We have been lucky that past decisions at our Chishill site have kept the old plum orchard, known as ‘Marjorie’ after the variety of plum grown. As agriculture has changed so the cropping has changed: more and more of the plum and apple trees have been replaced with cereals and oilseed rape to meet the trials need for new products on these crops, but we have been able to fulfil this trials need without converting Marjorie into broad acre cropping.
The trees are estimated to be more than 50 years old, but we do not know for sure. Over the years we have owned ‘Marjorie’ it has been managed for biodiversity: nearing 50 years with only a very slow and gradual change, at nature’s pace shows how important stable areas are in the environment. The two hectares are home to many species through the year, with the turtle doves probably being the most exclusive visitors.
On the downside it is pretty poor at producing plums highlighting how you cannot efficiently farm for food and farm for nature on the same piece of land, but if you focus on each separately you can do both well. This is where the current agri-environment schemes work to help fulfil both objectives, but only if both are done well.
There are still enough plums for the local WI group each year. It is fair to say the plums are not the only attraction, with blackberries also proving popular. For many years Marjorie plums have appeared in jams, pies and crumbles in and around Great Chishill.