HARVEST time is here, and National Trust orchards across Worcestershire are bearing fruit.

These historic, or traditional, orchards are priority habitats and as well as providing fruit and nuts are a safe haven for wildlife.

However, these special places are under threat.

Since the 1950s about 80 per cent of traditional orchards in the Midlands have been lost.

Cheaper imported fruit reduced demand for home-grown apples, while changes to more intensive farming methods meant traditional orchards were neglected or removed in favour of other crops.

National Trust staff and volunteers are working hard to protect, restore and re-create traditional orchards at their places across the county.

This work ranges from the planting of new trees and researching how estates were managed in the past, to investigating which varieties were developed and grown in particular areas.

Simon Barker, wildlife and countryside adviser at the National Trust said: “Orchards are incredibly important places for wildlife.

"They're the perfect habitat for insects, nesting birds and even bats.

"Many unusual plants and animals can be found in them, such as mistletoe, fungi and insects like the noble chafer beetle – a rare species which has its national stronghold in the orchards in and around Worcestershire.

"We grow many old and rare varieties of fruit, including pears and plums as well as mulberries, cobnuts, cherries, medlar, quince and of course, apples."

At Hanbury Hall the walled orchard and the formal fruit garden contain 56 traditional English fruit varieties, including the Golden Pippin, Howgate Wonder and the traditional Bramley.

Harvesting begins in the early autumn, usually across the last two weeks of September, ready for the big Apple Weekend celebration at the beginning of October.

All of the apples are picked by hand by a dedicated team of gardeners and volunteers.

The National Trust will be hosting a number of harvest events this autumn, all proceeds of which go directly back into conservation at the properties, ensuring Worcestershire’s historic orchards will continue to thrive for generations to come.

For further details on National Trust orchards, apple day events and volunteering opportunities, go to nationaltrust.org.uk/midlands.