This little known Nature Reserve is located
on the back road between Janks Green and Nortons Farm. It can be seen
to the left of a bridleway, locally known as Balls Chase leading onto
the Wormingford airfield.
It is owned and managed by the Essex
Wildlife Trust located at Gt Wigborough, south of Colchester.
Sergeants Orchard was once part of the
Sergeants Farm estate. The name Sergeant did not appear until the late
18th century, prior to this the farm had no specific name. Records can
trace the farm back as far as 1498 with the Brett family being the principal
owners. Presumably, the farm got its name from a Mr Sergeant who was
mentioned in records dated 1769.
A map of 1825 indicates dwellings at Balls Chase, there was "Frenchers
Cottage" at the entrance to the Chase on the left and a further
three cottages down the bridleway. Sadly nothing survives today.
For some years this century Sergeants
Farm was the home of a redoubtable parish clerk, Robert Harvey and his
wife Florence. Robert was an enthusiastic hedge layer, an art we seldom
see today. He will be remembered as a great character, often cycling
around the village complete with black beret. He died in 1967 and his
wife Florence some years later. Florence bequeathed Sergeants to Philip
Tabner who looked after her in her final years.
Philip died in 1997 and bequeathed £600 to Mount Bures Church
together with a parcel of land that he wished to remain as a wild life
||This land was left to the Essex
Wildlife Trust and comprises two ex-arable fields and an old 18th
Within the orchard area a wide range of old varieties of fruit trees
remain, together with an old pond and the remnants of the hedges.
Part of the eastern fields were lost to the MoD for the airfield
during the war but returned to arable after hostilities ceased.
However, the old field hedgerows and Nortons Wood, which lay along
the northern boundary, were lost.
Reserve to the left of the Bridleway
The overall aims are to restore the old orchard, establish a new orchard
on the western field using stock taken from the old varieties in the existing
orchard, and to manage the eastern field as a spring-sown arable field
for the benefit of arable weed species. The old hedges will be restored
by coppicing and replanting, particularly along the eastern boundary,
and the two old ponds on the site will be restored. The western meadow
will be reseeded with a suitable grass and wildflower mix prior to being
fenced and replanted with stock taken from the old trees. The old orchard
will be carefully pruned and cleared of invasive scrub and the whole orchard
areas then managed with sheep or pig grazing beneath the fruit trees in
the traditional manner.
Work is gradually restoring the Apple,
Plum, Pear and Greengage trees, together with a small pond now inhabited
by Smooth Newts.
A tree nursery has been established which will provide grafts for existing
root stocks, As they become established the rest of the field will be
planted as a new orchard. The reserve is abundant with wildlife such
as Yellowhammers, Speckled Wood Butterfly and many plants such as primroses.
Reserve News 2006,
planted out the new orchard in one of the fields during January.(see
Approximately 64 trees were planted at 10metre spacings, which is the
traditional spacing for orchard trees. Pears and apples were sourced
from the tree nursery on site.
These have been created from grafts taken from the existing trees in
the orchard and from locally donated material. Not all the varieties
have yet been identified but amongst those that have are D'Arcy Spice,
Lane's Prince Albert and Black Worcester Pear. The latter is from the
orchard and has enormous fruit.
The new hedge alongside the airfield has suffered a few failures and
it is intended to replace these as soon as possible
News, Winter >Spring 2008
Most of the work revolves around the
new and old orchards. For the former, we have recently re-mulched around
the trees and replanted 4 trees that had failed. This winter we will
start formative pruning. For the old orchard, we will be carrying out
work on some of the old apples to try and "revive" them, this
will involve reducing the height of one or two and generally clearing
scrub from around the trees. The aim is to create a grass sward that
would be suitable for grazing with sheep. We will also be repairing
the old hut and removing a few non-fruit trees from amongst the plums.
Two of the field maples in the western boundary of the orchard are to
be coppiced. It is also intended to put a couple of owl boxes up in
the large field and we should have the sheep back again in both the
large field and the new orchard.
We have started grafting further rootstocks for apples. These are half-standard
as opposed to the full standard previously done and planted out in the
new orchard. One tree we are trying to get cuttings from is the Grey
Do you know anyone we could contact
who might have one in their garden and would let us take some cuttings
If anyone wants
to contact us about the reserve or assist with the work then contact:-
David and Shirley Green, Joint Wardens. Tel no 01206 240005
to additional pages, 2014 onwards
Historical information taken from the
Bures its Lands and People"
Photographs by Alan Beales.
to the Essex Wildlife Trust web site.