The Traditional Orchard was acquired by Normandy Parish Council in 1989 along with the northern part of Normandy Common and is part of the Site of Nature Conservation Importance. The Orchard covers approximately half an acre and can be accessed from the Permissive Horse Ride north of the cricket pavilion.
By 2010 it was realised that the old orchard was in danger of being lost and a plan was made to rejuvenate it before it was too late. Traditional orchards are an important part of our heritage, and often contain old, rare and locally significant fruit varieties. They are also extremely valuable habitats for wildlife. A grant was consequently obtained from the National Lottery Awards for All which enabled:
- Planting of 17 new fruit trees by volunteers in January 2011. The trees included many old Surrey varieties with names like Byfleet Seedling, Crimson Drop and Duchess’s Favourite.
- Removal of a non-native privet hedge, which grew beside the Permissive Horse Ride and the replacement with a mixed native hedge (planted in March 2011, again by volunteers).
- The erection of a bespoke information board and bench, both constructed of native oak
- Planting of 550 wildflower plug plants of 11 different species
- Later in the winter of 2013/14 a small wildlife pond was added and 17 bird and bat boxes erected in and around the Orchard. The pond was dug by Community Service workers and funds for the pond liner, plants and boxes were provided by Guildford Borough Council.
Although 7 old fruit trees were alive in 2010, that number had declined to 3 by 2020. Of the fruit trees planted in 2011 the apples and pears have been growing well whereas the plums have tended to do poorly and in fact the Farleigh Damson died in 2017 followed by the Gage in 2020. In addition the Medlar has never done well.
Management is undertaken by volunteers and includes an annual grass cut, pruning of the newer fruit trees, scrub limitation, mowing walkway and pond maintenance. Some areas of grass are left long for voles, amphibians and skipper butterflies. Surveying the flora and fauna continues to be undertaken to better understand the habitat and to help guide its management.
By early 2018 the following had been recorded over the last 5 years: 10 species of mammal, 5 species of amphibian or reptile, 30 species of bird, close to 150 species of plant, over 30 species of fungi, 24 species of butterfly, over 60 species of moth and many other insects and spiders.
There are plans to lay the hedge in early 2023 and also to plant two fruit trees. These will be older, traditional varieties to replace a couple of the mature trees that have died.
The information board at the Orchard’s entrance gives more details of the fruit varieties together with other information about the orchard. Additional information is available from the Parish Council’s Annual Assembly updates.