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Sergeant`s Orchard Nature Reserve 2005

This little known Nature Reserve is located on the back road between Janks Green and Nortons Farm. It can be seen to the left of a bridleway, locally known as Balls Chase leading onto the Wormingford airfield.

It is owned and managed by the Essex Wildlife Trust located at Gt Wigborough, south of Colchester.

Sergeants Orchard was once part of the Sergeants Farm estate. The name Sergeant did not appear until the late 18th century, prior to this the farm had no specific name. Records can trace the farm back as far as 1498 with the Brett family being the principal owners. Presumably, the farm got its name from a Mr Sergeant who was mentioned in records dated 1769.
A map of 1825 indicates dwellings at Balls Chase, there was "Frenchers Cottage" at the entrance to the Chase on the left and a further three cottages down the bridleway. Sadly nothing survives today.

For some years this century Sergeants Farm was the home of a redoubtable parish clerk, Robert Harvey and his wife Florence. Robert was an enthusiastic hedge layer, an art we seldom see today. He will be remembered as a great character, often cycling around the village complete with black beret. He died in 1967 and his wife Florence some years later. Florence bequeathed Sergeants to Philip Tabner who looked after her in her final years.
Philip died in 1997 and bequeathed £600 to Mount Bures Church together with a parcel of land that he wished to remain as a wild life haven.

orchard1 This land was left to the Essex Wildlife Trust and comprises two ex-arable fields and an old 18th century orchard.
Within the orchard area a wide range of old varieties of fruit trees remain, together with an old pond and the remnants of the hedges.
Part of the eastern fields were lost to the MoD for the airfield during the war but returned to arable after hostilities ceased.
However, the old field hedgerows and Nortons Wood, which lay along the northern boundary, were lost.
orchard2
Reserve to the left of the Bridleway
orchard3
Eastern Field

The overall aims are to restore the old orchard, establish a new orchard on the western field using stock taken from the old varieties in the existing orchard, and to manage the eastern field as a spring-sown arable field for the benefit of arable weed species. The old hedges will be restored by coppicing and replanting, particularly along the eastern boundary, and the two old ponds on the site will be restored. The western meadow will be reseeded with a suitable grass and wildflower mix prior to being fenced and replanted with stock taken from the old trees. The old orchard will be carefully pruned and cleared of invasive scrub and the whole orchard areas then managed with sheep or pig grazing beneath the fruit trees in the traditional manner.

Work is gradually restoring the Apple, Plum, Pear and Greengage trees, together with a small pond now inhabited by Smooth Newts.
A tree nursery has been established which will provide grafts for existing root stocks, As they become established the rest of the field will be planted as a new orchard. The reserve is abundant with wildlife such as Yellowhammers, Speckled Wood Butterfly and many plants such as primroses.


Reserve News 2006,
Volunteers planted out the new orchard in one of the fields during January.(see photographs below)
Approximately 64 trees were planted at 10metre spacings, which is the traditional spacing for orchard trees. Pears and apples were sourced from the tree nursery on site.
These have been created from grafts taken from the existing trees in the orchard and from locally donated material. Not all the varieties have yet been identified but amongst those that have are D'Arcy Spice, Lane's Prince Albert and Black Worcester Pear. The latter is from the orchard and has enormous fruit.
The new hedge alongside the airfield has suffered a few failures and it is intended to replace these as soon as possible

Reserve News, Winter >Spring 2008
Most of the work revolves around the new and old orchards. For the former, we have recently re-mulched around the trees and replanted 4 trees that had failed. This winter we will start formative pruning. For the old orchard, we will be carrying out work on some of the old apples to try and "revive" them, this will involve reducing the height of one or two and generally clearing scrub from around the trees. The aim is to create a grass sward that would be suitable for grazing with sheep. We will also be repairing the old hut and removing a few non-fruit trees from amongst the plums. Two of the field maples in the western boundary of the orchard are to be coppiced. It is also intended to put a couple of owl boxes up in the large field and we should have the sheep back again in both the large field and the new orchard.
We have started grafting further rootstocks for apples. These are half-standard as opposed to the full standard previously done and planted out in the new orchard. One tree we are trying to get cuttings from is the Grey Pippin.
Do you know anyone we could contact who might have one in their garden and would let us take some cuttings for grafting?

If anyone wants to contact us about the reserve or assist with the work then contact:-
David and Shirley Green, Joint Wardens. Tel no 01206 240005 
 

planting
planting
Meadow ready for planting the 64 fruit trees including Apple and Pear.
planting
orchard
January 2006 - the first of the Apple trees to be planted
November 2006 - the same field.
orchard
<<<< April 2007

Link to additional pages, 2014 onwards

Historical information taken from the book, "Mount Bures its Lands and People"
Photographs by Alan Beales.

Wildlife trust logoLink to the Essex Wildlife Trust web site.
Updated 24/06/2014