Frequently asked Questions
Who owns Dartmouth Community Orchard?
The Town Council is the owner. It bought the 3.3 acre site from the Ministry of Defence Estates on 23rd December 1993 for £15,000. It was a condition of the sale that the Council should keep it for the community “as an Orchard designated as open space”. To help ensure this, a covenant required the Town Council to repay the MoD two thirds of any profit it made by selling the land for development during the first 20 years after the purchase, and one third during the following 60 years.
Could the Orchard still be used for development?
On 8th November 2021, as a result of an initiative by the Friends of the Orchard, it was registered as a Village Green by the Town Council. It is also listed as a local green space in the Dartmouth Neighbourhood Plan.
In addition, the whole orchard lies within the South Devon AONB and the area immediately accessed from the Ridge Hill entrance is within the Dartmouth Conservation Area (the rest is not). Taken together, these designations afford it maximum protection from development.
Who pays for the Orchard’s upkeep?
The Town Council pays for this from its budget.
Since 2014, the Friends of the Orchard have provided additional funds by obtaining grants, raising money at events, and receiving donations. These have been used to plant new trees and hedges, improve the paths, build a shelter with information panels, and put up notice boards.
What is involved in the Orchard’s upkeep?
The Town Groundsman and his Team carry out regular maintenance work including mowing the grassland, strimming path edges, keeping scrub under control, and managing invasive plants. The Team, or contractors, also carry out occasional works such as tree surgery, and repairs to walls, gates, and fences.
Members of the Friends, often with help from BRNC Officer Cadets, support the Groundsman’s Team with voluntary work such as tree pruning, raking up the grass after mowing, planting new trees, and resurfacing the paths.
Who can use the Orchard?
It is a public open space and anyone can use it, but in ways that are consistent with its character as a place for conserving Devon’s apple heritage, for quiet recreation, and for conservation of wildlife and biodiversity.
How is it managed for Wildlife Conservation?
Traditional orchards, managed in a low intensity way like this one in Dartmouth, are havens for wildlife of all kinds. The mosaic of habitats (old apple trees, hedges, grassland, scrub, and a remnant of old woodland) provides homes and food for a wonderful array of species including wild flowers, a great variety of insects, birds, amphibians, bats, and other small mammals. The Orchard Management Plan (available elsewhere on this website) sets out in detail how it is managed for biodiversity. The Friends have also put up bird and bat boxes, created hibernacula, and introduced a bee hive.
What about dogs?
Initially, grazing animals were used to manage the vegetation and dogs were excluded from the orchard. This is no longer the case and dog walking is now allowed. Owners are urged to act responsibly – clean up any mess after their dog (there is a dog waste bin at the Ridge Hill entrance) and ensure that it is well-behaved towards other orchard users who may not appreciate unwanted attention!
Is litter a problem?
That depends upon the users. Anyone using the orchard should take their litter away and dispose of it responsibly. Litter of any kind presents a hazard to wildlife, people and dogs. There are always one or two thoughtless people, but the vast majority treat the Orchard with respect and it is generally litter free.
What’s the point of a Friends’ group?
As a public space, the orchard is open to many pressures. The Friends can help keep it in good heart by working with the Town Council, securing resources that may not otherwise be available, and organising community events like Apple Days. In these ways, the Friends can have a long-term beneficial effect on the orchard – the fruit trees, the community’s amenity, and the biodiversity.
What does the Friends’ committee do?
It takes the lead in a variety of ways – liaising with the Town Council and the Groundsman’s Team, organising events, co-ordinating voluntary work, communicating with the Friends and the wider community, and ensuring the focus is kept on maintaining the Orchard as a special place for the local community to enjoy, on conserving Devon’s apple heritage, and on enhancing biodiversity.