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Thanks for the orchard update from Pippa Palmar through the Kent Orchards for Everyone Project - "A fantastic number of locals from Iwade were passionate about their plums during March when they attended a big planting of 27 new plum trees. These trees gapped up the spaces between the trees which are sadly decaying in Iwade’s community orchard. With the help of the ‘Kent Orchards for Everyone’, a Heritage Lottery funded project, 50 members including many children from the community planted, staked and protected their new plum trees and are now keenly awaiting their fruition.

It is important to maintain this orchard since it is home to the noble chafer beetle, an endangered species and as far as we know it is the only orchard in Kent where it is found. The older and decaying trees will remain in place since they are a valuable habitat for wildlife and the food source for the larvae for the Noble Chafer Beetle. The new trees which have been planted amongst the old will ensure the future regeneration of the orchard and a home for this particularly rare beetle which is now recognised as a Biodiversity Action Plan Species (BAP).

Plum varieties planted in Iwade Community Orchard

Old Green Gage - This form was selected by the RHS for its excellent old fashioned flavour and more reliable crops.

Opal Plum - One of the most reliable garden plums. Known as the early Victoria. A medium, reddish-purple fruit with superb flavour.

Victoria Plum - Oval, bright red fruit in late August-early September for dessert, bottling or canning. Sadly disease prone but tolerable considering the quality and quantity that this variety produces. The most popular plum even to this day. (Sussex 19th Century)

Oullins Golden Gage - Large, golden yellow fruit of good gage-like flavour. Can be picked early for cooking. Excellent for bottling and freezing. (France 1860)

River's Early Prolific Plum - As the name suggests a good, heavy cropping early season plum. Small, bluish-purple. A good dessert variety when fully ripe. (Herts. circa 1820)

Warwickshire Drooper Plum - An old favourite. Always crops well and regularly. Large yellow fruit, very juicy and good for eating and cooking. The tree has a spreading, drooping habit from which it was named. This variety was once fermented into an alcoholic drink called Plum Jerkum reputed to ‘leave the head clear while paralysing the legs’. (Worcester/Gloucester pre 1920’s)

‘Kent Orchards for Everyone Project’ is a fantastic opportunity to involve all Iwadian’s and stimulate those nostalgic orchard memories of years gone by. It is creating a footplate for all villagers to celebrate their heritage. Watch out for the ‘I Remember Day’, join in the walks and help in surveys and educational events in this traditional orchard. This project will give the local community the skills to establish good management practices and discover those dinosaurs amongst your plum trees. Watch the phoenix rising, with plums galore over the next three years." For more information please contact Pippa Palmar – pippa.palmar@kentdowns.org.uk Tel: 01303 815170