Salthaven Community Orchard
Salthaven Community Orchard is part of Marsh Farm Country Park and is situated near the junction of Creekview Road and Broughton Road in South Woodham Ferrers.
History of the site
The site of this community orchard was once part of a field called ‘Little Chalk Wharf’ on Champions Farm. During a severe agricultural depression in this country, the farm fell upon hard times and was sold to a land agent, Henry Brake, in 1893. Capitalising on the Great Eastern Railway that ran through the farm and which had opened in 1889, Mr Brake began selling building plots set out along new but unmade roads on what was called ‘Champions Hall Estate’. The other sizeable farm in the area, Eyotts Farm, underwent a similar process so that by the early years of the twentieth century much of the area of present day South Woodham Ferrers had been laid out in a rectilinear pattern of ‘roads’ and a process which became known as ‘plotland development’ was well under way.
In 1903 Henry Brake sold a one-acre plot of land where the orchard now stands – numbered 96 on his estate plan. The price was twenty pounds. The site was served by a track which became known as Top Barn Lane and which ran roughly on the alignment of the nearby embankment, skirting the southern edge of Collingwood School to reach Hullbridge Road near today’s Chamberlains Ride. It is thought that the original purchaser of the plot did not erect any building and that it was only after the site had been re-sold to a Mr Cutler from Wandsworth in 1924 that a timber bungalow called ‘Salthaven’ was erected here.
There were about half a dozen subsequent owners until Essex County Council acquired the Salthaven property in 1975 as one of the 229 individual parcels of land assembled for the expansion of South Woodham Ferrers. Because of its creekside location the site was not considered suitable for housing development and became part of the open space area surrounding the new town.
Development of a Community Orchard
Sometime in the early 1990s a community orchard was set up on the site of Salthaven Bungalow incorporating the original fruit trees on the site and, led by the Lionesses, various local groups were asked to donate new fruit trees to the site. Sadly in recent years the orchard has been somewhat neglected and has suffered from a lack of regular maintenance. In 2013 the Town Council started to work with the Country Park Ranger to revitalise the site with the hope that much of the work will be carried out by volunteers. The site also gives lots of educational opportunities for local schools and children from Collingwood School sowed some wild flower seeds during the autumn of 2013 as a first step in this process.
Tree and Hedge Planting
A sunny and frosty morning in January 2014 saw nearly 30 volunteers turn out to make light work of planting a new "edible" hedge to eventually replace the fence which is on it's last legs. We also planted a number of new fruit trees including some greengages. Two of the trees were donated by East Essex Smallholders and the rest were paid for by the Town Council.
Additionally we were able to cut the grass around the smaller trees. All the volunteers had a brilliant morning and enjoyed the tea and home made cake provided by Rob the Country Park Ranger. Sometime soon we will be installing a new, more disabled friendly gate and a path across to the bench to make the site more attractive. Additionally some of the volunteers will be taking a pruning course in March so that we can maintain the fruit trees.