Iona Close Orchard
Iona Close Orchard is a fascinating relic of a Victorian garden. The houses to which it originally belonged date to about 1825. Hidden away behind a few mature ash and Norway maple trees are several fine old fruit trees, apples, pears, plums and a mulberry. Although it has become has become overgrow, it has remained largely undisturbed, and is therefore a haven for wildlife. Old orchards are generally of high nature conservation value and there is concern that they may disappear. There are a number of uncommon invertebrates which specialise in feeding on dead wood or sap runs on fruit trees. Fruit and nectar also provide food for other foraging insects and birds.
The Orchard is located at the southern end of Ladywell Fields and is a designated 'Site of Importance for Nature Conservation' (SINC) and is currently owned jointly by the Borough of Lewisham and by L&Q Housing Association.
There is a need to carry out basic vegetation management to enable access so that a restoration project is possible. Some of the existing trees are crowded out by others and need to be removed to make space. Therefore, the restoration would involve establishing an access path and then the selective removal of some trees and scrub to favour identified fruit trees. The project will look to enhance the fruit stock by appropriate additional planting. Thanks to a successful bid to the Mayors Fund back in 2011 work started on turning this old site in to a viable orchard.
This old orchard, bounded by Ladywell Fields, Iona Close, Ravensbourne Park Road and the back gardens of Bournville Road is rather overgrown, but retains some fine old fruit trees. A large part of the site is covered with ash trees but there are two large pedunculate oaks near the western boundary. Other areas are covered in dense scrub including bramble and elder, There is also an abundance of ivy (Hedera helix) scrambling over the ground and reaching up the branches of trees and a patch of snowberry that is spreading from the north west corner of the site.
Formerly the site has several fruit trees nestling within this vegetation, including fine old specimens of plum, pear and apple and an ancient, gnarled black mulberry. Most of these trees have now disappeared apart from several old pears. Old orchards are generally of high nature conservation value. There are a number of uncommon invertebrates which specialise in feeding on dead wood or sap runs on fruit trees. One such species found at this site is the red belted clearwing moth. Fruit and nectar also provide food for foraging insects and birds. Old orchards may also be culturally valuable, containing old varieties of fruit trees which are now rare in cultivation.
Recent planting in the orchard has included hawthorn & blackthorn whips, an apple, plum, fig and a mulberry tree. The current management of the orchard has been devised to regenerate some of these fruit tree varieties and to carefully manage the trees that remain.
The site is locked, but the friends and volunteers have regular open and work days. For more information on this, please contact the Friends Group.