England and Wales have lost over 80 per cent of their traditional orchards, according to new study by The National Trust, but more trees are being planted in Herefordshire.

The latest research reveals the staggering number of England and Wales's orchards which have disappeared since the 1900s.

It means huge losses in habitats for nature and fewer people can enjoy one of nature’s great spectacles – spring blossom.

The National Trust has revealed it is the first comprehensive study into both traditional and modern orchards using new high-tech AI analysis.

It is aimed at improving understanding of the historic loss of blossom across landscapes and the impact on nature and wildlife.

The finding reveal a loss in orchards of 56 per cent – with just 43,017 hectares left growing today. That is equivalent to an area slightly larger than the Isle of Wight.

The report has exposed a huge 81 per cent decline of traditional orchards in England and Wales.

England’s figures alone revealed a loss of 82 per cent of traditionally managed orchards since 1900.

The National Trust says that the staggering loss of orchards appears to have been driven by changing land use to "improved grassland".

That accounts for 43 per cent of losses, urban and suburban (27 per cent) and arable land, capable of being ploughed and used for crops (19 per cent).

Since the 1900s, orchards have been subsumed to fix "modern" criteria, these conversions to intensive modern orchards, which are also twice as big as traditional ones, have a huge negative impact on biodiversity.

The results are published as the conservation charity begins its official Blossom Season ’22 and National Trust #BlossomWatch is underway for the second year.

Tom Dommett, head of historic environment at the National Trust said new orchards were being planted, including at the Brockhampton Estate near Bromyard.

He said: “Using cutting edge technology we now have a much better understanding of how we’ve managed landscapes in the past, which is invaluable when thinking about how to tackle the nature and biodiversity crisis that we are facing, and restoring nature.

"In a bid to bring blossom back to landscapes in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the charity has now vowed to plant four million blossoming trees as part of its commitment to plant and establish 20 million trees across England, Wales and Northern Ireland by 2030.

"It is also planting new traditional orchards at sites to include Stourhead in Wiltshire, Arlington Court in Devon, Kingston Lacy in Dorset, Brockhampton in Herefordshire, Attingham Park in Shropshire, Westhumble in Surrey and is planting new fruit trees at Cotehele in Cornwall which is already home to traditional orchards."

According to county analysis, the National Trust says it is "not surprising" that those which have become dominated by cities reveal the greatest losses in orchard area including Greater London (94%), Merseyside at (92%) and Bristol (90%).

However, the South-west region, which was home to the largest area of orchards at the beginning of the 20th Century, shows the single biggest loss of orchards (74 per cent), in terms of hectares, of any region.

On a more positive note, the research has revealed that the county of Kent has the highest total orchard cover today, though it is only one of three English counties (along with Suffolk and East Sussex), that has more orchards now than they did 100 years ago due to more modern orchards being planted.

The disappearance of our orchards is not only disastrous for our trees, however, as it can have drastic implications for surrounding wildlife and eco-systems too.

John Deakin, head of trees and woodland at the National Trust says: “Traditional orchards and the blossom they bring creates valuable early nectar sources for insects which are often foraging for scarce resources in the early spring.

"These native, historic varieties, together with other trees like blackthorn and hawthorn which also have amazing spring blossom, mature at a faster rate than other larger native species such as oak.

"They therefore provide an important bridge for insects that rely on their particular eco systems which is one of the reasons why planting more blossom trees is such a vital part of our ambitions.”

With the blossom season now upon us, the National Trust and the Orchard Network, will be particularly encouraging people to celebrate the joy of blossom at the end of April.

For more information visit orchardnetwork.org.uk/orchard-blossom-day and nationaltrust.org.uk/blossom-watch