During the winter of 2010/11 we planted a new organic orchard at Gosling Sike in Houghton near Carlisle. With over six hundred trees in total we have eight varieties of dessert apples as well as pears, plums and cherries. All the trees are grafted on to modern dwarfing rootstocks which meant we were able to plant them closer together than is possible with standard fruit trees. It also means they will bear fruit sooner than traditional types.
Next to the orchard we grow a range of field vegetable crops including broad beans, cabbages, broccoli, parsnips, carrots and kohlrabi. Between the orchard and the veg area we have a garden designed and looked after by children from primary schools in Houghton and Stanwix. Here they learn about hands-on veg growing and the pleasure of eating healthy produce they've grown themselves. The children are also involved in our programme of enhancing biodiversity around the orchard. We're gradually replacing some of the grass with areas of flowers to attract bees which help to pollinate the fruit trees. Insect predators such as ladybirds and lacewings find a home there too and help to control potential pests such as aphids.
Gosling Sike is part of Susan Aglionby's farm called The Croft which hosts hundreds of visits every year from young people who learn about organic farming and wildlife in Cumbria. The farm rears pedigree Longhorn cattle, sheep and poultry. Longhorn cattle were once one of the main beef breeds in the country and were one of the first 'improved' breeds during the agricultural revolution in the 1700's. Now Longhorns are a rare sight but The Croft is helping to save the breed by rearing them for quality beef.