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We no longer work to conserve what remains of the Thomas Rivers Nurseries of Sawbridgeworth

We no longer seek out,collect, arrange and archive historical and social elements of this world famous horticultural enterprise

Fungi Perfection

We no longer work to protect and preserve this evnvironmental treasure for future generations of our local community

Sawbridgeworth, March 2014

Announcement: The end of an era - Rivers Nursery Site Orchard Group

It is with great regret we announce that we will be withdrawing completely from all further public/community activities and maintenance tasks in the Rivers Nursery Orchard in Sawbridgeworth as of the 31st March 2014.This will be followed by the dispersal of assets and the dissolution of this fully constituted group. Rivers Nursery Site Orchard Group was formed as a continuity group of the ‘Friends of Rivers’ in the spring of 2007, with the prime objective of preserving and revitalising the existing orchard remnants in line with best management practice of old/historic orchards and securing the orchard wildlife site as a community asset.

In December 2009 at a Full Council meeting of East Herts District Council, (EHDC) the following motion was proposed by Councillor R. Beeching and seconded by Councillor A.P Jackson- Council Leader.
“East Herts or its representatives open negotiations with the reverting owner to either purchase or re lease the Rivers Orchard site to commence after the termination of the present lease in April 2010. Further these negotiations to include a new lease for the rest of the site north of the beech hedge to enable it to remain amenity ground for the benefit of the residents of Sawbridgeworth.” The decision was voted through unanimously by all 47 District Councillors present.

In the interim period since Dec 2009, despite several direct appeals, EHDC have failed to take any constructive actions to implement their Full Council decision. Our direct submissions for community facilities through the ‘call for sites’ process in the emerging District Plan has been completely ignored in contravention of government planning guidance.

The need for a properly funded, long term Management Plan for site, such as those available under the Higher Level Stewardship schemes are an immediate necessity, if this county wildlife site is to be maintained and the orchard is not to return to decay and dereliction.

After 3 applications since 2009 for essential funding for maintenance to EHDC, we received one grant for £500 in 2013. This is in marked contrast to the funding support and partnerships that EH Council leveraged for other local sites in 2012 /2013.
Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust have been granted £50,000 to carry out restoration work at a traditional orchard in Tewin, funded by Biffaward and EHDC will restore rare local varieties of fruit trees and protect and enhance the diversity of wildlife at Tewin Orchard Nature Reserve.

The Thorley Wash project was awarded money from a number of agencies, including £64,288.80 from the Rural Development Programme for England (RDPE), managed by East Herts Council. With Cllr Carver of EHDC stating “It has been a fantastic privilege for myself as the Chairman of the Eastern Plateau to be able to play a part in its restoration, by match funding with other organisations. There is such an amazing variety of wild plant and animal life on the reserve, and I am very much looking forward to seeing it grow and develop”.

The Rivers Nursery Site is recognized nationally and internationally as an important repository of living heritage fruit varieties. There is a plethora of supporting evidence and testimonials from organisations across the whole of the UK on the need for this site to be properly supported

Volunteers have turned up on a monthly basis, come rain or shine from as far as Bedfordshire, Suffolk and London as well as a strong local contingent, to work towards the preservation of the last remaining fragments of this world-famous fruit development area, which demonstrates a sense of support and commitment to the prominence of this community green space that would have many a local authority shouting from the rooftops.

It is extremely difficult to understand why the Council votes unanimously on a policy decision and in practice acts as if it never took the decision. A letter to the leader of the Council in June 2013, setting out all our concerns about the failure to implement their decision, did not receive the simple courtesy of an acknowledgment let alone a reply.

Our decision to withdraw from the site and dissolve the organisation has not been taken without deep consideration and is a direct consequence of the failure by EHDC to implement and honour its pledge given in Dec 2009 to support and protect this historic site of national and international horticultural importance and significant local community asset.

We express our deep gratitude to all those who have supported us in one form or another over the years.

If you wish to express concern regarding

this announcement please contact the
The Leader of East Herts Council
Cllr Tony Jackson Tel: 01279 655261
Mark Prisk MP


Welcome to our site which is dedicated to preserving the rich heritage and valuable national horticultural contribution of what remains of the world famous Rivers Nurseries of Sawbridgeworth.
Thomas Rivers, born at Sawbridgeworth in 1798, was responsible for consolidating the reputation of the nursery that his grandfather founded. Although renowned for rose culture, Thomas Rivers major interest was fruit production and the breeding and introduction of new varieties, particularly during the period between 1850 and 1875.

He was responsible for the introduction of 31 peach and 16 nectarine varieties for glasshouse production, over 20 plum varieties, 6 pears and various apricots, cherries, raspberries and strawberries. He remains famous for his plums today.

Unfortunately, the nursery closed towards the end of the 1980s.some of the land went for development and today The Thomas Rivers Medical Centre occupies part of the site of the former nurseries.

The Rivers Nursery Site & Orchard Group, made up of local people, have carried on the work, restoring and preserving part of the site, which was started by Friends of Rivers Nursery Orchard - a Rural Enterprise Project in the mid 90s.

The Executive Committee of The Rivers Nursery Site & Orchard Group represent the interests of the Community of the Sawbridgeworth area at large and all of the supporters of Rivers Nursery Orchard in particular, in preserving the nursery and orchard site as a historic orchard and a managed green space.

The aims of the group:

  • To focus on preserving and revitalising the existing orchard remnants in line with best management practice of old/historic orchards.
  • To formalise a lasting robust statutory protection of the orchard within current demarcation lines
  • To strive towards the growth of the current archives and find a permanent home, befitting of their cultural, scientific, historic, local and national importance
  • Work also continues to develop the site as a Community Orchard
  • Improving the meadow areas for wildlife and providing a community and educational resource for local people
    • The Rivers Nursery site is privately owned land. Access to the site for activities organised by the Rivers Nursery Site & Orchard Group is by invitation of the landowner, and no public rights of access are implied.

The Conference Pear

a Thomas Rivers legacy
to the fruit world and
 our food culture