Hereford Orchards

What is the value of an orchard?

Herefordshire Orchards Community Evaluation project (HOCE) has looked at six very different orchards in Herefordshire and used accounting techniques to derive a broad value of each orchard. This new approach has drawn in many different interests, and has expressed the value of each orchard in a new way that maybe speaks as much to the head as the heart. By identifying the various aspects of value, we will be able to target actions to enhance this value and to bring the bigger picture to people's attention. We have been working in a small way in England 's most rural county, but we believe that the implications of this project for the conservation of habitat are of national significance.

The project is being described by Natural England, the public body committed to conserving and enhancing the natural environment, as:

"a ground-breaking study of the multiple benefits of orchards to the environment, rural life and well-being."

Fenella Tyler, Chairman of the National Association of Cider Makers, has commented that:

"For the first time, the cider industry can properly demonstrate that the nation's orchards are worth so much more than their value to farmers alone."

Forum for the Future, the national sustainable development charity, believe that this novel approach 

 "opens the door to better, more refined, approaches to resource-use decisionmaking"

This has been a real partnership project, managed by The Bulmer Foundation www.bulmerfoundation.org.uk on behalf of Herefordshire's Orchard Topic Group. This project has helped to bring together the wide range of interests in conservation of orchards - farmers, the cider industry, local people and visitors, government, and champions of the natural environment. We worked with Forum for the Future to develop the novel evaluation methodology. We must celebrate the bravery of the orchard owners in becoming involved in the project - this required them to open up their books to us, to allow all sorts of people to go to the orchard as part of the evaluation, and to hear their neighbours talk openly about the impact of the orchard and their management of it. We are also very grateful to the organisations which had the foresight to help with the funding of the project and those that have given their time and expertise to support the evaluation of the orchards. Through a deep and wide-ranging enquiry, all the orchards appear to have a much broader value than currently recognised. We will be communicating this back to local people, to tourists, to planning authorities, and, with advice from Natural England, to government to help to inform future policy decisions to conserve these very special places.

The project was funded by the European Union (EAGGF) and DEFRA through the Herefordshire Rivers Leader+ programme, the National Association of Cider Makers, Bulmers, Herefordshire Council, Natural England, the Bulmer Foundation, and the Sustainable Development Funds, a DEFRA initiative in the Wye Valley Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

In May 2012 a Natural England Commissioned Report was issued to disseminate the detailed findings of the project. This can be downloaded from http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/1289011. The results of the project and the valuations have been re-worked during the process of developing NECR090 and this provides the latest view of the value of orchards.

If you have any comments or questions about the project please contact Dave Marshall at damagelimited@btinternet.com.