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 was restored into a community orchard at the site of the old Estate kitchen garden between 2014 and 2018. As well as being an enhanced place for the local community to enjoy, the variety of trees planted, as well as the improved hedgerows and thriving wildflower meadow, will ensure that the garden also attracts a mixture of species of bird and bug life. The site will be maintained by the West Fife Woodland group who are always open to new members. If you would like to get involved with looking after the site, you can contact the group via their facebook page or the West Fife Villages website. Read on to find out how the orchard you see today came into being.
In Spring 2018 contractors were appointed to undertake the final aspect of the project, the build of a picnic and schools seating areas adjacent to the orchard. Visitors to the site can now enjoy the raised wooden seating and school groups will find the semi-circular design ideal for teaching out-of-doors. A colourful interpretation board was installed and describes the varieties of orchard trees planted by each school.
During January 2018 the West Fife Woodlands Group received news that their application for Incoproration as a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation (SCIO) had been approved. This means that the group is now an incorporated body having charitable status under the Charities and Trustees (Scotland) Act 2015 and has been given the charity number SC048493. Congratulations to the group for this achievement!
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 2017, 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.
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.
During 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 would not be eaten by deer when they were planted.
August 2014 / October 2014.
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 or via the group's page on facebook.
Photos courtesy of John Le Marie, West Fife Woodlands Group members and IFLI team members.