Valleyfield Estate Community Orchard
Valleyfield Woodland Park in High Valleyfield, Fife, features the deep winding valley of the Bluther Burn and a near continuous cover of deciduous mixed trees species. The present day woodland forms part of the inventory Designed Landscape created in 1801-2 for Sir Robert Preston by Sir Humphry Repton. Valleyfield House was sold to the Fife Coal Company in 1907, who stripped the roof of its copper in 1918 before abandoning it. They later sold what remained of the estate to the Forestry Commission in 1931, and the derelict house was demolished ten years later. In 1985 the Valleyfield lands were purchased by Dunfermline District Council and opened as a public park in 1990. Led by voluntary group West Fife Woodlands, a 1.2ha area of scrubland is being restored into a community orchard at the site of the old Estate kitchen garden.
As well as being a place for the local community to enjoy, the variety of trees planted, as well as the improved hedgerows, will ensure that the garden attracts a mixture of species of bird and bug life as well.
During early summer 2017, the orchard and WFW group welcomed back three schools for a 'Blossom' event led by Margaret Miller from Forth Valley Orchards Initiative. In late July the relevant trees had a prune during a soft fruit tree pruning event also led by Margaret. These sessions have carried out necessary maintenance to the trees as well as developing the skills of WFW group members and local people to ensure the trees remain in good shape for years to come.
In April, WFW group tested out their new hay rake machine to cut the wildflower meadow surrounding the fruit trees. The previous machine was leaving the cut grass behind, meaning a lot of raking by hand was necessary to remove the cuttings from the site. Wildflowers thrive in poor soils and leaving cut grass on the meadow would increase the nutrient level in the soil and encourage grasses (which are good for invertebrates too!) to outcompete the flowers.
In January 2017, with the orchard bedding in well, twenty one group members benefitted from training on fruit tree pruning provided by Margaret Miller of Forth Valley Orchards Initiative. WFW members also group started drawing up plans for the creation of a schools seating area adjacent to the site. This will be delivered in late 2017.
In February 2016, over 250 children from 7 schools in Fife helped to transform the space into an orchard for people and wildlife to enjoy. Pupils and teachers from Torryburn, Saline, Inzievar, St Serfs, Tuliallan, Culross and Holy Name Primary Schools, alongside volunteers from West Fife Woodlands group, all helped to bring the orchard to fruitition. The children planted up the orchard then played orchard themed games and walked the snowdrop trail through the woods. The 176 fruit trees planted are apple, pear, plum, cherry, quince, damson, gage and hazelnut. This new orchard includes 30 heritage trees - varieties that have grown in this area of Scotland for many years. It takes a while for an orchard to develop, so please be patient! We expect trees to start producing fruit in 3 years.
As the project continues there will be multiple opportunities for volunteers and members of the local community to participate in species recording, fruit harvesting and celebration - you can keep up with these events on the West Fife Woodlands facebook page. In 2015/16, this project has been supported by Awards for All.
Before this, in 2014-15, essential ground works were carried out by contractors, including clearing scrub and tree stumps, harrowing, and sowing the area with wildflower seeds. The path network was laid out and deer fencing erected to make sure that the young fruit trees and shrubs are not eaten by deer when they are planted. In 2014/15, this project was generously supported by Fife Environment Trust.
August 2014 / October 2014. Images courtesy of J Le Marie.
Winter 2012/13. Image courtesy of IFLI Team
Did you know? Fife Council are the current owners of the woodland park. Valleyfield was Repton’s only Scottish commission, although he never visited, instead sending his sons to survey the site before presenting Preston with his Red Book outlining plans for the estate.
Find out more about West Fife Woodlands, at the West Fife Villages website.