Saturday, December 9, 2023
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Welcome to the Fieldson Orchard

The legacy of Rob Fieldson’s work will live on in many ways, but there will now be a lasting tribute in his name, thanks to the work of a church group. Peter Talbot takes up the story:

On the Eastern side of the graveyard of St Michael’s Church in Cofton Hackett stands a substantial brick wall and it was always assumed that the strip of land beyond belonged to the railway.

During building work inside the church in 2019 it was necessary to obtain old papers from the archives held in Birmingham Library.

It was found that in 1926 the Earl of Plymouth had bought from a farmer in Wythall, the land that is now the church car park, also the undeveloped and wild part of the graveyard and the small strip of land beyond the stone wall and running adjacent to the railway.

All this for the princely sum of 110 guineas. A record was also found that the then Bishop of Birmingham had subsequently consecrated all of this land.

There is no record of why the Earl of Plymouth made such a gesture, but it is assumed that with the coming of the motor car a car park was needed and at the same time he tidied up the future of the land surrounding the church.

A working party started to examine this triangular strip of land and quickly found that our assumption that it was owned by the railway was proving correct by the amount of junk that was found in this area.

There were parts of railway track, bits of fencing and other paraphernalia from the railway. What then were the church to do with this triangular strip of land?

Extension of the graveyard for funerals was quickly ruled out as access was very limited for coffins, without serious modifications to the stone wall. A garden of rest was considered, but with trains passing every three minutes, it became obvious that it would not be a place for peaceful reflection by relatives and friends.

The ECO group of the church took over “ownership” of this piece of land and decided an orchard of fruit trees for the community would be an excellent idea.

One member of the group is a landscape designer and quickly drew up plans. In 2019/20 we started clearance of the land.
The best time for planting is in the autumn so money was raised by public subscription to buy trees and to provide enough for maintenance of the orchard in the future.

In early December 2020 we planted a variety of fruit trees, 14 in all, and hopefully they will all survive and be available for picking in a few years.

The orchard helped the ECO group to be awarded its Bronze ecology badge by the Church of England. And it has been decided it will be named The Fieldson Orchard, in recognition of Rob’s years of service to the community.

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