Leigh-on-Sea Allotments Orchard (aka The Essex Varieties Orchard)
Situated within the bounds of the Leigh Allotments is a gem of a conservation project, dedicated to preserving Essex top fruit (apple and pear) varieties.
Currently, roughly a quarter acre (four allotment plots) in extent, the orchard is surrounded by a native species hedge. As well as the tree plantings, the orchard contains a wildlife pond and a large compost heap.
The position of the orchard within the context of Leigh Allotments and the contiguous Manchester Drive Allotment site, encourages a wild variety of wildlife as well as providing the setting for the specialised Essex top fruit varieties collection.
The project commenced in 2003 and continues to be managed, maintained and funded by an informal group of plot holder volunteers known as the Leigh Allotments Orchard Group. The Group forms working parties for the larger maintenance tasks such as the annual grass cut of the meadow surrounding the fruit trees in autumn. This latter approach ensures that the seeds of wild flowers and the many grasses mature to provide the following years show.
Important local initiatives such as these are conceived of and driven forwards by inspiring people without which our lives would all be the poorer. In this case, David Hammond and his late wife Janet, Ron Bates and others. Their great concern for the drastic loss of English orchards and the fruit varieties from which they were formed since World War II, lead them to approach Leigh-on-Sea Town Council for permission to start a small orchard. Two plots, largely compromised for normal allotment use by two willow trees were designated and later two adjoining plots were rented.