Where might slivopasture (the integration of trees with livestock) be established in the Chew Valley?
We already know that ancient woodland tends to be found hugging the steeper slopes on more marginal land and that there is the opportunity to create (or re-create) new woodlands in this landscape niche. Is there a similar niche suitable for silvopasture?
The first criteria is that the land should be pasture, that is permanent pasture which is not part of the arable crop rotation. We already have a good idea of where this is from DEFRA’s crop maps which are now published every year. The permanent pasture areas will overlap with the opportunity woodland on steep slopes, is there a way to separate out the niches where woodland and silvopasture might be created?
In the UK most silvopastoral systems are grazed orchards where livestock graze within an orchard setting. Somerset is of course famous for its apples and its orchards so establishing silvopastoral systems in the Chew Valley sounds easy. However, Somerset and the Chew Valley has lost most of its orchards and few remain compared with just a hundred years ago, the trees are now almost all gone.
But we know where the orchards were and there were lots of them. We can look back in time to how the landscape was with the Ordnance Survey maps from 1880 or even with the Tithe Maps from around 1840. The Tithe maps are a rich resource of land use information from that time. For example in 1840 James Saunders owned two orchards in Stanton Drew, these are now residential housing.
On the other hand Francis Fowler owned an orchard that remains pasture. There is no reason why some of these former orchards should not once again have trees and be part of a silvopastoral system.
Selecting existing pastures that were once orchards and converting them into grazed orchards could enhance productivity, capture carbon, increase biodiversity and recreate a landscape that some of our grandparents might just remember.
Finding Lost Orchards
Some orchards or signs of orchards may remain but many are long gone. These days we like to buy our apples out of season from the other side of the world. The 1840s Tithe Maps, together with the Tithe Apportionments, contain information about where the orchards were but it is a lot of work to extract. A simpler method is to look at the 1880 edition of the Ordnance Survey maps which include a lot of information about trees. On these maps orchards are shown as small trees set out in a regular pattern, like Mr Fowler’s above. The trees are gone but the stone circle is still there.
These old maps are available on the Know Your Place Web Site.