Signs of orchard revival in the Fruit Basket of Scotland

A photo overlooking the orchard in a valley

We had a really exciting day visiting the Clyde Valley on the 11th August. The area was once known as the Fruit Basket of Scotland, and the National Orchard Inventory desk study (PDF 3Mb) identified it, together with the rest of the surrounding South Lanarkshire, as the Scottish orchard hotspot – with 210 orchard sites, covering 133 hectares.

Our excitement was not dampened by the heavy showers, nor by the sight of neglected fruit trees we spotted on our drive through the valley. After all, we were on the way to meet with the wonderful people who have been doing sterling work restoring the traditional orchard heritage in the area – the Clyde Valley Orchards Cooperative (CVOC, originally known as Clyde Valley Orchard Group) and the Clyde and Avon Valley Landscape Partnership (CAVLP).

Photo of Duncan and Crispin at a computer

First, we popped in to visit Duncan Arthur, a director of CVOC, to train him as our Local Facilitator for the Inventory field survey. The training was delivered overlooking his lovely orchard at Hazelbank, one of 15 or so recently restored by the group with help from CAVLP, including their pride and joy, Kirkfieldbank Community Orchard. It was great to see Duncan’s enthusiasm for the restoration of the orchards in the area, and we are very excited that participation in the Inventory will provide the group with useful information to better target their projects while also contributing to the national inventory data set. You can listen to Duncan speak about their work on BBC Radio Scotland’s “The Kitchen Cafe” programme here (his bit starts at 8 min 30 sec, available for the next 24 days).

If you are interested in helping out with the Inventory in South Lanarkshire, Duncan is recruiting field orchard mapping volunteers right now – more details here. Or you can simply pop in for a taste of Clyde Valley’s very own apple juice at the CVOC’s annual Fruit Day on the 1st of October.

A photo of Crispin, Ewan and Kirsten around a table

Next, we headed for another picturesque location, the heritage site of New Lanark, to meet with CAVLP project officers Kirsten and Ewan. CAVLP has been supporting the practical orchard restoration work by CVOC, including funding for planting of 1,000 new fruit trees across the Valley, orchard skills training and the recent contribution towards the Inventory project itself (more details here).

CAVLP are also running a wider heritage project – Capturing the Past – to “identify, record and celebrate the industrial, horticultural and agricultural heritage of the Clyde and Avon Valleys”. This encompasses the local fruit growing history and is recording local people’s fruit-inspired stories, songs and recipes. All of this wonderful history will be gathered in an online museum, including an entry documenting the rise, decline, and recent revival of the orchards in the area. We discussed how the data collected by Duncan and his volunteers would enhance these outputs, from producing maps of local orchards through time, to identifying interesting orchard tales for the area’s oral history project.

While we all wait for the virtual museum exhibits, which are planned to make an appearance around Christmas, you can get a real taste of area’s fruity heritage at CLAVLP’s “Tasting Through Time” workshops in September.

After seeing how the involvement with the Inventory is palpably helping local projects in Clyde Valley, we drove back home re-energised and buzzing with excitement about its potential to enhance orchard revival Scotland-wide.