Brewing giant Heineken fells orchard to sell land

The UK‘s largest cider maker has chopped down a huge orchard, sparking fears for wildlife as it is a natural bird habitat. Heineken, which owns Bulmers cider, has levelled the orchard – the size of 140 football pitches – on the Offa’s Dyke path in Monmouthshire.

It wants to sell the land and blamed a surplus of apples and a slow down in demand for cider for the uprooting of thousands of trees at Penrhos Orchard, which were planted in 1997.

Environmentalists are concerned about the effect on migratory bird populations, but Heineken insisted it had acted in accordance with the Wildlife Act. People whose homes overlook the orchard, which spans several large fields, said they were “sad” and “disappointed” the trees had gone, but one said it improved the view of the surrounding hills.

Ecologist Chris Formaggia has spent many years walking with his children on footpaths through the orchard.

He has monitored the various birds that have been in the trees and is concerned about the future.He said: “At this time now all the trees would be in their full blossom. It would be a really impressive area so the changes are absolutely total, really.”

The biggest impact, he said, was on wintering thrush species such as fieldfare and redwing that eat autumn berries then move on to “wind-blown apple crops”.

“So this orchard was absolutely teeming with these winter thrushes,” he said. I think inevitably there will be a big loss here, particularly with those wintering populations.

“That foraging and that safety of the trees has gone and it’s not going to be replacedHeineken said it was “incredibly important that we act responsibly and sustainably at all times” and the move was prompted by the slowing cider market and improved growing practices.

The National Association of Cider Makers said 2,000 acres of British cider apple orchards had been lost in the past few years which, due to high tannin levels, “have no other use than for making cider”.

It said the amount of cider being drunk in the UK had dropped by a third over the past 10 years “leading to this devastating loss of orchards

Source: BBC

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