What to do with old variety pears ? Make a yummy snack

old variety Hessle pears to yummy snack

old variety Hessle pears to yummy snack

What to do with those old variety pears that tend to be left on the tree ? Use them – they are fantastic! Varieties like Hessle, which have a small fruit, but there are a lot of them on a tree. Pick them and dry them in the pear equivalent of apple rings. Only they aren’t a ring as they don’t need coring.

Picking time is crucial: Picking the old varieties of pear at the right time is a trick. Don’t wait for them to be ‘ripe’ as you would a more modern variety of table pear. If you wait, the centre will typically be rotten. Pick before that stage when they have become sweet but are still crunchy.

Just slice them up (about 5mm thick slices). The picture shows a dehydrator rack (which is essentially a low temp fan oven) but you can do this in your own electric fan oven at its lowest temp, or on a cake rack over a fire or radiator. It takes about 12 hours in a dehydrator/oven, longer with other methods.

Once dry, put in an airtight jar and they will last for months – but only if you hide the jar or lock it. Otherwise they only last a few weeks because they are so bloomin’ tasty !

Sleuthing for orchards in the Carse of Gowrie

Fruit map

By Kaska Hempel

Since early September I have been out in the field again, getting my teeth into the orchard surveys (and their lovely fruit) around the Carse of Gowrie and Perth. This autumn, Orchard Revival has partnered up with Tay Landscape Partnership, and Carse of Gowrie Group to make sure that the current condition of this historically important fruit growing area is well documented in the National Orchard Inventory for Scotland.

Surveys of the Carse of Gowrie in 2007 and 2010 showed that its previously extensive orchards largely have now disappeared after the local top fruit industry had collapsed in 1960s due to competition from fruit imports. But they also identified several sites where, with a little effort, at least some of this important local orchard heritage could be revived (download the full report here – PDF). We are very keen to see how these sites are doing now and have a look at any new arrivals. We also have our eye on the foothills North of the Carse, as well as Perth itself where records are very thin on the ground. The city must be bursting at the seams with new orchards after 100s of fruit trees were planted across its green spaces for the Perth 800 celebrations in 2010. It is important that we capture all this fruity abundance for posterity!

I wouldn’t want to keep all this exciting work all to myself though – I would be delighted if you could join me as a volunteer! Get in touch via email animateur@scotlandthefruit.org.uk or call me on 0744 623 1073. All survey training will be provided in September and early October.

Do you have five or more fruit trees? Then you are an orchard keeper! Help us by making sure that your own orchard is included in the Inventory – it’s as simple as filling in this online form. You can also tell us about any orchards in your neighbourhood.

This weekend you will also have a wonderful opportunity to explore a couple of the Carse’s most impressive historical orchards with a whole family. Tay Landscape Partnership is putting on a Fruit Festival at Muirhouses orchard on Saturday 30th of September. Orchard Revival will have a stall at the Festival so please come and say hello. And the Megginch Castle orchard opens to visitors on the 1st of October as part of the Patrick Matthew Memorial Weekend, organised by the Carse of Gowrie Sustainability Group.

In the meantime, I will leave you with a couple of snapshots from my recent outings. I hope it whets your appetite for local orchard sleuthing!

Elcho castle – young orchard with important collection of local apple varieties

Elcho castle orchardI chose a real treat for my first survey this autumn – the orchard at the Historic Scotland’s Elcho Castle. Although there is no longer any sign of the extensive orchard visible on maps from mid-1800s, the castle’s 1999 planting of over 90 fruit trees keeps the memory of this heritage well alive. The majority of the apple, plum and pear trees are still there, looking healthy and lush and laden with plenty of fruit. It’s definitely worth a visit – and since the visitor’s centre also provides a guide, it’s also a great way to get to know your local heritage apple varieties.

West Oaks – historical field orchard with stately old pears

West Oaks field orchardWest Oaks orchard was a treat from another time. It is a field orchard full of beautiful old pear and apple trees – in its heyday Carse of Gowrie was full of them. The old pears are still very productive and you can see a number of varieties there which you will never encounter in the shops, including the Willowgate sausage pear, unque to the Carse area. Although the orchard floor is overgrown with weeds, there has been some replanting done recently to try to preserve this wonderful hidden gem. Hopefully it will survive another couple of hundred years! The orchard is located along a walking path between Willowgate activity centre and Perth so you can visit it for yourself.

Branklin Gardens – Perth’s vanishing orchard glory

Branklyn Garden cakesNational Trust for Scotland’s Branklin Garden was, as always, a pleasure to visit with its wonderful alpine plant collection and truly delicious cakes. But not many people know that it also boasts a beautifully preserved veteran pear tree, the only survivor from the time when the site was a part of a productive Orchardbank market garden. This and other gardens at the foot of Kinnoul Hill used to supply Perth with fresh produce during 1800s. A few elderly pear and apple trees, scattered around the private gardens and hospital car parks, are the only remaining evidence of this productive past.

South Lanarkshire survey report maps future orchard revival in the historic fruit basket of Scotland and beyond

Written by Kaska Hempel, Orchard Revival, Orchard Animateur for National Orchard Inventory for Scotland, and Duncan Arthur, Clyde Valley Orchards Cooperative Limited (CVOC), Local Facilitator for National Orchard Inventory for Scotland (originally published on Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership website here)

A photo of apple blossom

As orchards across Scotland burst into spring blossom, we at Orchard Revival are rather bursting with excitement about the publication of the report on orchard surveys in South Lanarkshire.

We are excited because the report shows that the Historic Fruit Basket of Scotland in Clyde Valley remains Scotland’s biggest and most concentrated traditional orchard area despite significant decline since its heyday, and that there is much interest and a real potential for their revival.

But we are also excited because as the first in a local area report series for the National Orchard Inventory for Scotland, the report marks a milestone in our nationwide Scottish Natural Heritage-funded project which started in 2013.

With over half of Scottish traditional orchards surveyed to date, the project is well on the way to creating a comprehensive orchard inventory for the nation, first in over a century. We believe that knowing the location, condition and use of orchards on the ground will help address issues linked to the decline of traditional orchards over the last four decades and create a strong foundation for their revival Scotland-wide.

But the information itself has little chance of creating a sustainable orchard revival. For this you need local people and organisations with interest in and knowledge of local orchard heritage who will take action on the ground. In order to foster this, since 2015 Orchard Revival has collaboratively partnered with local group to carry fieldwork for orchard surveys and to receive a copy of their data. We want knowledge to be retained locally so that capacity is built and a sense of ownership and interest in local orchards is strongly established. Building on this idea, in addition to a national report, we are currently producing 12 local area reports is to make results relevant to local organisations and local people.

Our first report from South Lanarkshire is a result of collaboration between Orchard Revival and Clyde Valley Orchards Cooperative Limited (CVOC) with support from the Heritage Lottery funding through Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership (CAVLP). Both organisations have already been working towards restoring local orchard heritage.

Duncan Arthur, director of CVOC, took on Local Facilitator role to coordinate local volunteer team and managed to complete an impressive 215 site surveys in the area, amounting to 150 volunteer hours.

It was not all just hard work and Duncan’s volunteers enjoyed learning how to tell their pears from their plums and exploring the local Clyde Valley heritage. Here is a lovely story from one of them:

“[…] Always game for a new challenge I signed up to become a volunteer to survey fruit orchards in South Lanarkshire. I met up with Duncan, the local co-ordinator, who guided me through what was required and helped me know ‘my pears from my plums’ with a mini tutorial in his own orchard. Those damsons were so tasty!

[…] Now all my surveys have been done and I have hung up my hi-vis vest. Most of all I enjoyed hearing stories of how fruit farming in the Clyde Valley used to be: what went to the jam factories; how many there were of these in the area; were turnips really used; how the fruit once picked had to be taken same day to the train for 5pm to get transported to England overnight with no refrigerated storage like today. I loved exploring little roads around Nemphlar, Crossford and Braidwood, and hearing why one house was named ‘doon field’. These stories helped make my field trips interesting and I was reminded of the Linmill stories in Scots that my Dad used to love reading out to us. So I dug out his ex-library book (by Robert McLellan) and enjoyed rereading of the ‘Linmill fruit ferm hauf wey atween Kirkfieldank and Hazelbank’ where this wee lad spent his holidays with his ‘grannie and granfaither who bade in Linmill’.

Tales of another life. Our heritage!”

You can explore the results of all this hard work in the CAVLP online museum here, along with other items items on the rich local orchard heritage. Another 11 area reports and a national report will be released over the next few months via the Orchard Revival website here.

So – will all this data bring the local orchard revival in the South Lanarkshire that we’d all hoped for? Duncan certainly seems to think so:

“The opportunity to bring South Lanarkshire’s Orchard Survey “in house” has provided a wealth of information for Clyde Valley Orchards Cooperative Ltd. As well as identifying a host of potential orchard sites, it has allowed us to make contact with the owners of these sites and enter into a dialogue about the work we are doing in the area. As a direct result of the survey project we have opened up around 20 locations who are willing to allow their fruit to be used as part of our juicing operation which allows us to build funds for future planting projects.

In the longer term the outputs of the survey will also allow us to construct funding applications based on factual evidence, talk more knowledgeably to the wider community about their horticultural heritage and further engage volunteers for future orchard projects.”

It looks like Clyde Valley will be enjoying orchard blossom and its fruit long into the future!

Orchard wassails in Scotland

Photo of an orchard in winter

By Philipp Reiner from unsplash.com

Last updated 09 Feb 2017

Since our collection of Scottish Apple Day events last year turned out to be so popular, we thought it may be useful to put together a list of Scottish New Year orchard wassails.

Wassailing is an age-old tradition of toasting good health of people and fruit trees on the 12th night after Christmas. Historic UK tells us that in the case of the latter:  “The wassailing, or blessing of the fruit trees, involves drinking and singing to the health of the trees in the hope that they will provide a bountiful harvest in the autumn. This ancient custom is still practiced across the country today, and is particularly popular in the cider-producing areas of England.”

Recently, orchard wassails have been undergoing a bit of a revival as they are a great midwinter event to brighten up community orchard social calendars alongside, now firmly established, autumn Apple Days. In Scotland, Greener Kirkcaldy has been one of the groups leading this revival, with a well established annual wassail at the Community Orchard at their Ravenscraig Walled Garden. Their blog post from last year gives us a nice rundown of the tradition here.

Singing to your orchard trees is an essential part of a proper Wassail and Jane Lewis is running a singing workshop at Scottish Storytelling Centre in Edinburgh at the end of the month to help any novices. We have heard that there are some great new, local Scottish tunes included alongside the more traditional Somerset materials!

Below is the list of events we have compiled so far – please let us know about any others!

Date Town – Area Event name Organisation Link to event info
14-Jan-2017 Cupar – Fife Sustainable Cupar Wassail Sustainable Cupar Click here for more info
14-Jan-2017 Stirling – Stirlingshire Apple pruning and wassailing Transition Stirling Click here for more info
15-Jan-2017 Jedburgh – The Borders Crailing Community Orchard Wassail Crailing Community Orchard Click here for more info
20-Jan-2017 Buckhaven – Fife First Apple Tree Wassail CLEAR Buckhaven Click here for more info
21-Jan-2017 Kirkcaldy – Fife Traditional Apple Wassail Greener Kirckaldy Click here for more info
21-Jan-2017 Edinburgh Gracie Winter Warmer Gracemount Grow Stronger Click here for more info
21-Jan-2017 Edinburgh Wassailing song workshop with Jane Lewis Scottish Storytelling Centre and Scotland Sings Click here for more info
3-Feb-2017 Edinburgh Apple Wassail Celebration North Edinburgh Arts Click here for more info
4-Feb-2017 Glasgow Food Forest Wassail Alexandra Park Food Forest and Helping Britain Blossom Click here for more info
12-Feb-2017 Tayport – Fife Family Fruit Tree Walk Wassail PLANT Click here for more info

Merry Christmas and a fruitful New Year from Orchard Revival


We have made some amazing progress with our field surveys for National Orchard Inventory for Scotland this year. Many of  our local facilitators and volunteer surveyors are still out there in the field, and in front of their computer screens, getting as much done as possible before we start writing the survey results up for our final report in March 2017.

We would like to thank all our collaborating organisations, local facilitators and their volunteers for all the hard work and enthusiasm – we could not have done it without you! We hope you get some well deserved rest and merriment over the festive period.

We thought we’d share a poem penned by one of the volunteers, and which to us sums up the essence of orchard mapping experience and the hopes for their fruitful future rather well. May we enjoy, protect and eat the fruit of our Scottish orchards for many years to come!


Apple Naming

(by Jane, first published on Tayport Community Garden blog here)

Lord Lambourne, James Grieve,
Charles Ross, Beauty of Bath,
Apples named.
Early fruit, fruit holding to branches in November late
Covering the whole season
With cookers and eaters
Green and smooth
Red and shining
Green and brown
Rough and sweet
Falling around the trees
Planted for love
“we love the blossom”
For hope
200 years ago, 31 years ago when we were young
“Cobnuts to remind me of my home”
In the South
They never fruited
“Life gets in the way”
Un-managed, unloved, surrounded by weeds and fallen fruit
The trees grow anyway
An orchard
Once you know it is there
Protect it
Enjoy it
Count the trees
Name them
Eat the fruit.


See you all in 2017!

Remote and mysterious Letterewe Estate orchards in Wester Ross

A photo of apple trees at the Letterewe House orchard

Letterewe House orchard – still very much alive and kicking! (Photo by Sue Pomeroy)


Remember the orchard at Letterewe House we wrote about back in July? We wondered whether it was still there and fancied it the most remote mainland site in our desk study. In November, Sue Pomeroy of WREN, our Local Facilitator and surveyor in Wester Ross, set off by boat across Loch Maree to have a closer look at it. Below we summarise what she told us about her expedition, and one unexpected and delightful discovery.

She reported the Letterewe House garden as remote as we expected and in rude health, with a good number of well-cared for 80-year old apple trees, as well as some newer plantings. There are plans for even more fruit trees in the near future, so it looks like the place will be productive for a while yet.

A photo of an abandonned orchard on Letterewe Estate

Abandoned orchard on Letterewe Estate, nr Poolewe (Photo by Sue Pomeroy)


But it was another, abandoned and neglected site on Letterewe Estate that really won her affections. Her is what she wrote about this entirely new find:

This superb walled orchard is set in the middle of nowhere!  It is surrounded by mountains and bog and very exposed with stunning views. There is a wow factor about this orchard as it is situated well away from any dwellings up an unmade track for about a mile and then off this track for about 400 yards.

The walls are constructed in a series of six rooms with a paved wide path between, the walls are substantial with beautiful curved details to all the entrances of the rooms. Whether this was built as an orchard or a sheep fank is conjecture at the moment, but it definitely has been here a very long time.

The size and defiant age of the trees are too something of a mystery. The trees in the orchard are possibly up to 300 years old, there is evidence that there were many more at some time, but just a few are now left standing.

A remarkable find that needs to be preserved, the keeper of the farm at Kernsary is very keen to protect it and re plant. He welcomes any help with this project! And I can only add that anyone who visits this site cant fail to be excited about it! It reminds me of the Egyptian tombs in its magnificence and discovery!

Do you think this may be our most mysterious Scottish orchard yet?

Thanks, Sue, for all your amazing work mapping orchards on the West coast and for sharing this wonderful story with us. If you would like to help out, Sue is looking for volunteers, as do other organisations in the Highlands – see here for more details.



Scottish Orchard Inventory needs your help with field surveys

The Scottish orchard fruit season is in full swing just now – and along with it, our Autumn orchard surveys for the National Orchard Inventory for Scotland. It is a perfect time to get out in the field – the fruit on the trees makes is easy to tell your apples from your pears, and there is a good chance that you will get some to take home with you!

Do you think you may fancy joining in the fun? Our local collaborating organisations in the following areas are looking for additional survey volunteers right now:

You can put your name down for any of these areas through an online volunteer sign up form here. Full description of what is involved in becoming a surveyor can be downloaded from here (PDF).

We think it is a rather exciting way to get to know your local area and meet some lovely orchard keepers – and some very interesting trees! Survey volunteers tend to agree – here is they said about what they enjoyed the most about taking part in the surveys:

I’ve got so much more out of the survey than I ever could of imagined. Apart from discovering small pockets of countryside hitherto unexplored or driven past we have been lucky enough to meet a host of interesting and interested people with huge insights into local history and land use. The data entry is really not difficult I can only say positive thing about the survey and am so glad I signed up.

Cath, Clyde Valley Orchard Coop

I joined the Orchard Survey as a coordinator not expecting to do any surveying but as it turns out I have been able to go out into the field and discover some amazing orchards tucked away where you would never know they existed and have visited some grand properties that go with them too. It just shows you how much fruit there is growing in our country and a lot of it being unused, happily a lot of it is being used.

Nice to do something useful environmentally, fun to do with the kids.

Volunteer in the survey pilot in the Borders

Carse of Gowrie Orchards group starts #ORInventory surveys this autumn

A photo of Gavin under a pear tree

Gavin about to don his bee-keeping suit under an ancient pear tree at Megginch

UPDATE 27 Sep 2017: Please note that as of September 2017 a new local facilitator has been appointed to coordinate surveys in this area. For details please see here.

Crispin was over to Megginch Castle near Errol recently to meet with the Local Facilitation team of Gavin Ramsay and owner Catherine Drummond-Herdman of Carse of Gowrie Orchards (previously known as Carse of Gowrie Group‘s Historic Orchard Forum).  We spent some time reviewing the process and organisation aspects of carrying out the Orchard Inventory in the area. That area stretches right around the Tay from Invergowrie to Perth and then back down to Abernethy and the borders of Newburgh in Fife. The extent of the area was indicated by the Tay Landscape Partnership who we’ve been collaborating with and who are co-funding the local fieldwork.

After our meeting in the castle kitchen, Crispin and Gavin had a walk around the orchard. Gavin to look over some of his hives, and Crispin to see the progress on Catherine’s great restoration project – replanting hundreds of fruit trees.  It really looked fantastic, and the plums tasted good!

Similarly to the Clyde Valley, Carse of Gowrie is one of the historically important areas for traditional orchards in Scotland and it would be wonderful to see it come back to life in due course. You can read more about history of their orchards in Crispin’s paper ‘Ancient Orchards beside the River Tay’ (PDF 900kb).

Historic Orchard Forum will be starting their surveys very soon so if you would like to volunteer, contact Gavin via email at gavinramsay@btinternet.com or register your interest using our online form here.

Count your orchard in!

An image of the Count Our Orchard In flier

Do you (or your neighbour) have 5 or more fruit trees in your garden? Let us know about it and help with revival of our Scottish orchards!

Scotland’s orchards are an integral part of our heritage. But they’ve been in decline for decades, and we have already lost many if not most of them. We need to act now if they are not to disappear entirely. Luckily, there has been a resurgence of interest in traditional orchards in Scotland over the last 10 years or so, as lots of people are realising that the last of the orchards are in danger. In order to make firm plans for a long-term task of reviving Scotland’s traditional orchards we all need to know where the orchards are.

The National Orchard Inventory for Scotland is a Scottish National Heritage funded project which aims to map locations and determine the condition of all the orchards in Scotland. We have found over 1700 orchards so far but we now need your help to make sure we haven’t missed any.

Simply fill in this wee online form to make sure that your orchard is included in the big count: