Traditional orchards are a key part of the beauty of the Kent Downs scenic beauty. Amongst the dramatic chalk downland of the Mid Kent Downs where ancient villages nestle in hidden dry valleys and farmland is surrounded by a network of hedgerows and wooded hilltops, traditional orchards, a vital part of our heritage, stand majestic. If you meander through the villages in this area of Sheldwich, Milstead, Lenham and Stockbury you can see traditional orchards thriving as community orchards, once again the hub of the village. Under the Mid Kent Downs Orchards Project the management of these community orchards has been undertaken by the villagers who have been trained in horticultural skills to give these trees a new lease of life.
A new community orchard was planted in the Spring of 2008 on the top of the scarp of the Kent Downs at Lenham This traditionally managed orchard is there to celebrate the heritage of Grants Morella Cherry Brandy once produced in Lenham from thousands of Morello cherry trees planted in and around the village. It is a small orchard which consists of mainly Morello cherries, a sour cherry with a scattering of sweet cherry, plum, apple and pear. Visit Cherry Downs and glimpse the breathtaking sight, a profusion of white blossom in April and May. Iit will be a few years before they crop and the availability of fruit will be posted on the site. You can reach this orchard, just off of the the North Downs Way where you will find grassed area with picnic tables to rest those weary limbs and tremendous views out over chalk grassland to the Greensand Way and the Weald.
Many of the traditional orchards in the Mid Kent Downs have footpaths passing through them but specifically, New House Cherry Orchard can be located on the Sheldwich walks and Park Farm Cherry Orchard, Lynsted has a footpath passing through it with a bench placed in the centre for time to stop and reflect. Both of these traditional orchards are community orchards. Throughout the Kent Downs there are various community orchards where access is only on certain days of the year when events will be held. Look out for a guide about traditional orchards and orchard walks from various local bus stops and trains statiions on the Kent Downs website, coming soon.
This holistic approach to the regeneration of the landscape and rural economy has encouraged communities to celebrate their heritage and social tradition with fruit mapping events since each village has its own distinctive fruit heritage. Biodiversity is being celebrated through a variety of walks discovering the true value of these orchards. ‘Festivals of Fruit’ are being held throughout the Mid Kent Downs with sample tastings of local fruit products, including Grant’s Morella Cherry Brandy once produced in Lenham village. The orchards are being used for entertainment, ‘Breakfast in the Orchard’; folk songs to soothe the limbs post pruning and later this summer, an amphitheatre for a heritage production.
Open all year
Picnic tables at Cherry Down
Location - Cherry Downs - by car from A20 just east of Lenham, turn left into Rayners Hill and follow road to the top. The orchard is on the right.
Click here for a location map