The Rivers Nursery Orchard is now a Community Orchard, restored by volunteers over the past 15 years. Although the site is not generally open to the public, public footpaths do cross the site. Access to the site for activities organised by the Rivers Nursery Site and Orchard Group is by the invitation of the East Hertfordshire District Council as landowner.
The orchard is the former show orchard of the Rivers Nursery business, which started in 1725, making it probably the oldest nursery in England. At the height of the business in the 19th century, the Rivers Nursery covered more than 121 hectares and was a major local employer. The Rivers family continued to manage the nursery until 1987, when the land was sold to a developer and a private hospital was erected on part of the area.
The Orchard now has a dual significance. The current neat rows of fruit trees of old varieties of apple, plum, pear and cherry exist where the development of important species - including the Conference pear - took place. It is the living reminder of the horticultural trade as it once existed and of the glasshouses, the estate housing and the associated trades of osier growing, willow weaving and the like.
Now it is also a green space under threat in a crowded area where the community is welcomed without charge by its steward, East Herts District Council, to see a living orchard, pick fruit in season, help with its maintenance and take part in the seasonal festivals such as Apple Days and Wassail. As the orchard has been gradually restored, it has been introduced to the community, including school children through various special events including arts projects.
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Detailed HistoryRivers Nursery Orchard is the former show orchard of the Rivers Nursery business, likely to be the oldest nursery established in England. It was started in 1725 and continued in the management of the Rivers family until 1987.
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