Meadow Orchard Cultivation

Meadow orchard cultivation in our region

Have you ever wondered if “the worm in the apple” will spoil your freshly picked piece of fruit? The local fruit trees not only provide a home for worms. Meadow orchards, with their more than 5,000 plant and animal species, are among the most species-rich ecosystems in Europe. They provide habitats for rare birds, small mammals, insects, and last but not least, for numerous fruit tree species.

Meadow orchards are an ancient form of fruit growing, the beginnings of which can even be traced back to late antiquity. Traditionally, the meadow orchards were first laid out around the villages and have characterized entire landscapes since the Middle Ages. However, since the middle of the 20th century, meadow orchards have continued to decline. Also in our region, larger, contiguous meadow orchards occur only occasionally.

That is why the Working Group for Nature Conservation in the Tecklenburger Land  (ANTL in German) set up the Fruit Ark project, whereby old fruit trees from the region are to be collected, identified, and protected. They have also set up a small fruit variety museum at the Fliegeburg (Refuge Castle) in Brochterbeck. The orchard there consists of many old varieties from the Tecklenburger Land and invites walkers to learn more about the topic. Once a year, the ANTL also organizes the Tecklenburg Apple Day and offers courses on fruit growing and pruning. If you want to enjoy the regional orchard diversity, you can also purchase unsprayed apples or Tecklenburg Orchard Apple Juice from ANTL.

Along the Cherry Nature Trail in Hagen a.T.W., numerous old and endangered sweet cherry varieties are preserved. It is the decentralized gene bank location of the German Fruit Gene Bank - a Noah's Ark for fruit varieties. More than 360 trees of more than 100 different varieties form Germany's largest collection of sweet cherries. A hike through the cherry trees, especially during the flowering period and when the cherries are ripe, is really an experience. At these times, guided tours along the Cherry Nature Trail in Hagen a.T.W. are offered by the municipality of Hagen a.T.W. Regional cherry products are available from the municipal office of Hagen a.T.W. and in the Ehrenbrinck-Brockmeyer farm shop.


Why is this an intangible cultural heritage?

"Meadow orchards protect the diversity and preservation of fruit varieties and shape cultural landscapes" – this was one of the reasons why meadow orchard cultivation was officially valued by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage in 2021. Above all, the high level of biodiversity and old native fruit tree varieties are worth protecting.

In addition, it is a traditional craft. The care and management of the meadows and the subsequent fruit processing require traditional handcraft techniques and traditional background knowledge. The skills and knowledge are passed on for generations. The cultivation of meadow orchards is often associated with various customs (e.g., replanting at births) or celebrations (e.g., festivals of orchards or fruit blossoms). Ultimately, domestic meadow orchard cultivation embodies a piece of regional identity and contributes to the preservation of traditional cultural landscapes.


Photos: Kornelia Lauxtermann, Jenny Menkhaus (municipality of Hagen a.T.W.)

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