Brief History of Brownings Orchard
Brownings Land, running from Alkerton Cross south for about 150 yards, is included in the 1839 Tithe Map. It is likely that this field pattern existed back into the Middle Ages.
In the mid 1800’s it was acquired for building the coaching house, The Kings Head. Whilst there would have been stables to the rear and grazing land, such premises always had their own orchards to generate cider and perry.
First reduced by a garden wall for the Kings Head and then by car parking, the orchard shrank and after the second world war was grubbed up as obsolete. The omnipresence of pure drinking water saw off 60% of Gloucestershire’s orchards in the mid-to-late 1900s. Eastington parish had over 40 orchards, now barely ten remain.
Brownings land descended into occasional grazing land and latterly to dereliction and brambles.
Sale by Punch Taverns
We all remember the Kings Head and the Victoria pubs going seriously downhill, much like the bulk of Punch Taverns’ premises across the country. Prior to the sale of the Victoria to Ellie and Julie, Punch sold off the back half of Brownings Land to a speculator.
About 45% of this land was within the village envelope and eventually Cottsway Housing Association acquired it and built 7 houses, completed 2013.
Land beyond the village boundary, not eligible for planning permission, was promised to the Parish by first the Speculator then by Cottsway.
The village-centre location of Brownings Close and proposed Community Orchard can be seen from the map which is centred on Alkerton Cross.
Jubilee Orchard – not !
Eastington Community Orchards were granted £5,000 by the Parish Council to acquire the plot (now about 2/3rds of an acre) in 2013 but Cottsway delayed the sale due to flooding issues (the houses ought to have been built on foundations two feet higher, but parish advice was ignored).
Virginia, in number 7, took theses shots in April 2016:-
Purchase plans were changed to leasing and other legal delays which meant that 2016 dawned with some loose ends still remaining.
Cottsway and ECO have now shaken hands on a 30 year leasing deal, with a potential break clause after 15 years. This minimum period is sufficient for ECO to attract charitable funding for the very considerable effort of controlling hedges, clearing brambles, levelling the land and re-creating an orchard.
2016 Plans for a Community Orchard
Signing over the lease and thus gaining access to the plot will hopefully happen in May 2016.* (Solicitors!!!)
* In fact the lease was finally signed, sealed and delivered on 9th August !!
ECO trustees have drawn up an outline plan, using a 3-D model, to show what might be achieved in ten years. The broad design principle is that smaller trees are towards the houses and taller varieties further away. We will be planting willow in the flooding corner to soak up some of the water.
The work will be started with £1,000 grant from Cottsway’s Wellcommunity Fund: initial work will be mechanised removal of brambles.
ECO volunteers will probably be able to enter from the end of May 2016, with more bulk clearing, this time of saplings and over-sized bushes, to clear back to what will become layered hedges.
Orchard Warden Debbie Cunningham will be leading this effort, which some of us remember from the first days at Coneygree Community Orchard as being building fences rather than actually planting trees!
Further grants are being sought by Steve Gribble, Funding Trustee, from a key local charity and the National Lottery Fund. We are grateful to the Parish Council for providing a £5,000 grant to pay for the lease and solicitors fees.
Coneygree Orchard has taken five years to reach it’s current semi-mature condition and we can expect Brownings Orchard to take a similar time. If anything, this will be quicker as a result of our considerable learning at Coneygree.
One new skill we will be learning this winter will be hedge laying – it’s already too late to do that work now the sap is rising but we will be clearing back redundant trees and brush now, in preparation.
An additional feature will be a decent shed to store equipment and also to do skilled work such as grafting and weaving.
Also new to ECO will be the swale, or pond, which we hope to make a central feature with the help of Eastington’s Plants and Animals in Wetlands Society (PAWS). The swale can be seen in Virginia’s flooding pictures above.
Once the basic access work has been achieved, ECO will be welcoming new village-centre members to volunteer for healthy exercise creating Brownings Community Orchard. Why pay gym fees when you can work in the fresh air for free?
Membership of ECO is free to Eastington Parishioners, just register your interest on our contacts page on the home site!