Bird and insect habitats lost as number of traditional orchards more than halved since 1950.
Dozens of traditional orchards are to be planted across England and Wales by the National Trust in an attempt to tackle the dramatic decline of one of Britain’s most cherished habitats.
The charity will create 68 new orchards by 2025 as part of a wider programme to boost the number of wildlife-rich areas.
Orchards are to be planted in places including the Penrose estate, in south Cornwall, and Mottisfont, in Hampshire. Gardeners will also plant apple, plum, pear and damson trees at spots including Gunby Estate, in Lincolnshire, and on the Gower peninsula, in south Wales.
The National Trust, which looks after nearly 200 orchards, said it was concerned that about 60% of small traditional orchards in England had disappeared since 1950 as a result of changes in agricultural practices, market forces, neglect and development.
David Bullock, the head of species and habitat conservation at the charity, said: “We launched a new wildlife and nature strategy in 2015, which included an ambition to create 25,000ha [62,000 acres] of priority habitat by 2025. We identified traditional orchards as being of particular importance because they provide the perfect home for a variety of birds, pollinators and insects.