified a constitution and have set our sights firmly through specific aims on saving the Orchard for the Community and ensuring its further development. We have also chosen a different name to reflect our goals: the Rivers Nursery Site and Orchard Group (RNSOG).
Future Protection of the Rivers Nursery Site & Orchard
Our focus for the future as we go forward with the new grouping is divided into several key areas:
Preserving & revitalising the site: Everything from maintenance, to raising awareness and lobbying through the media.
Orchard Use: Involving the local community in events and improving access to the site for events as well as using the site as a cultural and educational resource.
Robust Protection of the Site: RNSOG acting as a unit to liaise with interested parties and stakeholders to identify the best way the site can be managed and protected. Mapping of rare varieties of fruits and plants & creating a directory based on ongoing biodiversity studies.
Identification of unique elements of the site and landscape with an emphasis on permanent statutory protection. RNSOG will seek to be an active partner as a planning consultee and to consult in other land ownership issues.
Communication: Developing and consolidating our contacts with national and other key fruit groups and organisations and building strategic alliances to ensure that as group we are well informed on local and national issues that have a direct impact on the future of the site.
Archive: Developing the Archive which stores historic and current items and increasing access to this valuable collection which is an equally important tool in getting the public informed of the importance of the site.
We are hopeful that these goals can be met with the help of East Herts and the interest and support of the local community. We are prepared to put in the work necessary and hope that new helpers will join us, not only in the maintenance of the site but in carrying out other aims. We would particularly like to welcome the skilful new volunteers who joined us this past year, who have undertaken all sorts of activities from pruning to making cider to doing research. Activities that are not only worthwhile but good fun!
Kate Yarnold, Chair
Rivers Nursery site is private land owned by East Herts District Council. Access to the site for activities is by invitation of the District Council as landowner and no public rights of access are implied.
A Year in the Orchard
In 2007 we continued with our annual maintenance plan and as the seasons for clearing, planting, cutting, pruning, picking and ditching came around with increasing frequency we express gratitude to our regular bunch of hard working volunteers who turn up rain or shine to assist with the tasks in hand. In March we were delighted to receive as a gift from East of England Apples & Orchards Project (EEAOP) 33 x 2 year old fruit trees to gap up some areas where we had lost trees.
These varieties included some of the special Rivers & Hertfordshire originals such as Rivers Nonsuch and Rivers Early Peach, & pears namely, Summer Beurre, Princess, Magnate, Saint Luke. Our volunteers turned up on cue to get them in the ground, all the trees are thriving and we will take good care of them. We are very grateful to EEAOP for this valuable gesture of support for our group.
Outside of the Orchard on 27th & 28th of April we attended the International Society of Arboriculture UK and Ireland meeting at Capel Manor and this was a very interesting meeting as we met many people from Planning Departments and were making the case for the protection of old orchards. Apple picking day was a huge success with great support from the local community young and old and we are grateful to Cam Valleys Orchards at Royston for processing our apple juice this year. Talks and guided tours to various individuals and groups continued through the year and this support and interest provides confidence to keep the project going.We attended the Apple Day annual event at Audley End and in return we were able to get the loan from EEAOP many of Brogdale’s special Hertfordshire Heritage apple varieties. We then had those on display at Apple Day in Church House which generated very good interest and another very special day in 2007.
Special thanks also for another comprehensive butterfly survey carried out by Charmaine Cooper for us again this year. Extracts from this will soon be published. We are very grateful for the people who come from far and wide to support us, the regular loyal band of volunteers, East Herts District Council, local press and the local community. A special mention goes to those around the country and the area with expert skills and knowledge who lend us their time and expertise and are passionate as we are about saving this important site.
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Hazel Mead 01279 724503
44 Ash Groves, Sawbridgeworth, Herts CM21 9LN
Kate Yarnold 01279 723617