Fruit growing in Orwell

The Orchards

Trevor Miller's memories of fruit growing in Orwell

“Top fruit, that is to say apples, pears, and plums, must have been grown in Orwell for domestic use for centuries, as a number of orchards are shown on the 1686 map, but when transport improved with the advent of the railways in the 19th Century fruit could be easily transported to markets further afield. When people had a little money and land to spare they began to invest in planting  trees, and one such investor was Grandfather Humphrey Miller, born in 1859. Cross Lane is built on one of his orchards. During the second World War my father bought Grove Farm, plus three fields belonging to the Wimpole Hall estate and fronting the A603 between Victoria Drive and Southern Road, which leads up to up to the Hall. The land on the road frontage was known as the Roods, because it was set out in one rood allotments.

Photo:Fruit pickers on the Roods, White Arch Fruit Farm

Fruit pickers on the Roods, White Arch Fruit Farm

Cambridge Evening News

Father started by planting a mixed orchard of all the old varieties of apples and plums next to Victoria Drive. Opposite Hurdleditch Coxes Orange, Worcester’s and Conference pears were planted, and soft fruit was set on the Roods.
Photo:Members of the Flack family; Connie (up ladder), Sidney Oliver (left) Florence Mary, and Sidney Alfred (right)

Members of the Flack family; Connie (up ladder), Sidney Oliver (left) Florence Mary, and Sidney Alfred (right)

In the 1960s my cousin Alan Miller and I went in to a partnership and expanded the orchards, planting pears right up to Southern road, and next to Nubblers Ditch on the Orwell side of the main road, and soft fruit was planted out on the Big Meadow in Fishers Lane, where the village football pitch had once been. We traded under the name White Arch, recalling the bridge (once arched and painted white) on the A603 near to our cold store (now Andrew Klose’s engineering works.) We sold directly to retailers, avoiding Covent Garden where we had no control over prices, and had customers as far away as Stevenage, Welwyn and St. Albans. Picking and grading the fruit was labour intensive. The workforce totalled around one hundred at harvest time, including a large contingent of wives and children from the RAF quarters at Bassingbourn, and three delivery vans were kept busy all through the selling season. We had beehives too, among the trees, and sold our own honey with our White Arch label.

Orwell’s orchards are now just a memory. Restrictive Common Market regulations and competition from growers in Europe who enjoyed longer hours of sunshine, and more of them made our venture uneconomic. Our rough skinned, russet Coxes did not conform to a regulation size and appearance. I pulled up our top fruit in the 1970s, though the soft fruit continued to sell locally for a while, and as for Barrington, Meldreth and many other Cambridgeshire villages, the blossom and fruit disappeared from the landscape.”

This page was added by Pat Grigor on 20/09/2012.
Comments about this page

The unknown fruit pickers are Connie Flack on ladder, Kathleen Flack standing and I think it's Ollie Flack on the left of the photograph not sure about who is on the right of the photograph.

By Clive R Flack
On 23/01/2013

I chatted to Ron Flack yesterday (apologies if I have recalled name incorrectly) and he gave the names as Connie Flack up the tree, Sidney Oliver Flack on left, Florence Mary Flack in middle, and Sidney Alfred Flack on the right. The three on the ground were Ron's father, mother and grandfather respectively. I have changed the caption to reflect this.

By Martin Grigor
On 23/01/2013

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