TRADITIONAL orchards are defined as a group of fruit or nut trees planted at low densities on grasslands and are managed in a low intensity way by grazing of livestock.

This contrasts with many modern orchards, which are managed intensively for food production which often use short-lived, high-density trees, and are characterised by the input of chemicals such as pesticides and inorganic fertilisers, and frequent mowing of the orchard floor.

Apples, plums, cherries, walnuts and pears are just some of the fruits and nuts produced in our traditional orchards.

Traditional orchards are now being recognised as a vital refuge for wildlife.

They often contain a mosaic of habitats, including hedgerows, scrub and grasslands, as well as fruit trees of varying ages, all of which can support and provide fascinating havens for a wide range of our wildlife.

Autumn is a great time to visit an orchard.

In preparation for the cold months ahead, mammals and birds feast on fallen fruit.

Fungi such as waxcaps, puffballs and field mushrooms, along with invertebrates, can be found on orchard floors or even tree trunks and the low intensity grazing encourages the growth of wildflowers in spring and summer.

Orchards are also great places to seek out unusual lichens and mosses.

Also, a seasonal favourite, mistletoe, is often found on apple trees.

So, if you are wondering how you can manage your orchard, the key principle for wildlife conservation is to continue or reinstate low intensity management which includes careful pruning, allowing existing trees to age with the potential to develop veteran features such as hollow trunks and split bark which are a refuge for a wide range of wildlife species, while also planting replacements to ensure continuity.

It is important to manage your orchard as a whole; while trees are the most important habitat for some wildlife, many species depend on a mosaic of habitats for food and shelter.

For instance, hedgerows of mixed shrub and tall trees provide nesting sites for birds and nectar sources for pollinators.

Also, orchard floors with a variety of sward lengths provide opportunities for insects and invertebrate to find food and nest.

Maintaining and strengthening links between orchards and habitats such as hedgerows and parkland is important for overall biodiversity and can be a major factor in increasing wildlife populations, and adaption to climate change.