View of Warneford Meadow, Oxford

Friends of Warneford Meadow, Oxford

Warneford Orchard

Warneford Orchard lies between the Warneford Hospital and the Meadow. It contains a variety of apples but has been sadly neglected in recent years.

The following note on the meadow was sent by FOWM member Floris van den Broecke to the NEAC meeting in Feb 2007

I wish to draw your urgent attention to the neglect and despoliation of an area of Warneford Meadow known as The Orchard. This neglect is in the form of the destruction of trees.

As a Friend of Warneford Meadow, may I also urge members of the North East Area Committee to ensure that communications from Council Officers demanding clearance of dumped soil and building rubble are complied with by those who are responsible for these acts of vandalism and for the maintenance of this Orchard, may they be the same or otherwise. Orchards need a breeze to ventilate them. Dumping green waste and soil prevent this vital condition.

Part of The Orchard is abut 80 years of age with the remaining part about 50 years old. There are many healthy trees and many varieties sampled by the local population at harvest time and beyond. Some argue that orchards of this kind should be protected. And for good reason. Old orchards are usually protected and supported in the Biodiversity Strategies produced by local councils such as South Oxordshire. The Oxford City Council's Biodiversity Strategy is not yet available.

They are also frequently the repository of rare old apple varieties often selected because of their particular suitability to a locality. From a sample of only 3 apple varieties picked off the ground in January, one uncommon and one extremely rare apple tree was found, the Emperor Alexander which originated in the Ukraine and was brought to the UK in 1805. There may well be other rare fruit trees in the orchard. Full identification of individual fruit trees was not carried out as part of the Environmental Impact Assessment supporting recent planning applications for the Warneford Playing Field or Meadow and this will now only be possible in the autumn when fruit is borne.

For the Community, wanton destruction and ultimate loss of the Orchard would mean the disappearance of what the Reader Emeritus in Plant Sciences and Fellow Emerius of St Catherine's College, Dr Barrie Juniper, considers 'eminently worth saving'. He also says that it would be 'highly detrimental to wildlife' if any portion of the orchard was destroyed by neglect or dumping. With regard to wildlife, the bullace or plum suckers around the Orchard are the likely next colonisation area of the rare and threatened Brown Hairstreak butterfly Thecla betulae, a species in continuing national decline and listed in the UK Biodiversity

Action Plan. If we were cynical, we would suspect that an area of neglect would be easier to pass off as so called previously developed or brown field land and would therefore appear as less of a loss when covered by a 13 Metre wide metalled highway as s proposed in some quarters. Neglect and destruction here is a self fulfilling pre-amble to development.

To the Council, any loss of their authority should not be tolerated. If an order to clear an area where fly tipping demonstrably took place is not complied with by an individual, would that individual not be liable to a penalty? I believe that dumping or fly tipping occurs at Warneford Orchard, except that it is not by an individual, it is either a building contractor on their own initiative and convenience, or acting on behalf of their clients.

Fortunately, Warneford Orchard has Friends. They and other local groups such as the Town Furze Allotment Holders have expressed an interest in caring for the trees. In the meantime, dumping and willful neglect and damage continues as evidenced by the pictures submitted. I urge you to request the Council

Officers to enforce their repeated requests to stop dumping and remove the waste and spoils.