Background to the Turnditch Orchard project

This page is a summary of the origins of the Turnditch  Orchard Project

In August 2013 we spotted an auction announcement in a local newspaper. It was for a 0.8 acre plot of agricultural land. We realised this small field was not very far from our new home in Belper Derbyshire. The plot was located close to a road and was also listed as having river frontage. The following day we drove to the edge of the village of Turnditch and found the field. It was unkempt with waist high grass and thistles. There's a patch of woodland included on the sides of the road embankment leading up to a rail bridge. A public footpath runs beside the short stretch of river frontage at one end of the long narrow plot. River frontage is too grand a term. Here, the River Ecclesbourne is little more than a brook. The guide price for the auction was not too high, but we realised it was highly unlikely that planning permission would be granted for the land.

The thought came to us that we could develop the land as an orchard. It would keep us busy during our years of retirement while also producing a useful crop of fruit. We decided to bid at the auction to see if we could secure the land. We were later to discover the owner had probably purchased the land some years previously with the intention of gaining planning permission for new houses. The plot has been grossly neglected over recent years with dying hedges and unmaintained woodland. At the auction we didn't enter a bid until the very last moment. The auctioneers hammer was about to fall when we put in our bid and we'd won. We soon discovered the extra expenses involved. Let's say there were some unusual contract conditions attached to the sale plus auctioneers commission and fees.

The following day we revisited the site on the edge of Turnditch. We found clear evidence of some dumping of builders rubble on the site. We also found the wheel and other parts of a car on the embankment with a big gap in the hedge. Clearly there'd been some type of road traffic accident and not all of the mess had been cleared. It was not all bad news as the soil looks good and bodes well for our plans of an orchard. We're gradually clearing the land, though our progress has been a little bit slow due to illness.

It is located here: where the River Ecclesbourne runs under the A517 road.

What are our plans?
  • To clear the rough grass and thistles, to bring the derelict land back into good use;
  • To cut down and remove the Blackthorn and Alder sapling which have invaded the open ground;
  • To restore the hedges, by having then laid in the local Derbyshire/Staffordshire style;
  • To repair the fences to make the site safe and secure;
  • To plant a variety of orchard fruit trees for future crops. We are choosing varieties which do not normally grace the shelves of supermarkets. A list of the varieties can be found here.
  • We're going to coppice the woodland to remove the dead wood and rebuild the diversity of the local nature while also providing for a future crop of wood.
  • We going to clear the overgrown riverbank and take some measures to prevent further erosion. 
  • We're planning to install a couple of beehives on the site.
We're not intending to undertake any development of the land in terms of buildings. When the orchard is established and the woodland is safe to enter we'll take steps to let local people from the village enjoy the amenities. As far as possible we'll use organic methods and avoid the use of chemicals in the orchard.

We invite guests staying at our holiday home to visit the Orchard.

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