Diamond-shaped orchard planting marks the end of town's year of jubilee events
A small apple orchard in the shape of a diamond has been planted at Marlborough Common to commemorate the year of the Queen's diamond jubilee.
And Sunday's planting was also a milestone for the Community Orchard volunteers who want to turn Marlborough into a town in an orchard.
Marlborough Community Orchard Group chairman Philippa Davenport told enthusiasts, who had paraded up Kingsbury Hill from the town hall, led by a piper: “This is the first time we are going to plant a full quota of Wiltshire varieties
“We are saving them for posterity, to be enjoyed by our children's children. We are planting trees here and at other spots around the town, so that we truly become a town in an orchard.”
And she praised the community groups and individuals that had sponsored saplings. “The numbers are huge,” she said. “We may have a surfeit. The sooner we get our own apple press and our own bees the better.”
Bees are vital for the pollination of apple trees: it was the absence of bees due to the summer's rain that led to this autumn's disastrous apple harvest.
So among the traditional Wiltshire varieties – one of each in the diamond – volunteers planted two crab apple trees. They will grow more quickly and larger than the fruit trees, and attract pollinating insects, including bees.
Other fruit trees, including plums and damsons, will be planted in a second tranche on November 25 – during National Tree Week. And the Tree Council has chosen Marlborough as one of 60 towns that will be receiving a Jubilee Tree.
Philippa told volunteers that many communities had asked for an oak. Marlborough requested, and will receive, a mulberry tree, which itself has royal connections – James I tried, and failed, to establish a British silk industry using mulberry bushes to feed the silkworms.
“We will plant the tree early next year,” pledged Philippa. “And we will invite children to dance round the mulberry bush on a cold and frosty morning.”
The first tree to be planted, by Marlborough's mayor Edwina Fogg and her consort Nick, was of the Burn's variety, first recorded at Tottenham House – the Savernake Forest ancestral seat of Lord Cardigan – in 1831. The tree will produce a small, sweet eating apple in around three years time.
Cllr Fogg said the orchard “painted a great picture of community spirit. “We will be planting, tending and harvesting these trees,” she said, “and the great thing is that we're all entitled to come and pick the fruit.”
The orchard was then blessed by the reverend Andrew Studdert-Kennedy, who sprinkled holy water on the first of the trees. But not before a Jack Russell, belonging to one of the volunteers, had conducted a water-sprinkling ceremony of its own.
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pics Neil Goodwin